Banshee Titan V3
Test Location: Western Washington
Duration of Test: 16 months
Size Tested: Large (M, L, XL available)
Geometry: See Below
Frame Material: 7005 T6 Aluminum
Build Overview (custom build):
- Drivetrain: Shimano SLX 12-speed w/ E.13 TRS+ cassette
- Brakes: Hayes Dominion A4
- Fork: Ohlins RXF36 m.2 Air 170 mm
- Shock: EXT Storia Lok V3
- Wheels: Nobl TR37 rims on Industry Nine 1/1 hubs
- Front Tire: WTB Verdict 2.5” Light casing, High Grip compound
- Rear Tire: Maxxis DHR2 2.4″ Exo+ casing, 3C MaxxTerra compound w/ Tannus Armour Tubeless insert
Wheel Size: 29”
Travel: 155 mm rear / 16-180 mm recommended for fork
Blister’s Measured Weight (as tested, with pedals): 35.5 lbs (16.1 kg)
- Stated 8.7 lb / 3.95 kg frame weight for size Medium Black frame w/ Fox Float X2 shock, dropouts, axle, and seat post clamp
MSRP (frame w/ Fox Float X2 Performance shock and pre-installed headset): $2350 USD
Reviewer: 6’1, 165 lbs (185 cm, 74.8 kg)
[Note: Banshee is among a growing number of bike companies that are eschewing model years, and instead simply updating bikes as their development cycle progresses.]
Few brands trigger such nostalgic memories of the “freeride age” as Banshee. While things have come a long way since the days of the Scream and Morphine (seriously, look up those bikes), Banshee has stayed true to its aluminum-only roots, recognizing their rider base as a group that tends to be a bit harder on their equipment. With their frames proudly touting a “Born on the Shore” sticker, the company has built a reputation for a no-nonsense design philosophy, and often bringing aggressive geometry to shorter-travel platforms that punch above their stated numbers (such as the Phantom V3 we reviewed).
As a smaller company, Banshee doesn’t adhere to the conventional model-year approach, and they tend to update their full line together rather than periodically releasing individual bikes. When Banshee announced their new V3 bikes in 2019, the first of that release was not an iteration of a prior design, but a new bike entirely — the Titan, which features big 29” wheels and 155 mm of rear travel.
Banshee comes out swinging with a Swagger-Award-worthy description for the bike: “Don’t be fooled by the fact it doesn’t have huge amounts of rear travel. It will climb and handle far better than the cumbersome competition and dominate when pointed downhill.” While I wouldn’t call 155 mm short travel, this “short travel but capable” narrative proved very true with my Banshee Spitfire V2 from a few years earlier, a bike that was out ahead of the trend of short-travel, aggressive-geometry bikes.
I was eager to try Banshee’s entry into the 29” Enduro bike space, so I ordered a Titan from an early production batch and have been riding it as my primary bike for just over a year now in every trail condition the Pacific Northwest can throw my way.
The Titan shares both its design ethos and construction methods with the rest of the updated “V3” Banshee lineup, and as we noted in our review of the Phantom V3, Banshee builds their frames stout. Many parts are forged for strength, and the rear triangle is heavily braced with machined / forged parts to maintain stiffness, which also has the effect of helping ensure alignment of key pivot points. The V3 frames take up Banshee’s latest suspension design, KS2, which retains the same 4-bar mini-link setup as the prior KS-Link design, but orients the shock vertically and makes for a more progressive leverage curve. The shock itself is nestled into a huge forged shock cage, which incorporates the bottom bracket and main frame pivot points. This forged section is one of designer Keith Scott’s major talking points for the new frame platform, which he claims isolates all of the rear-suspension loads to this high-strength area while also providing a low center of gravity for improved handling.
The shock cage does impose some limitations on shock selection, however. Banshee says that the Push 11-6, DVO Jade X and Topaz 2, Suntour TriAir2, and FAST Fenix are all incompatible, due to interference with the shock cage.
