A short while ago we told you, the Pinkbike.com viewer, that we had received one of the new Banshee Wildcard bikes to do some beating on.
Well, we have abused ourselves, bruised our bones, scarred our limbs, and thankfully enough, but to no surprise, the Wildcard is still standing tall. The Wildcard has been hiked through 4 feet of snow, pushed through 2 feet of mud, rode through the pouring rain, and is still begging for more. Here's the full review on the Banshee Wildcard and the parts that made it go.My initial impression of the Wildcard
was Wow. With a sick anodized black color scheme, matched up with some really fancy white decals, the frame was very visually pleasing. Utilizing a sloping down tube, and a super low stand over height, the Wildcard looks like it’s ready to go. The extra low slung top tube height of 27.5" aided myself, as the rider, to be very comfortable over the bike, as well as have more than adequate space between my little guys and the top tube if tricks were of the essence or in the event of a quick dismount. The front triangle's clean lines and sharp welds were accented by the ribbed chain stays, all black rear end, and the clean cut CNC’d rocker plates. Not only that, but with the option of 5", or 6.5" of rear wheel travel, the Wildcard is ready to tackle anything, including uphills, and fast down hills.
The Wildcard frame is constructed using triple butted top and down tube sets that were custom designed by Banshee for each frame they sell. Hydroformed tubes are used in the construction due to being much stronger and lighter than the conventional tubes with gussets Banshee used in the past. The Wildcard frame features a 1.5" head tube for extra durability through the head tube section, and features a much higher bend tolerance than a conventional 1 1/8" head tube, as featured on a more conventional slopestyle frame. As well as its structural addition to the frame, the 1.5" head tube allows the rider to run a zero stack headset, which changes the angle's of the frame slightly, allowing you to dial it in to perfection, or as close as your wallet will let you. With the ability to change the rear suspension from a 5" setting, to a 6.5" setting, you altered the head angle and seat angle by 1 degree, and raise the bottom bracket up 2cm. After changing these settings a couple times I found that the Wildcard performed the best in the 5" setting, due to its slacker head tube angle at 67 degrees, and its upright, pedaling friendly feeling of a 73 degree seat tube angle. With the Wildcard dialed into the 5" setting I found I was railing berm’s, and pinning corners much faster than I had before. On the same note, I found the leverage ratio's on the shock to be much more progressive feeling in the 5" travel mode.
The Wildcard's rear suspension platform is utilizing the Faux Bar
System. Along with other 4-bar linkage designed bikes, the suspension is dialed in for great pedaling performance, with a tuned leverage ratio so it is progressive through the travel. The Faux Bar suspension platform, is designed with the rear axle pivoting around a main swing point, where the shock is activated by the rocking plates. The Faux Bar linkage system utilizes quite a fancy leverage ratio system. The Wildcard features a descending leverage ratio that starts at about 3:1, and ends closer to 2:1 at bottom out. With a higher leverage ratio early in its travel it creates a really pedal and bump sensitive bike. As the bike travels through its suspension it is getting gradually harder and harder to compress it, as the leverage ratio is lessening. This lateral stiffness is achieved by having no pivot between the main pivot, located on the bottom of the seat tube, and the rear axle. Banshee has achieved two things with this design, a very minimal amount of pedal bob due to the power being directly routed to the rear, and a stiff back end allowing the bike to track better. To add to the stiffness of the rear end, Banshee uses ribbed chain stays (no, not her for pleasure) that increase the lateral stiffness of the rear triangle, meaning you get no frame flex, therefore eliminating any power loss through the chain stays. Banshee was quite safe when they built the Wildcard. Using the proven Faux Bar suspension design, they were not fiddling around with virtual pivots or anything like that. This way ensured the Wildcard would perform well, compared to a “shoot and miss” design they could have chosen to do.
Starting at the front, it's using one of the new 2008 Travis TPC
150mm forks. I have to say that TPC
has to be one of, if not the most, reliable platforms I have ever rode. With 2 knob's to play with, rebound, and compression (TPC), the Travis was super simple to dial in, and with the TPC's incremental adjustment system, there were a lot of adjustment positions, and it is very simple to figure it out. Once your compression settings were setup, adjust the rebound, and hit the trails. Simply put, I dialed in the fork to my feeling, and rode it like a star. To accent the front fork, Banshee has equipped this bike with a Manitou Evolver 6 way
to take up the rear dampening side of things. There are a few unique things going on with this shock. First off, its got a unique design. Coming in either a Shim based, or SPV based shock, with either 4 or 6 adjustments, Manitou has provided us with a “do all” designed shock. The extra long air can allows this shock to be super sensitive on small hits, but ramp up very well, especially while being engaged with the falling rate leverage ratio the Faux Bar system provides the user with. However, I did run into a minor issue with a squeaky pivot that we could not cure, regardless of our best efforts.
