IS ONE BIKE ENOUGH?
I know the maths, N+1 (Howies do a great T-Shirt with this!), there’s always room for one more. You can never have enough bikes, surely! However a few manufacturers are begging the question of ‘is there one bike that can do it all?’ I believe the simple answer to this is ‘no’. How can a bike that an XC racer wants to be on the podium with be the same bike that can bomb down a downhill track? It just doesn’t add up, something has got to be weak. Saying that though for the average jo, sitting in the middle of the spectrum, entering local xc races, heads to a bike park, trail centres and the odd local trail (that’s me, then) maybe there is such a thing as an all rounder, but I don’t want to stop you buying several bikes, that would be silly!
So my steed the 2016 Cannondale Habit SE, simply beautiful in my eyes! (I may be slightly subjective in this review!)
FRAME:Habit 27.5, 120mm, BallisTec Carbon, Carbon Link, SmartFormed Alloy swingarm, PF30, Flat Mount Brake, Pivoting Der Hanger, 1.5 Si headtube
FORK: Lefty 2.0 Alloy OPI, 130mm, PBR Isolated Damper Technology with Trail+ tune and updated controls, 50mm offset
REAR SHOCK: RockShox Monarch DebonAir RT, 120mm travel
RIMS & HUBS: WTB Frequency Race I23 TCS 27.5, Tubeless Ready with Lefty 60 front hub, Formula with XD driver 142×12 rear hub
TYRES: Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance, 27.5 x2.35 front/2.25 rear
BOTTOM BRACKET: Cannondale Alloy PressFit30
CRANK: Cannondale Si, BB30, SpideRing 30t
GROUPSET: SRAM 1 X 11 (XG and X1 mix)
HANDLEBAR: Cannondale C3 riser, Alloy, 4 degree upsweep, 9 degree backsweep, 760x15mm
STEM & HEADSET: Cannondale C1, 6061 Alloy, 1.5″, 31.8, 5 deg and Headshot Si headset
BRAKES: SRAM Guide R, 180/180
SADDLE: Fabric Scoop Shallow Elite with Cromoly rails
SEATPOST: KS LEV Integra dropper, internal routing, 31.6, 125mm (S,M) 150mm (L,X) travel
Initially I was going to go for the Habit 2, a little pricier, but had Shimano gearing and brakes that I have preferred in the past, just for consistency, smoothness and servicing. I was swung because of the little bit of extra travel making it ever so slightly slacker, the 1×11 set up and then it simply came down to the Habit SE being very pretty!!! I had considered the womens model, but unfortunately like so many there is only one version and the kit is not that great, frames the same, they just do a smaller one. I’m ok because I’m 5 foot 7″ so fit the mens bikes fine, but can see the benefits for smaller riders. In this case I was content with a medium frame.
I never seem to pick a bike that doesn’t raise a few eyebrows, for this one the top remark was ‘Why are you getting that, it’s only got one fork, get a proper bike‘. Just because something doesn’t fit the standard mould and yes doesn’t have much kit on it that’s standard either does not get counted out in my eyes, it makes it more intriguing. If the design didn’t work, why are they still making them and becoming ever more popular! I had a couple of chats with the Cannondale rep because well it does look a bit odd, but he explained it like this. How does the 4 wheels on your car get attached? How do the landing wheels on an aeroplane get fixed on? How does a motorbike front wheel stay on? All are just attached on one side and they don’t fall apart or become unbalanced, in fact it’s stronger. This was good enough for me. One bike ordered!
Yes, it is as pretty as it looks in the pictures! However it’s not about looks, well maybe a little! Out of the box there was already new things to work out that are not on your standard set, I usually know how to put a front wheel in, not this time. The lefty fork naturally changes how the front wheel and brake attach, no quick release, but a slot int brake calliper and an internal expanding axle on the wheel, absolutely solid (Told you I’m not into the geek speak!). Once on however, it means changing a tube (if you’ve not gone tubeless) is easy, no need to even take it off! 1×11 means that the gears are super easy to set up, no front mech (always hated getting that set up). Suspension was easy to sep up, but to get right, that is still on going. Shifters set, dropper sorted, but no front mudguard and no idea what to do about it!
I had the rep bring one in for me to try (he happened to be a similar heigh and riding a medium as I was still tentative about going with a lefty, but it only took a quick spin in the road for me to know it would be a good match! It was a comfortable reach though I can’t change the stem even if I wanted too! The bars were slightly too wide at 760mm, but kept them on there for a few rides to get the overall feel of the bike as it stood.
The First Ride
As soon as you start riding this bike any misconceptions about the Lefty fork being unbalanced, pulling to one side or hard to handle were put to sleep quickly. It is a great climber, made easy with a 30 tooth chain ring up front. It’s very smooth and efficient particularly when you lock out the Lefty with the handy ‘push to climb’ button and the simple flick of a switch on the shock.
Suspension after initial set up was just to hard, I was using maybe 70% of the travel. I’m still trying to get it right now. I’ve found that the guidelines for weight v pressure is definitely just a guideline it takes a few rides or more to set up and tinker to hit that sweet spot. It does depend on what kit you’re wearing, what type of riding, but I still haven’t quite used the full amount of travel, but I’m at the lowest setting on the recommended pressure guide, so don’t want to go any lower.
On previous bikes I have just accepted the kit that comes standard on a bike, but not anymore. There are a few areas that need to change sometimes to make a bike fit, feel and ride better.
Tyres: The first change was the tyres, the Schwalbe Nobby Nic Performance are ok for dry, fast trails but cheap and thin, so switched them in for a Specialized Purgatory (front) and Ground Control (Rear) both grid (thicker sidewalls) and tubeless to run them at lower pressure.
Handlebars: The bars needed to get narrower (yes I could have just chopped them down) but I wanted to treat myself to the Easton Haven Carbon Riser 740mm bars. I can not put my finger on it, but the handling, responsiveness has just made my riding step up a gear.
Saddle: Actually not this time, typically I switch them out for a women specific one of my own, but the Fabric Scoop is really comfy, so it’s staying on!
Chainring: It came with a 30T, which for many will be absolutey fine, but I wanted to push it a little more and not spin out on the flats. IT was also an opportunity to check out the performance of an Oval 32T. I will review this seperately, but so far I can say it is efficient, smooth and making me faster!
THE BOTTOM LINE
I have not a bad word to say, it climbs well (not as efficient as a 29er hardtail XC whippet). It can handle descents, just the rider slowing it down and the shorter travel does not hinder the performance over drops and small jumps. It is nimble, easy to manoeuvre and simply a whole heap of fun. It’s at a great price point with good kit. It does have limiting factors with the lefty, but the advantages and performance outweigh any hindrances. Bring on the summer, so much fun hitting the trails on this cracking steed!
This bike as much as I loved it is now up for sale (UK only) so check it out here https://www.pinkbike.com/buysell/2135400/