Cannondale Habit 3 review

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The Cannondale Habit 3 has all the potential in the world to be a steadfast pedal pal for years to come. It’s not just good value. It’s a great investment.

  • Brand: Cannondale
  • Product: Habit 3
  • From: Cannondale
  • Price: £2,950
  • Tested: by Benji for six months

Pros

  • Excellent rear suspension
  • Decent geometry
  • That paintjob

Cons

  • Ropey fork
  • Optimistic tyres
Cannondale Habit 3

Forget what you think you know about the Cannondale Habit. This is very much not the Habit that came out a few years ago. Yes, it looks like the Habit of yore at a glance but there have been some massive geometry changes to this new Cannondale Habit.

Basically: steeper seat angle and longer. The head angle has got slacker but only by approximately one gnat’s chuff (0.5°) so isn’t really worth banging on about too much. At least it’s not got any steeper.

The new Habit also continues Cannondale’s practice of proportional representation (or whatever they call it). This is where the geometry and also the suspension kinematic changes as the frame size changes. Essentially this is principally to do the chainstays getting longer and the frame sizes go up (and the leverage from said stays being tweaked to actuate the shock in the way Cannondale want). Having said that, the variation in length is only 11mm from XS to XL.

The Habit is no longer the sort of bike that’s kinda only worth getting if it’s in a big end-of-year sale. The new Cannondale Habit is now right up there with the very best options for anyone looking for a modern, capable trail bike with 130/140mm of travel.

Fundamentally, any new Cannondale Habit 3 has decent geometry and excellent rear suspension. If you decide to get one, it won’t be a decision you regret.

The welding of the hydroformed SmartForm C1 aluminium may make fans of ye olde Cannondales a bit sadface but hey. That was then. This is now. This is an entry level trail bike and that’s fine. At least it has a great paintjob (in my opinion not to mention various total strangers who pipe up and comment nicely about it).

Geometry discussing time. It’s not perfect but it’s very good. The 65.5° head angle could be slacker without any issues. And the BB could be a bit higher because the frame has the wheelbase to cope. But overall, the numbers are better than most out there. The seat angle is genuinely steep at 77.5°. The head tube is suitably long (140mm on XL). The reach is great (an excellently whopping 515mm on XL). The chainstays are an okay length (445mm on L & XL). The standover is good (although the seat tubes are on the lengthy side so dropper insertion is not as much as you might think).

On to the frame practicalities. Tyre clearance is good. It can accept proper water bottles without difficulty. There’s DirectLine (no relation) internal cable routing, whether you like it or not. At least it wasn’t particularly noisy and has easily removable portholes to make things tolerable when working on it. There’s a bit of down tube and chainstay bespoke-ly rubberised protection. The BB is threaded, which is always nice to see on a Cannondale these days. Finally, there’s ISCG05 chain device mounts and the gear hanger is UDH, which are both reassuring things to see from a future-proofing point of view.

As this is an entry level (in the 2023 pricescape), we should probably do more a deep dive into the spec sheet and finishing kit.

Bad news first: you’re probably going to have to spring for a new fork damper and at least one new tyre. The Rush RC damper in the RockShox Pike fork body is not great. But at least with RockShox’s plug-and-play method of assembly, you can slap a decent damper in there at some point without breaking the bank. And the baldy Maxxis Rekon rear tyre is waste of time in this country. At least the Maxxis Dissector up front can make an acceptable rear tyre to swap to. For this test I ran either a Maxxis DHR II por a Shorty up front (and ran the Dissector on the back).

Ultimately though, the rest of the stuff the bike is built up with was fine. The RockShox Deluxe Select+ rear shock was decent. The SRAM NX/SX drivetrain was great; the 30T chainring and 11-50T cassette offered massive range. The bar and stem combo were okay (sure, I’d prefer higher rise bars and a slightly shorter stem but most folk won’t mind). The Stan’s rims were tubeless ready-to-go and the TrailShroom grips were very nice. The saddle is essentially a classic Charge Spoon and thus 50% of people will love it, and 50% will hate it. I’m one of the latter FWIW

I would point out that the headtube/headset takes integrated bearings. The headset needed tightening up to 12 (which is two more than ten) to get it to stop making a disconcerting clicking/pinging noise over rough terrain. The noise sounded like broken fork internals, which was worrying. Thankfully, gorilla-tightening the headset silenced things.

The SRAM DB8 brakes were a pleasant surprise. Really nice consistent feel to them. Nice feeling lever blades. And filled with mineral oil, which is just real-world better than DOT faff. The DB8 brakes might not be as powerful as more expensive brakes but they’re more than adequate. You could always upsize a rotor or two in future to unleash more anchorage. And Praise Be they aren’t SRAM G2s.

