Banshee Darkside

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(Photos by Reilly Kintzele)

This is one of the few new bikes that has come out in 2014 that has been getting a lot of hype.  I don’t know if it’s for the fact that Banshee has stepped up their game with this bike, or the endless amounts of Star Wars jokes that can be made. Either way I’m gonna give you my ten cents on this bike, I know Pinkbike just put out a very detailed review of this bike as well, but for all of you who just want a quick honest opinion of the bike I’m here to deliver.

Geometry:

Here’s the short and sweet. This bike essentially has the same geometry as the Legend except Banshee has taken a step in the same direction that most of the other bike companies have in the recent years, lower, slacker, shorter chainstays and a longer wheel base. The bb is lower than the Legend which has a 13.7″ and the Darkside comes in at 13.5″. The chainstays are dramatically shorter, which was one of my favorite parts of this bike, coming in at 16.7″ versus the Legend with 17.4″. The head angle is half a degree slacker at 63.5 and the wheel base is 46.3″ versus the Legend at 46.1″. Now keep in mind I am running the bike with 26″ wheels and in low position. Personally I favor a bikes that have this type of the geometry. The short chainstays gives a way more playful feel when riding but the longer wheel base still keeps the stability at high speeds. The low head angle and BB also make this bike a deadly weapon when the trail throws you into some steep technical sections. The only thing differentiating this bike from a full blown DH bike and the park/freeride bike it’s being advertised as is the 7″ shock which can be ran with an Air or coil shock. Personally I went with the coil because I wanted to get the Darkside as close to the Legend I was running and compare the two, along with the fact I’ve never had much luck keeping a air shock running, or getting it set up properly.

Colors: 

darkside_frame_blackdarkside_frame_red_blue1darkside_frame_silver_blue

 

Fun facts- The black is probably the most durable but it’s a pain to clean because of its durable paint. The clear coated frame, if it’s like the Spitfire, will actually the heaviest out of the 3 colors. I haven’t had a chance to check out the orange one in person yet so I can’t comment on that one.

 

My Set Up:

IMG_9250

Cockpit: Raceface, with 35mm rise bars

Suspension: Fox Float 40, and RC4 coil

Brakes/Shifter and Drivetrain: Shimano with Raceface Cranks

Wheels: (26″) Industry-9

Weight: ~36lb

Features:

Integrated Fork Bumpers- a must for every bike in my opinion

26″ or 650b wheels

Adjustable dropouts- either low, neutral, or high – personally I’d just keep it in low setting the whole time unless your trying to do xc on a 7″ bike for some reason.

One cool thing about this black, not sure if it stands true for the other colors, but Banshee did a great job with the durability of the paint. For the first time your bike might actually still look decent after two years of riding and not have a ton of rock chips in the paint. That’s something I have never been able to say about a bike, usually after one shuttle day you can kiss your pristine paint job goodbye.

Banshee has always done this on their bikes but I just think it’s cool to note that oversized pivot bolts/hardware. I do a lot of maintenance on my bikes and it’s nice to not have to worry about stripping out bolts or dealing with dropping any tiny screws, and taking this thing apart is pretty straight forward to making maintaining this thing easy.

The wheel well that the rear triangle forms around the wheel also something that I noted from riding. All the mudd tends to stay out of the most of the linkage and off your shock, I may be the only one who cares about this stuff but I like when bike companies engineer little things like that to keep everything more tidy, whether it was intentional or not.

Words of advice, lock tight the shock bolts, and your drop out bolts cause I did notice those came loose after two 8 hour days in the park. Along with wrapping your chainstay to protect from chain slap. I really didn’t have any chainslap with the Shimano Zee clutch derailleur but it’s better to be overprotective.

I also had issues with the rear axle coming loose every few hours of riding as well which is also something to keep an eye on.

IMG_9254 IMG_1582IMG_9261

Riding:

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity try out this new ride from Banshee a few weeks ago, which I was very thankful for. Thanks Banshee, Joe and Max at Hi-5 Bikes again for getting it all together. Now this is my first “park” bike I’ve ridden and  I’ve still only put in about 25 hours of riding time in on the bike in the past two weekends at Whistler but I have to say I’ve been pretty impressed so far. This is by far the most playful bike I’ve ridden, T’ing up corners, manualing into lips and just all around ripping it was a blast in the park. First thing I did notice though is I probably have the rear end sprung just alittle too stiff for my weight. I had to bump up a spring rate on my Legend so I figured the same would apply to the Darkside but I’ve been running very little compression to try to counteract the spring rate. On the other hand the stiffer spring did make this bike pretty great at jump, but I think even without the stiff spring this bike is a natural jumper. I was able to pop and actually boost jumps with half the speed required from my Legend. The Darkside’s suspension platform is suppose to be a progressive ramp throughout the travel which always leads to a great, very predictable jumping bike. The only spots I seemed to run into trouble was where things started to get really gnarly, like Canadian Open for example. The top end of the travel seems to ramp pretty hard and you really feel those hard hit at full race pace, the Darkside doesn’t have the endless travel feel that the Legend does but you can’t ask to much since this bike was after all designed as a park bike. If your really dialed in with some good lines though the really chundery gnar the Darkside will eat it up just like a DH bike.

 

 

The Beatdown:

So here’s my final few words on this bike. First of all I’d really like to try in with 650b wheels. I’ve got Banshee’s 5″ travel Spitfire trail bike and the 650 wheels give the bike the feel that it has an extra inch of travel so I’d think that putting 650b wheels on the Darkside would make it feel more like a DH bike with the full 8 inches of travel. Though putting on the bigger wheels might make the bike feel alittle less playful. For the intended purpose of a park bike I think Banshee did a great job of putting this one together it’s durable, a blast to ride, and has some more up to date features their previous bikes. Though I have heard some people contemplate racing one of these things, which I think you might be able to get away with if you have some really smooth lines, or are very in tune with your suspension set up. But for the most part if your not riding at race pace your never going to feel like your under gunned. Honestly I never found I needed an extra inch of travel, only when I ended up making a mistake did the bike feel a bit harsh. Riding the Darkside did make me realize the how much fun a park bike is, if I didn’t have the need for a special DH race bike I would probably end up riding this thing all the time it feels like the best mix between efficiency and still being able to monster truck downhill trails. This bike does have the option of running an air shock with a 7″ fork too which I think could also be a extremely playful set up turning this downhill machine into a jumping park rats dream ride. All in all I think this the one of the first bikes in a new trend of bike you’ll be seeing because this bike is so versatile and customization that its the perfect bike for someone who puts in a ton of park laps and isn’t to into the racing scene. To finish it off I’ll just give some props to Banshee for putting out this bike and getting their name back in the game!

Banshee Darkside



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