Forbidden Druid Frame

Vital Rating: (Outstanding)
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Forbidden Druid Frame (Matte Carbon)
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Tested: Forbidden's High-Pivot Druid Trail Bike

The little bike that could.

Rating: Vital Review
Tested: Forbidden's High-Pivot Druid Trail Bike

The concept of a high single-pivot is not new. The Balfa BB7 had a cult following almost twenty years ago, and those lucky enough to get their hands on one rode them to pieces after the brand went under. The Canfield brothers, who were sending it aboard the Big Fat Fatty Fat, have also utilized the concept for quite some time. That said, high single pivot designs have been absent from mainstream bike design – especially on trail bikes – for quite some time until they resurfaced more recently on Norco and Commencal DH bikes. No doubt, the success of the Aurum HSP and Supreme DH have confirmed the viability of the concept, but little noise has been made beyond the DH track. That is until Forbidden Bikes was born. Forbidden’s goal of “making our version of the perfect trail bike” started with

The concept of a high single-pivot is not new. The Balfa BB7 had a cult following almost twenty years ago, and those lucky enough to get their hands on one rode them to pieces after the brand went under. The Canfield brothers, who were sending it aboard the Big Fat Fatty Fat, have also utilized the concept for quite some time. That said, high single pivot designs have been absent from mainstream bike design – especially on trail bikes – for quite some time until they resurfaced more recently on Norco and Commencal DH bikes. No doubt, the success of the Aurum HSP and Supreme DH have confirmed the viability of the concept, but little noise has been made beyond the DH track. That is until Forbidden Bikes was born. Forbidden’s goal of “making our version of the perfect trail bike” started with a clean slate and ended with a 130mm, moss green beauty with a unique approach to short travel suspension layout: a high idler. We have always been drawn to short travel bikes with a gravity bias, so we reached out to our friends in Cumberland, BC to get ourselves the Druid for a few months of riding in Squamish, BC.

Strengths

Weaknesses

  • Extremely versatile, capable and fun
  • Suspension balance and composure
  • Finishing details – frame protection, hardware, chain guide, paint
  • Geometry adjustments between sizes
  • Drivetrain drag
  • Idler maintenance
  • Rear fender could be longer

Forbidden Druid Frame Highlights

  • Carbon frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 130mm (5.1-inches) rear travel // 140mm or 150mm (5.5 or 5.9-inch) fork
  • High-pivot Trifecta suspension system with Rate Control Linkage
  • Accessory-mount screws under the top tube for various mounting solutions
  • Scaled rear-center and front-center lengths by frame size
  • Coil shock compatible
  • Internal cable routing
  • 12x148mm Boost rear hub spacing
  • Threaded bottom bracket
  • Colors: Matte carbon or moss green
  • Weight: 6.6-pounds (3.0kg, size medium matte carbon frame with shock)
  • Frame-only MSRP $2,999 USD (including FOX DPX2 shock and custom e*thirteen chainguide)
  • Five-year warranty

Trifecta – The Science Behind The Witchcraft

Forbidden’s approach to their Trifecta suspension has three elements: high-pivot placement, rate control, and idler position. The high-pivot design allows for a rearward wheel path, which helps the Druid’s 130mm to absorb impacts more effectively than a vertical or forward design. The rear center also grows under compression, so the added wheelbase also helps with stability during heavy impacts and aggressive riding. The Druid’s Rate Control linkage consists of short links tucked away within the front triangle. With only 130mm of travel, Forbidden took special care to ensure that their suspension tune provides small bump sensitivity, but also the ability to pop, play and resist excessive bottoming out. The final element of Trifecta is the idler. By making changes to idler size and position, a suspension designer can affect several suspension characteristics to achieve the desired ride qualities. For example, idler placement allows anti-squat to be tuned, which addresses a common misconception about high-pivot designs and their perceived inherent lack of anti-squat. The pivot and idler placement can also nearly eliminate pedal feedback, which is widely regarded as one of the least desirable traits associated with high anti-squat designs. Generally, companies have to compromise between anti-squat and pedal feedback, but this less the case with the high-pivot idler design. In sum, the Druid’s 130mm of rear travel should, according to Forbidden, punch well above its weight class.

“High pivots have in the past been generally associated with DH bikes, and this has led to the common misconception that the design doesn’t pedal well, which is simply not true. I was guilty of looking at high pivot designs in this way in the past too, it wasn’t until I took a step back and asked why we hadn’t seen the design on trail bikes that I realized the obvious answer: the front derailleur. Every rearward path suspension design needs one thing to work, the idler pulley, a bike with a front derailleur can’t use an idler pulley, it’s that simple. Now that the front derailleur is truly dead and buried for mountain bikes it leaves the door wide open for the use of suspension designs with an idler pulley.

