A sub £500 mountain bike that puts a grin on your face
The Voodoo Bantu might be right at the entry point of Voodoo’s mountain bike range but it shapes up as anything but entry level in ride quality and spec.
Voodoo Bantu review
Voodoo has a rich heritage in mountain biking thanks to the involvement of Joe Murray. Joe is one of the most influential frame designers of the last few decades thanks to his work with Kona and is responsible for many frame features that we take for granted today like the sloping top tube.
In the UK Voodoo might be known as a brand associated with Halfords but it has steadily churned out some exceptionally well thought out, well priced and engaging bikes such as the Bizango, a bike we awarded a solid 10 out of 10 and chose it for our Editor’s Choice awards in 2018.
At the heart of the Bantu is a 7005 aluminium frame that shares many of the award winning features of bikes like the Bizango. There’s the characteristic bent and dropped top tube to allow for plenty of standover, essential for a machine that appeals to newcomers to our sport and improving confidence on technical terrain.
Voodoo has given the Bantu a real trail bike emphasis thanks to its geometry, there’s no settling for old school XC numbers here. There’s plenty of clearance for the 2.35in tyres Voodoo has specced on the Bantu and it also features an interesting 141mm x 9mm QR Boost rear spacing allowing for a wider and therefore stronger rear wheel.
The Suntour XCM DS HLO suspension fork delivers its 120mm of travel smoothly and without fuss. It uses a simple coil spring that lacks a lot of adjustment but it behaved impeccably. Annoying, clunky top-out that can be associated with basic forks was conspicuous in its absence.
The spring was a little on the stiff side so if you are a lighter rider it would be worth getting a lighter spring to swap out (this is a simple job and shouldn’t cost a lot either). A lockout lever adds a little adjustment for when you want to ride the bike on smooth trails or tarmac.
The Bantu has a spec sheet that pretty much puts it in a league higher than most bikes in its class. Whilst many are still settling for triple chainsets and mechanical disc brakes the Bantu features a neat 2×9 speed setup and Clarks M1 hydraulic disc brakes.
The drivetrain combination of Suntour chainset and Shimano shifters and derailleurs works exceptionally well in the most part but did suffer from front derailleur rub when in several gear combinations.
The M1 hydraulic brake might be basic and has a long lever shape but beats a mechanical brake hands down, delivering enough stopping power to keep even the most nervous of riders happy.
Wheels are own brand jobs as well and behaved well during testing, no loose spokes or need to true them after riding like with some other budget bike wheels. The Kenda tyres have an aggressive look to the tread and at 2.35in wide it provides a decent air volume for grip and trail comfort. It is a very basic tyre though so the compound is on the hard side, as such it tends to not offer as much grip as it looks like it should in some instances.
Almost from the word go the ride quality of the Bantu belies its budget pricing. I kept stopping myself from saying that it rides just like a proper mountain bike; the Bantu IS a proper mountain bike, full-stop.
The design of the frame, in conjunction with the 2.35in tyres, give it a softer ride feel, enabling it cope with rougher tracks without the back end breaking traction even five seconds, or having every lump and bump transmitted through to your body.
The geometry and ride position enable riders to pilot the Bantu onto technical trails without any of the normal nervousness or lack of control that can often be the bane of an entry level bike.
Descending is fun and even climbing is handled with aplomb thanks to the steep seat angle and sprightly power transfer of the frame.
The front end (along with the slack head angle) is also tall enough to prevent the feeling of going over the bars on every steep slope. In fact the Bantu allows you to attack trails and be playful rather than just simply surviving any encounter with technical terrain.