And on climbing and contouring terrain – the forgotten world of modern mountain bike media – the Cannondale Habit 3 was lovely. Loads of room. Great balance. Good grip. The back end offers an impressive level of support for a 4-bar; there was plenty of feel to work with. You can really work and pump the terrain for all its worth. Nice work. In terms of pedal bob, it bobbed. Which is fine by me. I didn’t opt to choose the lockout lever because it made the ride really choppy and harsh (funnily enough) but I did occasionally reach down and dial on a couple more clicks of rebound to quell the bobs now and then. The position of the shock makes it quick, easy and safe to do such twiddles on the fly.

As mentioned, the Cannondale Habit 3 didn’t shy away from tackling any descents. The back end showed truly impressive qualities, whether it was coping with rock garden whackery or scrabbling across camber roots. The rear suspension is really, really good. And a big reason why I suspect Habit buyers will keep hold of their Habit for years to come.

It has to be said that it was this excellent back end that really showed up the ropey front end. The fork isn’t as good as the rest of the bike is. It’s nowhere near. It makes for a rather mismatched feel in terms of predictability. The fork is panicky and nervous. The frame following it is calm and confident.

Overall

With some proper rubber up front, I quickly forgot I was riding an affordable/cheap/entry level trail bike. The Cannondale Habit 3 is a sound mountain bike. I took it wherever I normally take any mountain bike and it coped just fine. Sure, there were times when the head angle felt a bit woah-steep and the fork really didn’t like it rough, but… I didn’t die. I had loads of fun. The Habit has all the potential in the world to be a steadfast pedal pal for years to come. It’s not just good value. It’s a great investment.

Cannondale Habit 3 Specification

  • Frame // Habit SmartForm C1 Alloy, 130mm
  • Fork // RockShox Pike Select+, 140mm
  • Shock // RockShox Deluxe Select+
  • Wheels // Stan’s NoTubes Arch D rims on Shimano MT400/410 hubs
  • Front tyre // Maxxis Dissector 29 x 2.4in EXO
  • Rear tyre // Maxxis Rekon 29 x 2.4in EXO
  • Chainset // SRAM NX Eagle DUB, 30T
  • Drivetrain // SRAM NX/SX, 10-50, 12 Speed
  • Brakes // SRAM DB8, 180/180mm
  • Stem // Cannondale 3, 31.8mm, 40mm
  • Bars // Cannondale 3 Riser, 780 x 15mm
  • Grips // Cannondale TrailShroom
  • Seatpost // Trans-X Dropper, 150mm
  • Saddle // Cannondale Scoop Shallow Sport
  • Bottom Bracket // SRAM DUB
  • Size tested // XL
  • Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
  • Weight // 15.4kg
  • Head angle // 65.5°
  • Effective seat angle // 77.5°
  • Seat tube length // 500mm
  • Head tube length // 140mm
  • Chainstay // 445mm
  • Wheelbase // 1,284mm
  • Effective top tube // 1,275mm
  • BB height // 38mm BB drop
  • Reach // 515mm

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Review Info

Brand: Cannondale
Product: Habit 3
From: Cannondale
Price: £2,950
Tested: by Benji for 6 months

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

More posts from Ben

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Cannondale Habit 3 review
  • zerocool
    Full Member

    How does the Rush damper compare to Motion Control?  I’m a bit behind with RS suspension and although I’ve ridden some MoCo and Charger forks over the years I’ve not heard of the Rush one.

    desperatebicycle
    Full Member

    Cons
    Ropey fork

    might have your answer?
    Then again, he also says “The DB8 brakes might not be as powerful as more expensive brakes but they’re more than adequate.” my 3 ton ebike is specced with those and they are easily powerful enough (does have 200mm rotors to be fair).

    andyspaceman
    Full Member

    That was a thoughtful review. Shame that the Rush damper doesn’t seem to cut it – sounds like not all Pikes can now live up to the reputation that they set with the introduction of the first Charger damper back in 2016.

    The thing that made me decide against the Habit when I was trail bike shopping a couple of years ago, and would continue to put me off today, is the very slack angle of the upper section of the seat tube. If you run a ‘normal’ length seatpost, or a ‘normal’ amount of seatpost insertion then I’m sure it combines well with the forward-sloping lower section and everything works just fine. But if, like me, you have long legs for your height and raise your saddle close to the maximum, you end up way out back with a disproportionate weight distribution and a too-long cockpit.

    Would have been better designed with a straighter seat tube and an extended pivot mount IMO.

    voodoo-rich
    Full Member

    The Habit range is a bit odd – if i wanted to move up the range to avoid the “Ropey fork” and “Optimistic tyres”, the next model up is a 150/140mm version with a Lyrik fork – a different beast to the “modern, capable trail bike” described. Bit of a shame, unless you budget in the upgrades.

    bentudder
    Full Member

    I ended up with DB8s on a new bike instead of Shimano 4 pots and was a bit skeptical – my initial thought was to put some Guide Rs that I had hanging around on instead, but the adapters weren’t compatible and I was itching to go out and ride it, so I left them on. I’m glad I did – they’ve been smashing, and I’ll be buying new pads once the first set reach the end of the line.

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)

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