Traditional suspension designs either prioritize pedaling efficiency or suspension performance. It is often talked about how much better the suspension works on modern bikes without a chain, this is due to high levels of chain derived anti-squat that results in efficient pedaling but reduced suspension performance. Our Trifecta suspension design offers that chainless suspension performance with the pedaling efficiency of a modern, high anti-squat bike.” - Owen Pemberton, President / CEO 

Geometry

Our large test bike was immediately comfortable for a 5’11” tester. Forbidden made slight adjustments to angles and lengths between their four sizes to ensure that every frame has the same geometry and balance, which is all too often overlooked as many brands simply alter the front triangle between sizes. Riders as small as 5’2” and as large as 6’6” are accommodated by the Druid’s four sizes. The Druid’s geometry is modern but does not push any boundaries. The bike is an all-around trail shredder, so Forbidden went with a middle-of-the-road approach to their numbers. Not too short, not too long, and so forth.

“The bike’s intended purpose is an all-around trail bike, some of the more extreme geometries on the market today are great for steep, challenging terrain but on more mellow trails they can feel quite sedated. Our goal with the Druid was to create a bike that could handle the challenging terrain but also be fun and playful on less rowdy trails. To do that we needed to find a good blend of agility and stability.” - Owen Pemberton, President / CEO 

Forbidden recognized that the Druid required capable geometry for every scenario. In the case of any bike, there must be a compromise, but an additional benefit to the Druid’s rearward wheel path that may go unnoticed is that the rear center grows as travel is used, which should increase stability. 

Initial Impressions

At first glance, the Druid is a somewhat understated bike. Rather than bold graphics or colors, Forbidden has left their frame relatively unbranded. Instead, the idler and stance are the only indications of the bike’s intentions, both of which indicate that the Druid is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The minor additions may not jump off the spec sheet, but they do hint at the hours spent on design and attention to detail. To begin, Forbidden worked with e*thirteen to produce a custom chain guide, which is included with the purchase of every frame. Next, cable routing and frame protection are two areas that often leave us underwhelmed when we receive test bikes, but the Druid has both covered well. The integrated rear fender is another thoughtful addition to keep debris away from the rear suspension. All of the minor details reflect that a similar level of care has been made to perfect the more obvious aspects of the frame. The Trifecta layout is the natural focal point for the Druid, with the idler being the most attention-seeking feature. The majority of the rear suspension is somewhat hidden within the frame, which in our opinion adds to the simple, clean and classy aesthetics of the Druid. This design is also an advantage for those living in harsh climates, but a disadvantage when it comes to accessing certain rear shocks. 

Forbidden has chosen to offer the Druid as a frame only, but they have noted that build kits are currently in the works. Ours came built with top-shelf parts and was equipped with a custom-tuned FOX DPX2, in addition to the custom e*thirteen chain guide, modified to work perfectly with the idler. Setup was straightforward. Initially we set sag to 24%, but eventually settled closer to 20%. Forbidden encourages a little less sag than most brands as the Druid’s initial stroke is so supple that it tracks extremely well with less sag, plus the added air pressure provides a more playful ride and improved resistance to bottoming out. It is clear Forbidden is approaching their 130mm offering from a downhiller’s perspective. Nothing about the Druid required much in the way of acclimatization; it felt familiar and ready for action straight out of the gate. 

On The Trail

At 130mm, the Druid competes with several highly capable trail bikes. The Evil Following MB, Norco Sight, and Devinci Troy LTD are great examples of bikes that blur the lines between the trail and all-mountain categories, and all are far more capable than their rear travel suggests. Our testing ground in Squamish, BC exceeds the capabilities of numerous bikes and can even be harsh at times on 160mm enduro bikes. If Forbidden’s Trifecta suspension can pass the test in a place like the Sea to Sky, the Druid’s 130mm is surely up to the task worldwide.

Heading up the hill, the Druid is a comfortable yet capable climber. Forbidden has struck a good balance between using anti-squat for efficiency and retaining an active suspension for technical climbing. While there are bikes that outperform the Druid on a road climb, we never felt the need to use the compression lever on the shock to help with efficiency and very few can match its technical climbing prowess. We rode with flat pedals for the duration of the test period and found that we could get away with pedaling through much rougher, more technical terrain aboard the Druid than with similar bikes from other brands. Pedal feedback is minimal, which is a huge advantage when running flat pedals, and an advantage still when clipped in. At over 31-pounds, plus minor drivetrain drag from the idler, the Druid will not be propelling many folks to cross country glory, however we found the bike to climb on par with bikes we have ridden recently such as the Devinci Troy LTD, and better than the vast majority in technical terrain. 

