Bike: 2016 Banshee Phantom
Size Tested: Medium
Drivetrain: Shimano XT
Brakes: Shimano XT
Fork: MRP Stage
Rear Shock: Cane Creek Inline
Travel: 120mm Front / 105mm Rear
Blister’s Measured Weight: 30.6 lbs (13.9 kg) without pedals
Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.
Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada
MSRP: $2,050 (frame only)
Interbike’s outdoor demo is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. It’s a fantastic network of trails, and it’s a great escape from America’s neon bunghole (Las Vegas). The trails we spent most of our time on were relatively fast, with a fair amount of sand and some pretty rocky sections.
Having said that…
Riding bikes at a demo is always kind of tricky. For starters, we’re unable to get as much time on each bike as we like–our test durations are measured in minutes and hours, not our preferred time frame of weeks and months. One good ride can tell you a lot about how a bike handles, but it certainly doesn’t allow for the customary, in-depth, Blister analysis.
Demo days also don’t generally permit the time needed to get each bike dialed to our liking. A quick suspension setup and fiddling with the bike’s ergonomics gets it most of the way there, but it’s certainly not dialed. We also take the bike as we get it, so things like bar width and tire selection may not be optimal.
So while we believe it’s important to be upfront about the limitations of reviewing bikes in such settings, there is also merit in riding a slew of bikes, back to back, on the same trails. Subtle differences that might not become apparent if our test rides happen weeks or months apart are able to come to light, and each bike’s attributes may be more easily identified.
With all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Banshee Phantom
The Banshee Phantom is one of the growing breed of relatively short-travel 29ers that are breaking out of the mold of XC-oriented wagon wheelers, and are primed to be ridden fast on the descents and spend a lot of time in the air.
The boundaries of this category are a bit vague, but it includes bikes like the Kona Process 111, the Transition Smuggler, the Yeti SB 4.5C, and The Following from Evil.
Incidentally, all those bikes (except for the Yeti) come from companies based in the Pacific Northwest. Apparently slack 29ers work well on wet roots and technical trails.
Banshee offers a few different build kits for the Phantom, but the bike I rode had a custom build, so for that reason, I’ll gloss over the specifics here a bit. In terms of shifting and braking, the Shimano XT componentry is probably the best deal going in the bike world, and as expected, it worked without issue.
More interesting was the suspension on the Phantom. The rear shock was a Cane Creek Inline, which honestly, I really dislike for these sort of tests. It’s not that it’s a bad shock, but it can take a while to get them dialed in, and as I mentioned in the caveat above, the Interbike demo doesn’t really afford that kind of luxury.
The fork on the Phantom was an MRP Stage, which is the big brother of the Loop. We’ll be reviewing the Loop shortly. The Stage has essentially identical internals to the Loop, and in my short time on it, proved itself to be an entirely worthy option. Like the rear shock, I didn’t have the time to fiddle with it much to get it dialed, but unlike some other forks I rode at Interbike (*cough* Lefty), I wasn’t immediately annoyed with it. I’d say it more or less felt like a Pike, which is a very good thing.
NEXT: Fit and Geometry, The Ride, Etc.