Carrera Banshee XXX review£1,000.00

Screaming demon of descending

BikeRadar score4.5/5

For £1,000, the Carrera Banshee XXX is an excellent bike for riders who like to ride into and through stuff rather than round it. It has an excellent fork for the money and the Floodgate function of its rear shock is genuinely useful. Its hard-hitting but fast-rolling wheels and tyres are welcome and the only downside is its weight which inevitably makes climbs really hard work.

The Banshee XXX doesn’t shy away from heavy-duty trail work. It has a 160mm travel RockShox Domain fork, rare on bikes at this price, and 160mm of travel in the back too.

Ride & handling: downhill floater, uphill slog

Hard-hitting ‘all-mountain’ type bikes like the Banshee will always be a compromise. Excellent rough trail and downhill performance like this can only come at the expense of uphill performance. A few years back, a 160mm travel bike would wallow in its suspension travel if you shifted your weight or stood to power-pedal up a climb. These days the damping in forks and shocks makes everything more stable.

The Banshee XXX’s slack geometry emphasises the bike’s bias towards gravity-assisted slopes. Without travel adjustment or a lock-down option on the RockShox Domain fork, don’t expect to find the bike anything but a steady haul on the climbs. Steering is also less than lively, due to the slack head angle, until you’re heading down the trail.

Still, we really like the rear shock’s Floodgate adjustment dial, because it lets you set up as stable a back end as you want and, if you find the plushness lacking, you can readjust it on the fly. Spend time fettling the shock too – about a third of its travel as sag is ideal, with the Floodgate set at about the halfway mark.

This way, it constantly floats over all types of bump, without wallowing as you shift your weight on the bike. 

The Carrera Banshee is one of best examples we’ve tested of a £1,000 bike built for riders who like to ride into and through stuff instead of around it. Longish-travel bikes built for aggressive carefree riding are always going to be hard work on the ups, but it’s worth all that pain when downs are as much fun as they are on the Triple X.

Chassis: plush four-bar with effective but simple shocks

The Banshee’s heat-treated 7005 tube frame boasts a nicely designed four-bar linkage set-up that – in conjunction with the RockShox Monarch 3.1 air shock and sealed bearings – provides a plush action. Your ride can be tuned by altering the shock’s air pressure and by making adjustments to the rebound damping and Floodgate dials.

The Floodgate system is designed to isolate pedal forces and weight shifts that you don’t want to compress the shock. It’s a useful way of making heavier long-travel bikes manageable on unforgiving climbs.

Structurally, the frame tubes are reinforced in all the right places, with a large open-backed gusset bridging from the base of the strengthened head tube to create a box-like section on the upper part of the down tube.

The top tube is also bridge-gusseted to the upper seat tube, with a forward facing slot and Allen-bolt clamp held out of the spray. The seat and chain stays offer lots of room for mud around big tyres and the whole rear sub-frame assembly, including the rocker linkage to the shock, is well constructed. So while the shock and fork do all the hard work, you just steer.

The RockShox Domain 318 fork is a fuss-free option: you get no travel adjustment, so changing from compression damping to nearly locked is all done via a simple dial on top of the right leg, with a rebound damping control found just beneath it.

Equipment: hard to fault

We really can’t fault the parts package. ‘Powered by SRAM’ stickers on the chainstays are a hint as to what you can expect. The rear hub bears the Shimano name, while the drivetrain matches a SRAM X9 rear mech, X7 front mech and shifters with a Truvativ Firex external bearing GXP cranks.

The wheels are built with Sun’s durable but not overly hefty Singletrack rims and are shod with Continental Gravity Pro 2.3in tyres. They’re grippy enough for all-weather traction and faster than most heavy-duty gravity treads.

Avid’s Code 5 brakes with dinner-plate rotors provide really quite superb stopping power, while most of the finishing bits are from Truvativ’s tough XR range. The low-budget Carrera saddle is also pretty reasonable.

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