New British direct sell brand Bird really impressed us with its hardcore Zero hardtail last year, and its top value full-suspension gravity bomber is now doing likewise.
Frame and equipment: on-trend geometry and superb value SRAM spec
While some major brands have been slow to respond to the latest long, low and lazy trends translating onto the trail from the steepest, fastest downhill slopes, being small and UK focused has helped Bird join the dots just right.
While you can buy the frame in five different colours and sizes – we reviewed the Aeris frame, with a different build, a few months back – the SRAM X1 gears, RockShox Reverb Stealth post and Race Face Turbine cranks are obvious benefits of Bird’s direct sell complete bike value. The SRAM Guide RS brakes get a 200mm rotor up front for maximum anchorage with impressive levels of cleverly leveraged control.
The RCT3 Pike out front is always a boon
With nine different build package options that can be further customised with five different shock, wheelset (including Bird’s own carbon wheels) and tyre options, plus six different stems holding 17 different bars, plus other tweaks and even optional Anglesets for changing head angle, you can personalise your Bird accurately and affordably too.
It also means you can change the final character of your Aeris quite dramatically from a fast rolling mid-weight 140mm trail bike to the heavier duty 14.5kg build we tested here.
Ride and handling: stable and confidence-inspiring but could be stiffer
The long top tube keeps stretch ample even with a short 35mm stem. The 800mm Race Face bars give huge amounts of leverage for holding the already super-stable 66-degree head angle on line. It’s super low too, so once you commit to a corner you’re totally locked in right to the limits of your grip. Bird also lets you spec your choice from a wide range of (normally Maxxis) tyres. That means you can choose your own balance of rolling speed and grip from super tacky glue to semi-slick go.
The custom tuned Monarch RT3 shock is deliberately progressive for ample support whether you’re putting the hammer down through the pedals or driving the tyres into a corner. The Pike fork up front – a fully adjustable RCT3 model, no less – is a massive help when it comes to overall composure and control.
Bird is a new kid on the block, but the Aeris is seriously impressive
Together they mean the 140 or 150mm travel Bird behaves a lot more like a 160mm-plus machine if you stay off the brakes and let it run through serious rock sections or chance your luck off ugly drops. Bird’s faith in its solid conventional tubed frameset is borne out by a lifetime warranty that means you can ride without worry, and it can even be transferred to a new owner if you decide to sell the bike on.
Testing head to head with some of its peers, the Aeris frame definitely has a lazy rather than lively character with obvious flex from the dropped top tube and low, relatively skinny stay rear end. That leaves it sluggish under power even with a semi-slick rear tyre, and it prefers to sway and swoop down the trail to its own rhythm rather than chop, hop and push the pace.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.