Source: Ryan Kuhn and Action shots by Vince Boothe
The scythe is an enduring symbol of the harvest. It is also a symbol of death – the Grim Reaper of Christian lore and Kali, the Hindu Goddess of Death, carry Scythes. When it comes to a bike built for launching one’s self with abandonment and railing at eye-watering speeds, this is a bit unnerving. Fortunately, [L=http://www.bansheebikes.com]Banshee’s[/L] take on the Scythe is a lot more like the useful tool of yore – it is sharp, simple and durable. You can reap your just rewards.I picked up the Scythe mid-July just in time to race Crankworx and the Sun Peaks Canada/BC Cup. I was looking for something race worthy but also capable of enduring the everyday abuse of freeriding in BC. I’ve been ripping this bike for several months now in all conditions and can say with certainty that it is a far cry from the Banshees of old.
The small anodized grey frame came with a 450 lb spring on a Fox DHX 5.0. It also came with a rear 150mm Rockshox Maxle axle, a seat post and clamp. The 450 lb spring – a weight I’ve ridden on other 4-bar bikes with success – quickly proved too stiff. I swapped it for a 350 (all that was available at the time), which I thought would be too soft but it turned out perfect for the suppleness required for DH racing. I’d likely run a 400 lb spring (I weigh approximately 155 lbs) for pure freeriding to increase pedal efficiency and add some big-hit prowess.
For the full build-up of this bike, see my preview article here: https://www.pinkbike.com/news/banshee-scythe-preview-2008.html
After riding a series of virtual pivot-style bikes, the faux-bar (effectively a single pivot rear wheel trajectory with a 4-bar activated shock) of the Scythe took a little getting used to. There was of course some brake jack, but I actually don’t mind this action and it made me realize how lazy I’d become with trail braking into corners. I started to brake strategically before the corner and let her roll through…and I’m pretty sure I was faster as a result of this.
I first had the bike set in the slack “DH” head angle setting with the more upright 8” of rear travel. However, this was still a bit twitchy for my liking so I set it to the 7” setting. This provided the lowest possible bb height (approximately 14.5”) and slackest head angle (65 degrees) with the 8” fork up front. This was comfortable in most conditions and I haven’t touched it since. The ability and ease to match the geometry of this bike to the conditions you ride is a great asset.DH Racing
: I literally put this bike together the day before the Whistler Garbanzo DH and my first ride on it was during training in the rain/mud on Original Sin/In Deep – not the best choice for most sane people. Fortunately, after a few minor tweaks to the suspension and geometry as stated above, the Scythe felt comfortable out of the gate.
The rear end of the Scythe is stiff – perhaps the stiffest of any bike I’ve ridden. This is an advantage of this frame’s linkage and where it out-performs many other four-bar designs. In fact, I had a run of flats that may have been due in part to this stiffer action and my riding style (I flatted in the Garbanzo race halfway down). I’ve since became accustomed to this and appreciate how it rails corners with confidence.
I had a couple weeks to train/ride on the Banshee between Crankworks and the Canada/BC Cup in Sun Peaks, which went much better. The Sun Peaks course this year was shortened and less technical, but made up for it with gnarly fast and fun steep sections. The Banshee performed well and I managed top spot in the citizen Masters and only a second off first in the Canada/BC Cup Masters category.
The Scythe is capable as a race bike and excels in the tight, technical sections. It is not the low-slung race sled of today, but in all fairness Banshee didn’t intend the Scythe for racing. Their new DH prototype – the Legend
– looks the part and, based on the world-class results of their top racer from Columbia, Marcelo Gutierrez, it has the performance to match. You can check the Legend out here (http://www.bansheebikes.com/bikes/legend.html
: This is where the Scythe comes into its own. It is intended to be an all around freeride machine that performs in a variety of conditions, has the strength to handle day-to-day abuse and ensures minimal maintenance. From my few months on this bike, I must say it has accomplished all of these feats with few criticisms.
The first thing you’ll notice is this frame’s light for a freeride-specific design (I know, probably never how you’d imagine describing a Banshee) at 8.8 lbs for medium without the shock. Much of the Scythe is hydro formed with gusseting seamlessly melded into the frame and has clean welds. The anodized finish of my frame was slick – it still looks brand new despite hard shuttling and riding. Sealed bearings in the linkage for low maintenance and a 1.5 head tube allowing a zero-stack headset are also key elements of the design.
Again, the 7” setting and slacker BB/head angle was ideal for most of the trails I’ve been riding as of late, but for those who do more trail riding or ascending the steeper settings and 8” in the rear would likely be more desirable. With a good long-travel single crown fork, front derailleur and dual chain ring guide, the Scythe would make a capable all-mountain/freeride bike. The uninterrupted seat tube ensures you can jack that seat as high as you want for the crank up and drop it for the ride down. Combine that with the single pivot design and the adjustable rear shocks of today and you can easily dial in the platform to best suits how – and what – you ride.Final thoughts
: The Scythe is not a pure bred race bike but is certainly capable for those wishing to have some weekend warrior fun on the DH track, yet still perform day in and day out on your local trails. The Scythe takes a beating and does so with no complaints.
Issues I faced with the Scythe were few. I had to do some routine tightening of the pivot points but this was minor and only in the first couple weeks. There was some creaking after excessive wet riding/racing, but a little cleaning of the pivots and it went away. There was also some superficial corrosion/discoloring on the outside of the pivot bolts – I suspect a result of the environment and being put away wet more than a drawback of the bike’s design.
The post clamp that came with the bike was a bolt-on, which is ok for DH racing but isn’t practical for a freeride-oriented bike (a QR will be spec’d on 2009 models). The Maxle axle is a nice product with excellent real world-practicality. However, it kept coming loose until I finally lost the skewer and had to order a new one. This is apparently not uncommon and I hope RockShox is looking for a solution (Lock tight might help, but not if you’re taking your wheel on and off frequently).
All in all, the Scythe (MRP $1999 Cdn with a two year warranty) is a reliable, designed-in-BC (fabricated in Taiwan) frame that will perform well for years. If you’re looking for the fastest bling-bling machine out there, this might not be it. But if you want a freeride bike that has remarkably low weight, impressive stiffness and versatile – and useful – adjustability, the Scythe could be the bike for you. Pros
- low maintenanceCons
- geometry too steep for pure DH racing (if that’s what you’re looking for)
- maxle rear axle comes loose
- prone to brake jack
- bolt-on seat clampwww.bansheebikes.com