First Ride: Cannondale Habit NEO

Cannondale have put down their stake in the e-mountain bike market with the launch of two all-new models, the Habit NEO and Moterra. Although e-mountain bikes aren’t a stranger to the Cannondale line-up, these new models see Cannondale join something of a revolution in the electric mountain bike category.

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Bike Hub had the privilege of hopping over to Alpbach, Austria to spend a couple of days of learning all about the new bikes first hand from the Cannondale product and engineering team. And naturally, it included a good dose of riding the new bikes on some incredible alpine trails.

 

C20_Canondale_HabitNeo_Image 2_high-res.jpgCannondale Habit Neo 2.

 

The Habit NEO is the shorter travel version with 140mm front travel, 130mm rear travel and 29” wheels. The Neo takes some inspiration from the standard Habit which launched in 2018 in both looks and character. It is designed to be a versatile, fun and agile trail bike aimed at the less gnarly end of the trail riding spectrum.

 

It's not afraid of some gnar though, with wide bars, a super short stem, grippy 2.6" tires, a dropper post and suitably sized rotors to bring things to a halt when required.

 

CANNONDALE_PRESSCAMP19_ALPBACH_BIKES_ByADL-2325-2.jpgCannondale Moterra.
CANNONDALE_PRESSCAMP19_ALPBACH_BIKES_ByADL-9217-2.jpgMoterra SE.

 

Although not likely to be available or in high demand in the South African market, the Moterra is the all-mountain oriented option with 160mm front and rear travel. And then there’s the Moterra SE with a 180mm RockShox Boxxer fork for those who want to kick it up a few notches.

 

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We set our sights on the Habit Neo which arguably best matches the demands of most South African mountain bike riders and the local terrain. Our test bike was the Cannondale Habit NEO 1 which sits at the top of the pecking order in specifications (and price), but more on that a little later.

 

The Habit NEO is for those who want a more poppy, responsive and playful feeling bike who aren't totally descending oriented. We think the 130mm rear travel and 140mm in the front provides the best balance for that. Peter Vallance, Global Director of Product Management

The Frame and Geometry

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The front triangle is a full-carbon construction including a proprietary motor mount which neatly tucks it away keeping the drive unit low and forward. This keeps the centre of gravity low and allows for shorter chainstays for improved handling. While the frame is still light, as a general approach to the NEO package the Cannondale engineers favoured durability over gram-counting. The result is a frame that is confidently backed by a lifetime warranty.
On the geometry side, the reach ranges from 42.5cm on the small to 49.5cm on the extra-large. The NEO’s headtube angle at 66.5 degrees is half a degree steeper than the standard Habit, but in the sensible range for a short-to-mid travel trail bike.


 

The chainstays at 45.5cm are reasonably short in e-bike terms and should keep the handling snappy. The Habit NEO is available in four frame sizes (S, M, L, XL) each of which uses what Cannondale call Proportional Response Suspension Technology which alters the shock layout per size to ensure the feel and performance is best matched to the rider. This approach takes into consideration the lower centre of gravity, overall weight and the extra power from the drive unit. Cannondale says this delivers exceptional grip in the climbs, superior braking performance on the descents and an all-round responsive, lively feel on the trail.

habit-neo-geometry.jpgThe geometry chart - click to zoom in.

 

Alloy rear end with offset drivetrain

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The rear triangle is constructed from alloy with an asymmetric (offset) drivetrain which means there’s more room for bigger tires while, again, chainstay length is kept in check.


Motor protection

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Cannondale opted for an alloy skid plate below the frame to guard the all-important (and expensive) motor against inevitable bashing on the trail. On the side, a plastic cover to protects the motor from debris and impacts.


 

Proportional response

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Each frame size has unique shock links and pivot placement to align kinematics with the rider.

Water bottles (and batteries) included

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Don’t think an engine means you won’t need to hydrate - the frame accommodates a decent sized water bottle.

 

The drive unit


Both the Habit NEO and Moterra are driven by the new Bosch Performance CX system. Bosch released a new range of drive systems earlier this year were able to shrink the motor to around half the size of its predecessor and shed nearly 3kg. The top two models feature the Bosch PowerTube 625Wh battery, while the lower models are equipped with the 500Wh version.


 

A new “eMTB” mode dynamically matches the assistance to the rider’s output (from 140% up to 340%) which means you shouldn’t need to worry about changing modes mid trail. In the standard modes, Eco will give you a steady 60% assistance, Tour gives 140% assistance and Turbo gives 340%. Regardless of mode, the system will only give assistance up to 25km/h.

