The Prophet 2 sits squarely in the function-is-everything, all-mountain camp. With its twin triangle, single pivot design and 140mm (5.5in) front and rear travel, it's a do-anything, ride-anywhere machine that promises all-day rideability, with a hint of bike park invulnerability.
The best of both worlds?
Ride & handling: a willing accomplice
The Prophet 2 has been on a diet since we last rode it in its 2007 incarnation - the 08 model is £600 cheaper and nearly a pound lighter. There's some spec and geometry changes too, but it's near enough the same bike.
That's good news, because we loved the 07 Prophet, and the 08's pound and £-shaving diet just makes it better value.
Don't be misled by the long-travel aspirations of the 140mm (5.5in) spec. Sling a leg over the dropped top tube, grab the bars, set the Fox RP2 shock to filter out pedal-induced bob by flicking the ProPedal switch and revel in a bike that pedals like a beefed up cross-country bike, but descends like a junior version of a freeride machine.
Fox's proprietary ProPedal compression damping gives the rear end a mildly constipated feel, but it's a small price to pay for the lack of sag and wallow when you're pumping the gas. And access to the full 140mm of plush, progressive rear wheel travel is just a flick of a switch away.
The wide bars, accurate steering, stable long wheelbase and perfect front-to-rear weight distribution give a feeling of grin-inducing invulnerability.
Whether blasting tight, twisty singletrack or hammering through a rock garden that you'd pick your way around on other bikes, the Prophet 2 is a willing accomplice.
Chassis: form follows function
There are, broadly speaking, two schools of bike design - aesthetes, for whom function follows form, and engineers, for whom the reverse is true.
No prizes for guessing which camp the Prophet 2 falls into. With its distinctly old school tube profiles, lack of fancy hydroforming and chunky welds, it's an exercise in functional minimalism.
Cannondale's frame builders used to build up substantial weld beads and then file them into a smooth transition from one tube to another, but the Prophet 2's joints are unapologetically lumpy. The twin triangle design accomplishes several goals at once by bracing the shock mount, lowering standover height and dispersing stress along the top tube.
It's a similar story at the rear. Multi-pivot designs may have been stealing the limelight for a few years, but there's a lot to be said for the simplicity and easy maintenance of the good ol' single pivot.
The Prophet 2's swingarm pivots at a point just ahead of the bottom bracket and halfway between middle and large chainrings. Two shock mounting positions give the choice of slacker or tighter head angles for more relaxed (freeride) or sharper (XC) handling.
Fox's reliable Float RP2 shock handles all 140mm of rear wheel travel well, with an out-of-the-box compression damping tune that helps minimise rider-induced bobbing.
Up front, Cannondale's proprietary oversized head tube leaves open the option of a future upgrade to the company's quirky single-sided Lefty fork, but the Prophet 2's RockShox Pike does a good job in its place.
The Maxle quick release adds bolt-through axle stiffness while maintaining most of the advantages of a quick release. While hardly the lightest choice, heavy and adventurous riders keen to push the bike's limits will appreciate the accurate steering and reassuringly flex-free feel in the rough, even if this comes at the expense of some uphill speed and slightly more fiddly front wheel removal.
Cannondale is one of few bike manufacturers still producing frames in the US, and the company is justly proud of this.
Components: good kit, but can we gear down please
Cannondales have often looked underspecced next to the opposition, but the Prophet 2 acquits itself well.
The SRAM transmission and Avid brakes perform as well as we'd expect, although it'd be nice to see a 34-tooth rear sprocket on a bike that's a little harder than average to haul up the climbs.
It's the details that make the difference, so it's good to see wide, grippy IRC Freedomcross Trailbear tyres, a comfy Fi'zi:k Gobi saddle and super wide FSA bars with lock-on grips - these all add to the feeling of security and control at speed.