Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 review$4,999.00

A lively and light trail bike that's a lot of fun to ride

BikeRadar score4/5

Cannondale’s Habit had a refresh in 2018, losing flexy chainstays and gaining a regular four-bar suspension linkage. The Carbon 3 comes with a BallisTec carbon front triangle — Cannondale's proprietary method of high-strength, high-stiffness carbon construction that enables it to build very strong, light bikes — linked to an alloy rear end.

  • The Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub page.

Cannondale hasn’t gone crazy with the 130mm travel Habit. Looking at the spec on paper you can see it’s a traditional — though still up-to-date — trail bike.

In its low setting, the Habit has a 66-degree head angle, 460mm reach and 38mm bottom bracket drop. There’s a 435mm chainstay length (L) and 29in wheels. So, nothing crazy in terms of shape, and the kit plugged in to the bike very much adheres to that theme too.

The front triangle is neatly constructed from carbon
The front triangle is neatly constructed from carbon

Up front there’s a 130mm Fox 34 fork. Stan’s rims make a change from the ever-popular DT Swiss hoops that feature widely on trail bikes at this price point.

The drivetrain is a mix of SRAM NX and GX Eagle, sadly with the narrower 11-50t range NX cassette, though, so upgrading to a GX cassette would require a freehub change.

That Fox 34 fork helps to define the Habit as a lightweight, fun trail bike
That Fox 34 fork helps to define the Habit as a lightweight, fun trail bike

Cannondale has opted for a Truvative Stylo alloy crank on the Habit, which comes with a 30t ring.

Most of the finishing kit is Cannondale, including the DownLow dropper post, the travel of which depends on frame size. Up front, there’s a 2.5in Wide Trail Maxxis Minion DHF tyre, with a dual compound construction, and a 2.3in High Roller II out back. SRAM Guide R with 180mm rotors provides the braking.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 ride impressions

The character of the Habit Carbon 3 is strongly influenced by the 130mm Fox fork up front. Heavier riders, or those looking to tackle the most gnarled tracks, might want to look elsewhere, as the chassis isn’t the stiffest, but if you want a bike to make the most of your local trail centre, or fast, sweeping woodland trails, the Habit starts to make a lot of sense.

Truvative supplies the Stylo crank
Truvative supplies the Stylo crank

At 14.2kg, the Habit Carbon 3 isn't super light, but, largely thanks to a nicely neutral pedalling performance that doesn't waste too much energy, it feels lighter than it is, and this aids its eager feel.

Uphill there’s little to complain about. The 74.5-degree seat tube angle isn’t super steep, but it still gets your hips in a fair position over the cranks — something a bit steeper wouldn't go amiss though.

Cannondale's C3 bar makes an appearance on the Habit Carbon 3
Cannondale's C3 bar makes an appearance on the Habit Carbon 3

The suspension remains composed for all but the choppiest of pedalling styles, and there’s a lockout on the shock — although the light ride and composed suspension meant I rarely bothered with it, preferring to keep my pedalling smooth.

The tyre combo hooks up well in a range of conditions, and the 30t ring on the cranks meant we could drop the bike into a super-low gear when legs got tired or hills steepened.

I like the Habit Carbon 3's playful character. It’s difficult to put a finger on how that’s measured — you can’t quantify ‘fun’ — but on mellower trails in the woods,  it was the Habit that wanted to pop over a root, Scandi flick round a bend and sprint straight from the exit.

Stan's rims find their way onto the Habit Carbon 3
Stan's rims find their way onto the Habit Carbon 3

The bike responds well to rider input, happily changing direction or accelerating thanks to a carbon/alloy chassis that’s stiff without being harsh, and a well-thought-out suspension kinematic.

I tested the Habit Carbon 3 in Finale Ligure, Italy, and it wasn't entirely at home there. The fork, especially, felt under-gunned, although the rear suspension, with a little extra air, did cope with the bigger hits.