 

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First impressions


While I’m by no means an e-mountain bike hater, I’ve been in the camp adopting the “they’re great fun, but not quite as agile/playful/capable as my standard bike” view. Having ridden various iterations of e-bikes there always seemed to be one or more limiting factors. Either the motor response wasn’t great (too slow or unpredictable), or the bike felt cumbersome on the descents and twisty trails or it simply just didn’t look great. Although some brands are changing those perceptions with more recent iterations, it’s still the pervading view among many e-bike doubters.

 

With the glowing promise of the marketing materials and genuine enthusiasm from the team behind it, I was eager to give the Habit NEO an open-minded test run.

 

Before even getting on the bike, Cannondale had already addressed a common e-bike complaint: the looks. The Habit NEO gives a great first impression and thanks to its clean lines, neat integration and attractive colour-ways it’s a good looking bike, never mind e-bike.

 

Cannondale Habit Neo - Riding 1.jpg

 

On the bike


Before we set off we all settled onto our allocated bikes, tweaking saddle height, pressures and performing the obligatory parking lot test. You can't ask for more than having your suspension set up done personally by the Habit and Habit NEO's Frame Design Engineer and suspension wizard, Luis “El Kinematico“ Arraiz.

 

From the get-go, we hit an early climb, first tar and then gravel. It was a good opportunity to get acquainted with the Habit NEO and under the guidance of none other than enduro legend Jérôme Clementz, we duly set our bikes to eMTB mode.

 

Cannondale Habit Neo - Riding 2 - Climb.jpg

 

In this setting, the assistance is responsive to rider input while still smooth and predictable. On long, non-technical climbs a steady pedalling action and cadence of 70rpm or more is rewarded. Any lazy pedal-stomping and the dynamic assistance became over-active. But on more technical climbs with more erratic power output across varied terrain, that extra kick comes into its own, nudging you up and over root steps or rocky sections.

 

After around 500m of steady climbing on relatively smooth surfaces, we’d reached the summit and prepared to head downwards onto the trails. The first climb was a low effort, chatty affair, but even in the variable eMTB mode the level of assistance was restrained enough to get the lungs working, blood pumping and warm up stale legs.

 

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Although comfortable on the Habit NEO I was apprehensive. It was still a new bike, an e-bike, and not to mention the steep alpine trails lying in wait. Attempting to follow Jérôme Clementz from the outset was definitely unwise, but the bike kept well-composed and saved me from myself on a few occasions. While he quickly disappeared I backed off to get a better feel for the bike (and trails) and build confidence.

 

After a few sections, I quickly got a feel for how to use the weight of the bike and immense grip to my advantage. Despite carrying a few extra kilos the bike has a very nimble, responsive feel and once I'd loosened the death drip I began to throw it around, using the weight into corners and the extra kick from the motor to power out and quickly regain speed.

 

On some eye-poppingly steep sections, bashing through roots and ruts the bike was composed and the 140mm Pike provided great support for both the expected and unexpected hits.

 

Cannondale Habit Neo - Riding 4 - Trail.jpg
Cannondale Habit Neo - Riding 5 - Trail climb.jpg

 

My initial apprehension was quickly abated and it was time to play. Where an e-bike in this category comes into its own is with ability to quickly get you back up to allow "sessioning" of complete trails or specific sections. On one particular piece of trail which was both fun and challenging I charged back up the hill three times just to have another run down.

 

Now wanting to test the modes and battery we whacked on Turbo mode and powered back up the hill. The boost from this mode is obvious, but if anything I just found myself pedalling harder in response and at 20km/h at 250 watts (human power) I was gleefully racing back to the trail head. Only at the top did I realise the need to regroup and lower the heart rate. I enjoy climbing, but sans the electric assist there's just no way that third or fourth session would have happened.

 

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Without any hard numbers to back it up, overall confident I worked harder in climbing and descending while getting more opportunities to have fun and hone in my trail craft than I would have done on an analogue bike. Is that cheating? Whatever you choose to call it I'm okay with it. Where do I sign up?

 

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On the all-important topic of range, after two and half hours of riding, 23.2km, 1455m ascent, 1452m descent and 1653 calories spent the battery was sitting at 26%. And that after trashing numerous climbs in Turbo party in an effort to see who in our group could get the lowest battery reading upon our return, without running out of course.

 

Range will vary based on the terrain, the chosen modes and your riding style, so while flatter routes and more economical modes might get you up to 100km, big climbs and more assistance will of course reduce the range dramatically. In our case, I'm not sure my body would have outlasted the battery though.

 

E-volution or revolution?

 

Whether you’re sitting on the left or right of the e-bike debate, it might be time to forget everything you think you know or feel about e-bikes. There’s an emerging generation of e-mountain bikes which might just redefine the trail bike category as a whole.

