We set the Cannondale up in its low/slack setting, which the frame eyelet claimed gave us a head angle of 65.5° – we measured it at 66.3°. As the lightest on test — half a kilo or so under the competition — the Prophet has just 140mm at the rear. With all the bikes tested in size medium, it has the shortest wheelbase on test, with a low standover height and shortish back end. Like previous models, this frame is not the stiffest out there laterally, and with the lightweight SRAM cranks there is a fair amount of flex noticeable in the Prophet as it stands. The frame could well benefit from a Prophet MX back end with its 20mm bolt-through set-up to stiffen things up, but this isn’t an offered option.
We set the RP2 shock to the recommended pressure and left it at that. The damping circuit gives smooth, controlled performance on the single-pivot design. The RockShox Pike is a little more complicated to set up than the other forks on test, allowing for both negative and positive chambers to be set independently. This means you can effectively balance the chambers and tune the way the travel is initiated, and it also means there’s no coil spring in the negative chamber, saving some weight as well. We rode at the top end of the recommended rider positive pressure setting to keep the front propped. The compression damping is easy to tune on the fly, or lock out altogether for climbing, and the 20mm axle Pike makes for precise steering. The ride feels well balanced front and rear and purposeful while both climbing and descending.
Once we fitted a 70mm stem and set the low/slack setting, it felt perfect from the off and ready for riding the way these trail bikes need to be ridden. The pivot position is close to ideal on the Prophet, and the bike seems to keep you in the right position wherever you are in the travel. With this most neutral riding position on test, and possibly because of 10mm less travel than the others here, it also feels the fastest and most agile. This lightweight persona makes it pure fun to blast on, and is perhaps more suited to all-round riding and climbing while clipped in than the heavier and more robust Pitch, which is our other bike of choice in this test. The frame is clearly not the stiffest, but this compliance does seem to aid traction and it feels more planted than some single pivots on the rough stuff.
Overall, the geometry and suspension performance are inspiring and urgent, and it’s easy to put the Cannondale exactly where you want it. We rate the Prophet as one of the most fun riding trail bikes available at any price.
Cannondale has got everything important dead right. The Prophet is simply a blast to ride fast and is responsive and well balanced out on the trail. The suspension at both ends offers smooth control and a supportive platform. Rider position is the most neutral on test. A couple of minor hiccups among the components can’t stop us awarding this bike top marks, and for the money it is simply a steal. Narrow handlebars and a too-long stem can be relatively easily swapped out, whereas geometry and rider position can’t, and this is where the Cannondale excels. You are slap bang where you need to be. The Prophet feels superb wherever you take it.
NEED TO KNOW
Fox Float RP2,140mm
fork: RockShox Pike 454, 140mm
sizes: S, M, L, XL
weight: 13.5kg (29.7lb)
Mbr rating: 10