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Banshee Bikes Spitfire V2 Frame

Average User Rating: (Outstanding)
Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
Banshee Bikes Spitfire V2 Frame 2013 Banshee Spitfire Frame (black)
C70_2013_banshee_spitfire_frame_black C70_2013_banshee_spitfire_frame_red C70_2013_banshee_spitfire_frame_chrome C70_2013_banshee_spitfire_frame
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Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

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Vital Review

“Tested: 2013 Banshee Spitfire V2 - Get Aggressive”

Reviewed by Evan Turpen // Photos by Brandon Turman

For the longest time Banshee Bikes were well off my radar. In 2007 I was a professional downhill racer and at the time their products represented heavy, overbuilt, and technologically lacking machines built for the “huckers” amongst us.

That all changed in 2008, though, when they introduced the Legend MK1 downhill race bike and their unique approach to new product development. They released 50 frames to a select group of riders, racers, and engineers who all provided feedback that eventually went into the production frames. Banshee then went on to release many other beautiful and well crafted bikes such as the Rune and Spitfire. These bikes spoke to the high performance crowd. Fairly light frames, stiff back ends, good suspension performance, clean lines, and geometry numbers that aggressive riders could really appreciate. During that period, at least.

Fast forward to 2013 and Banshee has released a new version of their Spitfire, once again taking big steps in the right direction.

Everything about the Spitfire V2 is different while still maintaining the “downhiller’s XC bike” soul of the original Spitfire. The rear shock is larger, the travel has been increased from 5-inches to 5.5-inches (140mm), the reach has been lengthened, the geometry now has three adjustable positions at the dropouts instead of two at the shock, it now utilizes the ultra-supple KS-link suspension instead of the previous VF4B design (hello bearings, good riddance bushings!), and you now have the option of running 26-inch or 27.5-inch wheels with their interchangeable dropouts.

My Spitfire V2 test bike came with 26-inch wheels since that was what I was used to and requested. When selecting the frame size, at 5-foot 10-inches tall I was torn between the Medium and the Large. The Medium had a reach of 427mm and the large jumped up 25mm in length to 452mm. My current ride’s reach was near the middle of these two at 442mm. Since I didn’t want to go shorter, I went longer and choose the large black anodized frame combined with a short 35mm stem.

Spitfire V2 Frame Highlights

  • Hydroformed 7005 T6 aluminum frame
  • 26-inch or 27.5-inch (650b) wheels
  • 140mm (5.5-inches) travel
  • 7.875x2.25-inch rear shock
  • Tapered Headtube (44/56mm)
  • Adjustable 66 to 67-degree head angle
  • Adjustable 73.5 to 74.5-degree seat tube angle
  • Adjustable 13 to 13.5-inch bottom bracket height
  • Adjustable 17 to 16.8-inch chainstays
  • 73x118mm ISIS bottom bracket withISCG05 chainguide mounts
  • 142x12mm (26-inch and 27.5-inch), 135mm QR (26-inch), or 150x12mm (26-inch) dropouts
  • Full length seat tube
  • Plenty of tire clearance for a 26x2.5-inch rear tire
  • Adjustable seatpost cable guides along top tube and 30.9mm size allows for all known models
  • Low direct-mount front derailleur capable of running multiple setups from a chainguide to a dual ring with bash guard
  • Ina bearing pivots for strength and long service life
  • 2 year warranty and lifetime crash replacement
  • Weight: 7.5-pounds (Medium frame with Fox Float CTD)
  • MSRP $1,999 with Fox Float CTD shock

On The Trail

After setting up the suspension to my taste (roughly 25% rear sag versus the 28% recommended) and getting out onto the trails, the first thing I noticed is that the Spitfire is a very efficient pedaler that never required the use of the FOX Float CTD lever. I simply left it in the softest “Descend” setting and never had the urge to touch it again. My bike came equipped with a 2x10 crankset with a 26/38 gearing. In the big ring the bike pedaled with minimal suspension movement under power yet still absorbed bumps well. On super steep climbs when shifted into the 26 tooth granny ring the bike pedaled even more firmly and seemed to stand up in its travel slightly due to the increased anti-squat as a result of the suspension design. This helped the rear tire bite into the ground and find traction, as well as maintain a more forward weight bias up steep climbs. The harder the effort, the better the bike pedaled.

