The Beta Tests: Banshee Prime V3
Speed is the only prerequisite
-Sold and priced as frame only.
-135-millimeter rear wheel travel
-Tested with 150mm fork
-Multiple wheel size options (tested with 29inch wheels)
-Multiple wheels sizes, geometry, and fork travel options
-Designed around strength and longevity
-High end performance and inexpensive price point
-Requires a heavy hand to live up to its potential
-Long setup time to find your sweet spot
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Glancing across the rack at all the bikes we had to ride in Ely, Nevada, the Banshee Prime certainly stood out. It doesn’t have the latest high-tech aesthetic of the many carbon rigs in our fleet. Rather, it’s like a patina’d tool in the workshop, more than just a means to perform a task. It is a prized possession. The do-it-all, dependable, last-forever tool that is there to solve the problem when the going gets tough. A workhorse. An old friend.
This Prime is not a one-dimensional bike. With 135 millimeters of rear wheel travel, the Prime straddles the line between all-mountain capability and short-travel agility. Recommended fork travel on the Prime ranges anywhere from 140-160mm, and this blurring of category lines also applies the wheel size options, available with the modular dropout system. 29-inch tires up to 2.6 inches wide (or 27.5″ x 2.8″) can be run in the compact dropouts. The long dropouts can take 29″ x 2.8″ tires. 148mm or 142mm spacing? Take your pick. Both are available on the Prime.
Our Prime was, of course, dressed up in a modern configuration. The 150mm MRP Stage Fork and 29″ x 2.5″ Maxxis Minion tires put the bike in the same conversation as many of the other trail bikes we tested. Even so, it asserted its uniqueness from the moment we hopped on.
Right away, testers noticed that Banshee Prime rewards confidence and speed. A rather roomy 450mm chainstay bolstered a lot of that sure-footedness when riding aggressively, and the bike feels stiff, solid—and a bit hefty. As such, it doesn’t like to go slow or hesitate, and comes to life at speed. It was during the in-between moments of average, undulating trail riding, that testers found themselves wanting to mess with suspension setup. It wasn’t exactly a set-and-forget scenario. Everyone did a little tweaking, and for most, it essentially boiled down to trying to bring out a more lively personality on the slower, technical end of the riding spectrum.
The modular dropouts on the Prime offer a low and neutral setting. With slightly slacker measurements than the neutral position, low results in a 76.7-degree seat angle and 65.5-degree head angle. With an acceptably steep seat angle in and still middle-of-the-road head angle for the category, the low position was the unanimous favorite during testing in Ely. Riders who prefer steeper angles will gain about half a degree by running the dropouts in the neutral setting.
Perhaps the most interesting detail of this third generation Banshee Prime is the “Shock Cage”–the complex 3D forged lower section of the main triangle. Composed of two forged pieces, this is where all the main suspension forces are concentrated. Isolating the main pivots, shock mount and bottom bracket in this section create an incredibly stiff, precise, and smooth rear suspension feel. More tortional stiffness means a smoother stroke and longer life for your bearings and rear shock. When we think of a multi season, do everything, all-mountain work horse, this detail is key to long life and good health.
The Banshee Prime is unapologetic in its unique character among all the bikes we tested in Ely. It’s not the lightest, or even the most turnkey, but like any good tool in your shop, it takes a bit of time to get to know. Once we got past the initial set up and started to get familiar with what this bike was capable of, it really presented itself as a beautifully different choice in the category.
Find it at bansheebikes.com/prime-v3
Photos: Anthony Smith