Skip to main content

Forbidden Druid XT review

Is there really something magical going on in the woods with Forbidden’s High Pivot Witchcraft?

Forbidden Druid XT
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Outstanding execution of a radical concept makes the Druid one of the most exciting, addictive aggro trail bikes we’ve ever ridden

For

  • Encourages ridiculous superlatives
  • Utterly addictive aggro vibe
  • Insanely controlled suspension feel
  • Superbly balanced geometry
  • Powerfully positive pedaling
  • Fantastic build quality
  • Great care package
  • Solid parts spec

Against

  • Encourages ridiculous superlatives
  • Slight pedaling purr
  • Harder to hop
  • No lifetime warranty

Forbidden’s Druid trail bike takes the high pivot, idler wheel tech that’s been a massive success in DH racing and delivers it onto the trail with next-level attention to build and delivery detail. But what does the High Pivot tech bring to the ride and who will the Druid work brilliantly for?  

Design and geometry

High pivot, idler wheel suspension has been around on the DH scene for decades thanks to pioneers like Balfa, Brooklyn and Trek but it’s relatively new to trail bikes. The idea is that by lifting the main pivot point of the rear swingarm much higher than normal the rear wheel swings back and upwards more, reducing the impact effect of square edges or landings. Doing that with a conventional chain setup would create vast amounts of pedal pull back and choke through hits and effectively lock the suspension out when pedaling. Putting a free-spinning ‘idler’ wheel up near the pivot point lets the designer decide exactly how much pedal influence they do or don’t want while still keeping that high pivot advantage.

Forbidden have executed the whole system of pivots, idler and shock linkage (they call it ‘Trifecta’) beautifully too. The 16 tooth idler rolls on a top-quality Enduro Max bearing and sits centrally on the seat mast just behind the main pivot. The main pivot has a super broad stance on equally premium bearings with full coverage seals and a knurled adjuster on the offside. A custom chain guide from specialists E Thirteen sits over the idler and the upper ‘seat stay’ gets a castellated rubber chain slap guard as well. A full E-Thirteen LG-1 bash guard and chain roller make sure there’s enough wrap on the chainring to stop it slipping. The suspension is packaged super neatly too, with the Fox DPX2 shock sitting horizontally in the bottom of the frame controlled by a forged and anodized alloy vertical driver linkage. A second ‘rate control linkage’ connects this link to the swingarm but the whole setup is hidden away in the straddle seat tube with a plastic fender protecting it from rear-wheel roost. For £129.99 you can get a ‘Ziggy Link’ that modifies the shock rate to work with a 27.5in rear-wheel and also slackens and lowers the geometry slightly.

Image 1 of 3

Forbidden Druid XT

High idlers allows a glued-to-the-floor suspension feel (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Image 2 of 3

Forbidden Druid XT

There is a custom e*thirteen chainguide to keep the chain in place (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
Image 3 of 3

Forbidden Druid XT

Cable routing is neat and stays out the way of the of the suspension linkages (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Forbidden have clearly sweated every other chassis detail too. The full carbon frame is built at a premium factory and while the removable hatch under the belly isn’t big enough for significant storage (you’ll struggle to force an inner tube in) it does let you see how cleanly the frame is put together inside. Internal cable routing works cleanly around the unique pivot set up and different clamped insets to keep entry secure and neat whatever wired/wireless setup you’re running or which side you run your rear brake. There’s room for a full-size bottle on all frames and there’s a bolted accessory mount under the low, slim top tube. The belly, straddle seat tube and swingarm are all super broad and oversized for stiffness yet there’s a sweetly synced interrelation between all the curves and gaps that makes it a proper sculptural treat to look at. Stainless bolts throughout keep rust at bay and while the $3,249 / £3,199 frame kit price reflects the next-level detailing there’s a full range of reasonably priced replacement spares. The five-year warranty only covers materials and workmanship faults though, so that falls behind lifetime ‘you smash it, we replace it’ cover of other brands.

