Dream Builds: Banshee Spitfire

A low, slack, aggressive geometry trail bike built to perfection

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Contact: bansheebikes.com

I’ve been having dreams about the Spitfire since I sent back the model I picked as my tester’s choice in the 2011 Bible of Bike Tests. That original version was everything I wanted … almost. I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to see if Banshee’s new 2013 Spitfire together with a no-compromise build kit could truly be the bike of my dreams.

Although the spirit of the original Spitfire has remained the same—a low, slack, aggressive geometry in a trail bike package—there have been some notable improvements to the rear end of the bike thanks to the addition of the KS link. Internally ribbed chainstays, a 142 x 12 rear axle, three-position adjustable dropouts, along with bearings not bushings, drastically improve the small-bump sensitivity and lateral stiffness compared to the previous generation. I opted to run the bike in the low, slack setting with a 66-degree head angle, a 13.4-inch bottom bracket height and 17.4-inch chainstays.

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All those suspension improvements are matched up with the new Cane Creek Double Barrel Air CS shock equipped with the new Climb Switch feature. An increase in travel from 127 to 140 millimeters coupled with the extensive work Banshee has done with Cane Creek to create an optimum tune make those 140 millimeters feel incredibly responsive and supple. Conversely, the efficient pedaling characteristics of the KS linkage combined with the Climb Switch technology give the suspension an astonishing range of performance on all types of terrain, both up and down.

With the Spitfire’s low, slack geometry, along with the improvements to the rear suspension it seemed fitting to run the Fox Float 36 RC2 fork. I wanted that same range of damping adjustably in a package that would complement the stiff, responsive handling that the rear end was able to provide.

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Despite the fact that the Spitfire is bandwagon-ready to accept 650b wheels, I’m not. I still dream in 26. In this case, in the form of Easton Carbon Haven wheels. I also dream that one day front derailleurs will be nothing more than a distant memory, and not this persistent nightmare of obsolescence that mountain biking can’t seem to shake. Wolf Tooth Components’ narrow wide front chainring paired with the e*thirteen XCX direct mount chainguide has been a fantastic single-ring solution.

Is there anything about the Spitfire that I’m still dreaming about? Perhaps a few more holes in the frame to accept an internally routed dropper post and a water bottle cage. Minor details, and easily forgettable when you consider how much fun this bike is to ride.

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Even after more than half a year of hard riding I’m still just as enamored with my dream build as the day I took it for its maiden voyage. Over time the XTR chain and cassette started to sound like a bag of nails. I opted to replace it with the heavier but arguably more durable XT chain and cassette, and haven’t looked back since. At nearly one-third the price, it’s worth noting how it performs on par with its top-end big brother. Apart from multiple sets of tires, the meat and potatoes of the build is still doing me right. Lastly, after a couple of dropped chains I swapped the XCX direct mount top guide for the LG1 Race chainguide.

With no sign of winter hitting our home trails in Southern California any time soon, I still look forward to riding my 26-inch dream machine every chance I get.

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