Monday, April 5, 2010

Banshee Rampant Review

Who Am I?

Hello everybody, you may remember me from such reviews the Banshee Wildcard Parts I and II. In a recent NSMB.com thread about writing reviews, thread contributors brought up the issue that bike reviewers should fully disclose who they are. I couldn’t agree more. So here I am fully out of the bike closet. Full disclosure; I work a full time 8 to 5 job and when my schedule allows me to, I work a part time job as a bike shop employee at Caps/Krusty’s in Richmond.

So you might be thinking, biased anyone? I’ll let you be the judge. In the past, I have owned quite a few bikes. Some of these bike brands are outside of what my bike shop carries including Santa Cruz, Cove, and Specialized. So lets just say I am not afraid to bike date outside of my gene pool.

What Is My Riding Style Like?

When you picture the fastest rider in your Saturday riding crew, who comes to mind? Is it Lightning Larry on his blinged out DH bike complete with matching Troy Lee pajama suit? When you picture the slowest rider in your Saturday riding crew hacking up a lung grinding the uphill switchbacks on Fromme, who comes to mind? Is it Donkey Don with his derailleur misadjusted and his seat post too low?

Chances are you have a Lightning Larry or Donkey Don in your riding crew. Well, if you have ever ridden with me, you would know I am nothing like Lightning Larry or Donkey Don. I am more like what you would describe as a Medium Marvin. As a Medium Marvin, you will rarely find me at the front of the train. If you look closely enough though, you will find me comfortably downhilling, climbing, ripping corners, and jumping somewhere in the middle; kind of like the ham and cheese in a breakfast melt sandwich.

Over the past fifteen years or so, I have averaged about a ride per week. During the winter months, I try to squeeze in the occasional shore ride. However, as soon as the weather gets nasty, I often take a month (or two) hiatus from riding and hibernate indoors. During the summer months, you’ll find me at the Whistler Bike Park. It’s here at Whistler where I make up for all the lost riding over the winter season. A day spent riding in Whistler easily covers the vertical terrain of a month’s worth of one day per week riding on the shore.

Specs and Geometry

Specs

My Banshee Rampant is built with light yet strong parts. The purpose of my build was to create a younger and faster brother for my Banshee Wildcard. Up front, my Rampant is equipped with a Rock Shox Pike 426, Chris King headset, Elixr 6” brakes, Chromag handlebar, and Thomson Stem. I have Shimano XT cranks mated to Straitline pedals powering my Sram X9 gears and tensioned via a Gamut guide. A Thomson seatpost and Argon road saddle keep my pedaling needs (un)comfortable. In the traction department, I have Kenda Smallblock 8 tires wrapped around Mavic XM321 hoops, and engaged by Hadley’s 108pts of awesomeness. The final build weighs in at a respectable 30.29lbs.

Geometry

With the Rock Shox Pike 426 set at 5” of travel, the head angle remains fairly steep at 68.5 degrees. The Fox Float RP2 air shock is easy to set up, and set to 115 psi with medium rebound to compliment the Rock Shox Pike. It should be noted that I run 115psi, creating approximately 25% sag, approximately 10% more than Banshee’s recommended amount. With the progressive nature of the Rampant’s suspension, I did use all of my suspension travel each ride, but did not experience any harsh bottom outs. The bb height works out to 13.2” while the seat tube measures in at 13.8”. Impressive features on the Rampant are the generous virtual top tube length at 22.2” and low standover height of 26.8”. It is refreshing to see bike companies such as Banshee avoid pairing a decent top length with a ridiculous stand over height.

My Banshee Rampant Looks Like This

And Weighs……

How Does It Ride?

Do you remember meeting your new best friend while you were in elementary school? You know, the one who broke all the rules? The type of friend who introduced you to playing Nicky Nicky Nine Door with ‘homemade’ lemonade and fermented eggs and was able to convince you that mighty mites and pumpkins were meant to be friends? The Rampant is that kind of friend.

Jumping

Over the past few seasons, I have slowly developed a basic repertoire of tricks. In the air, I fall into a category between no limbs on the bike grom and conservative bar humping visorless old man. I am proud of my basic aerial maneuvers, which generally default to a whip, basic table, or sometimes an X-up. The Rampant excels in the jumping department. It pops off jumps with hardtail like precision and literally floats in the air. For those who are unfamiliar with such a floating feeling in the air, it can be frightening. However, for novice to advanced airtime riders, who plan their airmiles, the Rampant is very rewarding to ride.