Targeted as an aggressive daily driver, we were confident that the Druid would excel on the faster, flowy Squamish trails. A qualifier here: “flowy” is a relative term. Squamish has plenty of berms and machine-built single track, but given the technical nature of the trails in the area, we are applying this term to anything short of a DH trail. Rupert serves as an excellent example of Squamish flow. This trail has a little bit of everything: supportive berms, punchy climbs, slabs, flat sections, and a drop to uphill that we consider as one of the better g-outs in the area. This is where the Druid felt most at home. Regardless of what section we rode and how we rode it, the Druid was planted and confidence-inspiring when we dropped our heels, and poppy and playful when we jibbed about. On the shorter punchy bits, the lack of pedal feedback meant we could put power to the ground easily without blowing our feet off, and the shorter-than-usual travel meant we could climb far more efficiently than the enduro bikes that tend to frequent the trail most of the time. The most rewarding sections of trail were those that allowed us to pump through rolling terrain to generate speed, and we were constantly impressed at how well the Druid could maintain its pace through rougher bits, which made this style of riding that much more rewarding and fun. 

Forbidden’s trail bike is extremely capable on terrain generally reserved for much bigger bikes.

We have always enjoyed the handful of little bikes we have ridden that have felt far more confidence-inspiring than their travel would indicate. Keegan Wright has already proven that Devinci’s mid-sized Troy is EWS-worthy at the right events, and with a suspension design generally reserved for DH rigs, we had big expectations for the Druid. Perhaps not too shockingly, Forbidden’s trail bike is extremely capable on terrain generally reserved for much bigger bikes. We found that we could keep up through choppy terrain, even though the Druid required a little more attention and precision than a long-travel enduro bike. We used every millimeter of travel on flat landings and felt a few bottom outs, but large drops and jumps were not an issue for the Druid. The FOX DPX2 worked very well with the Trifecta suspension, with the Druid’s shock only complaining after long, rough descents. We noted the suspension feeling a little overwhelmed in the Whistler Bike Park after repeated laps of Fantastic and Lower Whistler DH, which is far beyond the Druid’s intended purpose. Regardless of feeling a little badly about dragging a 130mm bike up the chairlift, the Druid took rougher trails in stride and was an absolute rocket ship on trails like Ninja Cougar. After being so fun on the rolling, playful trails in Squamish we were impressed that the Druid also felt planted and composed on such high-speed, abusive trails. The Trifecta suspension design works extremely well in this regard. The suspension is supple enough that it can handle high-frequency bumps, supportive enough that big compressions do not blow through the travel too quickly, and the relative absence of pedal feedback kept our feet quiet and calm so we could focus on shenanigans instead of keeping our shins intact. 

The Druid makes a strong case as the pound-for-pound most capable bike we have thrown a leg over. It is energetic and nimble at lower speeds, and as the speeds and terrain get more demanding, the bike lengthens and settles into itself. Forbidden has created an extremely versatile bike, and the Druid confirms that the idler excels in applications other than just DH bikes. In a place like the Sea to Sky corridor, the terrain is intimidating enough that many folks rely on a long-travel bike for the handful of gnarly bits within a given ride, but a shorter travel bike like the Druid is capable enough to absorb the heavy impacts, and much more fun everywhere in between. 

Things That Could Be Improved

The main components of the frame are on point. Geometry is bang on for the Druid’s intended purpose. Folks can argue for a degree here or there based on their personal preference – this tester would want more reach and a steeper seat tube angle – but the fact that we hopped on and felt at home throughout the entire test is a good sign. The suspension performance is among the best we have ridden.

The rear fender could be a hair longer to keep debris completely away from the rear end. We noted that while it made a significant difference, some debris from the rear wheel still collected in the rear suspension, and we even caught a rock between the rear end and the seat tube at one point, which took a little paint off the frame. 

As noted, the low-slung suspension is tucked within the front triangle. This keeps the shock out of the elements, but this advantage turns into an annoyance when it comes time to tinker with the shock or bolt check the rear linkage. This is not something that requires an improvement, just a quirk that Druid owners will have to deal with. 

Long Term Durability

At times, we feel bad for our test bikes. Those who call anywhere between North Vancouver and Pemberton home live in perfect locations to test the performance and durability of any mountain bike component. We feel worse still when we are subjecting a 130mm trail bike to terrain that batters enduro bikes. 

