29 May 2007 - 11:32Project Bandersnatch
My weapon of choice was the Vassago Bandersnatch. I originally built the bike up and got the initial ride in a few weeks ago, but I needed to make some component changes before feeling really comfortable on it.
The major change came with the wheelset. I had originally taken a disc only Bike 29 Foundation Wheelset from my Karate Monkey to build the bike. These are WTB Speed Disc rims laced to Shimano XT hubs. While this is a great wheelset, it is pretty basic.The XT hubs do not even come close to cutting it when you require instantaneous drivetrain engagement. I found myself in need of power more than a few times and having my legs move wildly until the Shimano pawl system caught up to drive the wheel. For my personal off road riding style, they simply do not work in our technical terrain. I replaced them with a mango and silver Bike 29 Royale Wheelset. Some may call this excessive, but once you ride on a set, you’ll have a hard time riding anything else.
I changed the saddle after I found that my old white leather/red velour SDG was bent. I was pretty sad about that, it was my very first bit of free industry swag. It was replaced with a WTB Devo saddle. My aluminum bottle cage was replaced with a Bontrager Race X Lite carbon one. There is your excess.
After all was said and done, the bike went from 27.75 lbs to 26.6. Pretty respectable for a trail bike. Gearing is 1×9, a 32 front with an 11-32 rear. Tires are the IRD Fire XC Pro, run tubeless on Stan’s Arch rims.
I got a brief shakedown ride in on our Thursday night group ride. I had managed to overlook a couple of things during the build that really frustrated me. I had forgotten to tighten the plastic cable guide under the bottom bracket, which slipped, allowing the tire to rub against the derailleur cable. That just about drove me nuts trying to figure out what was making that weird grinding metal sound every time I put the power down.
When I finally found the problem, it was an easy fix, and the sound did not come back.
Now that the bike was in tip top mechanical shape, I was able to get down to some serious business. Even on my descent out of our local trails I found that I was riding tight and twisty sections that normally gave me trouble at speed. Not so with the Bandersnatch. This is one of the many great symptoms of Wet Cat Geometry. It was not my foul state of mind that powered me through the turns, it was by design.
Anyone who has seen a cat on the tweak knows just how maneuverable they can be. The Bandersnatch is no exception. The basic gist of Wet Cat is an extended wheelbase, slack head and seat tube, low and forward BB. This all coalesces to put you “in” the bike rather than on top of it. It also has a very unique look, and even when standing still, you get the impression that there is something going on.
Cornering prowess is unexpected. The longer wheelbase keeps everything stable at speed, and mid-course correction is worry free.
The lower center of gravity minimizes the feeling of rolling off the back on steep climbs. This allowed me clean some pretty ridiculous stuff. My typical test etiquette is to pick the stupidest line possible without going overboard to see what the bike is capable of. The Bandersnatch always answered the call with a “Oh yeah? OK. What’s next?”
I did have a couple of pedal stike issues, but these were mostly due to my poor timing. Because the BB is a little lower, I paid extra special attention to my pedal location when going over teh rough stuff.
Overall, I’m really impressed with the bike. For the entry level price tag of the frame of $359, there is nothing entry level about the performance. Custom powder coated finishes are available too, making this frame one of the hottest things going.
It’s a keeper for sure.