Find out the science behind the witchcraft of the Forbidden Bike Company's Druid and how it feels on the trails!
Words: Ryan Walsch Photos: Nick Waygood
Forbidden Bike Company is named after the Forbidden Plateau which overlooks the owners' home town nestled on the western shores of Vancouver Island BC. An area rich with mountain biking history, wild terrain and surprisingly a year round riding season makes it the perfect location for a new company to develop their first bike, the Druid.
What makes the Druid unique is an ever growing landscape of “ultimate trail bikes” and if you haven’t already noticed, the high pivot rear suspension really stands out. It doesn’t stop there, the more we look, the more details show themselves, the Druid is packing technology we are seeing on the World Cup Downhill circuit and has 130mm travel out back and 140mm/150mm up front.
So why the high pivot and why don’t we see more of them around? Many brands claim their suspension design has the highly advantageous rearward axle path, or portion of, when in reality the portion the rear wheel actually moves rearward is minimal or just a brief deviation from a axle path that heads towards the seat tube thus shortening the rear centre of the bike. The concept of getting that back wheel path moving rearward is to move over obstacles more easily and maintain momentum on the trail instead of getting hooked up on obstacles. We don’t see more high pivots due to the simple fact that the chain must go up and over the pivot via an idler, if not, each time the wheel hits a bump the chain will pull at the cranks which is referred too as pedal kickback. Introducing an idler into the drive train if done poorly adds drag and an additional wear item, get it right and the results can be brilliant.
Tester: Ryan Walsch
Riding Experience: A lifetime of sending and repairing bikes.
Generally Rides: Specialized Stumpjumper and a party hardtail.
Bike Test Tracks: Mt Stromlo, Majura Pines, Jindabyne, and secret trails.
Forbidden’s “Science Behind the Witchcraft” is called the Trifecta made up of a High Pivot, Rate Control and an Idler. In turn Trifecta offers a high level of control over pedalling and braking forces, a wheel path that gets the wheel back and out of the way and a fit for riders that is unique for every size frame, not a simple task!
We have all read countless adverts for new bikes claiming the world. They are slacker, longer, more progressive, game changing and never seen before! These are just a few marketing claims that come to mind. So when reading Forbidden’s Science behind the Witchcraft I am sure you can understand why the sceptic came out and sat on one shoulder, ready to pipe up if the claims were untrue. This wasn’t my first encounter with the Druid, Sandy Plenty from The Trailhead Bike Company generously let me swing a leg of his brand new Druid last year and I was intrigued even when limited to a carpark roll with beer in hand. So I was really stoked to finally get one onto the trail and see what high pivot witchcraft is all about.
Fortunately our Druid test bike was dialled out of the box thanks to Forbidden’s Australian importer Danjas Imports, I checked the tyre pressure and fiddled with the brake lever position for no reason other than I felt I needed to tweak something and that was that. The new school geometry positions the rider nicely over the centre of the bike and the actual seat tube angle of 75 degrees (size large with 140mm fork) allows this central seating position to be attained by riders of varying seat heights. The head angle measures in at 66 degrees (or 65.6 degrees with 150mm fork) and makes for steering that is balanced on climbs yet stable on the descents. Where the geometry gets more interesting, is across the four sizes of frame offered by Forbidden. Each and every size has a different “chainstay” or rear centre measurements, starting at 414mm for size small, 426mm for size medium, 438mm for size large and 450mm for size extra large. There are also slightly different seat tube angles and a fit that’s tailored to riders of varying statures.
High quality titanium fixtures are used throughout the frame and the all internal routing can be set up for moto or euro brake orientation easily allowing for a mess free cockpit. Each cable routing port cinches down securely holding the brake line or outer firmly in place and reduces the chance of any rattling on the trail, a simple feature but one we wish was used more often. There is room for a full sized bottle in all four sized frames along with an additional mount on the underside of the Top Tube for a Wolf Tooth B-RAD accessory mount and strap or similar to hold your spares without wrapping straps around the tube. There is even a small compartment located under the downtube bash protector which I only found when cleaning the bike to send back to the importer which gives access to assist in the internal routing of the dropper and room for quite the stash of spares which I immediately started jamming in. Three 16g Co2 cartridges, multitool with chain breaker, chain links, you get the idea it can carry the heavy little essentials that normally flail around in pockets and bags. Looking inside the Druid it is easy to see how much care has gone into the layup of the carbon frame. The high quality uniform compaction of the fibres is evident with no loose ply or sharp edges to note, something not normally looked at but impressive to see in the flesh.