After a few months in Squamish, plus a day in the Whistler Bike Park, our Druid is still kicking. The original tires and brake pads are long gone and some of the components show signs of trauma, including the chain guide roller, which needed replacement. The frame is solid, even after the abuse. We had to chase a few creaks initially, but once addressed the Druid was silent and drama free. The idler did add to our maintenance list, but it is easily accessible and servicing the bearing takes just a few minutes, and it is easily replaceable when the time comes. If we kept the Druid, we would search for smoothest bearing we could get our hands on to minimize drivetrain drag as much as possible. The bearing on our idler could have been smoother and in our current state, we cannot afford to waste any watts. 

The moss green paint absorbed everything we threw at it, and the frame protection ensured that the chain never made contact with anything that was not rubberized. Full points again for sweating the minor details. 

What’s The Bottom Line?

At times, we find ourselves wanting more of an in-between bike. Not too big, not too small…you know the drill. Granted, we love the skill-compensating nature of a full-blown enduro bike, but they sometimes mute trails to a point where they are not as engaging as we would like, nor do they perform as well on less demanding terrain. On the other end of the spectrum, short travel “downcountry” bikes do not inspire the same confidence, nor can they withstand the abuse in a place like Squamish. The Forbidden Druid is truly a downhiller’s trail bike: capable enough for reckless abandon, efficient enough that a recreational cross-country race is not out of the question and playful enough that mellower trails are still engaging. The Trifecta suspension design is proof that the high idler concept is effective and efficient in places other than the downhill track, and we would bet our bottom dollar that a race-oriented 160mm Forbidden offering would be an absolute weapon. The Druid is a great option for anyone but is best suited to those looking for a mini-DH bike that will allow them to climb efficiently and descend like hooligans. 

Check out www.forbiddenbike.com for more information. 

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 4.5 Stars - Outstanding
  • Descending: 4.5 Stars - Outstanding
  • Fun Factor: 5 Stars - Spectacular
  • Value: 4 Stars - Excellent
  • Overall Impression: 4.5 Stars - Outstanding

_______________________________________________________________________

About The Reviewer

Joel Harwood – Age: 36 // Years Riding: 20+ // Height: 5’11” (1.80m) // Weight: 185-pounds (83.9kg)

Joel’s unique coaching background and willingness to tinker with products bring an objective perspective to testing. He dabbles in all types of racing, but is happiest simply exploring the limitless trail networks surrounding his home of Squamish, BC. Attention to detail, time in the saddle, and an aggressive riding style make Joel a rider that demands the most from his products while exposing any shortcomings. 

Photos by Jessie McAuley

Specifications

Product Forbidden Druid Frame
Riding Type Enduro / All-Mountain, Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 580 604 627 651
Head Tube Angle 66°, 65.6° 66°, 65.6° 66°, 65.6° 66°, 65.6°
Head Tube Length 90 105 120 135
Seat Tube Angle 76°, 75.6° 76°, 75.6° 76°, 75.6° 76°, 75.6°
Seat Tube Length 400 420 450 490
Bottom Bracket Height 337, 340 337, 340 337, 340 337, 340
Chainstay Length 414 426 438 450
Wheelbase 1145, 1149 1183, 1187 1221, 1225 1259, 1263
Standover 721, 724 721, 724 727, 730 733, 736
Reach 430, 425 450, 445 470, 465 490, 485
Stack 603, 606 617, 620 630, 634 644, 648
* Additional Info Measurements are in mm unless otherwise noted
Multiple geometry values are with a 140mm and 150mm travel fork respectively
Bottom bracket drop: -36, -32.7
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Carbon Fiber
Frame Material Details Full carbon fiber with forged linkages, titanium pivot shafts, custom stainless steel screws, integrated rubber frame protection, and integrated rear fender
Rear Travel 130mm
Rear Shock FOX FLOAT DPX2 EVOL Performance Elite, 210mm x 55mm, 8mm x 30mm upper and lower hardware
Head Tube Diameter Tapered (ZS44mm/ZS56mm headset standard)
Bottom Bracket Threaded 73mm BSA
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 12mm x 148mm Boost
Front Derailleur Size N/A (1x only)
Seatpost Diameter 31.6mm (35mm clamp diameter)
Max Tire Size
ISCG Tabs ISCG 05 2-bolt with included e*thirteen LG1 upper and lower guides
Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
Colors Matte carbon, gloss moss
Warranty 5 years
Weight 6 lb 7.7 oz (2,940 g)
Miscellaneous 2019 model year
Recommended fork travel: 140mm or 150mm
High pivot Trifecta suspension system with Rate Control Linkage
Accessory-mount screws under the top tube for various mounting solutions
Scaled rear-center and front-center lengths by frame size
Coil shock compatible
Internal cable routing
Weight listed for a frame without a shock
MSRP: $3,999.00 CAD
Price $2,999
More Info

www.forbiddenbike.com

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