Geometry is custom for each frame size, with a longer rear center and steeper seat angles on bigger bikes to keep the rider centered. Reach is relatively tame at 465mm on the large with 65.6º head angle and 75.6º effective seat angle similarly poised and alert rather than super slack and 340mm BB height is relatively perched. That’s all appropriate for a 150/130mm travel trail ripper but makes the recently announced 170/150mm travel, 484mm reach, 63º head angle Dreadnought Forbidden’s go-to gravity hauler.

Components and build

While there’s a huge amount to talk about with the ride and frame the component options are relatively simple. We rode the XT build, which gets a full Shimano XT stop-go set up with 180mm rotors and a Fox 36 Performance Elite fork to match the rear shock. Wheels are Race Face ARC Offset 30mm rims on DT Swiss 350 hubs with chunky Maxxis Assegai 2.5in EXO front and DHR II EXO+ 2.4in rear tires and the 170mm dropper, 800mm bars, grips and 50mm stem are Race Face too. That adds up to a 14.6kg complete bike weight but removes any worries about riding hard.

There’s an SLX bike that has a similar finishing kit and the same rim/tire and shock set up but with a Marzocchi Z1 fork out front for $4,999 / £4,699. Both bikes get a particularly sweet ‘care package’ including a digital shock pump, soft cased ratcheting torque wrench, spare hanger and pivot spanner. There’s a very accurate online guide that dropped us into the setup sweet spot straight away.

Forbidden Druid XT

A 150mm Fox 36 compliments the Fox DPX2 rear shock (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Ride, handling, and performance 

The biggest initial surprise with the Druid isn’t its performance when you’re shredding but how well it pedals. Past experience with full roller chain guides - let alone ones with extra wrap and tension - told us to expect a nagging rumble rather than a totally clean power transfer. A smooth purr was all we got though and even with a fresh idler wheel that Forbidden warned us would take a while to smooth out, the lack of transmission drag really surprised us.

Rather than being totally neutral, the idler is positioned to give a positive pedaling feel around the sag point too. That means even with minimal low-speed compression damping there’s no distracting bounce or bob when you’re grinding up steep verts or charging out of the saddle. That meant we rarely bothered to reach down for the trail or pedal position of the shock and the fact that attack rather than surrender is the natural reaction to climbs says a lot about the Druid too. While it feels taut through the pedals, the amount of rear-wheel root and rock rollover is still a lot more than you’d get through other systems that feel the same so technical climbing performance is ridiculous. It’s steep enough in the seat to be well balanced without reaming yourself on the saddle nose and the 50mm stem and 340mm BB height help in this context too. It’d also be easy (if pricey) to lose over a kilo or more out of the build if you really wanted to exploit its summit hunting too. So, while we’re not going to pretend it’ll rival an XC-oriented downcountry bike for putting in the miles on the way to earning play dirt, progress is as easy and efficient as you’d expect for a positive pedaling 130-150mm trail bike with chunky tires and sturdy kit on. 

Point it into the playground sections though and things are very different indeed.

A couple of pedal strokes injects a surprising amount of speed and immediately sets up an attacking, alive (rather than slumped and slack) attitude. In corners, the taut, relatively compact front end loves to surf the Assegai between line slicing understeer and growling oversteer. The harder you drive into the turn though the more the suspension compresses and the rear end extends to increase stability too. While it never sinks too low, the back end behavior also offsets the tall ride height that can feel a bit perched on entry. Having ridden the bike with a 40mm stem, Ziggy Link and mullet back wheel, the faster bar reaction, lower ride height and altered scrub rates make it an absolute turn-slaying berm detonator too.