 

I might be a bit buzzed from the fresh alpine air and overdosed on trail stoke, but perhaps there’s an argument to be made that trail e-bikes will take mountain biking back to where it began. A bunch of friends, misfits and adventure seekers looking to simply have fun on a bicycle.

 

That's not to say e-mountain biking or the Habit NEO is for everyone. If your ideal mountain biking is clocking miles, scrutinising power meter readings or feats of ultra-endurance it's probably not going to tick your boxes. Equally if you are gravity inclined on a non-electric bike of 140mm or more you might just be more at home on the Moterra. And there is the not so small issue of cost. Motors, batteries and a carbon dual-suspension mountain bike all do come with a price tag that unfortunately won't be for everyone.

 

If you're sitting on or anywhere near the fence, give one a try, you will be surprised.

 

Cannondale Habit Neo - Riding 6 - trail descent 2.jpg

 

Cannondale Habit Neo Models


Back to business then, below is a run down of Habit Neo models earmarked for South Africa. Local recommended retail pricing has yet to be determined, but as an indicator we've included Euro pricing.

Cannondale Habit Neo 1

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  • Frame130mm travel, BallisTec Carbon Front Triangle, SmartForm C1 Alloy Swingarm, Proportional Response Tuned Suspension, removable downtube battery, alloy skid plate, Ai offset drivetrain, internal cable routing, 148x12mm thru-axle, post mount brake, tapered headtube
  • ForkRockShox Pike Select + RC, 140mm, DebonAir, 15x110mm tapered steerer, 51mm offset
  • Rear ShockRockShox Deluxe Ultimate RT, DebonAir
  • Drive UnitBosch Performance Line CX 250W
  • BatteryBosch PowerTube, 625Wh
  • DisplayBosch Kiox
  • ChargerBosch 4a
  • RimsStan's NoTubes Flow MK3, 32h, tubeless ready
  • Hubs(F) Formula DC-511, 15x100 ® SRAM 746, 12x148
  • SpokesDT Swiss Champion
  • TyresMaxxis Rekon, 29 x 2.6", 3C compound, EXO, tubeless ready
  • CrankBosch Gen4 w/ custom Ai offset, 34T
  • ChainSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Rear CogsSRAM PG-1230, NX Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM X01 Eagle
  • ShiftersSRAM GX Eagle, 12-speed
  • HandlebarCannondale 1 Riser, Carbon, 15mm rise, 9° sweep, 4° rise, 780mm
  • GripsFabric Funguy Locking Grips
  • StemCannondale 1, 3D Forged 6061 Alloy, 1-1/8", 31.8, 7°
  • HeadsetIntegrated Sealed Bearing, Tapered
  • BrakesMagura MT7 Trail hydro disc, (F) 4-piston / ® 2-piston, 220/203mm Spider rotors
  • Brake LeversMagura MT7 Trail HC hydro disc
  • SaddleFabric Scoop Shallow Elite, cro-mo rails
  • SeatpostCannondale DownLow Dropper Post, internal routing, 31.6, 100mm (S), 125mm (M), 150mm (L-XL)
  • SizesS, M, L, XL
  • European Pricing€ 7,999
  • ExtrasLights - Supernova M99 Mini Pro

Cannondale Habit Neo 2

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  • Frame130mm travel, BallisTec Carbon Front Triangle, SmartForm C1 Alloy Swingarm, Proportional Response Tuned Suspension, removable downtube battery, alloy skid plate, Ai offset drivetrain, internal cable routing, 148x12mm thru-axle, post mount brake, tapered headtube
  • ForkRockShox 35 Gold RL, 140mm, DebonAir, 15x110, tapered steerer, 51mm offset
  • Rear ShockRockShox Deluxe Select+ RT, DebonAir
  • Drive UnitBosch Performance Line CX 250W
  • BatteryBosch PowerTube, 625Wh
  • DisplayBosch Kiox
  • ChargerBosch 4a
  • RimsStan's NoTubes Flow S1, 32h, tubeless ready
  • Hubs(F) Formula DC-511, 15x100 ® SRAM 746, 12x148
  • SpokesDT Swiss Champion
  • TyresMaxxis Rekon, 29 x 2.6", 3C compound, EXO, tubeless ready
  • CrankBosch Gen4 w/ custom Ai offset, 34T
  • ChainSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Rear CogsSRAM PG-1230, NX Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM GX Eagle
  • ShiftersSRAM NX Eagle, 12-speed
  • HandlebarCannondale 3 Riser, 6061 Alloy, 15mm rise, 8° sweep, 4° rise, 780mm
  • GripsCannondale Locking Grips
  • StemCannondale 1, 3D Forged 6061 Alloy, 1-1/8", 31.8, 7°
  • HeadsetIntegrated Sealed Bearing, Tapered
  • BrakesMagura MT5 Trail hydro disc, (F) 4-piston / ® 2-piston, 220/203mm Spider rotors
  • Brake LeversMagura MT5 Trail HC hydro disc
  • SaddleFabric Scoop Shallow Elite, cro-mo rails
  • SeatpostCannondale DownLow Dropper, internal routing, 31.6, 100mm (S), 125mm (M), 150mm (L/XL)
  • SizesS, M, L, XL
  • European Pricing€ 5,999