One of the other primary points touted by Banshee is the use of 7005 T6 aluminum alloy. Without getting too nerdy, many bikes are built of 6061 T6 aluminum, which is cheaper and easier to manipulate. 7005 T6 is measurably stronger both in tensile strength (i.e., elongation) and in fatigue strength (i.e., highest stress tolerance over a given number of testing cycles). For a bike that is built for many years of service, the latter is particularly important. These fancy tubes are nicely hydroformed in several places and all mated together by someone who clearly knows how to use a welding torch — the quality is high, and the welds on my particular frame are pretty much faultless, with nicely machined links and some impressive forging work. I will admit that I have a soft spot for nicely crafted metal bikes, but I think the Titan is a very nice thing to look at.
Banshee also runs an interesting dropout configuration that allows some tunability. A simple flip chip allows the rider to run either high or low positions, and the rider can select “compact” or “long” dropouts at the time of purchase in either 12×142 mm (non-Boost) or 12×148 mm (Boost) spacing. This is great news for folks who perhaps invested in a high-end wheelset during the days of 142 mm wheel spacing, or who want a frame that can easily plug-and-play with a build kit from an older bike. Banshee notes that the “compact” dropouts can fit a 29 x 2.6” tire or 27.5 x 2.8” tire for the mullet-curious among us, while the longer dropout is intended for the 29+ crowd and clears a 29 x 2.8” tire by adding 10 mm to the chainstay length.
These features bring Banshee’s baseline frame-only price up slightly higher than some of its non-carbon peers at an MSRP of $2350 for the frameset. Most of that cost can presumably be attributed to the more expensive forged sections of the frame as well as the high-end 7005 aluminum. It is worth noting that this frameset does also include a Fox X2 Performance shock and a pre-installed (and fairly good quality) headset, which can save some hassle of having one installed by a shop.
Perhaps a testament to the difference in these construction techniques is Banshee’s 4-year warranty, which applies to all of its V3 frames and is beyond the typical industry standard for aluminum frames. It’s perhaps not surprising when also considering the burly frame design, which Banshee states as 8.7 lbs / 3.9 kg for the anodized black frameset in a size Medium. It’s worth noting this is still in the same weight range as the Commencal Meta AM, Ibis Ripmo AF, aluminum versions of the Transition Sentinel and Patrol, and even the very expensive Nicolai G1, but in a world where it’s not all that hard to track down a 6-lb carbon Enduro frame, that weight number stings a bit.
The Titan frame features a threaded bottom bracket shell, ISCG ‘05 tabs for a chain guide, and internal cable routing all around. A rubber chainstay protector comes pre-installed, and there’s room for a full-size water bottle inside the front triangle.
In my case, this bike began as an attempted budget build, where I intended to transfer over all of my parts from a prior bike. The fork ended up requiring a swap due to Banshee’s longer-than-normal headtube, but otherwise, everything bolted up nicely.
With my initial build, I went with a SRAM GX Eagle drivetrain with SRAM’s Descendant Carbon cranks, TRP G-Spec Quadiem brakes, and an E.13 TRS+ wheel up front with an Onyx / Spank 350 hub / rim combo out back. I started off running a 2020 Fox 36 GRIP2 with 170mm travel alongside the stock X2 Performance shock that Banshee specs with the frame.
Over the year+ that I’ve owned the bike, however, the build has evolved considerably. I’ve upgraded the fork to a 170mm-travel Ohlins RXF 36 m.2, and the rear shock to the EXT Storia V3. Both have been excellent and suit the bike’s personality well, though it’s important to note that the Ohlins fork is about 13 mm longer axle-to-crown at a given travel than the 2020 Fox 36. This didn’t exceed Banshee’s recommendations for the frame (they recommend a 160–180 mm travel fork for the Titan), but it did slightly raise the bottom bracket, shorten the reach, and slacken the head angle from what’s in Banshee’s geometry charts. Along with suspension, a few other parts have changed as well, such as the addition of the very good Hayes Dominion A4 brakes and a switch to the Shimano SLX drivetrain, and some of these more aggressive spec choices around brakes and suspension have continued to open up some of the frame’s potential, which I’ll get into later in this review.
