The famed “Looks like a Session” Pinkbike quote need not apply here. A mere passing glance at the Druid will almost certainly warrant a double-take. There’s something seriously different going on here, and we’re here to tell you, it’s not witchcraft...it’s wizardry. What sets this bike apart, and why is the chain routed way up by the main pivot through an idler pulley? The Druid uses what’s called a high single pivot suspension platform, which we’ll get into more down below. While high single pivot has been used for many years on downhill bikes (the Commencal Supreme, Norco Aurum HSP, GT Fury to name a few), the implementation of this platform on trail bikes is almost non-existent...until now.
Save for a select few tiny boutique frame companies building a high single pivot trail bike, the Forbidden Druid is one of the first to be available to the mass market, and that’s not all - it’s got some serious credentials to boot. Owen Pemberton, the mastermind behind the Druid, has been in the industry for many years, and was the lead engineer for the Aurum HSP when he worked at Norco. A few years back, he branched out to start his own bike company up in Cumberland, BC. The Druid is the culmination of his team’s efforts, a 130mm travel 29’er that offers something truly unique in a market that is increasingly monotone, hence the expression, “Looks like a Session”.
As with many action sports, the level of progression with mountain biking has risen at an astonishing pace in the last decade. Along with that progression comes increased demand on the bikes themselves, as riders are pushing bikes harder, faster, and rougher. Bike stability has become a feature that many riders are looking for, which is why we’ve seen bikes with longer reaches and top tubes trending these days. While some manufacturers have gone to extremes in this regard, Forbidden has found a nice middle ground, with a large frame sporting a 470mm reach. It’s not crazy long, but it’s certainly not a short bike by any means. There is a point of diminishing returns as reach and top tubes are stretched longer and longer. Eventually, the bike’s handling and maneuverability will suffer.
Speaking more on geometry, Forbidden has spent the extra time and money to implement size-specific swingarms. As the frame size goes up, most bikes retain the same swingarm, while adding length to the front triangle. While this makes sense from an economical perspective for the manufacturer, the geometry of the bike can suffer. It puts smaller rider’s center of gravity disproportionately forwards, and large rider’s disproportionately rearwards. With each increase in frame size on the Druid, not only does the top tube and reach get longer, the chainstay is also lengthened, giving a more well-proportioned bike for the target size of the rider.
With a high single pivot design, the rear wheel travels up and backwards as you move through the suspension travel, elongating the rear-center dimension. This is known as a rearward axle path. The most obvious advantage to this is the bike’s ability hold momentum through bumps, particularly those nasty square edged hits. Another benefit to explore that may be overlooked, but still equally important, is the bike’s axle path in relation to the wheelbase length. On more common suspension designs, the bike’s rear wheel moves primarily upward, with little rearward movement. When you factor in fork compression, which effectively moves the front wheel towards you, the result is a wheelbase that is shortens as you move through the suspension travel. On the Druid, the rear wheel moves backwards, which helps to offset the shortening of the wheelbase due to fork compression. Consider this hypothetical situation: you’re riding off a drop on to flat ground, landing with both wheels at the same time. Typically, you’d ride out of this situation with a shortened, skittish wheelbase. With the Druid, the length of the wheelbase is basically unchanged, even at the bottom of the bike’s suspension travel. On the trail, this translates to an exceptionally stable ride, whether you’re hitting a massive g-out, or blasting through high speed chatter.
My First Impressions
Expanding upon that same subject, it really hit me when I was riding a local trail called Double Down. It’s a trail I’ve ridden dozens of times, so I’m very familiar with the nuances, and how one bike compares to another on different parts of the trail. There is a six foot drop with a sloped landing that flattens out very quickly, turning into a g-out. On most bikes, I get a very skittish feeling coming out of this section, where the bike feels like it’s trying to squirm out from under me. Thanks to the constant wheelbase described above, the Druid felt extremely composed in this instance. After I noticed it in this exaggerated case, I began to notice it everywhere on the trail, and quickly came to appreciate it.
Because of the Druid’s particularly effective suspension, it feels like it has substantially more than 130mm of rear wheel travel. More travel makes bumps feel like they aren’t there, and that’s what these five inches of rear wheel travel do really well. I felt happy taking this bike on trails that I normally ride my Nomad, and even on those that, in a perfect world, I’d be on my DH bike. That’s how composed it is. I hate to play into the cliché, but I can happily describe the Druid as a do-it-all bike.
Different suspension designs provide varying ride characteristics; some will cater to certain riders, others won’t. That’s why there are so many different bikes out there - there simply can never be one bike that is perfect for every person in every scenario. Traditional single pivot designs often feel very playful and poppy, but perhaps a bit less planted through rough trail. The Druid, with its high single pivot and rearward axle path, takes a tad more effort to make “pop.” In my opinion, the Druid feels far more planted to the ground than other single pivot bikes. It is still totally willing to be playful and poppy, you just have to ask it to do so.
Because my favorite part of any trail is the downhill, I tend to consider a bike’s descending capability more than its capacity to pedal efficiently - it’s going to take me awhile to get to the top no matter what kind of bike I’m on. That said, with the shock locked out, the Druid feels like a hardtail. On anything other than fire road climbs, I found myself leaving the shock open to give my tush a bit more cush.
With a 150mm fork, the Druid has a 75.6 degree seat tube angle, which is pretty standard for this style of bike. Although I’m certainly no cross-country nut, I have spent plenty of time pedaling. With my tall frame, I know a seat-tube that is too slack can be detrimental. The Druid’s geometry felt comfortable climbing, as did my body position. I would put it right up there with the best pedaling bikes I’ve ridden in this category.
Suffice it to say, those looking for a stable yet lively trail bike, along with something that truly bucks the trend, the Druid should be near the top of your list. Keep in mind, it's not an all-out brawler - it does have limits, just like we do. But those limits seem to edge past most other bikes of this category, as we continue marching up that proverbial ladder of progression.
The Druid frame comes well-stocked, with a Fox Float DPX2 EVOL Performance Elite shock, an E13 upper and lower guide, rubber frame protection where needed, rear integrated fender, seatpost clamp, and rear axle.
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