WORDS Mike Kazimer
PHOTOS Amy McDermid
Geometry and Frame Design
|A Look at Banshee's Darkside|
Banshee had two prototypes of their Darkside, the company's new 180mm travel rig on display at this year's Crankworx Whistler. In development for the last year, the Darkside will be replacing the Scythe and the Wildcard as Banshee's freeride / park bike, and is expected to be available in the spring of 2014. When asked about the inspiration behind the new bike, Keith Scott, Banshee's engineer, frame designer and part owner of the company, simply said, “It's the bike I want to be riding.” Although final pricing isn't available yet, Scott stressed that he wanted to create a bike that was a little more affordable than other offerings currently on the market, but without skimping on any features.
• 180mm travel
• 26" wheels
• 63.5 - 64.5 degree head angle
• 16.5" chainstay length
• Sizes: S, M, L
• Colors: black, raw, bright (final color TBD)
• MSRP: TBD
• Available Spring 2014
The Darkside is constructed of hydroformed 7005 aluminum, and features a tapered head tube, threaded 83mm bottom bracket, and integrated bump stops on the frame for riders who choose to run a dual crown fork. The bump stops are easily replaceable – ODI's bar end plugs fit into the hole in the frame, giving riders a myriad of color choices. The prototype frame uses Banshee's interchangeable dropout system, but this probably won't make its way into production in order to keep the frame costs down.
As far as the Darkside's geometry goes, the head angle of the prototype Darkside can currently be adjusted between 63.5 and 64.5 degrees using the adjustable dropouts, but the final head angle number has not been decided on. The bike's chainstay length is 16.5 inches, with a 13.5” bottom bracket height, numbers intended to create a quick handling bike that can still handle the steepest, roughest terrain. The final weight is also not certain, but Keith Scott's large prototype with a Marzocchi 888 and flat pedals weighs in at 37 pounds, so it would be reasonable to expect the final version to be somewhere in this neighborhood. Suspension Layout
The Darkside uses Banshee's KS-Link suspension design, which uses two short links to attach the rear swingarm to the front triangle, with the rear shock mounted directly to the rear swingarm. A shorter stroke shock should could be used to reduce the amount of travel while at the same lowering the bottom bracket and slackening the head angle. The Darkside's suspension is intended to have a neutral feel, with a very slightly rearward axle path and a progressive suspension curve to prevent harsh bottoming out. The bike's suspension curve works well with either a coil or air shock, and the bike we spent time on was equipped with Cane Creek's latest version of their DBAir. Banshee has been working closely with Cane Creek to come up with the best possible base tune for the bike, which will help simplify the initial suspension setup.
Our sessions on the Darkside were spent in the Whistler Bike Park, alternating between long, rooty and rocky trails starting up in the Garbanzo zone and machine built, berm and jump filled classics like A-Line and Dirt Merchant. Banshee's bikes have a reputation of being solid, flex-free machines, and the Darkside was no exception. The solid rear swing arm and stout short links meant that the bike held its line no matter how rugged and chewed up the terrain was. We recently spent time on the Legend MKII
, Banshee's downhill race bike, and it's evident that the Darkside shares similar DNA. Both bikes exhibit exceptional stability at speed, with the Darkside feeling a bit more maneuverable and playful than the Legend. The top tube length provided enough room to shift our weight where it was needed, while the short chainstays meant that direction changes were quick and snappy. Where the Darkside seemed most at home was decimating berms and blasting into orbit off of jumps, and the dry, dusty conditions in Whistler meant that we left a constant smoke screen behind us as we two wheel drifted around the countless corners in the bike park. Pinkbike's Take:
|The Darkside would have been called a freeride bike a few years ago, but that terminology seems to have fallen out of favor, replaced instead with 'mini-DH' or 'park bike.' Whatever you'd like to call it, the Darkside looks like it may be a good choice for the rider searching for a bike that could be ridden hard for multiple seasons of lift or shuttle assisted riding. Sure, it's not carbon, and you probably won't see it on any World Cup podiums, but we'd be willing to bet that countless riders will be pushing this bike as hard as possible for years to come. Keith Scott set out to create a bike that he wanted to ride, basically a bike with the stability of a downhill race bike but with better cornering ability, and our first impression is that he has succeeded. Our time on the Darkside wasn't long enough put our theories on its long-term durability to the test, but once we get our hands on a production version we'll be sure to give it a thorough thrashing. - Mike Kazimer|