The Druid’s build quality is exceptional, Titanium fixtures, a mud guard that protects the shock from roost and debris and a chassis that has no nooks or crannies for mud or dirt to settle makes washing a breeze. The seat tube tunnel the shock passes through is large and will accommodate a coil or the large air can of the Fox X2. The tunnel does make seeing the sag indicator tricky, however once set, it doesn’t matter anyway as it's hard to tell when the Druid reaches full travel anyway.
On The Trail
Jumping onto a nimble 130mm trail bike for the first time in a while is pretty refreshing and makes the Druid feel like the perfect bike for all-day escapades. The seating position is very comfortable and keeps the rider smack bang in the middle with its 470mm reach paired with a beautifully made We Are One Composites 45mm “Da Stem” (reach is knocked back to 465mm with a 150mm fork). The steep seat tube angle really lets you sit on top of the bike and makes climbing so much more comfortable and you're less likely to sink into the rear travel. Forbidden have positioned the idler just above and behind the High Pivot which while already isolating the pedalling forces provides around 120% Anti-squat at sag. This relates to no noticeable bobbing about and a bike that pedals beautifully in or out of the saddle and keeps the suspension active when climbing on rough climbs.
So how does it descend? As the Druid was born in BC and uses a similar suspension design as some of the fastest DH bikes around it is no surprise it comes alive going down hill. The most noticeable traits being the momentum it carries over rough terrain, in particular square edged bumps and braking bumps. This is a key factor for the stability it holds through harsh sections. The harder you hit, the deeper it sits into its travel thus greatly increasing the rear centre by up to 26mm. That means our size Large test bike with its 438mm rear centre (or chainstay length to some) extends to 464mm at full compression. The Druid is agile and responsive up the top of its travel and stable when giving it the beans. In fact, there isn’t much that seemed to unsettle the 130mm of rear travel during the test despite using all of the travel quite often. The Rate Control linkage plays a big role to keeps things supple off the top and firmer towards the end of the stroke. Landing deep into sections or coming up short the Druid doesn’t complain or let out any signs of slowing down, which is quite unusual for a trail bike.
Many suspension designs cause the rear of a bike to rise under braking often resulting in “brake jack” or the suspension stiffening up. Forbidden’s high pivot design creates anti-squat and literally sticks the bike to the ground under braking. I noticed this most on steep and rough off camber sections of trail when normally the back wheel would step out and lose traction. The Druid held its line and made me feel like I came into the turn too slowly. I came to learn that this bike rewards being brave and coming in hot!
Heading into more flowy trails and jump lines, there is an element of the extending rear centre that does take a bit of getting used to and that is manualling. Because the back of the bike lengthens under compression unlike almost all other suspension designs, it does require a greater range of movement to get your weight over that rear wheel and keep the front wheel up. After a few rides I had adapted and it wasn’t noticeable, although my first ride back on an “ordinary” bike meant that the chances of looping out was frightfully is imminent.
Throughout the test I found myself braking into turns later, trying new lines and throwing caution to the wind. I even went back to flat pedals to channel my inner Kovarik. I can honestly say this has been the most surprising bike test to date and a bike that needs to be ridden to be understood or appreciated. During this bike test period we had fires, torrential rains, hail, mud, heat and the Druid was faultless, no noise, no loose bolts, nothing but silent fun out on the trails.
If you’re a rider that favours technical trails, a silent ride and a meticulously assembled frame set that’s a little bit different then you need to swing a leg over a Druid. Yes it is quirky and yes there is a bit more drag than the conventional drivetrain but this out performs bikes far bigger on paper and will have you smiling so much more. If ever there was a bike that should not be judged by the amount of travel it has, it's the Druid.
Price: $4999 (frame kit)
Weight: 14.1kgs (complete bike)
From: Forbidden Bike Company
Available Sizes: Small, Medium, Large and Extra Large
Frame Material: Carbon Fibre main frame and swing arm.
Fork: RockShox Pike Ultimate 140mm Boost
Shock: Fox Float DPX2 Performance 210mm x 55mm
Shifter: SRAM GX Eagle 12sp
Derailleur: SRAM GX Eagle 12sp
Crank: SRAM GX Eagle DUB 170mm
Chain: SRAM GX Eagle 12sp
Cassette Sram XG1275 10-50t 12sp
Hubs: Industry 9 Hydra 690 point engagement
Spokes: DT Swiss
Rims: We Are One Composite Union Rims 29”
Tyres: Maxxis Asegai EXO Front and Aggressor EXO+ rear
Brakes: SRAM CODE R 200mm/180mm
Handlebar: We Are One Composite Da Bar 800mm 20mm rise
Stem: We Are One Composite Da Stem 45mm stem
Seatpost: RockShox Reverb C1 175mm
Saddle: Fabric Scoop Saddle