The overview of the build, as I’ve settled on now, is as follows:
- Drivetrain: Shimano SLX 12-speed with E.13 TRS+ cassette
- Brakes: Hayes Dominion A4
- Fork: 170 mm Ohlins RXF36 m.2 Air
- Shock: EXT Storia Lok V3
- Wheels: Nobl TR37 rims on Industry Nine 1/1 hubs
- Tires: WTB Verdict 2.5” Light/High Grip (front), Maxxis DHR2 3C MaxxTerra 2.4” Exo+ (rear), Tannus Armour Tubeless insert in rear tire
While primarily offered as a frame-only, Banshee provides a range of build kits for the bike, though Covid-related supply issues have somewhat hampered their ability to offer complete bikes. The options for build kits are not advertised clearly on Banshee’s website, but buyers can inquire with Banshee via email, or contact their local Banshee dealer.
On the surface, it’s clear that Banshee have moved in the low / long / slack direction across their lineup, and the Titan is no exception. However, Banshee haven’t gone as far as many manufacturers have, and Banshee have done a few interesting things with the geometry that differentiate them a bit from the rest of the companies chasing modern geometry figures.
First, the things that are more standard: Banshee employs a now-common reduced-offset fork, with the Titan frame designed around a 44 mm offset. The Titan’s head angle is predictably (but not wildly) slack at 64.5° in the low setting, and the seat angle fairly steep, at a listed effective angle of 76.75°, again in the low setting. Banshee also includes seat tube angle measurements at 600, 700, and 800 mm seat heights, measured from the center of the bottom bracket — something that frankly every manufacturer should do to help buyers understand expected fit. And for reference, you can see the full geometry chart below:
At 6’1, Banshee recommended the size Large frame for me. Comparing that with my last bike, a 2018 Transition Sentinel, the reach on the Titan is slightly shorter at 470 mm vs. 480 mm, and the head angle slightly steeper (in the low position) at 64.5° vs. 64°. Stack, however, grew by almost 20 mm with the Titan, and the wheelbase also grew almost 20 mm to 1265 mm. One of the main drivers of that wheelbase difference is the Titan’s chainstay length, which is a lengthy 452 mm with the shorter dropouts. This chainstay length element has been a point of much debate recently, with proponents of longer chainstays claiming better chassis balance, especially for bikes that are otherwise relatively long, and naysayers claiming that it makes bikes cumbersome. Banshee is clearly a proponent of the longer stays (at least in their 29er models), and while my last several bikes have taken the “short stays = party” philosophy, I think the folks at Banshee are onto something here, given the intentions of the Titan.
Fit and Setup
Coming from a 40 mm stem and 480 mm reach on my old bike, the 50 mm / 470 mm combo on the Banshee didn’t feel all that much different. Maybe it felt a hint shorter, and certainly a little more upright with the high stack, but it was fairly easy to get comfortable right off the bat. While some folks who like a more upright position may need a couple spacers, I found that for my more forward and aggressive riding style, I opted to slam the stem quite low to keep the front end feeling manageable. This felt especially necessary once I changed over to the Ohlins fork, which raised the cockpit even higher due to the increased axle-to-crown height. If you’re keen to try this bike and like a low cockpit, I’d encourage buying low-rise bars and using spacers to experiment with bar height, versus buying higher-rise bars.
The Titan’s seat tube angle is fairly steep, which made for a comfortable pedaling position that was easy to settle into without too much adjustment. Some folks seem to love the super-steep-seat-angle trend, others seem to hate it, and while I wouldn’t want anything much steeper than the Titan, I think it’s about perfect for my trails and style. I had a Chromag Stylus for a short period that had a way-too-steep seat angle (especially for a hardtail, which only has suspension sag in the front, thereby steepening the seat angle further… a rant for another time), and I know how uncomfortable that sensation can be. But with my longer legs, I’m generally spared that feeling on most bikes.
With my stature, I am running about 750 mm of extension as measured from the center of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat, putting me at a roughly 76.3° effective seat tube angle per Banshee’s chart. At 600 mm of extension, that number jumps to 77°, which is quite steep. Shorter riders may have more of an issue with the seat angle getting almost too steep, and I can’t help but wonder if Banshee should have done size-specific seat angles to help mitigate the uber-steep seat angle for riders under 6’0. That said, our reviewers ranging from 5’8″ to 5’10” got along quite well with the Banshee Phantom’s seat tube angle, which is quite similar to the Titan’s.