Once you get the Spitfire pointed downhill you really begin to see what this bike was designed for. The Banshee loves to go fast! In the lowest geometry setting, with a bottom bracket height of just 13-inches, a slack 66 degree head angle, and a longer than normal wheelbase, this bike begs you to open it up. The KS-Link suspension really is one of the smoothest feeling back-ends of any bike. It's also very stiff laterally, especially when compared to the previous design. The suspension works incredibly well on small to medium sized hits, carrying speed with the best of the best 26-inch wheeled bikes.

Braking characteristics are very neutral in that the rider’s position does not need to be changed drastically while braking. This leads to a very nice predictable transition from braking to cornering since you can remain neutral or even more toward the front than normal on the bike.

Cornering on this bike requires an aggressive, more forwards riding style with the slack angles and low bottom bracket. Once you learn this, the Spitfire drifts predictably and seems to corner best once the trails get fast. Tight switchbacks are not its strong suit, but a welcome compromise once you experience its high-speed prowess.

The Spitfire also inspires the confidence of a bike with at least 10mm more travel. So much so that you might find yourself regularly pinning it into sections best ridden on a 160mm+ travel machine. The 140mm of rear wheel travel can get slightly overwhelmed when encountering super rough sections, but you’ll make it through unscathed most every time thanks to the aggressive geometry and excellent handling. The suspension's progressive leverage curve helps as well.

Finally, when the Banshee takes to the air, it does so predictably. Big jumps and landings are no problem on the Spitfire. Actually…the bigger the better! It’s the small hops and jumps that require a little more effort compared to some of the other bikes in this travel range. This is most likely caused by the Spitfire’s glued to the ground suspension feel.

Things That Could Be Improved

Throughout my test only a few negatives popped up. The lack of a water bottle cage mount was one. The under the downtube cable routing for the front derailleur was another. All the other cables were routed beautifully out of harms way except for this one.

Also, the 13-inch bottom bracket height was a bit low for my tastes in the lowest of settings. The longer I rode the bike the more I noticed how conscious I needed to be of my pedal timing to avoid pedal strikes. Before you scold me and say to just raise the bottom bracket via the geometry adjustment, I want to remind you that it also affects the head angle. I like the head angle of the low setting, but prefer the middle to high bottom bracket height. After reviewing the geometry charts, the 650b wheels would accomplish just this and could potentially satisfy my geometry craving, but with a change to wheel size. The addition of an adjustable headset cup could also allow for the change. Either way, I spent the last half of the review riding the Spitfire in the middle geometry setting to accomplish a slightly higher (13.2-inch) bottom bracket with still a fairly slack 66.5-degree head angle. The bike still rode great.

Lastly, the increased anti-squat when pedaling in the small 26-tooth ring created a noticeable amount of pedal feedback when the suspension encountered a sizable bump. I also noticed that if the climb began to mellow out and you remained in the small ring, there could (at times) be a very strange feeling at the pedals. This was most likely caused by the suspension extending and compressing with each pedal stroke instead of remaining loaded like it did on a steep climb. In my eyes, all of this can be avoided though by selecting a 32 to 36 tooth 1x10 or 1x11 setup. If you choose this route the Banshee comes with ISCG05 chain guide mounts making it easy to bolt up your favorite chain guide.

What's The Bottom Line?

Overall the Banshee Spitfire V2 is an excellent 140mm travel trail bike well suited to aggressive riders. It’s not that a casual rider couldn’t appreciate this bike, it’s just that to really appreciate this bike you have to be someone who loves to push the limits. The faster you ride this bike, the better it rides.

With all the adjustable geometry and wheel sizes available, the Spitfire is a perfect bike for those wanting to dial-in and find their setup without jumping from bike to bike. The flexibility is nice to see and the frame’s construction and design show no signs of premature wear. The V2 evolution is an improvement in every way to the original Spitfire design, and I can see this being an excellent trail bike for many years to come.

