By Vernon Felton
Banshee marketing manager, Jon Hadfield, is standing in line for the chairlift when a rider ahead of Hadfield turns around and fixes Hadfield with an eager grin.
"Are you guys from Banshee Bikes," he asks.
It's as good a guess as any—three of us are wending brand new Banshees through the crowded lift line. The rider takes a closer look at my rig, "Oh, wow! That's the new Rune, eh? I really want one of those."
A couple other riders turn to check out the neon yellow rig I'm taking up the mountain
While you hear a lot of remarks like that at Crankworx (Whistler is like a giant magnet that draws nothing but pricey bikes), what makes the rider's comment noteworthy is that I'm riding a pre-production version of a bike that, until recently, was still under wraps: the new Rune already has a fan base.
NEW DESIGN: PLUSHER AND MORE DURABLE
It's easy to see why that's the case. The bike is crazy versatile. The new Banshee Rune, gets a slight boost in travel (up from 150 to 160 millimeters of travel). This new bike also sports slacker geometry and is just flat out more aggressive.
If you're thinking that it looks a lot like the company's 29er Prime model, there's a reason for that: both bike are configured around the company's new KS Link suspension design. In a nutshell, it's a virtual pivot point-style bike with two short links mated to solid triangles. The short, one-piece forged links should yield a design with less flex than the prior Rune.
The new design, which actuates the shock directly from the seatstays, is also aimed at giving a more supple feel at the beginning of its shock stroke. Better traction should be the end result. The bike will be available with either a Fox Float CTD shock or Cane Creek DB Air shock. The unit I was riding wore the latter. The new Rune also eschews the bushings that were on the older Rune (and which gave some riders fits after a hard season or two) in exchange for sealed, oversized bearings.
Banshee designer, Keith Scott, places a premium on building versatile bikes. Adjustable geometry is a big part of that, which is why you can set the Rune in any one of three geometry settings by simply taking advantage of the flip chips in the rear dropouts.
You can run the head angle as 65, 65.5 or 66 degree, paired with quarter inch changes in the bottom bracket height. My test bike was in the slackest headtube/lowest bottom bracket setting. The 65-degree headtube angle and 13.4-inch high bottom bracket were spot on for riding the bike park. The seat angle has been steepened a tad to improve the bike's climbing and overall trailriding traits, but climbing was not on the day's menu.
In the case of the Rune, versatility also comes in the form of swappable rear drop-outs that enable you to slap on any 26er or 650B wheel. All axle standards are welcome to the party (135 quick release, 142×12 through-axle, and 150×12 bolt through). You should be able to fit a very healthy 2.35-inch tire when running the company's new 650B (a.k.a. "27.5-inch") drop outs. Our test bike was rocking fatter Maxxis treads.
You can, of course, bring any bike to Whistler, but there's a reason why the weapon of choice is a full-blown park bike. This is a good place to ride a bike that'll give you some margin for error. There are places in the park that can humble you quickly. While we weren't tackling the toughest trails in the park, it's still worth noting that there wasn't any point during my ride when I was wishing I had a dual-crown fork and coil sprung suspension. Despite its relatively light weight (just a bit more than 30 pounds with a sensible parts kit that included beefy Maxxis treads, a Fox 36 fork, Fox D.O.S.S. dropper post and a single ring set up (the Rune, naturally, features ISCG05 chainguide mounts).
We rode a nice mix of mellow flow trail (Blue Velvet and Black Velvet) as well as some shore-esque trails with steep roll-ins and healthy doeses of rock and roots (Fatcrobat, Too Tight, Angry Pirate, etc.). Through it all, I was impressed with the Rune, which simply felt dialed. Stiffness is outstanding and the DBAir can be tuned to feel damn-near coil-like. There are a lot of bikes that get billed as "all mountain," but the Rune is one the relatively few that has the balls to truly carry that title into aggressive terrain.
We'll be getting one of these to test. Count on it.
In the meantime, it's worth noting that the Rune frame is expected to sell for $2,000 (that's with the Fox Float CTD shock) and should be available in October. Standard frame colors include black anodized, blue and raw aluminum. For more information, visit Bansheebikes.com