Like most Dales the frame is made from 6061 series aluminium and has a distinctive braced front triangle. It has good standover, acres of mud clearance and is exceptional quality for a bike costing £1,000. The welds don’t have that fillet appearance anymore, but they’re neat and tidy.
The Prophet has adjustable geometry, which is accessed by loosening a bolt holding the shock to the swingarm and repositioning it to a secondary mount. As it says on the frame, riders are able to change the head angle from an XC-specific 69 degrees to a more freeride-friendly 67.5 degrees. However, the Prophet was originally designed around a single-sided Lefty fork, with a shorter axle-to-crown height than the Tora single-crown fitted, so has angles of 67.9 and 66.9 degrees respectively. (These are different from the Prophet 1 tested last month, because that comes fitted with a longer 140mm fork.)
Five of the bikes here come with Rock Shox Tora suspension forks. The Tora on the Prophet is a 302, which means it has a steel steerer and stanchions, a Solo Air spring, Turnkey compression lockout and rebound adjustment. The Solo Air is actually a dual spring with self-adjusting positive and negative air chambers, which you adjust with a single Schrader valve on top of the left leg. On the first ride we noticed a little bit of dead travel in the top of the stroke, but RockShox told us that this is normal and just the shuttle piston between the chambers opening and closing as the fork extends. Among the competition, the Tora isn’t hefty at just roughly 5lb, and is a little bit flexy, but it’s good on the small to medium stuff, and there isn’t a better bet on a one grand full susser.
We criticised last year’s Prophet 4 for having a cheap crank, and nothing has changed. The FCM442 is a standard 9-speed chainset with a conventional tapered bottom bracket. It’d be worth upgrading this in the bike shop for one of the new Shimano Deore two-piece cranks. The Avid Juicy 3 brakes on our Prophet 3 bike felt spot-on out of the box; both the other sets (on the Giant and Commençal) had sticky pistons and needed quite a bit of tweaking to run true.
Hutchinson Spyder tyres are old and pretty bad in every way — Cannondale must have purchased a job lot cheap several years ago. Big gaps in the side knobs mean they slide all over the place, and the rear makes the bike feel more flexible than it actually is.
We’ve said it in every Prophet test and it’s also true of this bike: we’d swap the stock 90mm stem for a 70mm. This would improve the steering accuracy and, since the bike has a wide 27in handlebar and a slack head angle, it’d also reduce the stretched feeling.
In the slack geometry setting, the Prophet is very quick downhill. In fact we’d go as far to say that if you’re just starting out you’re going to get into trouble riding this bike. The limiting factor for hard technical riding is the fork; even the fully-wound rebound adjuster on the Tora feels underdamped. Definitely an area that needs improvement.
We thought that with 140mm out back the Prophet would be a sluggish climber, but it’s not any worse (or better) than the rest. There’s some feedback in the granny ring but if it’s steep enough to need the granny, we suspect you’ll be off and walking due to either the weight, or a lack of skill or fitness.
The Prophet 1 we tested last month had a couple of spec issues, but the reason it got a ‘10’ is because they could be corrected easily and cheaply. Since the Prophet 3 is actually well specced for £1,000, it doesn’t have those issues, and as such is a better overall package. The reason we’re upping the mark from last year is because the Prophet 3 is £150 cheaper, still has a class frame (that you can upgrade as you go), is confidence inspiring and has adjustable geometry and good suspension. In addition, if you’re going to buy a 32lb entry-level suspension bike you might as well get one with the most amount of rear travel.
MBR RATING: 10/10