For more info on the Banshee lineup, visit www.bansheebikes.com.

Bonus Gallery: 19 photos of the 2013 Banshee Spitfire V2 in action and up close


About The Reviewer

Evan Turpen has been racing mountain bikes for over 12 years. He raced downhill as a pro for the last 8 years with his career highlight being selected to represent the U.S. in the 2006 World Championships. More recently he can be found competing in enduro races and having a blast with it. His first ever enduro event being the 2012 Trans-Provence 7-day adventure race through France. He is an aggressive yet smooth rider who loves to flick the bike around to put it on the fastest line or to smooth out the rough sections. Fast flowy trails and long technical descents (Garbanzo style) are his favorite. Whistler and Santa Cruz are his two most favorite places to ride, but he can have fun wherever he goes. With an extensive knowledge of the mountain bike industry and its technologies, Evan is able to take all things in to perspective during a review. He has helped design, develop, and test products for multiple major mountain bike companies and has an attention to detail well above most. When he's not out ripping around on a bike he helps run the recently introduced California Enduro Series and is also in charge of the bike park at China Peak Mountain Resort.

“Fantastic trail bike”

The Good: Descends like a bigger bike than it is, durable, excellent frame stiffness

The Bad: A bit heavier than some similar carbon options

Overall Review:

I've had my 2013 Spitfire for about 16 months now during which time it has been my primary bike for all sorts of riding. It is still going strong and remains my favorite bike ever. I had a V1 spitfire and experienced the known bushing issues (although that was also a really fun bike).  Banshee took care of me with a heavily discounted V2 frame which has more than addressed shortcomings with the prior frame.  It had been ridden in a wide variety of conditions from my mellow non-mountainous local trails in NC to our jump trails to the roughest stuff in the mountains of western NC. Essentially, I agree with the other reviews with a few exceptions you'll see below.  The bottom line is that if you want a bike that will get you up the hill efficiently and with enough energy to really get after it on the way down, the spitfire is a great choice.  If you're in the market for a "play bike", think about the spitfire.  I think the spitfire is somewhat unique in that it sports a little less travel than most of its direct competition (SC Nomad, Spec Enduro, Giant Reign, etc).  I personally feel like this allows the bike to ride less demanding terrain without feeling like way too much bike while its outstanding geometry and suspension design allow it to retain the ability to push hard on more demanding trails.

The longer review below mentions the rear end being overwhelmed in more "DH" type situations with the stock Fox CTD shock and I'd tend to agree here.  I will, however, add that when I upgraded to a Cane Creek Double Barrel air, there was a night and day difference and with a Pike up front, the bike really is extremely capable in essentially any terrain.  Obviously there are limits to what a 140mm travel bike will do, and it's not going to ride like a real DH bike.  But the spitfire really does punch above its weight in terms of handling terrain and speed that would cause many 140mm bikes to flounder.

I have no intentions of "upgrading" my frame until the next major Spitfire revision.  Can't wait to see what happens next.

“The Affordable, Downhiller's Trail Bike”

The Good: Shreds the gnar.

The Bad: Enduro will eat your soul.

Overall Review:

In a day and age dominated by $10,000 luxury trail bikes like the Santa Cruz Bronson and Nomad, or the S-Works Specialized Enduro and Stumpy Evo, the all mighty spirit of enduro has led us to believe that the only way we can ever hope to be STRAVA KOM is to empty our life savings. Luckily, for us non-industry, normal people, there are still a few semi-affordable, durable trail bikes with real geometry and the latest bike industry marketing tools (aka 650b), that can keep our hopes alive. Yes bike industry pawns, it is still possible to not spend a fortune and get an absolute ripper of a bike. The Banshee Spitfire is one of these bikes. It is not the lightest all mountain frame, nor the best in it’s class at climbing or descending, but it does everything well, and you’d be a fool to not put this bike on your short list of viable ‘downhill-able trail bikes’.