One limitation of the Titan frame is that dropper post insertion is somewhat limited by the main pivot on the upper link. At 6’1″, I was able to run a 170 mm PNW Bachelor post without issue, which doesn’t have the shortest insertion depth by any means, but I have heard of shorter riders on smaller sizes struggling to cram in posts over 150 mm drop. I would recommend buying a post that has adjustable drop (like the PNW Components Rainier, or OneUp V2) to help fine-tune fit, or reach out to Banshee for a recommendation.
While I was able to quickly get comfortable on the Titan, I must mildly disagree with Banshee’s sizing recommendations. The Large is suggested for riders 5’11”-6’4”, and I think that is too conservative. I would point riders between 5’10” and 6’2” at the Large, but even at 6’2”, the XL wouldn’t be out of the question — though the reach does jump by a full 25 mm to 495 mm.
There’s no doubt that the Titan is a heavy bike, especially in the sea of lighter carbon bikes crowding the market today. Pulling the Titan off the rack ahead of a 3,000-foot ascent is daunting, to say the least. Despite this and having more travel than my last 3 bikes, I must say that I was quite surprised by how well the Titan climbs. The high stack and shorter-than-some reach mean that my body position is generally fairly upright, but the pedaling position afforded by the seat angle is excellent for my preferences.
The steep seat angle, long wheelbase, and long chainstays create some interesting contrasts with other shorter-chainstay bikes I’ve ridden in the past. Bikes like the Knolly Warden Carbon and Evil Following have slack actual seat angles as well as short chainstays (and shorter wheelbases). As someone with long-ish legs, this means most of my weight was over the rear wheel, making it easy to unweight the front of the bike and pivot off of the rear wheel — a handy skill for the abundance of awkward technical sections and tight switchbacks here in the Northwest. For longer, more grinding climbs, though, this was less advantageous because it left less weight over the bars, encouraging the front wheel to wander when you aren’t in an aggressively forward climbing position.
The Titan is a significant departure from those geometries, with a steeper seat angle, much longer wheelbase, and much longer chainstays, and the differences on-trail are significant. On the positive side, the longer chainstay and steeper seat angle put the rear wheel a bit farther behind your center of mass, which helps the bike keep the front end down nicely on steeper climbs. On the flipside, that longer rear-center means switchbacks require some very deliberate body English and wide approach angles. If I lived in a place with a lot of that sort of tight, techy climbing, this might be more of an irritation — but I don’t, and the Titan pedals efficiently enough to keep a good pace, while the big wheels and firm suspension help it carry momentum well. It’s also worth pointing out that the KS2 suspension is remarkably supple off the top, resulting in abundant traction when the trail gets steep and it’s time to put the power down.
The stock 2020 Fox Float X2 Performance had a very firm lockout setting, which exhibited some odd behaviors while climbing. The lockout seemed to want to lift the bike out of its travel, and successive small bumps while climbing would actually slowly lift the bike out of the ordinary sag range. I eventually stopped using the lockout because (1) it felt odd and harsh and (2) because the bike didn’t really need it. The EXT Storia I swapped out later came with a lighter compression tune on its climb switch, more akin to a “trail mode,” and I do tend to use it quite often on long fire road grinds because of the sporty feel it affords while still being relatively comfortable.
All in all, the Titan climbs admirably well for a fairly burly bike, and I’d put it on the more efficient end of big-travel 29ers. It suffers in tight sections, but I doubt users familiar with this class of bike will find that surprising. It’s also worth noting that my build, and particularly my wheelset, are not lightweight, and a rider looking to drop weight could likely find easy ways to do so. That said, a rider worried about weight won’t likely choose this frame to begin with.
Swinging a leg over the Titan for the first time, you’d be forgiven for assuming that the bike is going to be a tank on the downhills — the suspension feel is very supple off the top, almost downhill-bike-like, and the bike just feels so solid. Compared to some carbon bikes that seem to return a lot of the energy through the chassis from repeated or large impacts, the Titan conveys a sense of extreme calm, quietly absorbing big hits and maintaining composure. There’s a decided lack of drama when rumbling through burly sections where the best line is straight down a steep chute, while at the same time the relatively reasonable reach measurement means that it never quite feels like a runaway freight train. Unlike my 2018 Transition Sentinel, which seemed like it needed a bit of extra travel to back you up when you really decided to see what its geometry would let you get away with, the Titan’s smooth-feeling chassis and just-right amount of suspension encourage pushing more pace and carrying speed. Maybe it’s because I’ve been logging more trail miles thanks to COVID, but I’ve felt less fatigue on this bike after long descents relative to some others.