Forbidden Druid XT

The Druid is a 29er however with the addition of the Ziggy Link it can be run with a mullet setup (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Whether you’re turning or straight-lining, that ‘High Pivot Witchcraft’ massively reduces the slap and hang-up of the rear wheel in the biggest, squarest impact situations. The way the rear axle rolls with the punches in a smoothly caught cricket/baseball, jiu-jitsu, bullet-dodging way keeps the whole bike way more settled and leveled than a conventional 130mm bike so it feels more like you’re floating on 150/160. The latest Fox DPX2 shock has impressed us on every bike we’ve ridden, but Forbidden has given every size of Druid a specific custom tune that balances utterly reassuring deep drop control with perfectly metered patter response. All the time there’s fantastic feedback through your feet with all the zero wallow/disconnect involvement and information of a short travel bike. So whether it’s snapping some speed through the pedals, pumping the bike forwards or flaring the back end out sideways the response is immediate and immaculate.

The tendency for the back end to stay totally glued does make it harder to hop but the rearward wheel swing and traction means you can be brutal through the brakes without throwing it off balance. The taller BB also means that once you start really believing in the actual performance rather than presumed limitations you can crank out the power without any suspension choke or pedal smash and it stays smooth enough for flat pedals to feel like clips when you’re on the gas through rubble.

While the Ziggy mullet setup is a total ripper in the turns and the recommended route for schralpers and hip twisters, the standard twenty-niner setup really emphasizes the outstanding speed boost and precision of the Trifecta set up. Just watch out for sudden surges through the roughest jank that almost had us on our back the first few times they happened. Recalibrate the short travel feel through your feet with the unstoppable DH speed on the trail and it’s just another part of the addictive rush of the Druid’s spell.

Verdict

There are all sorts of next-level kinematic and design detail brilliance underlining the Druid but the best way to sum up what that means is that we can’t remember a bike that we’ve been more excited to throw into the rowdiest trails at every opportunity. While there were times that having a longer, slacker front end would have calmed our nerves, it’s the vivid engagement of the front end that really makes the Druid so brilliant for attacking every situation nerve prickling hard. The reward for staying off the brakes and offering yourself up for pagan high pivot point sacrifice is an exhilarating upward spiral of flat out attack that seems way too fast right up until the point the Druid casts it’s spell and suddenly gives you seamless control and extra time to deal with the sketchiest situations without dumbing down the excitement and thrill of short travel trail bike satisfaction. 

So while the high pivot purr/complexity and sucked down rear feel won’t be for everyone, it needs a shorter stem, and the warranty could be more generous, the Druid is, without doubt, one of - if not THE - most exciting, addictive aggressive trail bikes we’ve fallen under the spell of. 

Test conditions

  • Temperature: 3-12 degrees
  • Surface: Rocky black and red runs, off-piste DH, loamy flow trail

Tech Specs: Forbidden Druid XT

  • Price: $5,899.00 / £5,699.00
  • Discipline: Trail/Enduro
  • Head angle: 65.6-degrees
  • Seat angle: 75.6-degrees
  • Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL
  • Weight: 14.6kg 
  • Wheel size: 29 inch
  • Frame material: Custom butted and hydroformed 6013 alloy
  • Suspension: Fox 36 Performance Elite Grip2 150mm travel, 44mm offset/Fox DPX2 Evol Performance Elite 130mm travel
  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT 10-51T 12-speed gearing and shifter
  • Cranks: Shimano XT 32T chainset with E13 custom chain guide
  • Brakes: Shimano XT brakes with 180mm rotors
  • Cockpit: Race Face Turbine R 800mm bar, Race Face Aeffect R 50mm stem
  • Wheelset: Race Face ARC Offset 30mm rims on DT Swiss 350 hubs
  • Tires: Maxxis Assegai 3C MaxxTerra Exo 29 x 2.5in WT front and Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra Exo+ 29 x 2.5in WT rear tire
  • Seatpost: Race Face Aeffect R 170mm dropper post
  • Saddle: SDG Radar Chromo saddle
Guy Kesteven
Guy has been riding mountain bikes since before they were mountain bikes and is right handy on an offroad tandem (of course he is).