Coming in hot
The entire bike is Manitou sprung, with the rear being the Evolver 6-way Air shock. The Intrinsic Evolver shock features a number of handy, but all external adjustments. Being an air shock you can adjust it to “pre or post thanks giving dinner” rider weight. Utilizing external adjustments for high speed, and low speed compression the Evolver 6-way is prepared for anything you can serve up in your average ride. One great feature about the Evolver 6-way is the “no tools bottom out control”, allowing the rider to adjust the bottom out by turning the volume dial with just your fingers. It also features external rebound adjustment which helps a lot when attempting to dial this shock on.
From the factory the Wildcard was built to take abuse. Equip with more Funn components
than you could shake a stick at, the components used are bomb proof and run very well. The Wildcard's cockpit featured the use of Funn's Rippa Stem in White, which clamped onto the Funn Full Bore bar. This combination made for a very comfortable feeling cockpit, and at 28" wide, the Full Bore bar has more than enough potential to be dialed in to what you need it to be. The Full Bore handle bar is a very comfortable low rise bar, and when it was matched with the Rippa stem it was at the perfect height for myself. The Rippa stem, which is constructed with 6061-T6 Aluminum, does not feature much reach distance at 45mm of extension, but it features a 7 degree rise, so it is aiding in getting the bars just a smidge higher. For stopping power the Wildcard was equip with Avid Juicy 7's
, which are super reliable and simple brakes, that provide a very handy external adjustment for pad adjustment. They stop in a hurry, and have tons of modulation, which in turn is all I can ask for out of brakes. For shifting purposes the Wildcard was equip with the swanky new 2008 SRAM X.O
. What’s so cool about X.O? Not only does it feature a Titanium retention spring, but it comes with gold decals, and a gold connecting bolt. The shifter pod is just your standard SRAM X.9 shifter, however when matched with the X.O derailleur, it creates a very fast shifting setup. A cool feature on the SRAM X.9 shifter pod this year is that SRAM has equip it with the same adjustable paddle position as the X.O featured last year. Now, unless you’re a serious weight weenie, you can get the similar shift quality, without such a major cost associated to it.
The cranks that are on the Wildcard are the Funn Hooka DH crank set. Also, the cranks were equipped with a Gamut USA
P30 chain guide, which is a super simple and reliable chain guide, that utilizes a single roller, upper guide plate, and a simple outer bash ring. Wow, these cranks are built like bomb shelters. Constructed out of 7050-T6 Aluminum, and utilizing oversized sealed bearings, and an oversized splined hollow chromoly BB spindle these cranks were constructed to take some serious abuse. Speaking of taking abuse, the wheels that the Wildcard feature are very nice. They are the Funn XLrater wheels, in white none the less. The Funn XLrater wheel set uses Funn’s own Bullet hub which consists of a 6061-T6 Aluminum Shell, and sealed cartridge bearings. The drive mechanism of the rear Bullet hub consisted of a Alloy cassette body, triple pull ratchet body, and is available in 135mm or 150mm sizes. The hoop that Funn chose to use with the XLrater wheelset is actually constructed by Sun products
, but features a powder coated white finish, with black eyelets, and a pinned and welded hoop that is designed for 4x and all mountain use. Not only are these wheels as bomb proof as they sound, but they create a very nice feeling when they roll, and have a nice jingle in your ear when they coast. Just like the other Funn parts on the Wildcard, these wheels felt solid the whole way through the test, and are still true. The combination of the Funn bar and stem in white, the Gamut P30 guide in white, and the white wheels created a nice matching bike that utilizes some solid components.
Last but not least, to put the power down you need some pedals. The Wildcard featured a set of Funn Sole Jam pedals. The Sole Jam pedal has an insane amount of grip. At Pinkbike.com we run 5.10 shoes
, which are designed for riding, so it features a very soft, but tacky compound. In complete honesty, I had to lift my foot off my pedal to shift footing positions. Once the shoe met the pedal there was no turning back, and that’s how it should be. They feature a pinned outer diameter, and an exclusive 3M Grip Panel on the center portion of the pedal for some extra grip. The Sole Jams have a deep concaved body for extra comfort, and are built from 6061-T6 Aluminum. You can also change pins from a 3mm rise, to a 4mm rise. Also, they are sealed bearing only, so no more sloppy pedal syndrome.