On my first ride on the Rampant, I managed to on different runs land to flat on each of the notorious 4 pack A-line jumps. The Rampant with its lightweight build flowed so smoothly in the air requiring a decisive squash of set up jumps in order to avoid flat landings. Riding the Rampant on Whistler’s jump trails like Dirt Merchant, Crank it Up, and A-line taught me to ride jumps smoothly and with purpose. And when ridden this way, the Rampant is exceptional.

(In the air, I look like this…) Thank you Herb for the photo!

Cornering

On my first day riding the Rampant, I took multiple dirt digs. Adjusting to a steeper headangle and low front end proved to be a quick learning experience. The Rampant, much like my best friend described earlier dared me to corner a little bit faster and lower each time. Each corner became a personal challenge to go just a bit faster. With its steep headangle and low front end, the Rampant cornered amazingly well. It had my Kenda SmallBlock 8’s praying to the mtb gods to hang on just a little while longer. That being said, the Rampant requires a deliberate pilot. Lethargic body movement on turns = ROB (rider over bars).

(When I corner, I look like this…) Thank you Herb for the photo!


Descending

Descending on the Rampant is in my opinion not its strength. While an unfair comparison to a bike weighing 5lbs more like my Banshee Wildcard, the Rampant feels less stable when ridden at high speeds or steep terrain. While the rear suspension action of the Rampant is very progressive, its steeper headangle, low front end, and highly inflated single ply tires make it a bit of a hand full at higher speeds and steep terrain. I have ridden the Rampant with dual ply tires as well, but feel the Rampant is out of its element on faster shore trails like Neds and Bottle Top. The Rampant does shine on smoother, flowy trails and would be a great steed to have on the lower trails of Fromme and Whistler.

Climbing

In a lightweight configuration, the Rampant rockets forward with each pedal stroke. It climbs steadily exhibiting minimal bob. With its steep headangle, low bottom bracket height, and comfortable seatangle, you could potentially climb all day on it assuming you could get decent leg extension with its short seattube length.

Fine Print

This is the part of the review where I usually gripe about high MRSP prices. With few competitors such as the Transition Double, Kona Bass, and BlackMarket Killswitch, the Rampant is reasonably priced in the world of short travel jump, slopestyle, and 4X bikes.

I did however have a small issue with the lower pivot behind the bottom bracket loosening after a day long session at Whistler. This was annoying as I had to remove my cranks to gain access to the loosened bolts. However, after cleaning, lubing, and retightening the bolts on the lower pivot behind the bottom bracket, I have yet to have the same issue occur.

Weighing in at a sub 7lbs frame and shock weight is very impressive. It is amazing to see how far Banshee has come with designing a lightweight, durable and ground up build. However, compared to its big brother the Banshee Wildcard which weighs 8.95lbs, the Rampant exhibits more side to side flex. Although this is a minor issue for the Rampant, it is noticeable when doing back to back rides with burlier and heavier bikes.

Final Thoughts

The Rampant is the real deal for airtime and slopestyle riders who want a lightweight bike. It rides nicely on jumping, pumping, and cornering trails in Whistler and on light shore trails like those found on lower Fromme. Although strong enough to ride on bumpier and steeper trails on the shore, I wouldn’t recommend it with the same lightweight build that I had. The steep headangle and low front end that allow the Rampant to excel at cornering and jumping also hold it back from being an allstar on the shore.

The bottom line is that the Rampant excels at everything it is designed to do; namely cornering quickly, pumping smoothly, and jumping with style. While some may disagree, in my opinion it is not a do it all bike. Instead, the Rampant is like the new best friend you had in elementary school. It is the kind of bike that gets you into just enough trouble to remember how fun riding a bike can be. The Rampant is definitely a great addition to a multi-bike stable. Gidee Up!

Ride on,

C.C.

2 comments:

rob c said...

good review

from my experience riding my Rampant on a variety of terrain including bike park, pump track, dirt jumps and downhill / freeride gnarl

I'd say the build you choose is critical, even changing the tires and having a travel adjustable fork like a Pike U-Turn make a *massive difference*

and also the skill level of the rider

the Rampant really suits a more skilled rider than a novice, its a snappy handling bike and can be a real handful if you don't have the skillz to keep it under control!!

cheers

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