Cannondale Habit Neo 3

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  • Frame130mm travel, BallisTec Carbon Front Triangle, SmartForm C1 Alloy Swingarm, Proportional Response Tuned Suspension, removable downtube battery, alloy skid plate, Ai offset drivetrain, internal cable routing, 148x12mm thru-axle, post mount brake, tapered headtube
  • ForkRockShox 35 Gold RL, 140mm, DebonAir, 15x110, tapered steerer, 51mm offset
  • Rear ShockRockShox Deluxe Select R, DebonAir
  • Drive UnitBosch Performance Line CX 250W
  • BatteryBosch PowerTube 500Wh
  • DisplayBosch Purion
  • ChargerBosch 4a
  • RimsWTB ST i29 TCS, 32h, tubeless ready
  • Hubs(F) Formula DC-511, 15x100 ® SRAM 746, 12x148
  • SpokesDT Swiss Champion
  • TyresMaxxis Rekon, 29 x 2.6", 3C compound, EXO, tubeless ready
  • CrankBosch Gen4 w/ custom Ai offset, 34T
  • ChainSRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Rear CogsSRAM PG-1210, SX Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM NX Eagle
  • ShiftersSRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed
  • HandlebarCannondale 3 Riser, 6061 Alloy, 15mm rise, 8° sweep, 4° rise, 780mm
  • GripsFabric Funguy Locking Grips
  • StemCannondale 1, 3D Forged 6061 Alloy, 1-1/8", 31.8, 7°
  • HeadsetIntegrated Sealed Bearing, Tapered
  • BrakesMagura MT30 Trail hydro disc, 220/203mm Spider rotors
  • Brake LeversMagura MT30 Trail hydro disc
  • SaddleFabric Scoop Shallow Sport, steel rails
  • SeatpostTranzX dropper, internal routing, 31.6, 80mm (XS), 100mm (S), 120mm (M), 130mm (L-XL)
  • SizesS, M, L, XL
  • European Pricing€ 4,999

Cannondale Habit Neo 4

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  • Frame130mm travel, BallisTec Carbon Front Triangle, SmartForm C1 Alloy Swingarm, Proportional Response Tuned Suspension, removable downtube battery, alloy skid plate, Ai offset drivetrain, internal cable routing, 148x12mm thru-axle, post mount brake, tapered headtube
  • ForkRockShox Recon RL, 140mm, Solo Air, 15x110, tapered steerer, 51mm offset
  • Rear ShockRockShox Deluxe Select R, DebonAir
  • Drive UnitBosch Performance Line CX 250W
  • BatteryBosch PowerTube 500Wh
  • DisplayBosch Purion
  • ChargerBosch 4a
  • RimsWTB STX i29 TCS, 32h, tubeless ready
  • Hubs(F) Formula DC-511, 15x100 ® Formula DC-1248, 12x148
  • SpokesDT Swiss Champion
  • TyresMaxxis Rekon, 29 x 2.6", EXO, tubeless ready
  • CrankBosch Gen4 w/ custom Ai offset, 34T
  • ChainSRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed
  • Rear CogsSRAM PG-1210, SX Eagle, 11-50, 12-speed
  • Rear DerailleurSRAM SX Eagle
  • ShiftersSRAM SX Eagle, 12-speed
  • HandlebarCannondale 3 Riser, 6061 Alloy, 15mm rise, 8° sweep, 4° rise, 780mm
  • GripsFabric Funguy Locking Grips
  • StemCannondale 3, 3D Forged 6061 Alloy, 1-1/8", 31.8, 0-degree
  • HeadsetIntegrated Sealed Bearing, Tapered
  • BrakesSRAM Level T hydro disc, 200/200mm Centerline rotors
  • Brake LeversSRAM Level T hydro disc
  • SaddleFabric Scoop Shallow Sport, steel rails
  • SeatpostTranzX dropper, internal routing, 31.6, 80mm (XS), 100mm (S), 120mm (M), 130mm (L-XL)
  • SizesS, M, L, XL
  • European Pricing€ 4,499

 




1 Comments

timwightman, Jul 20 2019 07:55

First decent looking Cannondale e-bike.  Looks great, especially the Moterra SE.