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Banshee Prime 29er Review

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Banshee’s Prime 29er is a hard-hitter’s dream big-wheels bike. Solid frame, confident ride and decent angles make this an ideal option for those of us who ‘ride hard’. Paul Aston is one of those folk so we handed the duties of testing the Prime over to him. Here’s how he got on.

Photos: Andy Lloyd / Aldridge Photographic (action)

Six weeks ago I was handed a Banshee Prime by UK agent Ison Distribution (ID) for review right here on Bike Magic. In general it was built with components from their in-house brands such as Halo and Gusset, with everything else courtesy of Shimano.

Poor thing had a tough time with me. The only victim was the bottom roller on the MRP 2X Chain Device.

Poor thing had a tough time with me. The only victim was the bottom roller on the MRP 2X Chain Device.

First impressions

Marmite! Personally I loved the clean, alloy look (still looked clean after my poor efforts at a wash down) and as far as wagon wheelers go, it was well proportioned and had an impressive stance. However, if brushed aluminium isn’t your thing there are options: Anodized black, Red and luminous Yellow for those of you who ride at night.

I won’t dwell too much on the spec as it’s currently only available as a frameset. But everything is up to date here, Zero Stack tapered head tube, Sram S3 mount front derailleur and ISCG ’05 mount.

Replaceable dropouts have all bases covered 135×10, 142×12, and even 150mm x12. The dropouts also offer adjustable geometry that changes the head angle +/-0.5 deg and the B.B height +/-6mm at the same time.

Banshee Prime vitals

Size Tested: L
Fork: White Brothers Loop, 140mm Travel, 32mm Stanchions (60psi)
Shock: Fox Float CTD, Kashima (130psi)
Cranks: Shimano XT 2X
Shifters: Shimano XT
F Derailleur: Shimano XT
R Derailleur: Shimano XTR, Type 2
Brakes: Shimano XT
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb
Bars:Gusset Slade Low Rise. 19mm rise, 760mm wide.
Saddle: Gusset R-Series, Herringbone effect
Stem: Gusset Staff 70mm (I used a Production Prive 50mm stem)
Rims: Halo Vapour
Hubs: Halo Supa-Drive 120t
Tyres F=R: Maxxis Minion DHR EXO, 60a (Split tubeless set-up, F:27psi/ R:30psi)

Proving grounds

After spending an hour staring at it and riding around my 20-foot-square patio I decided to take it for a ride. It hadn’t been on a plane before so it seemed only fair to take it on a little holiday.

Paul Aston charging on the Banshee Prime 29er.

Paul Aston charging on the Banshee Prime 29er.

The following day we were having a little fun in the Alps where the Banshee was thrown on chairlifts and hurled down the Portes du Soleil’s finest braking bumps. It kept up with some of the UK’s best downhillers (albeit they seemed slightly hungover), it sailed over some big jumps in Chatel Bike Park and finally down the region’s best kept secret—a 40-minute single-trail down to Lac Leman. (Lake Geneva if you’re Swiss.)

Then it was a quick hop back to the UK to see how it coped with my local trails of Hopton, Bringwood and Eastridge. It didn’t bat an eyelid. In the name of being thorough I took it to Abetone Bike Park in Tuscany.

Another four days of lift-accessed riding preceded an impromptu local DH race on a course that will be hosting a World Cup downhill in the near future. Then for dessert, back home for a few days around the ‘off piste’ trails of Cannock Chase. Whew!

The ride

I was initially a little disappointed when the bike arrived without the adjustable drop-outs as I was on my way to the Alps, where I was thinking I would need it to be slacker in the head angle department. Nevertheless, I was pleased and surprised that at no point I felt that I needed to change the angles. After the whistle-stop tour I found that 67.5º was spot on—it never felt too steep or wallowed on the climbs.

The seat angle is good and steep at 75.5º, giving taller riders a good seated pedalling position above the BB. Being tall myself, I often find this becomes a problem on bikes with a slacker seat angle.

At 6’1” I would opt for the XL size, but the L size tested is spacious for a rider using a short 50/60mm stem (reach on the Large is 440m).

The skinny White Brothers Loop forks attracted a few giggles from the DH crew but despite their 32mm stanchions they held up well. I ran the rebound pretty fast and they just kept on working. Not the smoothest action, but very predictable with simple but effective adjustments. Pat from Ison tells me they have an updates 34mm fork now under the MRP umbrella for 2014, which will be well worth checking out.

The 2013 Fox CTD Shock was a bit of a let down, lacking in support. I think with another shock (frame options for 2014 include Fox CTD, X-Fusion O2 and Cane Creek DB Air) support could be improved in the mid-end stroke offering more grip and less bottom out.

The great noise from the 120t ratchet in the rear hub turns a few heads but can be a little antisocial when chatting and rolling along!

Fox CTD shock. Should perform better in 2014, but I think there are some great alternatives available.

Fox CTD shock. Should perform better in 2014, but there are more capable alternatives already available.

The only downside with the wheelset was the front axle spacers that weren’t attached to the hub. This made putting the wheel back in to the forks a bit more hassle than it should have been, but Pat C-J tells me this has also been sorted for 2014.

The only time I felt that the bike was struggling was on very steep sections of trail with big steps and roots, but then I remembered I was on a 130mm travel bike! It literally never felt out of its depth on anything else.

Durability

The lightweight (1791g pair) Halo Vapour wheelset stood up better than expected to the abuse—a few small dings during the DH race runs—but using EXO casing tyres this was to be expected.

Big wheel still straight even after some serious abuse.

Big wheel still straight even after some serious abuse.

A few spokes came loose in the rear and the wheel lost some shape but that proved no problem to Tim from Leisure Lakes, who gave the bike a once-over for me. Other than that, after 6 weeks in my company the bearings still appear smooth, the DU bush in the shock became worn a little more quickly than I would like but with the new Fox three-piece bushes, or the needle rollers of a Cane Creek, this shouldn’t become an issue. Not a single bolt on the suspension linkage came even slightly loose either.

Verdict

If you’re after a big wheeler for aggressive riding, that really can do anything, the Banshee could be a great choice—especially if you don’t want to shell out on carbon prices. This machine can be chucked on uplift trailers and used without fear of breaking the plastic, and it’s something a bit different.

I’d suggest building the bike with a Cane Creek shock and something 34/35mm on the front like the new MRP, Pike or X-Fusion Slant. Then you’ll be laughing to yourself at the front of the pack when your mates are buying downtube protectors for their carboners.

Price: RRP with X-Fusion O2 RCX – £1399
RRP with Cane Creek – £1489.99
RRP with Fox CTD w/trail adjust – £1574.99
More information: Banshee Prime 29er
UK distributor: Ison Distribution

Even if this isn't what you envisage yourself doing on a bike, rest assured that the Prime can take even the biggest hammering and jump. Paul Aston certainly fell for the Prime.

Even if this isn’t what you envisage yourself doing on a bike, rest assured that the Prime can take even the biggest hammering and jump. Paul Aston certainly fell for it..

  1. Jamie Carr

    Hey Paul, and james,

    How do you reckon this Prime Banshee would stand upto a season of Alps guided all mountain routes. I’ve three Cham – Zermatt tours booked for next summer, a Tour du Mt blanc and other stuff booked already, and my old O-range five is looking tired…. cheers Jamie C.

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