The Legend MK1 is Banshee’s first frame to foray into the downhill race scene, but I wouldn’t call the frame beginner's luck. Many recall the burliness of Banshee in past years, via models such as the Scream and Morphine. Since then the boys over there have been busy combining the knowledge of how to build a strong and stiff frame, while applying some weight savings techniques resulting in a definite contender.Check out my review inside
,Now when most companies design a prototype they often generate rider feedback via a small select group of pro riders and/or in-house guys who ride. However, Banshee realized that most people who buy the frame won’t be silky smooth pro riders but will be your average downhiller, some who race as well as some who don’t. So they gave power to the people. By choosing 60 riders from all over the world, with different riding conditions, styles and abilities, Banshee generated a massive amount of rider feedback spanning almost the entire skill spectrum. While this process is both time consuming and expensive, the result is a first year production frame that is truly evolved in respect to its generation one moniker.
Banshee’s research and design method is just one way the company maintains such great rider relations, but rider/co-owner Keith Scott (also the Design Engineer) is extremely accessible, knowledgeable and friendly. As I sat down to describe the suspension design, I thought who better to hear it from then straight out of the horses mouth? In a recent e-mail I asked Keith to describe the Legend design: "The Legend uses a variation of our VF4B (Virtual Floating 4 Bar) linkage that is refined and optimized for DH race performance. All suspension characteristics such as axle path, leverage ratio, chain stretch and anti-squat have been dialed to make the frame perfect for DH racing. The Legend
is designed to stiffen up under pedaling to maximize acceleration and control under power, whilst remaining fully active to offer maximum traction over any terrain. The Suspension is isolated from braking forces so that it remains active under braking, meaning you can brake harder and later with more control. The initially rearward axle path sucks up small square edge bumps, whilst chain stretch and pedal kickback reduces as you move through the travel so that you don't get kicked off the pedals when the going gets rough. The whole linkage, like the rest of the frame is designed for one thing... speed!"Jason from Banshee talks about the Legend:
Fortunately, I was chosen to be one of those 60 riders mentioned earlier, so the following review is for a prototype frame. Please keep in mind some of the frame’s shortcomings were picked up by test riders such as myself and have been addressed for the production models which will be available next season. Well Keith, let’s see if you’re description matches my results!
I equipped my medium sized frame with a 2008 Fox DHX 4.0 with a 300lb titanium spring from the guys over at Obtanium
. I rode this shock on my 2006 Turner DHR and found that many of my initial complaints about the DHR weren’t the shocks fault, rather the frame’s shortcoming. The Legend’s design provides a superior pedaling platform and surprisingly (or at least surprising to myself as an adamant Turner guy for several years) tracks with more accuracy and consistency through the rough stuff. Up front I’m running a 2008 Marzocchi 888 ATA World Cup. While the ATA model does seem to suffer from some mechanical maladies, I’ve found it to be completely bottomless and very progressive when functioning properly (which contrary to internet hearsay is more often then I believe the general population considers it to be). The fork does lack some small bump compliance but like the frame, when you pick up the speed and toss in some big pointy rocks, the trail simply becomes paved. I have a set of Magura Louise BAT brakes which are fairly light and have enough power for the smaller, more technical mountains that dominate the Mid-Atlantic region of the East Coast. A set of Sunline VS-One bars with SRAM X.9 shifting all powered by a Race Face Evolve DH crankset round out the drivetrain/cockpit portion of the bike. Before going onto the frame I would just like to give a huge thumbs up to Kenda tires who have really struck gold with the Excavator and Telonix model. Both roll relatively fast but brake, corner, and all around survive way better than any other combination I’ve tried to date!
Mother is right, there’s only one chance for a first impression, so don’t screw it up! After three seasons on the old square-tubed Turner DHR I was reluctant to believe that any bike would surpass the great ride characteristics of that frame. From run number one, the Legend has done just that and defied my expectations in the best way possible. The long wheelbase (45.8”) is extremely stable at high speeds and evokes confidence in longer corners without taking a year and a day to get through the tighter ones. Pedal performance is good on this frame. As Keith described, the axle path enables one to stay on the pedals at the top of race courses despite often choppy conditions that leave most riders pumping for speed, while Legend riders can simply lay down the power (even with flat pedals!). Being from northern New Jersey the need for a frame to handle the east coast's burliest rock gardens (and not get handled) was a must for me; think of the Legend as the mob’s muscle because it doesn’t take no shit from nobody! Keith's Claims
Engineers tend to believe (oft for good reason) that their particular design is superior for a myriad of reasons. After getting Keith’s description, I was determined to really test his assertions up against my sometimes less than smooth riding. Infamous for its brutality on parts, Diablo provides a great testing ground for all equipment, leaving some frames cracked from the pressure. Yet even after an epic case off a 15ft drop, a few square edged rocks unseen, the frame remains as tight as it was the day I unpacked it from the box! Even the paint seems to be resisting flying debris well, displaying few scuffs or scrapes.
As described by Keith, the design is intended to isolate braking forces from the suspension design ideally preventing the suspension from “squatting” under braking. When a frame squats, not only is speed lost as the rear wheel tends to smack into obstacles opposed to rolling over them, but it also subtracts travel available for the rider and bump absorption. Seemingly by a feat of magic (or as Keith would suggest, a good design) the frame actually feels as if it gains speed over rocks as the suspension seemingly does some degree of “pump work” for the rider; that is, instead of squatting into every available hole, the wheels simply float along the tops creating a paved sensation typically resulting in speed and an ear to ear grin.
Back in the days of more primitive designs, floating brake arms were used to help prevent “brake jack”, which is simply when the suspension reacts to braking forces. This reaction can easily buck a rider off-line or off the bike entirely. Proper braking technique dictates that one should do as much slowing as possible in a straight line before the corner in an effort to sustain balance, speed and preferred line. Unfortunately proper technique isn’t necessarily always available or used (at least in my case) but the Legend simply exclaims, “Ay don’t worry bout it!” Braking forces seemingly don’t apply to the suspension’s prerogative which is to smooth out the trail as much as possible. Check out the full geo. specs here
. Final Thoughts
If you’re one of those people who wants to blend in with the crowd and doesn’t want their ride to be a source of conversation in lift lines, this frame might not be for you. But, if you can tolerate the compliments and confidence this frame generates, then give the Banshee Legend some serious consideration. I’m beyond happy with the bike and find it a joy to ride. It’s snappy, stable, pedal friendly and not for nothing, it’s damn pretty to look at!
If this write-up has left you with any or many questions please don’t hesitate to e-mail me, post comments, or get in touch with the guys at Banshee directly. Throughout the season Banshee has proved to be a very supportive company whose R&D process is just one example of their conscious efforts to be involved and responsive towards riders and riding. I’ve been assured that for next season the already great geometry will be undergoing several rider induced tweaks such as a longer top tube for added high speed stability, a lower BB height as well as slacker head angle that will improve the cornering that final degree needed to make it one of the better turning bikes on the market. There is also a “big” change being made for production bikes, but apparently Keith has decided to keep the news hushed until a later date, so keep an eye on Banshee's blog
for continual updates on the Legend in addition to their other frames. While perfection is never achievable, Banshee’s pursuit has generated a frame that I believe truly will soon become Legendary!
I would just like to quickly thank the following companies for their continued support:
And of course, Banshee Bikes