While the Titan’s suspension is able to calm most impacts effectively, it doesn’t simply erase bumps like some other, more-linear suspension designs. Where the 2018 Transition Sentinel sometimes sat vaguely in its mid-stroke and made it hard to tell how close you were to its limit, the Titan is more in line with the Knolly Warden Carbon in that it is relatively easy to tell how hard the bike is working, and therefore how much harder you can push. That’s not to say it is easily overwhelmed, but more that the bike is intuitive and confident. More experienced riders are likely to appreciate this feeling, and it allows the rider to quickly press into the bike and find the support to get airborne — it’s a bike that definitely likes to jump. On the flip side, it means that the bike doesn’t glue itself to the ground like some other big-travel Enduro race bikes. This characteristic did lead to some fits in setting up the Fox Float X2 Performance shock, which felt overly harsh, but was remedied with the bike’s conversion to a coil setup — more on that below. Even with the EXT coil shock I settled on, I ended up backing off high-speed compression more than I typically would in order to allow the wheel to get out of the way a bit more quickly over big hits, rather than fighting that progressive ramp-up.
When it comes to cornering, the Titan’s frame design and chainstays again yield a unique, and for me, very good experience. Perhaps due to the suspension layout and large forging around the shock, it really feels like the bike’s weight is situated right between your feet. The bottom bracket isn’t particularly low, but this sensation of the bike’s weight sitting between your feet brings very confident and intuitive cornering performance. Compared to the Transition Sentinel, which was a ton of fun to slash and drift in steeper terrain, the Titan maintains a slightly less loose / surfy feel, with the longer chainstays guiding the bike into smoother, arcing turns while lending heaps of grip. It’s a different and less playful sensation, with the bike sometimes feeling somewhat less eager to get chucked sideways to square off a corner, but it’s a faster and more controlled riding experience that will benefit experienced riders who want a bike that will help them commit to challenging lines.
When it comes to performance on mellower terrain, the less radical geometry is again helpful to the bike’s versatility, but it is also still clear that the bike isn’t optimized for that sort of riding. Those slightly more modest reach numbers and headtube angle make the bike feel more engaging to turn at lower speeds as well as a bit easier to change directions or get sideways off of jumps. The rear suspension is substantially progressive, and while that makes for a soft initial stroke, it firms up quickly and is quite supportive, overall. This is helpful when trying to get airborne, but while fit riders who can manage the bike’s overall weight will be rewarded with a decent ability to pump through rollers and jump lines to maintain speed, it is a bit physically taxing, given the bike’s heft. Relative to some bikes I’ve ridden, like the Ibis Ripmo, that I would characterize as Enduro bikes with the soul of a trail bike, the Titan is an Enduro bike with the soul of its freeride ancestors — it’s happiest being in steeper terrain.
If it’s not yet obvious at this point, I’ve really enjoyed my time on the Titan. It’s a unique ride from a core brand, but it’s also not without a few areas for improvement:
- Fox Float X2 Performance Shock: I really did not get along with the stock 2020 Float X2 Performance shock. Banshee claims it has a custom tune for the bike, but for my riding style, the shock tended to sit in the mid-stroke and felt quite vague. It was also quite harsh over repeated high-speed hits. It would have significantly altered my view of the bike had I not already had a negative experience with the X2 that came on an old downhill bike, which I also had a very hard time tuning to ride high in the travel and not feel overly vague. I was in a position to splurge on the EXT Storia V3 and it has made a world of difference and is truly fantastic. It’s worth noting that Fox substantially redesigned the Float X2 for 2021 (see our full review), and newer Titans will come with the updated shock which may improve on some of these complaints, but I have not had a chance to try one.
- Finishing touches: While the frame construction is gorgeous, some of the finishing touches could use refinement. The pivot hardware, though functional, is very simple and doesn’t have any of the locking collets or external sealing elements that other companies have started using to better protect from the elements — though, on the upside, the bearings are quite large and of great quality. The only frame protection is on the chainstay, and it is not quite long enough, nor is it particularly thick. I ultimately added one of the excellent Lizardskins Carbon Leather protectors to the downtube, and used mastic tape on the seat stay for added chain protection.
