The network of trails in Washington’s Raging River State Forest are an ongoing labor of love, built by the state’s Department of Natural Resources and the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. One of Seattle’s most popular mountain biking destinations located 30 miles from downtown, the project started with a 14-mile loop and will eventually become a 40-mile system that leads to Tiger Mountain. The evergreen woods are thick. The trails are buffed and flow nicely between groomed berms and bank turns. When the sky is clear, you can see Mount Rainier.
On January 10, when REI sent a group of riders to test and shoot photos of two new bikes from Cannondale—a 29-inch full-suspension mountain bike called the Habit 5 and a gravel bike called the Topstone Disc SE 105—a windstorm had swept through the forest, blanketing the trails in green debris that had fallen from the conifer trees.
“The entire landscape was covered in green,” said Corey Kelmel, 31, who was riding the Habit 5. Kelmel is a Seattle resident who works in digital marketing, has two dogs, and has been mountain biking his entire life. He is also an enduro level racer, competing in grassroots races in the Northwest. He says the terrain at Raging River was perfect to test out Cannondale’s newest redesigned full-suspension mountain bike.
“This is all flow trail, with really good buff, really good berms, some big-ish jumps in spots, very well-thought out,” said Kelmel.
Linnea Rooke, 32, a Seattleite who has been mountain biking for six years and competes in the pro category for both downhill and enduro, was riding the Topstone Disc SE 105 gravel bike and she recalls the many stream crossings she did for the photo shoot: “My feet were soaked. It was so cold,” she said. “When you do the stream crossings, you shoot down the bank, cross a stream of marbles, and shoot up the other side. It requires a lot of the bike to handle the marbles and the stream. All of a sudden, you go from dirt to wet, loose, marbly rocks. For the bike to handle that and plow through it all was really awesome.”
The Habit and the Topstone are part of a new offering from Cannondale at REI stores nationwide. The Habit, now with 29-inch wheels, 130 millimeters of travel and Cannondale’s SmartForm C1 alloy frame, is a versatile bike for singletrack riding. It features Cannondale’s new suspension design philosophy, dubbed Proportional Response, which Cannondale says optimizes the bike for riders of all sizes to experience better control and more efficient riding. The Habit 5 is ideal for a person who is just getting into mountain biking, said Kelmel. “This is a bike that a beginner could buy and have for the next two, three years without changing much, if anything at all.”
“It’s a do-everything bike,” said Kelmel. “It was really nimble. It was definitely maneuverable. You could slap corners with it, and popping off jumps was more than my bike at home could do.” Kelmel said that his own bike is heavier and more suited for steep terrain and drops that he finds while competing in enduro races. But he was impressed by how well the Habit maneuvered the flow trails at Raging River. He remembers dropping down one trail at top speeds. “And I was really surprised for a bike I had never ridden before … the level of comfort I could ride at that speed,” said Kelmel. One thing that will resonate with bikers, said Kelmel, is the ability to swap components on the Habit and upgrade to parts, if the rider wants to customize the bike.
Joining REI’s lineup of gravel bikes, the Cannondale Topstone is ideal for adventuring on backroads. Rooke, a former cross-country skier who competed in Division 1 races in college, is an avid mountain biker, and she’s used to a bike more suited to singletrack and technical terrain. But the Topstone’s smooth ride and versatility piqued her interest.
The Topstone Disc SE 105 is built to accommodate high-volume tires up to 42 millimeters wide for added comfort and grip. Its geometry is built for endurance, so the rider is in a “confident and sporty” stance, according to Cannondale. The forks on all models are full carbon, while the Smartform C2 Alloy frame is light.
“Road climbs up the mountain would be a lot of fun or any of those long gravel trails that traverse the countryside would be great places for this bike,” Rooke said.