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Banshee Legend DH Bike Review: A Privateer’s Dream Bike

Travis built-up a new Banshee Legend DH bike for his downhill racing season. He considered every detail and carefully selected each part from the Manitou Dorado fork to the Hayes Dominion A4 brakes. He tells us which components impressed him on his way to victory.

Written by: Travis Erwin

Published on:

Posted in:Bikes

Over the last few years, it seems that gravity events have been (re)gaining momentum here in the States. Ski resorts are expanding their summer programs and families are taking advantage of lift-access riding to keep the stoke high. Regional series like Downhill Southeast, the Northwest Cup, and National Downhill Series are breathing life back into the sport of DH, nurturing a new crop of young guns and inspiring us old folk to defy all sensibility.

Never possessing a firm grasp of my limitations and an affinity for competition, I made a (delusional) decision to race Trail Party’s Downhill Rockies series. With registration in hand, I ignored the difficult aspects of “commitment,” such as strength training and off-season preparation, to focus on the fun stuff — like building a new Banshee Legend.

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The Build

Banshee legend head tubeMy search for a new DH mule began by combing the World Cup results of the top-performing brands. The beauties from Specialized, Commencal, Trek, and Santa Cruz are all exquisite.  However, my appreciation of working-class ingenuity kept steering me towards more grassroots-oriented brands like RAAW, Frameworks, and Banshee. These utilitarian designs and “no-nonsense” fabrication align with the needs of the blue-collar privateer. After weighing factors such as durability, simplicity, performance, and value, I landed on the Banshee Legend. 

I selected the XL size as the 480mm reach and 645mm stack align with most size larges from some newer platforms (Commencal Supreme V5 Large = 484/649 / GT Fury Large = 480/647). The Legend’s most unique characteristic is its excessive rear-center. Featuring 470mm chainstays (no, that’s not a typo), I was confident the Legend would plow through chunder like a gravity-fed bulldozer. However, I was apprehensive there would be drawbacks to such extreme dimensions.  


Banshee Legend top tubeThe Legend’s hydroformed alloy frame has a sturdy, athletic look, akin to Marshawn Lynch in his prime. The downtube morphs into a robust shock cradle that protects the goods while providing a nice low center of gravity. Banshee’s consideration of the Privateer is evident in the straightforward design. The external cable routing is very clean, providing quick and easy access, while large pivots run on sealed bearings and quality hardware.  

Banshee legend rear suspensionThe leverage ratio of the Legend is quite progressive, yet has a regressive curve towards the end of travel. Nevertheless, Banshee recommends a coil shock to manage the duties out back.  Jake Thompson from Ohlins dialed in a TTX22M with a custom tune to address the fluctuation.

Manitou Dorado fork reviewFor the fork, I’ve been wanting a Manitou Dorado for many years now. The inverted design screams “moto” and allegedly provides just the right amount of torsional flex, allowing the wheel to track better through the rough stuff. The stout tubes and oversized crowns certainly add to the muscular look of the bike.

Pro taper direct mount stemMy setup for the cockpit was a ProTaper Aluminum bar and direct mount stem. The built-in adjustability of the ProTaper stem is truly underrated. With a 35mm to 50mm length and 10mm height adjustment, you can fine-tune your stack and reach without swapping through multiple stems. With a tight budget, I dug up a seat post and saddle from a random parts bin. Truth is I’d rather spend my cash on more meaningful upgrades such as CushCore inserts and Fillmore valves.   

Continental Kryptotal Reynold DH carbon wheelsMany top riders opt for alloy wheels for compliance, however, as sponsored professionals, they also receive multiple spares and a dedicated mechanic to replace/rebuild wheels after damage.  I don’t have this luxury, nor do I want to rebuild a wheel on the tailgate of my truck in the rain.  For this reason, I chose Reynolds robust DH 289R carbon hoops. Bernard Kerr and the rest of the Pivot Gravity team have flogged these for years and their durability is legendary. The rims are laced to Sun Ringle Super Bubba hubs with 150/157 end caps, wrapped in SuperSoft DH Continental Kryptotals. The wheels come with both XD and HG Shimano drivers and a lifetime warranty to provide peace of mind. 

Shimano Saint 5Dev 160mm cranksA Shimano Saint shifter and rear derailleur move the gears and the flashy 5DEV cranks and 36T chainring transfer the power. I opted for 160mm crank arms considering the Legend’s low BB height.  