The V2 Spitfire is Banshee’s latest attempt at creating the downhiller’s trail bike at an affordable price point. It has adjustable geometry, 12x142 rear dropouts, adjustable dropouts for 26” or 27.5” rims, a tapered head tube, a paint job that actually stays on the frame, a full-length seat tube, and 140mm of travel. That is a lot of what I want in an all mountain, or to be politically correct, ‘enduro specific’ bike. The head tube is slack, the BB is low, the wheelbase feels just right, and you can always adjust the geo if you want something different for varying terrain. Further, if you don’t have the coin for 650B wheels at this time, you can use the 26” dropouts and upgrade when your budget allows, with little affect on the geometry of the frame. To top it off, you can buy one of these frames online today for less than $1700 bucks.

I should point out at the start that Banshee has already revised the V2 Spitty for 2014 by making it .5lbs lighter, including stealth dropper cable routing, and including water bottle cage mounts. Those are my main issues with my 2013 frame, and they are fixed for anyone shopping for a new 2014.

So let’s get onto the fun stuff- how does this bike work on the trail?

Climbing:

To start, this bike does not climb like a SC Bronson, Giant Trance SX Advanced, or the older SC Blur LTC. It is heavier than all of these frames, and a bit sluggish on the climbs in comparison. To add to the issue, most people running the Spitfire the way it is intended will run bigger, slower rolling tires, and that will not help anyone get up the hill quick.

That said, the bike does not climb badly; it’s just not a carbon XC bike. I do NOT notice any suspension bob while climbing, and with my Pike lowered to 130mm, I have to try to get the front end to come up, even on extremely steep stuff. That really means a lot to me, as Marin County (where I live and ride), has many extremely steep fire-road climbs. For someone with average legs, this bike is perfectly fine for 20ish mile/4K vert rides- anything more than that and I would look for a different bike.

Descending:

This winter, my DH bike was out of commission, and the Spitfire became my quiver of one- from DH shuttles to massive, pain inducing XC rides, it handled it all. My thoughts below are biased toward the negative, because I mostly compare this bike to my downhill bike. I have to remind myself that the Spitfire is a trail bike. I’ve been mind fucked- it’s that good.

Anyway, after 100K vert of treating the Spitty like a DH bike, I have picked up on what it likes and what it doesn’t. Anyone using this bike like a normal trail bike will be absolutely thrilled with its descending capabilities. It is only when you treat the Spitfire like a DH bike that you will get a reality check thrown at you. For normal, flowy, Santa Cruz-esque single track, the Spitfire is spot on. The bike is stable at speed and in the steeps, corners well, handles moderate rock gardens at will and accelerates on a dime- it is confidence inspiring and I really can’t ask for anything more on these types of trails. The geometry (I have my bike set up in the low position with 650B wheels) is simply spot-on, and let’s you pretend that you are on a bigger bike.

However, once you start to hit bigger doubles, drops, and high-speed rock gardens, you will notice the limitations of the 140mm shredder. I think most of my criticism of the frames’ descending abilities could be fixed by having a better shock on the frame (ie- Float X). On drops, jumps, and harder hits in general, I don’t feel like the Float CTD shock has the mid stroke or ending stroke support that it should, and I believe it holds the bike back. The bike has a tendency to plow through the travel, even with the most progressive volume adjust spacer installed on the Float CTD. This can get annoying for an aggressive rider. If anything, I just don’t hold the belief that the rear end of the bike will bail me out if I case a bigger jump or drop. In order to compensate, I have increased the shock pressure so that I get roughly 10% sag. This changes the way the bike handles through loose sections, high-speed sections, and rocky sections. Overall, the rear end is not as supple, and I feel like I have less traction and control of the rear end. But, this is a compromise in order to have a little more support on a bigger hit. I would love to see what a better, more ‘enduro specific’ shock would do on this frame. Keep in mind, I notice these limitations on trails that most people ride DH bikes on, so some of what I have said should be expected on a 140mm trail bike.

