“Alright Jim” It was Will from Blazing Bikes, Shropshire “I’v got a bike for you to test, it’s my Banshee and you gunna love it!” Well that was a good start, I thought, I’m not asking for bikes now, I’m being offered them, great. Even better, the bike got delivered, and on first glances I was pretty impressed. I almost feel bad waffling on about wheel sizes nowadays, but with this bike it has to be done, as it comes with different drop-outs so you can run either 26″ or 27 1/2″, nifty! My last 2 tests had been on 29ers and I’d been trying my GT on 27 1/2″ wheels, so when the Banshee turned up in the 26″ set up, it was almost a bit gutting, having gotten used to the bigger wheels.
On having a look around the frame, It seemed very well laid out, from the big beefy bearings of the KS linkage, to the sturdy looking tapered headstock, giving this bike the ability to run standard or adjustable headsets, thus widening its appeal from the uphill to the downhill warriors. The interchangeable drop-outs are so simple, just take out and run at high or low position for different angles, with slightly longer ones being available for the bigger wheels. The finish, welds and paint design, with its subtle white logos on the mat black finish really made for a stealthy looking weapon. The componentry of the bike was not really of any importance, due to the test really being about the frame alone. Although the 26″ compatible Fox 34 ctd forks did do it justice.
The first ride was around the large 38k Beast track at Coed Y Brenin, having ridden lots on bigger wheels it did seem a bit more of a maul up the hills, but the downhills were a real blast. With this bike’s 65.5 degree head angle and 160mm rear wheel travel, it just seems to want more and more abuse, bigger hits, faster berms, larger jumps and rougher terrain. The only thing I was slightly concerned about was (this due to going back to the smaller wheels not the bike) the fact that it slowed down so quick when you got off the gas on the flatter parts of the downhill trails. I got round the trail with my mates and decided that I needed to ask for the different drop-outs for the following weekend’s race.
27 1/2″ test
“Sorry Jim, they’re not in the country yet, you gunna have to smash the race on the 26’s” was Will’s reply to my request, “Oh bugger” being my thoughts, I knew I needed any bit of help with this ‘Ard Rock race, as it had some major climbing in it and was a massive loop, “Oh well, just gunna have to pedal my heart out” I thought.
Next morning I popped into my workshop and looked at the bike, “I reckon I can get the big wheels in there anyway” I thought. So the GT was soon apart, 650 wheels, check, swapped disks, check, my brand new Rockshox Revalation 650 forks, check. After an hour or so of tinkering, things were swapped over, the drop-outs were raised and the rear wheel had about 5mm of front clearance, perfect, she was now a 650b, just probably slightly shorter than the official 650b set up with the correct length drop-outs. It seemed to ride fine outside my house, so that was enough to know I was racing it with the bigger wheels, mint!
This was now the real test, as 27 1/2″ is soon to be the norm and 26″ becoming extinct. As it was now set up, the bike just seemed to come alive once out on the trail, amazing. It had the same characteristics as it did as a 26″, big hitting, gnarly loving, etc, but it now became really fast when pedaling, didn’t slow down in the flatter sections and was just pure joy to ride. This bike’s middle name should be Fun, because that was all I was having on the fast rocky decents of the Ard Rock Enduro, I just loved it. It rides with some serious stability with the nice low BB height and coupled with my “bags of grip” Maxis High Roller 2’s the traction was impeccable. It took me to 5th position, my best yet at an Enduro, and if I’d have remembered to get my time chip swiped at the bottom of Stage 1 I would have been 3rd, need I say any more!
This frame, with it’s supple and plush KS link suspension, nice low 347mm BB, lifetime crash warranty (original owner only) and coming in at a respectable £1489.00 (Fox) or £1589 (Cane Creek DB air) I’d say this is a serious bit of kit for the money. And as I sit here writing this after an hour of putting it back to the original spec it arrived in, it is actually with a degree of sadness I’m having to give it back!
Words: Jim Buchanan Photos: Doc Ward (http://www.doc-photography.com/)