- Cable rattle: While the internal routing actually works quite well once set up properly, I’ve had issues with cable rattle in the downtube. It’s no worse than my prior aluminum frame, and I imagine some more creative use of foam tubing could help. But in a world of carbon frames with internally molded cable routing, I wish aluminum frames could offer a better solution, and I’d like to think that an aluminum specialist like Banshee would be well-positioned to come up with something a little more elegant. I also wish the brake line was fully externally routed for easier installation.
- Pushing the geometry a bit further: While the Titan rides well as a complete package, some of the numbers are not quite in line with the prevailing geometry trends of longer / slacker. It’s quite slack, but not the slackest, nor does it have the longest reach, and the stack is quite high. I am running a 50 mm stem to add a bit more length to the cockpit, and I find myself wondering what another 10-20 mm of reach might offer. The 25 mm jump in reach length from the Large to the XL would be tempting to try, but I think the increased seat tube length and stack height on the XL would be a bit too much for me.
While it doesn’t quite fit in this list of considerations for improvement, I did also have an issue with the frame alignment on my first frame. I would never have noticed it were it not for having to remove the shock to properly route the cables, then noticing that the linkage wanted to twist ever so slightly out of line with the shock. It was incredibly subtle, but I was curious, and soon had the linkage in pieces to see what was going on. Ultimately, things weren’t quite lining up properly. Michael at Banshee connected me with their designer and owner, Keith, and he was very responsive in helping me diagnose the issue. After a new rear triangle didn’t quite solve it, Banshee had a whole new frame shipped to me at no cost, also letting me keep some of the spare hardware from the original frame as maintenance parts. The minor misalignment didn’t cause me any off-the-bike time and cost me nothing. Plus, Banshee let me swap colors from the black anodized to the insanely gorgeous raw option, which was initially out of stock when I ordered the bike. While a misaligned frame isn’t great, I actually came to appreciate Banshee even more as a brand through this experience and how they handled it.
Who’s It For?
Enduro bikes are flying off of the shelves these days, in part because they can unlock a sense of invincibility for riders who are looking to push themselves on the downhills. The Titan does that too, but with some nuances to consider.
Capable riders who know how to carry momentum in nasty terrain and have an eye for optional trail gaps will find the Titan to be a willing partner, and riders who like to push themselves on bigger jumps and drops will be impressed by the Titan’s predictable-yet-maneuverable demeanor in the air. Some of my most fun days on this bike have been following very fast friends into black / double black trails that I’ve never ridden, counting on the Titan’s predictable feel (and a decent set of brakes) to carry me through whatever may come.
While the Titan offers impressive versatility for what it is, it still shines in steep terrain and I think there are better options for riders who want something that will let them ride fast, but don’t want to push themselves on technical terrain. There are other significantly lighter bikes (e.g., Ibis Ripmo) that offer the cushion of an Enduro bike but that are a bit more fun and easy to ride on mellow terrain. However, those bikes don’t necessarily offer the same sturdy, always-confident feel of the Titan when piloting them into nasty terrain. The Titan’s longer chainstays also require some measure of cornering commitment, and less assertive riders or folks who like to easily slide the back end around or frequently pop into manuals may find themselves missing the playful feel of a shorter rear end.
Additionally, while Banshee offers complete builds, most riders considering this bike will be opting for the frame only. That’s a level of commitment that already speaks to more dedicated riders or folks who really know what they’re looking for. I would be remiss not to mention the number of “oh man, nice Banshee!” comments that I’ve gotten on the trail — of all the bikes I’ve owned in recent memory, none have gotten the attention of fellow bike nerds quite like this one, which I also think speaks to its more specialized appeal.
The Bottom Line
As they did with the original Spitfire, Banshee has taken its own unique approach to entering the crowded field of 29er Enduro bikes with the Titan. Through some unique geometry choices and its new suspension design, Banshee has created a bike that balances a need for speed with an ability to still play on the trail. Its intimidating silhouette belies an adaptable and predictable nature — it pedals better than it probably should, and while it’s maybe not the fastest rig on the racetrack, it is a design that seems tailor-made for trails like we have here in the Pacific Northwest, which require big climbs to reach steep, technical trails full of high-commitment features.