Random Stuff:

The Banshee build quality is second to none. The welds are nice looking, the paint is still on the frame (no paint chips), and the frame has not dented after being essentially raped to death. The bearings have held up so far, and I’ve had a pivot bolt come loose once, but that was my fault. That said, I am bummed my bike does not have a water bottle cage, and it would be oh so nice if it was lighter (or carbon). This is fixed for 2014. Also, it would be nice to have the cable routing points on the down tube a bit higher up toward the head tube to make the cables not stick out as much.

Other Notes:

*Leaving the fork in 130mm mode while descending turns the bike into a slalom machine. It’s ridiculous how well it corners.

*My bike sits at 32lbs with a semi respectable build. *If you are going to run a chain guide, you will most likely have to do some modifying in order to get the guide to clear the swing arm. *I am drunk. Please disregard spelling, grammar, and any references to enduro actually being cool.

In summary, the Spitfire is rad. If you are a downhiller on a budget, you should absolutely consider it as your next trail bike.

“Amazing Trailbike”

The Good: Climbs well & lets you pin downhills. Feels like more travel than it has. Never too much travel. Stays amazingly agile. Just Super-Fun to ride.

The Bad: Weight slightly on the heavy side. Nothing for weight-weenies.

Overall Review:

If you go down to the cellar and pick a bike - it's the spitty.... You just love it.

Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry

Specifications

Riding Type Trail
Sizes and Geometry

S (26, M (26, L (26, XL (26 View Geometry

Size S (26 M (26 L (26 XL (26
Top Tube Length 22.4 23.2 24.2 25.2
Head Tube Angle 66° Low, 66.5° Neutral, 67° High 66° Low, 66.5° Neutral, 67° High 66° Low, 66.5° Neutral, 67° High 66° Low, 66.5° Neutral, 67° High
Head Tube Length 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5
Seat Tube Angle 73.5° Low, 74° Neutral, 74.5° High 73.5° Low, 74° Neutral, 74.5° High 73.5° Low, 74° Neutral, 74.5° High 73.5° Low, 74° Neutral, 74.5° High
Seat Tube Length 15.5 16.9 18.5 20.0
Bottom Bracket Height 13.0 / 13.4 Low, 13.2 / 13.6 Neutral, 13.5 / 13.9 High 13.0 / 13.4 Low, 13.2 / 13.6 Neutral, 13.5 / 13.9 High 13.0 / 13.4 Low, 13.2 / 13.6 Neutral, 13.5 / 13.9 High 13.0 / 13.4 Low, 13.2 / 13.6 Neutral, 13.5 / 13.9 High
Chainstay Length 17.0 / 17.4 Low, 16.9 / 17.3 Neutral, 16.8 / 17.2 High 17.0 / 17.4 Low, 16.9 / 17.3 Neutral, 16.8 / 17.2 High 17.0 / 17.4 Low, 16.9 / 17.3 Neutral, 16.8 / 17.2 High 17.0 / 17.4 Low, 16.9 / 17.3 Neutral, 16.8 / 17.2 High
Wheelbase 44.6 / 45.0 45.4 / 45.8 46.4 / 46.8 47.4 / 47.8
Standover 26.9 27.4 28.1 29.0
Reach 407mm 427mm 452mm 477mm
Stack 590mm 590mm 590mm 590mm
Frame Material Hydroformed 7005 AL Tubes
Rear Travel 140mm
Rear Shock Fox Float CTD
Head Tube Diameter Top 44mm | Bottom 56mm | Top 1.125" Zero Stack, Bottom 1.5" Zero Stack
Bottom Bracket 73mm - ISIS 118mm
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 135x10mm or 142x12mm or 150x12mm or 27.5" (650B) 142x12mm
Front Derailleur Size Low Direct Mount S3
Seat Post Diameter 30.9mm
Max Tire Size 26"x 2.5" and 27.5"x2.5" (27.5" Requires Specific Dropout)
ISCG Tabs ISCG '05
Bottle Cage Mounts No
Colors Black, Red, or Chrome
Warranty 2 Years
Weight

7 lb 8 oz (3.4 kg)

Miscellaneous
Price $1999.00
More Info

Banshee website

Vital MTB Retail Partners:
Chain Reaction Bicycles Jenson U.S.A. Competitive Cyclist Backcountry