This past weekend, the Cannondale Demo tour made a stop in my backyard and I had the opportunity to hop on a bike for a couple of hours. Initially, my plan was to take three bikes out — the Rush, the Prophet, and the Gemini — but we received a dump of snow a few days before the event was scheduled to take place.
The snow-covered ground meant that there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of pedalling on the day, and it also meant that I wasn’t going to make multiple trips up the mountain.
As I looked over the bikes that were available I quickly ruled out the Rush, since I wouldn’t have the chance to do it justice by climbing and it wouldn’t be as fun as the others for snowy descending. The Gemini was axed soon after that because I wasn’t particularly keen on pushing a big bike through 6 inches of crusty snow. In the end I settled onto the Prophet 4000, Cannondale’s high-end trail bike and headed up the hill.
The stock Cannondale Prophet 4000 comes dialled, right out of the box. It features SRAM’s X0 trigger shifters, an X0 rear derailleur, a Shimano XTR cassette, and plenty of carbon bits from FSA. On the ground, Maxxis Ignitor 2.35″ UST tires are mounted on a Mavic CrossMax SL UST wheelset. Hayes El Camino brakes with 6″ rotors provided the bike with decent stopping power.
The bike’s suspension features 5.5″ (~140mm) of balanced travel, built around the Lefty Max Carbon 140 SPV Evolve with Titanium Coil up front and a Manitou Swinger 3-Way Air in the rear.
The Prophet frame is gorgeous, and I suspect that the galvanized finish wears especially well, since scratches and rub marks won’t be visible as you break your bike in. The ‘regular’ Prophet differs from its ‘Big Mountain’ cousin — the Prophet MX — in a couple of spots: the bottom bracket shell is smaller on the ‘regular’ Prophet; the rear dropouts are standard, as opposed to the 12mm thruaxle found on the MX; and there’s a little less metal on the smaller frame in terms of gussets.
The test bike came in at a svelte 26.5lbs and I immediately felt as though it would be a perfect weapon to tackle some epic singletrack.
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The bike’s geometry felt good, and I had the test ride set up in the more relaxed (67.5 degree) head angle setting and I think that I’d keep it in this setting for most of my riding. But, if you’re so inclined, it’s easy to shift the geometry into a more cross-country friendly position (69 degree head angle). The rear suspension moves really smoothly through its travel on descents and the platform valving on the Swinger 3-way makes for a comfortable pedal up.
The only thing I didn’t appreciate was the Fi’zi:k Gobi Ti saddle — it was the only thing I’d swap out immediately if I were purchasing this bike.
The drivetrain performed flawlessly, even in the wet and snowy conditions, and I had no problems pushing gears on the way up or down. However, based on my short time with the X0 triggers, I’m not sure that I’d drop the cash on them — unless I was missing something really obvious, I don’t think the performance improvements, adjustability, or weight savings are justified expenses for most riders.
I have no real complaints about the Lefty, although I’d like to have had more time on it to get it tuned in to match my riding style a little better than the way the test bike did.
First impressions of the Cannondale Prophet 4000
I had a fun time on the Prophet — it pedalled great and did well on most descents — even though I did feel it was a little overmatched by the terrain I was riding, especially when the going got especially steep and technical. The SPV-equipped Lefty ‘clunked out’ in a couple of spots that I didn’t expect it to but, overall, the front wheel tracked cleanly and went where I had it pointed.
The bike really moved well through corners and the suspension didn’t have the decidedly neutral feel that some of my regular bikes seem to have — the Prophet was lively and quick (in a good way) all the way down the hill.
If you’re looking for an all-mountain bike that’s burly enough to take some serious hits and the occasional trip to your area bike park, I’d look at the Prophet MX or another full-on all mountain bike before I went with the lighter Prophet 4000.
However, given that the parts spec on the Prophet 4000 is obviously targeted at the burgeoning trail-bike market and, even though the bike weighs less than many shorter-travel rides, I can see it as a bike for people who love to go for long rides on epic singletrack, race in a few events per season, and, occasionally, bomb down an old-school technical run. And, for this type of rider, the Prophet 4000 would be a perfect match.
If you can’t afford the high-end price tag attached to the Prophet 4000, you can always look at one of the lower end models in the lineup and, since they’re all based on the same frame design, the only major difference between models is the component spec.
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