“Would you like a new bike for your birthday?”
That was the question that my wife asked me towards the end of last year, my 30th was in a few months time and she was sounding me out on the idea. As a committed mountain biker that is the kind of question you have day dreams about hearing.
With the Heckler starting to show its age, (2005/6 frame) I would of been lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it’s replacement.
When entering the market for a new bike the choices these days are a wide, varied, confusing minefield. What wheel size should you choose? Should it be plus sized or have boost spacing? 1X10/11/12 and what about 2X drivetrains, they are making a comeback. Hard tail or full suspension or should I just capitulate now and get a E bike?
You need to be honest with yourself about what terrain you actually ride. That 170mm super enduro bike might look amazing in the video but it is going to be a drag around the average trail centre.
Ask yourself a few of these questions;
What do you primarily ride and will that change over the next few years?
Is where you primarily ride trail centres or natural terrain?
Steep or mellow?
Do you have any riding or racing ambitions?
Are you an aggressive or hard rider?
Is covering long distances a regular ride for you?
After asking myself these (and a few other questions) I decided I was looking for an aggressive trail or light enduro machine, or what used to be called “all mountain”. I then wrote a set of criteria that the bike should be. I wasn’t wanting something that was vastly different from what the Heckler was for, just a modern, more capable machine.
- Aluminum (unlike carbon, it can be recycled)
- 66/7° Head angle
- 140-160mm rear travel
- 150-160mm front fork
- Threaded bottom bracket
- Ideally external cable routing
- Boost not a priority (screw boost)
I was initially looking to buy a whole bike, I was looking at a few bikes, the Bird Aeris, Canyon Spectral, Vitus Sommet and even a Orbea Rallon had all caught my eye. All of them had good, but not perfect builds for what was within the budget. When I accidentally found a shop in Englandshire that had Banshee frame bundles at very reasonable prices.
And a Banshee Spitfire more than met the criteria listed above.
I hadn’t considered a frame and custom build, but the idea was very appealing. A few conversations with my LBS and they were able to not only match the frame deal from down south, but better it by it coming with a CC Inline instead of a RS Monarch. Let it never be said that a bricks and mortar shop should be ruled out over direct sales when looking for a new ride.
A big part of the fun with a build is the specing, researching the best mix of performance, weight and cost. The simple things like colour matching components and getting your preferred tyres and handlebar width right from the start. And knowing every part, every bolt and having that detailed knowledge of your ride, it all makes a difference.
This also meant that family could gift me components for the build, making the bike more special, as my family helped me build it. The end result is a unique bike that no one else has, no one else is riding the same bike as me, and that is special.