When writing up my recent review of the Prime 29er from Banshee Bikes (read it here), I also managed to get a few words from Keith Scott, head engineer and part owner of the company on how he was inspired to create this bike.
Paul Aston: Hi Keith, so we’ll start with some basics: Name, age, background and riding background/style. Where do you live?
Keith Scott: Keith Maclagan Scott, 30, I’ve been designer and part owner of Banshee bikes since I got my Masters in Mechanical Engineering seven years ago. I lost the stabilisers on my third birthday and have never looked back. I’ve been mountain biking since I was 10, ripping round local park, then got into all-day epics in the highlands.
When I was 19 I spent four months living in Vancouver, which is when my eyes were truly opened to the potential and variation of the sport. I mainly trail ride on my Banshee Spitfire nowadays, mostly in and around trail centres, but I also do map and compass type days. However, I still love to get out on the big bikes and scare myself when possible. I live in Edinburgh, which is a great city to live in if you are a mountain biker as there is loads of riding around and lots of variation.
PA: What was your inspiration to build an alloy 29” 130mm bike?
KS: For the Banshee Prime, I wouldn’t say it was as much inspiration as demand from customers. At Banshee we always do our best to listen to what our customers are asking for, and do our best to deliver it. The Prime was born when customers (mainly from USA) started asking for a hard hitting 29er that could be ridden aggressively all day. The 130mm of travel of the prime combined with the bigger wheels makes it feel a little like a fast rolling 160mm travel 26er, so it is great for true all mountain and enduro racing. Don’t believe me… go ride one!
Paul Aston putting the Prime through its paces at Abetone Bike Park, Italy
PA: I believe you Keith! How do the trails that you ride influence the kind of bikes you want to build, or does this come from what clients/team riders ask for?
KS: A bit of both really. I would never design a bike that I wouldn’t want to ride myself, but our customers tend to drive the direction of the genre of new bikes for the most part. Most the time I feel very much in tune with our customers, but sometimes they push me in directions I might not have considered, and by listening to them I help push the brand in the right direction… which is the customer’s direction. I tend to take their initial suggestions and then work hard on geometry and linkages to deliver that confidence and efficiency that Banshee are famous for. Often this ends up with me making bikes with geometry radically different to anything else on the market… although others tend to start to copy our geometries pretty quickly.
PA: What did the prototyping process involve?
KS: First of all I do a LOT of ground work on a computer using 3D CAD software and FEA analysis, as this saves time and money in the long run. Once I’m happy with the design, we make a few protos for test riding by us here at Banshee, as well as for machine fatigue and destruction testing. We tend to spend at least a few months testing the first generation protos ourselves and I use this time to refine the design if required based on feedback. Once the second-generation design is ready we run a bigger batch of test frames for further testing. We often run global long term testing programs that can run for over a year to make sure that we have a design totally dialled before we release it. These long-term testers range from pro riders, to everyday riders who aren’t quite as smooth! After all testing is complete, and possibly further design refinements are made, only then are we confident that the frame performs to our very high levels and release it to the public.
Banshee’s Prime 29er
PA: There’s a new bike called the Phantom. When can we expect this?
KS: Well… I’m still playing the cards close to my chest on this one, as it’s a bit different to anything else out there. Just put it this way: it’s got big wheels, is a great all day trail weapon and a blast to ride. More info will be released early in 2014, and we plan to make them available to the public by next spring/summer.
PA: What kind of riding/riders will this be aimed at compared to the Prime?
KS: The kind who is a bit more pedal focused and doesn’t require quite as much travel, but still wants to charge hard.
PA: Are you planning a longer travel big wheeler in the future? What are your thoughts on this kind of bike (e.g Specialized Enduro 29)
KS: I never say never, but currently this is not planned as you can ride everything you want on the Prime, so I don’t see why a bigger travel (less efficient) 29er is required. But… if enough customers demand it, then who am I to say no.
Keith showing us he’s got the skills to pay the bills!
PA: Why would somebody choose the Prime over a 26/650 bike like the Spitfire?
KS: Well, big wheels make riding smoother, faster and easier in general, so the Prime is more comparable to the Rune (160mm) than Spitfire (140mm). The combo of geometry, frame stiffness and wheel size means you can go full speed into sketchy, rough sections with confidence and carry more speed through fast open trail sections. So if you want to monster truck along the trail and make riding fast and easy then the Prime is a great option.