Strengths: Handling at speed, value, durability, quality
Weaknesses: Weight, slow speed handling (mostly just a 29er thing), seat post slipped until I added a shim, some grip paste and a Salsa clamp. Could be the Thomson seat post finish, I've had the same problem in other frames.
After looking at many different hardtails - On One, Niner, Specialized, cheap Chinese carbon, etc.- I got this frame on a smokin' closeout deal and couldn't resist. Overall very happy with this frame, real quality build. Feels very stable. I now spend much more time riding in the big ring, I just want to go fast on this bike. After many other bikes in almost 30 yrs and FS exclusively for the past 15 years, it's so great to get back to a steel hardtail! I don't miss the squish at all, and I love the precise handling, shifting, acceleration, etc. Climbing traction is good but the rear end can bounce around on steep rough sections compared to FS. I haven't weighed it; it's under 30 lbs but handles like a far lighter bike. Lighter wheels would help mine but at the expense of durability.
I've become convinced that frame size should come down a step when moving up to 29ers. That is, if you ride a certain size 26er, get the smaller frame size in a 29er. It will help some of the handling issues, since the big wheels just aren't as nimble. I'm 6'3" and rode XL in 26ers. My first 29er was an XL and though I liked the big wheels, I hated the handling. Now I have a bright red 20" Bander, and it feels like a big BMX bike that can go cross country all day. Despite the long wheelbase it handles switchbacks really well. I've been running the fork at 100mm but there's too much sluggish oversteer so I'm going to switch it to 80mm. The long seat post (Thomson 27.2) really helps soften up the rear end.
My only complaint is the low BB; though it does help the handling I get too many pedal strikes here in the Southwest (could be the 180mm cranks, or my sloppy technique!). When I ran XTR I would cringe a lot, but with cheap X7 I don't care as much. Some time you just gotta bash your way through. Which brings me to the next point- durability. Sometimes I end up wayyy out there, 20 or more miles from the car all alone, and having a good steel frame is a bit of peace of mind. This frame feels like it could stand up to some serious abuse and still get you home.
The Bander is appropriately named, it just wants to be ridden fast. Sometimes I have to remind myself on screaming downhills that it's a hardtail, and slow down a little for that inevitable rear wheel smack. It loves to catch air but the hard landing can be a surprise.
I think I'll keep this one for awhile. The new Bander frame looks even better, post mount brakes, bent seat stays, 44mm head tube. Looks like they're doing things right. You can't go wrong.
Similar Products Used: Siren, Specialized, Trek, Giant, Diamond Back, etc.
Bike Setup: Reba Team @ 100mm, 3x9 gearing, X7 180mm cranks, BB7 brakes, Thomson post, twist shift.
a Cross Country Rider
from Tappahannock, VA, USA
Date Reviewed: January 22, 2012
Strengths: Precise, predictable steering. Amazing climbing, great power transfer, soaks up the trail like it has suspension. Rails corners in tight singletrack. BB is maybe a hair low but tall enough to clear ledges and logs easily (as long as you are awake and thinking). Frame performs better than the spec might suggest, and the price is great for what you get.
Weaknesses: Paint does seem to chip easily. A powdercoat may be in order in a few years.
Ridden mostly on rocky, rooty, often steep and tight singletrack. I have no desire to even try another 29er (except maybe an Optimus Ti). I use it mostly as a SS (just don't shift) for conditioning. The bike does everything I ask of it without complaint or surprise, is just as nimble as my 26er softail SS and tracks better in the rough than my 5" f-s bike (both of which I have now sold). Added a wheelset with skinnies for the wet-trail road ride alternative, and I have the perfect bike for anything I want to ride.
Bike Setup: Odis Fork, X9 2X10, Elixir CR 203 fr 185 rr, white brothers crank, Thomson seat post, bars, and stem, cane creek head set, stans rims, and hutchinson toro tubeless
a Cross Country Rider
from Scottsdale, AZ
Date Reviewed: February 27, 2011
Strengths: Geometry and price
Weaknesses: None that I have found. Have read things about the paint quality....I think it's on par for the cost of the frame
Vassago recommends the fork be ran @ 80mm. Personally, I like it more ran @ 100mm. Maybe that's because I no longer ride a big drop from my saddle to my handlebars. The bike climbs great, handles like a dream, and turns as fast as I need it to turn.
My other current ride is a Dean Colonel 26, and I can whip the Vassago around almost as fast as the Dean. The biggest difference is that my dental work appreciates the larger wheels and smoother ride.
Granted, I could have saved a pound or so by going with a Niner MCR, but I'm going to save my other $450 to put toward a Black Label Vassago in the fall. Meanwhile, I'm going to ride my Bandersnatch and have a ball.
This is a great frame regardless...the price makes it even a better value.
