One Month With a 29er – Banshee Prime Review

I have had my Banshee Prime for a few months now, but because of an injury I have only had a month of riding time on it. To give you a little history about my past bikes check out this Google+ album. I have ridden everything from XC racer bikes to Freeride bikes as my everyday steed so when it was time to choose the replacement for my trusty Banshee Rune….well it was not an easy choice.

Banshee Prime Close-up | Photo: Rivers Mitchell

Long story short I ended up getting my hands on this super bright yellow 29er. Now, in the recent past I have been leaning towards stealth black bikes, so this is a bit of a departure for me. I may be on record saying that I will never own a neon bike (I was an 80’s child and didn’t like it back then either)…but bikes are meant to be fun and damnit, this is a super fun bike so the colour matches.

You aren’t here to read about my colour choices, you want to know how it rides right? Well, let me just say this right off the bat, this bike is fun. I felt at home on it right away, being a taller rider I just felt like it fit me better than any bike in the past 5-10years. Instead of being on top of the bike that I was in it…it just feels more natural for me. It’s hard to explain, you know those clowns that ride the tiny bikes…that’s how a 26er feels to me now…just small and that I am just towering over it. The Prime just fits. For a little reference I am 6′ 4″ and fully geared a hair over 250lbs.

Banshee Prime Chilling by the lake in Jasper, BC | Photo: Rivers Mitchell

When I got the bike I had not been riding much, I had to sell my old bike to be able to afford the new Prime frame. It took about two months for this build to come together, so I was not in the best riding shape and on my shakedown ride on my local trails and even then I was able to pull a bunch of 2nd and 3rd best times on Strava.You know how a shakedown ride goes, just making sure the bike is working and tweaking to make sure it is set up properly so this was a bit of a surprise to say the least.

A few rides later I pulled my fastest time down the local Super D course….and I even stopped to check out some of the new trail work. Yeah…this bike is fast. It just loves to be ridden hard the faster the better. What surprised me is how well it handles in the tight and twisty technical singletrack that the island is known for, I was expecting a little compromise here. The Prime is not exactly a short bike, so I thought that I would pay for that when things got tight. I don’t know how Keith did it, but this long bike just rips through the rocky, rooty, twisty local trails, it really does not feel longer than my Rune did and it may not be, I have not compared the numbers.

Banshee Party on my home trails | Photo: Rivers Mitchell

I will say this though, because the bike is a bit long it is not easy to get the front end up. I can lift it up and over trail obstacles, but it just takes a little more oomph. I really have never been able to manual, so it’s not a huge deal…but be aware of it. The trade off is the bike is SUPER stable when the going gets nasty and that is something I will take any day.

One of the first things I noticed about the bike is how fast I could get going on flowy XC singletrack…the bike just loves it. I felt myself wanting to pedal faster and faster with a huge grin on my face…this would have been painful on my old bike…the big wheels just love to thunder down the trail.

At the top of the Smallwood Trail system in Nelson BC | Photo: Rob Gretchen

Okay, now the most amazing part….climbing. Holy cow this bike climbs like no other bike I have ever ridden, as long as your legs can keep the pedals moving, it will tackle it. There are a few bits of trail I have looked at in the past and say “Hah..nope, never gunna do that!” and just for shits and giggles I have been trying them on the Prime and up and over I go. I am amazed at the things I have been able to climb on this bike…just confidence inspiring.

I knew the bike would descend well and Banshee did not let me down there either. The bike is a monster when gravity takes over. The big wheels just plow down the trail, sure you can pick your lines and finesse your way down the trail, but why do that when you can just fly down skipping over rocks and roots that would leave lesser bikes begging to slow down. Not the Prime…just keep going, oh…and a little faster would be nice too…if you can handle it.

Enjoying the view at the Partridge Hill lookout | Photo: Rivers Mitchell

I was riding with a friend yesterday who was on a 26’r and at one point he was yelling back at me to watch out for a wheel sized hole that almost threw him over the bars, I did not hear him till it was too late, but lucky for me the Prime just rolled right through it without an issue. 29er win!

The bike built up as you see it in the photo’s is a hair over 32 pounds, not bad when you consider it is an XL frame with no carbon bits. Even better is that I have total confidence in this bike and will be riding in in everything from XC to DH tracks, it’s just that good as as close to the “one bike” as I have ridden.

The Banshee Prime, climbs like a goat with it’s tail on fire and descends…well…like a banshee. I wish I could really convey how much fun this bike is, I ride everything I did on my 26” bike, but just faster and I am having more fun riding now than I have in a while, and I thought I was having fun before…haha.

Is it the extra contact patch that the 29er provides, or the kickass KS link and the inspired geometry? My guess is that the mix of the three just make a trifecta of awesome when it comes to how well this bike handles…it has to be ridden to be believed.

Before I got the bike I told myself I would not be one of those 29er owners that thinks that their bike is better than anyone elses, who really cares what wheel size you ride as long as you are out there enjoying the trails and having fun, because that’s what really matters right? Well, yes, of course, but if you have a chance to try one of the new school 29ers then take one for a ride, you might be surprised at what you find…and, who knows you may end up on a wagon wheel bike one day telling people how awesome it is, crazier things have happened.

To find out more info on the Prime and the other bikes in their lineup check out the Banshee website.

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