Between the turns, the Habit was loads of fun — but it can still handle bigger terrain
Between the turns, the Habit was loads of fun — but it can still handle bigger terrain

Fortunately, thanks to its large volume and well-regarded tread pattern, the wide tyre at the front adds security, while the High Roller at the back performs admirably. It’s not the fastest-rolling tyre, but it’s far from the worst and gives that extra bit of confidence, say over a Maxxis Ardent or Forekaster, on looser or greasier trails.

Cannondale isn’t the most competitive bike manufacturer when it comes to value, although you can buy the Habit Carbon 3 on the high street, which can be beneficial from a back-up point of view.

Cannondale uses an alloy back-end on this version of the Habit Carbon 3
Cannondale uses an alloy back-end on this version of the Habit Carbon 3

The Fox 34 fork might not have the structural stiffness of a 35mm or 36mm chassis from RockShox or Fox, however the basic GRIP damper does feel smooth and relatively plush.

My major complaint is with the Cannondale DownLow dropper post. While its action is smooth, the 66-degree actual (not effective) seat angle introduces a bit of bind when you’re trying to drop it, requiring a conscious push forward and down with the hips.

This is Cannondale's own DownLow dropper post
This is Cannondale's own DownLow dropper post

The cables in my test bike’s frame were also a touch rattly, which some will find annoying.

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 specifications

The Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 is a fun-loving 130mm trail bike
The Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 is a fun-loving 130mm trail bike

  • Sizes (*Tested): XS, S, M, L*, XL
  • Frame: BallisTec Carbon front, C1 Alloy rear, 130mm 29in
  • Fork: Fox Float Performance 34 Grip 130mm
  • Shock: Fox Float Performance DPS
  • Cranks: Truvativ Stylo 6K, 30t
  • Shifters: SRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Derailleurs: SRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Wheelset: Formula hubs, Stan’s Arch rims
  • Tyres: Maxxis Minion DHF 29x2.5 WT (f), Maxxis High Roller II 29x2.3 (r)
  • Brakes: SRAM Guide R 180/180
  • Bar: Cannondale C3 Riser 780mm
  • Stem: Cannondale C3 50mm
  • Seatpost: Cannondale DownLow Dropper (100mm S, 125mm M, 150mm L/XL)
  • Saddle: Fabric Scoop
  • Weight: 14.19kg

Cannondale Habit Carbon 3 geometry

  • Seat angle: 66.3 degrees
  • Head angle: 66 degrees
  • Chainstay: 43.5cm / 17.13in
  • Seat tube: 48cm / 18.9in
  • Top tube: 63.9cm / 25.16in
  • Head tube: 12.5cm / 4.92in
  • Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2.01in
  • Trail: 11.2cm / 4.41in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 3.8cm / 1.5in
  • Bottom bracket height: 33.9cm / 13.35in
  • Wheelbase: 1,210mm / 47.64in
  • Stack: 62.5cm / 24.61in
  • Reach: 46cm / 18.11in

BikeRadar would like to thank 661 Protection, Northwave, Effetto Mariposa and Finale Ligure for their help and support during our Bike of the Year test.

Tom Marvin

Technical Editor, Tech Hub, UK
Tom's been riding for 15 years, and has always chopped and changed bikes as soon as his budget allowed. He's most at home in the big mountains, having spent nigh on 30 weeks riding the Alps, as well as having lived a stone's throw from the Scottish Highlands for four years. Tom also enjoys racing events like the Strathpuffer and the Trans Nepal.
  • Age: 29
  • Height: 182cm / 5'11"
  • Weight: 82kg / 180lb
  • Waist: 81cm / 32in
  • Chest: 97cm / 38in
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Steep and super tech or fast and flowy
  • Current Bikes: Canyon Spectral, Pivot Mach 429SL, Mondraker Vantage R +
  • Dream Bike: Transition Scout
  • Beer of Choice: Gin & tonic
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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