Ever year at trade shows people always ask me what the coolest or best thing I’ve seen is, and last year at Sea Otter, the answer was a short travel 29er prototype from Banshee. Long, slack, and mean, it had XC travel, and all mountain attitude.
After an additional year of development, the Phantom has finally emerged.
While a ~100mm travel 29er usually attracts the spandex and gel shots crowd, the Phantom is targeted towards a different group of riders. Just look at what shock they’ve spec’d on their display model.
With a 120mm fork up front, and the option of either a DB Inline or Fox Float shock, the frame is designed with short travel fun in mind.
Squish is provided by the acclaimed KS-Link suspension platform, which was introduced two years ago on the redesigned Spitfire and Rune.
This platform improves on the older VF4B design by reducing bushing rotation, which reduces friction, and offers better performance off the top of the stroke. The new system has also proven to be considerably more reliable and easier to maintain.
In order to create some of the stiffest feeling aluminum frames on the market, Banshee utilizes internally ribbed seat and chain stays (picture here).
Click to enlarge geometry chart
The head tube angle can sit anywhere from 67.5°-68.5°, while the stays can grow anywhere from 17.3-17.5″.
Sorry for the crummy cell phone picture. It’s dark in the woods.
Last year, when one of the Banshee team riders was in town, I had the opportunity to take a pre-production test mule for a rip on my local trails. At 5’7, I’m on the shorter side of the target 29er demographic, which is apparent because the Phantom is only available in three sizes – M, L, & XL. Yet, the borrowed medium frame felt spot on when paired with a shorter stem.
With a burly build kit, it would have been difficult to mistake the test mule for an XC whippet, yet the short travel 29er handled short punchy climbs and tightly winding single track with precision. And despite the slack head tube angle, the frame was easy on the legs both in and out of the saddle.
Punching it downhill, it’s incredible to think the bike has only 100 mm of travel ( the production model has 105 mm). Without spending much time at all fiddling with knobs or adjusting air volume, it was all pin-it-to-win-it descending. With mostly steep chutes and ripping berms at my disposal, the Phantom felt controlled when tossed into corners, and the rear didn’t dive or suffer from harsh bottoms out.
Considering the Phantom I rode was only a test mule, and I didn’t fiddle with the geo chips, I was fairly impressed with my short ride. How does it perform in rocks, hitting a big set of doubles, or in different geometry settings? Only more time will tell, but if my short ~15 mile loop was any indication, then the new Banshee is a winner.