Bike Setup: Formula Oro K24 brakes, XO drive train, Reba RLT Ti 100mm fork, and Flows laced to DT Swiss 240s,
a Cross Country Rider
from Park City, UT
Date Reviewed: September 23, 2010
Strengths: Cheap, Sexy, Namesake (can't count how many times someone felt the urge to shout out "Bandersnatch" in their own quirky way on the trail)
Weaknesses: paint scratches easily
Basically, price was the determining factor when buying this frame also the wetcat geometry was interesting. Even though the wheelbase is slightly longer, tight switchbacks don't seem any tougher to make than other std geo 29ers out there. I was also intrigued by the claimed "flexiness" of a steel framed bike. My impressions are that even on the roughest descents, I couldn't tell a noticeable difference between carbon and steel, maybe slightly damper than an aluminum ride. I suppose a fully rigid setup would show the difference better. I could definitely tell I sat lower in the bike the other niner riders out there.
I would buy another Vassago, but maybe next time as a single speeder (Wocky or Chupa)
a Weekend Warrior
from Southern California, USA
Date Reviewed: July 29, 2010
Strengths: Steel, that often used "in the bike" feeling, stable at high speed
Weaknesses: paint chips easy, a bit heavy, more effort to turn in the tight stuff
For me the geometry is spot on. I know its a terminology that has been overused but "in the bike, rather than on the bike" feeling best describes it. Bike rolls smooth and feels very stable once the trail points downhill and fast descents are confidence inspiring. I am guessing this is due to the long top tube and long chainstays.
I did notice that it take a bit more effort to 'muscle' in turns compared to my F/S 26. I really cant tell how much of the harshness is absorbed or mitigated by the steel frame since my other HT bike is also steel.
I dont ride hard enough to flex the frame so I cant comment on flexing issues. The Bandersnatch climbs well even with a poor rider such as myself. Just downshift and keep on cranking. It does feel slower on the takeoff compared to a 26er.
Paint seems to be another common issue on Vassago bikes, my Bandersnatch easily chipped in some areas and some paint were scuffed from minor cable rub. The Phantom Silver is just gorgeous seconded only by Bone White and Pitch Black.
Gotten lots of positive comments on my Vassago since its a not a too common, big corporation bike.
a Weekend Warrior
from Tucson, Az, USA
Date Reviewed: April 9, 2010
Strengths: Geometry. Great for climbing. Stable and fast on descents. Steel gives great compliance over small rocks and bumps. Stiff in the BB and the chainstays for great power transfer. Price to performance makes it a great value.
Weaknesses: A tad heavy, but it is steel. My 18 inch weighed in at 5lbs. Paint seems to scratch easy. The BB threads had paint all over them and the LBS had to chase them. The cable guide on the BB also had paint all over the threads. Did not come with seatclamp or waterbottle bolts. All in all VERY minor stuff.
This is my first 29'er so can't give a true comparison to other two niner frames. Also the fork, wheels, bottom bracket are a huge upgrade compared to my old Gary Fisher. The geometry is very close to genesis of the GF. It feels super stable on fast descents. When climbing I hardly have to get out of the saddle to shift weight for traction. It does feel a bit slugish on tight turns but that is to be expected.
Similar Products Used: First 29'er. I was on a Gary Fisher Tasajara 26'er before this.
Bike Setup: Rockshox Reba SL 80 MM
American Classic MTB 29 Tubless 2010
Race King 2.2 tires running slime tubes for now.
Chris King Headset
SLX Bottom bracket and crankset
Deore rear DR and shifters
SLX Front DR
SRAM Cassette and Chain
Avid Leavers and BB7 brakes 160 front and rear
Bontragor Sport seatpost, stem and bars.
Shimano SPD pedals
Weighs in at 28lbs with pedals.
a Cross Country Rider
Date Reviewed: December 4, 2009
Strengths: The geometry is the stongpoint of this frame. Vassago makes a longer top tube, longer chainstays and a lower BB. This creates a feeling of being "in" the bike rather than "on" it. This leads to great climbing ability and great stability on rough terrain.
Weaknesses: The Bandersnatch's greatest strengths turn out to be its greatest weakness. The long Top tube, long chainstays, and low bottom bracket that help in climbing also compromise handling. The frame has a longer wheelbase (about 44") and low BB which slows steering and causes clearance issues. 29ers allow you to ride at higher speeds and with the bander I felt as though I had to "muscle" it around corners and tight spots. Another weakness is the weight. I realize that this is a very affordable frame, but my 18" frame weighed over 5lbs.
This is a good frame but it has its limitations. The climbing traction is great as is the stability but the negatives seem to offset the postives. Niner seems to make the most balanced 29er frame.
Similar Products Used: I have owned or demo-ed the following: Fisher Paragon, Niner MCR 9, Surly Karate Monkey, Niner Air 9.
Bike Setup: Stans ZTR 355 Wheelset, Reba 80mm, XT group
from Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA
Date Reviewed: November 16, 2009
Strengths: Steel, rigid, wet cat geometry, tire clearance, very nice price, and fast — a quality two-niner built by a dedicated two-niner company.
