The new kids on the block, Forbidden Bike Co. They're certainly turning heads with their unusual looking design but does it have the performance to match? I mean, does it actually work?
Forbidden Bike Co. may be a new brand but leading the charge is Owen Pemberton who has extensive experience in the industry not only as a mechanic but as an engineer designing some of the most popular bikes out there, some that you may even ride / own. However, he's taken a step away from the comfort and security of working for a big brand to design without the constraints of market pressures, sales targets and market ideals. Designing his perfect trail bike. 130mm rear travel, 140mm or 150mm fork, modern geometry and a unique, advanced linkage.
The stand out feature of this bike is the 'Trifecta Linkage' featuring a high single pivot. Although many designs have a portion of rearward axle path the high pivot design allows for a 100% rearward axle path. What's the fuss? With a rearward axle path the wheel moves with trail impacts as it goes through the travel instead of against them pulling forward. This allows for a very smooth action which in theory should let the bike hold greater speeds. However, with a traditional chain line the chain growth from a rearward axle path will restrict suspension movement, enter the idler pulley. By strategically placing the idler pulley Forbidden's engineers have addressed this and actually utilise the idler pulley to control the suspension characteristics of the bike for the descent as well as pedal performance. The last piece of the trifecta design, a tidy linkage to control the shock rate and give riders the intended initial, mid and end stroke rate as sculptured by Owen at Forbidden. It's all a nice theory but, have they strayed too far from the norm?
The bike on test is built as a high end all rounder with the Rockshox Pike Ultimate set to 150mm. Shifting is looked after with a complete Sram XX1 groupset featuring an AXS cassette for a bit of colour. Sram Code RSC brakes control the stopping duties. The clean We Are One Composites Da Package bar / stem combo with Sensus DisIsDaBoss grips make for great cockpit control matched nicely to the We Are One Composites Union rims on Industry Nine Hydra hubs. Although all these great parts improve ride quality across the bike we'll be focusing on the performance of the frame in this review, not the parts on the bike. The Forbidden Druid can be built cost effectively while still maximising the performance benefits of this frame design.
The fun part? I don't think so. But, it's necessary and we all like it to be as pain free as possible. When you're pedalling your way up a bitumen climb or smooth dirt road the pedal bob is all but irrelevant. The suspension platform really lets you get the maximum out of your power when you maintain a smooth pedal rhythm on those long climbs. When you're faced with a rough, technical climb the bike can hold its own as well. The bikes rear wheel remained glued to the ground as I climbed up rocks and roots, holding traction superbly. The only downside being that the rear end didn't have the same light, lively feeling that other bikes have when it comes to picking the wheel up over obstacles on the climb. You're going to have to use a bit more thinking and effort to get the bike over these obstacles but if you're willing to put in the work the bike is ready to take you up anything.
The fun part? absolutely. For many riders this is what gets you going so its worth having a bike that can make the most of the descent. I've thrown the Druid at the mountain bike terrain all over SEQ and even got some riding time in Queenstown, NZ. In theory the druid excels over square edge hits and this is unmistakably backed up in the real world. Entering a long straight with many square edge impacts I came in fast but I wasn't going for it like I had in the past. The bike was supple and composed as it tracked well, holding speed rather remarkably before spitting me out the other end. Despite my slower entry to the straight my exit speed felt faster than ever before.
The Druid wasn't afraid to rip a corner either. The bike's geometry felt balanced and comfortable with the rear wheel tracking predictably. This gave me the trust in the bike I needed to lean in, push hard and exit corners with good speed.
When looking at the bike and that rear wheel axle path it's easy to dismiss the bike's jumping capabilities. I was pleasantly surprised to find the bike more than willing to go sail into the air and felt very composed throughout take off and landing. When it comes to popping off roots and rocks and just generally playing around on the trail the bike was far more playful than what I initially suspected. There are bikes that are more lively and playful in this department but none that I've ridden can combine this with the descending ability of the Druid.
If I had to pick a weakness on the Druid then it was a little more work than some other bikes in the tight stuff, the really tight stuff. The Druid didn't navigate it's way around the tight awkward corners with the same effortless feel that some bikes boast. I was more conscious about making sure I got the right line / manoeuvre in these situations and to it's credit, when done so I was rewarded with good speed.
When I was lucky enough to be on holiday in Queenstown I took the Druid with me. Despite the fact its only a 130mm rear travel bike I ventured into the bike park with it. The Bike Park is full of world class DH technical runs that get a lot of riders through them and have the . The Druid handled it all without hesitation. Were there times where I felt like I wanted a bigger bike? Yes. But I wasn't dreaming of a long travel Enduro bike in these situations, I was after a full blown DH bike. The fact that the Forbidden could handle the rough steeps and big jumps of the Queenstown bike park with such grace was quite astounding.
A bike that rips on our local SEQ mountain bike tracks and has the capability to back it up on the big mountain terrain overseas, inspiring confidence in rough terrain where other bikes hesitate. Is it too good to be true? After riding the Forbidden Druid it appears not.
Check out the Forbidden Druid frame here.