Hayes Dominion a4[product-block handle="hayes-dominion-a4-brake-kit-regular-reach-lever"/]

As for stoppers, I was stoked to score the limited edition “Purple Hayes” Dominion A4s. The Atherton World Cup team used these brakes for the ‘23 season with phenomenal results.

Haye Dominion a4 caliper and rotorThe four-piston stoppers have a dual port bleed system for precise set-up and broad adjustability both at the caliper and the lever. I matched the A4s with Hayes’ new massive 220 D-series rotors front and rear.  

The Ride

Manitou Dorado fork setupWith the suspension configured to factory-recommended settings, I initially felt a bit out of balance with more weight on the fork. Both the front and rear end were active on the smaller hits but seemed to blow through the travel in the heavy chunder. Manitou has a detailed suspension manual to guide the rider with helpful tuning recommendations by cause and effect.

Ohlins TTX2 coil shockAfter a spring swap for the Ohlins shock, additional PSI in the Dorado air spring, and faster HSR on both ends, I was back in business. 

The long wheelbase and low-slung bottom bracket felt planted while the overbuilt alloy frame showed zero signs of unwanted flex through rough terrain and off-camber transitions. The relatively high anti-squat kept power transfer efficient and aided pumping through rolling terrain. I had the most fun ripping long hardpack berms as the generous stays and torsionally stiff wheels taunt you to increase your speed. 

Banshee Legend DH reviewHowever, the long stays and “roll-over-anything” 29er shoes did have some drawbacks. The Banshee felt a bit unwieldy on ultra-steep tight and technical terrain. I had to employ more body English to snap the rear end around tight, ledgy, switchbacks. This wasn’t a horrible experience, I simply needed more mental and physical energy for body positioning and line setup. This brings me to my only real gripe with the platform: there’s no adjustability on the frame itself. No flip-chips, no variable reach, no nada. I was disappointed with the Legend’s inflexibility, as Banshee’s portfolio has several models with interchangeable dropout options. I would have loved to try a mullet setup to provide a bit more rear drop in the steeps.

Hayes Dominion a4 reviewI will say that the power and modulation of the Hayes Dominion A4 brakes compensated for my apprehension in the most challenging situations. I realize brake feel is somewhat subjective and I personally prefer a more firm setup with an early bite point. The purple Hayes certainly hit the mark. I would slot them slightly above Shimano’s XTR or Saint offerings with added adjustability to fine-tune the feel and performance. Over the course of the downhill season, the Dominon A4s required no bleeding or maintenance, and only one set of sintered pads. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.

Protaper stem reviewAnother bright spot was the tunability of the ProTaper direct mount stem. With fore, aft, and 10mm rise adjustment, the stem had a massive impact on the Banshee’s handling and allowed me to tailor the ride characteristics. It may seem silly to give so much praise to a static component, but the flexibility to fine-tune the stack and reach was the difference between enjoying the ride and fighting it. 

Continental Kryptotal DHAfter a full season of diverse tracks and varied conditions, I was impressed with the performance of the Dorado fork. The mid-stroke support proved superb and the initial travel was ultra plush (which is where inverted forks seem to shine). Previous Dorado reviews commented on a lack of stiffness. In my experience, the front end tracked exceptionally well through rock gardens and high-speed corners.

Reynold Blacklabel DH carbon wheelsThe nimble and responsive Reynolds Blacklabel wheels certainly contributed to the fighter-jet experience, but I’d argue that any perceived flex came across as engineered compliance — designed specifically for improved grip rather than overly stiff deflection. 

That said, I did experience fork twist after a few inevitable spills which resulted in a cockeyed handlebar and a hefty helping of embarrassment. However, after re-torquing the crowns and thru-axle it was as good as new. The bottom line is that the Dorado is hard-charging yet smooth as butter and allowed me to open up the proverbial throttle on the Legend.  


Privateer DH age group podiumEditor's Note: Travis was too humble to mention this but he won his age group in a couple of Downhill Rockies races using this bike. He's competing again this year. Go Travis!

The Banshee is a privateer’s dream bike. It’s simple, sexy, and durable AF. The bike has to be ridden fast to be properly enjoyed as the long wheelbase and beefcake frame truly shine at breakneck speeds. As mentioned, I would like to see some adjustability within the geometry as this is the status quo with the competition. Overall though, if you’re looking for a set-it-and-forget-it bruiser, the Banshee will get you to the finish line with time to spare. 

Travis' Other MTB Builds:

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