Bird is an all new ‘build your own bike’ operation based in the UK – and its combination of sorted hardcore hardtail frame plus astute tick box options certainly meets our expectations for a standout good time ride on technical trails.
Frame and equipment: built to swagger
Serious trail swagger starts from the slack angled, fat ended, angled headset compatible 1.5in head tube. The super-low top tube means you can size up easily to get a longer bike without the crossbar troubling your nether regions. To maintain strength and stiffness it’s pipe braced on to the extended seat tube, which is port and guide ready for a ‘stealth’ dropper post and/or DMD front derailleur. There are ISCG mounts for a chain guide and the horseshoe chainstay bridge section can cope with any conventional (as opposed to fat bike) tyre. The rear dropouts use a 142x12mm through-axle with a replaceable thread terminal, and post mount brakes make setup easy.
The Zero is available frame-only, but it’s the complete bike deals that are most tempting, with prices starting at just £1,300. The basic Shimano XT loaded, RockShox Revelation fork equipped, Race Face rich spec of the standard Zero.1 is good enough to go large on the trails without bothering to add options. But Bird’s tick box selection is particularly well judged and temptingly priced.
We souped up our machine's business end with a Pike RCT3 fork
For us that meant swapping in a RockShox Pike fork for more accuracy up front, with a bargain Race Face SIXC carbon bar upgrade and chain-taming Race Face Narrow/Wide single ring and Shimano Zee rear derailleur transmission also being added to the build. If the standard cassette is too small for you there’s a Hope 40T-Rex crawler gear option, and if the 67-degree head angle isn’t slack enough for your tastes, you can spec a Cane Creek AngleSet.
We also love the fact that Bird upgrades bits you probably wouldn’t even notice if you hadn’t replaced them yet. For example, even the Deore build gets an XT rear cassette to stop freehub damage and all bikes with Shimano cranks get a top-spec XTR bottom bracket. While you – or your local shop – could do exactly the same sort of ‘custom’ build on any frame you choose, we can’t fault Bird for making it quick and easy to get a seriously sweet bike together.
Ride and handling: sorted from the word go
After years behind the bars of test bikes, the fact that the Bird is a sorted machine is obvious straight away. The front wheel is already a fair way ahead of you down the trail and clearly itching to get stuck into serious terrain. Sensing the grip of the reassuringly toothy front Maxxis High Roller and casually cycling the soft start stroke of the mighty Pike fork are the component equivalent of rolling up your sleeves ready for a brawl too.
The 1.5in head tube, 35mm fork stanchions and wide carbon bar mean you’re rolling those sleeves up to some serious control muscle that’s ready to strongarm even the most unruly trail. The bottom bracket is low for cornering stability and when the chain goes taut between the Race Face cranks and wide-rimmed rear wheel, there’s no doubt that all your power is going straight into propulsion.
The Zero combines great geometry with hardcore riding practicality
All the theoretical goodness loaded into the Zero adds up just as it should on the trail too. While Bird freely admits the Zero isn’t the lightest frame, the choice of components adds up to a highly competitive weigh-in. Factor in that direct power connection and a stamp on the Turbine cranks kickstarts the matching wheels with a jolt – and the Zero accelerates and climbs with encouraging efficiency.
The extra rim width also keeps the Maxxis rubber gripping well in a wider range of conditions than you’d expect – and takes some of the sting out of the firm back end. The High Roller, Pike and big bar mean the Zero is a bike best ridden hard over the front though. Flicking elbows high and jamming knees into the dropped top tube forces the impressively accurate frame right down the throat of late-braked corners.
Feel RockShox’s excellent Charger damper load up with impeccably controlled connection, look for the exit and then drive hard through the whole bike to slingshot into the next section. As long as you can keep the back wheel unloaded enough not to pop it, 140mm of Pike stroke can soak up a surprising amount of properly ugly terrain, free from worry.
Spec as tested:
- Weight: 11.52kg (25.4lb)
- Frame: 6061-T6 aluminium
- Sizes: S, M (tested), L, XL
- Fork: RockShox Pike RCT3, 140mm (5.5in) travel
- Headset: Cane Creek 40
- Hubs: Race Face Turbine
- Rims: Race Face Turbine
- Spokes: 32 double butted
- Wheel weight: 1.91kg F, 2.27kg R (including tyres)
- Front tyre: Maxxis High Roller 27.5x2.3in
- Rear tyre: Maxxis Ardent 27.5x2.25in
- Crankset: Race Face Turbine w/ Hope 32t narrow-wide ring
- Bottom bracket: Race Face
- Derailleurs: Shimano Zee
- Shifters: Shimano Deore XT
- Cassette: Shimano Deore XT, 11-36t
- Chain: Shimano HG75
- Brakes: Shimano Deore XT, 180/160mm
- Bar: Race Face SIXC, 740mm
- Stem: Race Face Turbine, 60mm
- Grips: Race Face Half Nelson
- Saddle: Charge Scoop
- Seatpost: Race Face Ride
£1,644.75 complete bike tested