For traction WTB
provided a Prowler MX for the front. The Prowler MX tire is a very nice tire to be featured on the front of a bike. The WTB Prowler MX utilizes the same aggressive transitions and outside knobs as the XT, but features a shifted center tread. As WTB puts it on their site “The MX is a highly predictable tire at speed, boasting deep-piercing lateral grip in loose conditions”. I don’t think I could have said it any better. For the rear WTB provided us with a Prowler XT, which features amazing control and stability in tight turns. One little note, the Prowler XT is not a mud tire. Featuring a low mid section on the tire, it's designed for fast rolling loose dirt, a terrain that doesn't require much grab for the traction. That being said, the Prowler XT was a pretty exciting tire in the wet conditions, however when the mud was gone and the dirt was clumping it was a nice tire that provided more than adequate traction.
The fun factor of the ride that the Wildcard provided me with was one of the highest I have had in a long time. Seeing as our test dates were set just before winter ended, and just after summer started, I got to test the Wildcard in some of the most versatile situations, on some of the most unique terrains. Yes, this means trying to ride through 4 feet of snow, hiking through massive cut blocks, pushing it through and around a creek, up back over a massive hill, and back onto a mud covered fire road. We will say that the Wildcard did not stay clean for very long on any of the test rides I had on it. Regardless of being packed with 5 pounds of mud and dirt, it still performed.
A key note I wanted to hit on with the Wildcard is its ability to pick up speed. I have heard people say that their bikes just get milked for speed through heavy bumps, or rough terrain. I found the Wildcard to accelerate through rugged conditions, as long as you could provide it with the correct line choice. One of the local trails named Femur, features very fast rolling single track. This is where I found the Wildcard to accelerate its greatest. Tuck the knees in, get low on the bike, and I found just working the terrain with your body would create enough inertia to get you cooking with fire, and moving up to speed fast. Featuring such a basic, but well designed suspension platform, the movement of the shock seemed so natural. No funny junk, just up and down. This aided in the Wildcard's stability, and ability to bounce out of corners with speed. The Wildcard's suspension design sat down well while cornering. It got low in its travel and stayed there. While in this position, the suspension was still active, but it didn't grow at all, which helped it stay in the pocket of a berm. Also, with the descending leverage ratio, the lower in its travel it was the more solid the suspension felt, so washboard sections or highly rutted out sections were a breeze. I can’t stress how much speed this bike picked up over the littlest bumps, or undulations in the terrain. It was a nice feeling for a bike to be doing more work than the rider, seeing as that’s how it should be in my opinion.
Something else that surprised me about the Wildcard was its pedaling capabilities. While matched with the Manitou Evolver 6, I found its pedal motion very clean. I was never surprised at what this bike did, or how it performed. With such a low slung top tube, I usually found myself with the seat a couple inches up just for that extra leg room, however, that being said, while on long pedals I was forced to raise the seat which did not feel uncomfortable at all. The Wildcard had a very nice stance while the seat was high, and it found a happy medium in its travel where it didn't bob, or kick at all, and there was little to no power loss between the cranks and derailleur. The rear triangle felt very solid no matter what situation it was in. Not only was the Wildcard very pedal friendly, but it's also one of the lightest frames in its class, making rotational tricks and flips a breeze, or at least easier than on a heavy bike.
It was odd, but the Wildcard was one of the easiest bikes to adapt to that I have ever rode. No matter what we were riding it was always ready to give it a try. Some people complain that their "big bike" is to big, and there "little bike" is to small, but the Wildcard is definitely a do all bike. I am sure it would be welcome in any skatepark, slopestyle park, or freeride mountain, as long as your willing to give it a try. Versatility is a nice virtue in a bike, especially if you're looking for a 'do all bike'.
Thanks to Dishboy14 for the photo
Versatility is a nice virtue
Banshee has definitely created a winner here. It may not be 100% Freeride, or 100% slopestyle, but they have found a nice sitting ground in between, and they created a very comfortable bike. Right down to the build kit, this bike was designed to take a bashing and a beating, and survive to tell the story to its kids. We packed some good riding time on the Wildcard, and it held up to its name and performed very well for its design. Overall I was very please with the design and functionality of the Wildcard.
I would highly recommend this bike for anyone who is looking for a "outside of the box" slopestyle or freeride orientated bike. If you're looking to shred it at the dirt jumps, kill it on the single track, and still thrash the slopestyle, the Wildcard
is a bike you definitely want to look at.
Banshee bikes, Funn Components, WTB Tires, Gamut Chain Guides and Manitou Suspension are all distributed by Trident Sports
out of Vancouver BC.
For more photos check out my Wildcard album
, or visit Banshee's Website.