Weaknesses: I wish the sweet head badge was included. That's it. I can't think of anything else as a weakness.
I love this bike — and my chosen set-up. I don't even ride the Rig that much anymore — except for the hangover inducing pub crawls. The Vassago 2010 Bandersnatch is my dedicated XC race bike. I climb better, descend faster and tight twisty singletrack is no problem. Flowing singletrack is even better. I cant wait until Summer 2010 to attack the Rocky Mountains of Colorado on this baby.
My next purchase will be the Vassago Jaberwocky single speed. Bye-bye Rig.
Favorite Trail: Trails at Slaughter Pen (to date…)
Duration Product Used: 3 months
Purchased At: trails-edge.com
Similar Products Used: Gary Fisher Rig
Bike Setup: Built to race: SRAM X.O Twist, Middleburn 2X9 40/27, Avid Elixir CR Mag, Stans ZTR 355 with ZTR Hubs, Kenda Small Block 8s, Crank Bros Egg Beaters, KORE Elite flat bar, Ergon Grips, Thomson Stem and Seatpost, WTB Shadow V…
a Cross Country Rider
from Dallas, TX
Date Reviewed: October 30, 2009
Strengths: "Wet Cat" Geometry & Price
Weaknesses: Paint, Poor Welds, Heavy Tubing
I am not going to feed you a bunch of B.S. to try and make myself feel good about my bike purchase.
This is a 29er and will never be as nimble in the tight twisty turns as a 26" bike ......period. I tried lots of handle bars and diffrent stem lengths to try and get the bike to steer quicker. I think I finally have the bike where it steers quickly without being sketchy and still decends well. You will probably go thru alot of handle bars and stems as well if this is your first 29er. I think part of the reason the steering seemed slower was because my average speed went up. While this bike will never feel as quick steering as a 26" bike it does seem to be better than the other 29" bikes I have tried.
The geometry of the frame is what initially attracted me to the bike. Other 29" bikes felt like I was in a higher riding position and being 5'8" it felt a little unatural for me. With a 16" Vassago I felt my center of gravity was a little lower and closer to where it would be on a 26" bike. The guys here who ride these bike recommend a 80mm fork and so did the Vassago website. I really wanted to run a 100mm fork and would be intrested in hearing from those who do. I think Vassago should have designed the bike around a fork with more travel. This is the only thing I would change about the geometry. I feel this bike is a Cross Country machine built to go fast and long.
My beefs with the bike is a couple areas of quality control. The welds on the bike are not very pretty and for a $450 frame I have seen much better welds. It's cheap for a 29" frame, but frames for 20" bike cost more because they are in vogue. My other concern was the quality of the paint. I have the Blood Red and it immediatley began to chip after the first ride. This is by far the worst paint job I have ever had on a bike. Hopefully Vassago will remedy this in the future.
Last beef with the bike is the tubing used. I understand they use 4130 to keep the cost of the bike down. In the future I hope they will offer models with better quality tubing and a lighter overall frame weight. I would pay more for it.
Last issue is the gearing in general for 29" bikes. Because of the larger tires your rollout on a 29" bike is diffrent than that of a 26" bike. The granny gear could be a little smaller for Mountain climbing. The best option avail is Middleburn as they make 20T 30T 40T chainrings that are more suitable for 29" bikes. Hopefully other manufactures will take note.
Do I love the bike? YES!!! Love the speed I keep on this bike!!!
Would I buy this bike again? No I would probably get a custom builder to copy the geometry and get better welds, better tubing, and a lighter weight from the bike. I would expect to pay more for a custom frame, but I also put $1200 worth of parts on the bike and could justfy spending a litte more on a nicer frame. The bike can be built up as a budget 29er and get people into a 29" for right at a grand.
Overall Rating & Value 4 due to poor welds and paint.
Bike Setup: reba racce fork, 355 wheels, 240 hubs, elixir cr brakes, 185 rotor in front, carbon post, and bars with ergo grips. grip shifters, xtr cranks, egg beater ti's, smp saddle, 25 lovely lbs, RR2.4 front, and 2.2 rear with sealent
a Weekend Warrior
from houston, tx
Date Reviewed: February 27, 2009
Strengths: Fun all rounder. rolles realy fast. excellent climber. can also stand the abuse of all mountain, light dh.
Fun, fun, fun bike. Totally different than 26". not better or worse just two different rides. 29" wheels are perfect on hardtails, feels like my full suspension.
Excellent customer support.
Strengths: This is a great riding bike. On the trail it feels smooth and strong rolling over everything with ease. The greatest strength however is this bikes ability to climb. Its almost like something is pushing you up the hill.
Bottom line, Vassago makes a fast and comfortable 29er that rides great(especially climbing). I have done short cross country races to 100 milers and the bike felt great the whole time. Even after spending 12 hours on my Vassago I still look forward to riding it the next day.