daveh, I'm no seasoned bike tester, all of my previous bikes have been bought unridden (currently on a 2005 Orange 5), but my I've scrawled down my impressions below. I'm an okay rider, in the faster group going down in my club (though there are no DHers in our club!), mid pack going back up, ride trail centres, peaks, long mynd, swinley etc. I'm 5'11" and rode a large in all the bikes except the Cotic which I rode in L and M.
Really liked this bike - rolled well and was chuckable for a 29er - worth a ride if you go 29er Good value too from memory. The lacquered raw finish on the Banshees looked great.
Super plush pillow of a bike, probably great if you're riding big stuff, but way too much for an 'everthing with an uphill' bike. I struggled to get it off the ground on my test ride, and found it really draggy on the flat - not for me, so I exclude the SC Nomad as too similar
This was much more like it, really snappy and fun, I just wanted a shade more capability and the SB66 was more confidence inspiring.
Spec Stumpjumper 29er
Just not for me this one, seemed quick, but not fun
Felt too on top of the bike, and thus a bit nervous, quick though.
Santa Cruz Tallboy LT
Didn't get on with this bike for some reason, it didn't seem to have very good small bump compliance, but I wonder if that was shock setup - I was going to re ride it with less air, but decided that 29ers weren't for me after demo'ing a mix.
Santa Cruz Blur LT
I like the suspension feel on this - good small bump compliance, not too much bob uphill, it was just the short TT that put me off, I felt far too cramped
This was the first bike I tested, and I immediately gel'ed with it, was the equivalent of a hot hatch - egging you on to go faster, giving you loads of confidence. The faster you went the more you got out of it. It pedalled really well up hill even with the propedal off. I re-rode it at the Leisure lakes demo day as I had some spare time and still got the same feeling coming off the other bikes. The first bike I rode had Devilles fitted and the second had fox 32's. The BOS were really nice - I'd have them if they weren't so expensive! The 32's were fine, but were a little flexy in comparison.
Similar to the 66 but not as quick to change direction, it rolled over ruts very well and could be made to go where you wanted, but was happier to just steamroller a line through the trail. Easier going on the flat though. If I were less aggressive down hill it'd be between this and the Prime.
Much like the SB66 this pedalled really well up and felt great down. The Large was spot on for me with a 60mm stem (I was riding Cy's bike). I'm not convinced the forks were working properly though, they seemed to be locking up on the bushings. Cy had the Vipr shock fitted and I probably used only 75% of the travel with the sag set right, I suspect the compression tune on it suits a more aggressive rider than me (Cy)! The medium I rode was definitely too short for me both in length and height, and made my back hurt in fairly short order. The narrower bars also didn't suit going down, I felt much less confident. The CTD shock felt better for me though - although I did pinch flat twice within 200m and didn't think I was riding harder than on the large.