The Prophet has arrived.
But first a bit of background.
If Lance put Trek back into the mind of road cyclists, Cedric is putting Cannondale
back into the mind of mountain bikers.
While Lance is flying up the mountains of France proving that Trek makes some of the best road bikes on earth, Cedric is flying down the mountains of North America, Europe and anything else he can find proving that Cannondale makes some of the best fat-tired bikes on earth.After nearly going extinct only a few years ago, Cannondale has come back in a big way with its popular Gemini and Jekyll mountain bike lines. With innovations like the lefty shock and the OnePointFive head tube, Cannondale has proved different is good.
But when it came time to come up with the next bike in Cannondale’s stable, they needed something more – something so different and so functional people would think it was from out of this world, something almost Heavenly.
It didn’t descend from a cloud, but since its initial introduction as a preproduction bike last June in Switzerland, the Prophet has had miraculous test results all over the world.
Could this be the best all-mountain bike ever made? Cedric things so, and we’re about to find out.
Cannondale is a big proponent of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Cleveland, so when PR director Bill Ruddell found out Pinkbike would be spending the day at Ray’s in mid-December, he made sure there was a shiny new Prophet awaiting our arrival.
Where better to prove Cannondale’s new bike could stand up to anything thrown at it than at North America’s only indoor dedicated mountain bike park featuring 66,000 square feet of rock gardens, jumps, drops, skinnies, latter bridges and more.
Because of the reaction the bike industry has had to the Prophet since its unveiling, getting test rigs isn’t an easy task. However, the Bike Authority, a large Cannondale dealer just outside Cleveland, happened to have a Prophet 600 on hand, so it was prepped and delivered to Ray’s.
The 600 is the lowest model of the six bikes in the Prophet line available for 2005, but with a street price of less than $1,600 US (that’s $3,400 US cheaper than the top of the line Prophet 4000) and a feature list that rivals that of some bikes twice the cost, we were happy to give it a try.
Of course, the highlight of the Prophet lineup is the Lefty Max single-legged fork. It may look odd, but with the onepointfive head tube, the Lefty is incredibly stiff and yet very lightweight, and it performs better than many of the standard forks on the market.
For the $1,600 price tag on the Prophet 600, you get the same Prophet frame found on the rest of the lineup, which gives you adjustable geometry from a 67.5 degree head tube angle in ‘freeride’ mode and 69 degrees in ‘XC’ mode.
“There all the same,” explained Ruddell. “When a Prophet frame comes off the production line in Bedford, Pennsylvania it doesn't know if it will grow up to be a 4000 or 600.”
The rear shock on the 600 is a Manitou Radium R Air with five inches (140mm) of travel, which matches the travel of the Lefty up front.
The drivetrain is made up of Shimano Deore, LX and XT components, as well as TruVatiV Blaze cranks and an SRAM cassette. The 600 comes with Mavic XM117 wheels with Cannondale hubs, IRC Trail Bear rubber and Avid BB7 Disc brakes.
So, how does it perform?
If you’ve never ridden a Cannondale with the Lefty shock before, the first thing you notice is how light and responsive the front end of the bike is. I typically ride a dual suspension bike with a Rock Shox Psylo up front, and while it’s not an overly heavy fork, it still weights significantly more than the Lefty. So my first few loops around Ray’s were spent adjusting to the feel of the Lefty and getting used to how much easier it was to wheelie drop and jump.
But after a few minutes of riding and a few minor changes to seat height and the angle of the 31.8 FSA handlebar, I was off and running.
The Prophet ate up anything and everything I could throw at it. Because of the light front end, the bike seemed to float over rock and log gardens. When it came time to hit up some of the box jumps (usually a bit more of a challenge on a full-squish than a hardtail), the Prophet wanted more air than I was willing to give it.
I rode the bike for about four solid hours and my initial impression is that it’s one of the most fun bikes I’ve ever pedaled.
The fact you can get an American made Prophet 600 for $1,600US with an impressive build kit and the same frame as a $5,000US bike should open up the freeride market to many more people.
The great thing is you could take this bike to a freeride park one day, and be competitive in a cross country race the next.
The Prophet has some mighty big shoes to fill since it’s essentially taking over where the hugely popular Jekyll left off, but after our initial test, it seems Cannondale’s new ride should have no problem in an all-mountain segment that is growing increasingly competitive.
Now it’s time to throw some studded rubber on the Prophet and see how it handles things in the great white north.