Philpug: I tried my first e-bike a couple of summers ago -- and almost two years to the day later, I bought one. I am writing this follow-up review not as a discussion on cheating, accessibility, and stigma, all that stuff; instead I want to explain how and why we went from being extremely intrigued to actually making the purchase.
First, I didn’t wake up one morning intending to buy an e-bike. No, I kind of backed into it. It started when Tricia and I got our bikes ready to ride this year. With everything Covid going on, and being unable to ski, you would have thought we were excited to switch gears and go ride, but that wasn’t really the case. Tricia’s allergies were getting worse and worse, and she could barely ride more than a couple of miles -- literally, as in two or three -- before she was done. This made it not fun for either of us. So, the intent was to upgrade her ride to an e-bike, which we felt would level the playing field so both of us could enjoy riding again.
Tricia: [cough] So there I was with a sinus headache and tight chest from spring allergies and a huge desire to get out on the bikes, but hesitant at the same time because I wasn’t sure if I could last very long. I’m not sure if Phil loves to climb, but he seems to go for it and clear stuff that I have always looked at as a necessary evil to enjoy the trails on the other side of the climb. I always had to take breaks to drink extra water and grab a Ricola. Having a test ride on the Moterra two years ago, I had hopes that going "e" would keep me enjoying the trails. [/cough]
Philpug: Tricia and I started exploring the options, brands with which we have some sort of affiliation through the site, but it came down to a universal lack of inventory and limited availability. Exhausting our options, we came back to Cannondale (not that that's a bad thing).
Tricia: I knew I didn’t want a Moterra, not because it isn't a good bike but because it has evolved into a longer travel bike, more enduro-esque, not the type of riding that I prefer.
Philpug: For 2020, Cannondale started producing an electric version of the Habit, the Habit Neo. With available model options here in the US, the Habit Neo 2 was the best choice for her. Now, how to make this happen with limited financial exposure? With the supply and demand of bikes being disproportionate, used bikes have been selling for way above their value. By pulling some strings and using industry pricing, the outlay to the new bike was very minimal. So, we put one of our Triggers up on Facebook marketplace, and it was gone within hours. Off to order Tricia’s bike.
Like I said, I myself wasn’t in the market for an e-bike at this point ... but when I saw how fast the first Trigger sold, well, being a salesman at heart, when I see money waved in my face, my head automatically starts nodding up and down and my hand automatically extends to accept it.
Tricia: [Cough] This is when I started to literally hear gears turning in Phil’s head.[/cough]
First impressions Well, this is the first bike I ever bought without test riding; I never even saw it in person. So, other than having ridden a regular Habit, I went into this completely blind. At 5’11” I always felt I was in between a medium and a large. and since I couldn't test ride, I was going to have to go with my gut. Except the decision was made for me, since Cannondale was out of larges. I am glad this was the case, because stepping up to the Habit with the 29-in. wheels from the Trigger with the 27.5s, it was indeed the right choice. Comparing mediums, the wheelbase is almost 5 cm longer on the Habit Neo than the Trigger (120.5 to 115.8 cm). The medium Habit Neo is more like a medium plus. But even with the longer wheelbase, it is still more nimble than the Moterra, which has evolved into a big-mountain bike.
Along with its big brother, the Neo 1, the Neo 2 is the first level that incorporates Bosch’s Performance Line CX Gen4 drivetrain with the Kiox display and 625Wh battery. The lower-level Neos have a 500Wh battery. My first rides out, I had 35 mi on the battery with 22% left, so I see no reason that someone cannot get around 45 mi out of a full charge. I would say that 80% of the battery usage was in Eco, 15% Tour, and 5% eMTB; I never even touched the highest setting, Turbo. In addition, 90% of the Tour and eMTB usage was actually on the road, riding to and from the trailheads. The Kiox display is very intuitive. It can be paired with your mobile device, and all of the data can be transferred right to it along with sites like Strava. Remembering and comparing the newest Bosch Performance CX to the previous one I rode with the Moterra, the evolution is very noticeable.
On the trail. As mentioned, the new Performance CX is seamless, with very little delay or even jerkiness that was apparent but still could be felt in older models, it felt just normal ... well, normal if I were Superman. The Maxxis 29x2.6 Rekons don’t initially have the bite and feel of the Maxxis Minion DHF 27.5x2.5 front, High Roller II 2.4 rear, but I still have to play with the tire pressures. I was initially tempted to swap the SRAM GX/NX derailleur/shifter combo over to Shimano XT, but I can definitely feel this is a step up from the NX that was on the Trigger.
The extra wheelbase is felt more on the descents than the climbs. It feels like I am actually descending more slowly than I am climbing, even though I know that is not true. I think I just need to trust the bike and the tires. Of course, a lot has to do with technique: I still think back to what @Erik Timmerman taught me more than a decade ago: press down the inside handlebar and point the knee where you want to go. Just like skiing: basics, basics, basics.
Tricia: The first time I sat on my Habit Neo 2, which I bought without trying first, I thought, "WOW, this is a lot of bike." Even though it is a medium, same size as my Trigger 3, it sure doesn’t feel like the same size. More on that later.
One of the things I absolutely loved about the Trigger 3 was the lightweight frame and nimble feel on flowy trails. I knew that light was something I’d be giving up by switching to an e-bike. At the time I got the medium Trigger 3, there was no doubt it was the right size for me, so I naturally ordered the Habit Neo 2 in a medium as well. The first time I sat on the Habit to get the suspension set up, I wondered if a medium was a mistake because it sits a bit higher and definitely feels big compared to the Trigger. But, it's mine now, so let's get ready to ride.
Once we got on the trails, I felt more comfortable with the size and was confident that a small would have been too small, so we just need to tweak the setup a bit. Tight switchbacks are something that I’ve struggled with and have been working on at the progression trail system north of Reno, but this bike has me back inside the learning curve. Whether it's the 29-in. wheels instead of 27.5, or the 5cm-longer wheelbase, this is something I must get used to. I’ve only had two solid rides on this new Habit of mine, but I climbed a few things that I would have either struggled with or opted out of in the past. One ride was 13 mi, which is pretty long for me during the height of allergy season.
We have plans to cut the handlebars down about an inch off the 780 mm to make them fit my wingspan a little better; other than doing that, tweaking the suspension a little, and adjusting the seat position, we are ready to roll.
Philpug: I am very happy that I made the e-jump. This is the first time in getting back into riding that I am really excited to get out. I even went for two rides one day, something I haven’t wanted to do since I don’t know when. I am now looking for reasons to go for another ride. Now, seeing a climb now and thinking "I got this" instead of slumping my shoulders and thinking of an excuse for why I could turn around makes everything so much more fun now.
I can say this is one of the best purchases I’ve made in a very long time for my health and summer activities.
Philpug: I will add one last thing. While Tricia was writing the last of her contribution above, I went for a quick 1:30 ride. I blasted out 14 mi with 1600 ft of elevation gain. I came back sweaty and spent. I got a great workout, and I could not have had a better time. In fact, I don’t recall ever having as much fun riding as I have had since we got these new Habit Neo 2s.