Bird has received many plaudits, including winning our 2021 Trail Bike of the Year test with its Aether 9 full-sus. So when I heard there was a new steel hardtail mountain bike in its stable, I had to get one on test.
The upgraded SRAM Eagle build Bird sent me is outstanding value for money, especially when the Forge frame costs more than the others I had on test.
Bird Forge details
- Selva service: Formula’s Selva is one of the most adjustable forks available. You can even change the compression damping circuit to suit your ride-feel preferences.
- No wires: SRAM AXS wireless shifting is a steal at this price. You even get the updated shifter paddle, designed to mimic the brand’s mechanical shifters.
- Pinch protection: Bird pre-fitted a CushCore insert in the rear wheel. This ring of closed-cell foam offers additional tyre support and helps prevent pinch punctures.
Bird Forge frame
This 29er frame is optimised for 140mm- to 160mm-travel forks and features Reynolds 853 DZB top and down tubes – arguably the two that most affect ride quality.
Elsewhere, Bird uses 4130 chromoly, with the thin-diameter tubing giving that classic steel hardtail look.
The brand has opted for an IS (International Standard) brake mount rather than the more modern PM (post mount) style, so you’ll likely need an adaptor for your rear brake. The thru-axle bolts into a SRAM UDH (universal derailleur hanger).
Other features include two sets of bottle bosses, external cable routing and an ISCG-05 mount.
Bird Forge geometry (based on 140mm fork and in sagged setting)
Bird is known for its modern geometry, and the Forge is no exception.
It has a 64-degree head and 77-degree seat tube angle, paired, on my large size, with a long 496mm reach and low 290mm bottom bracket (BB) height.
For ‘size large’ riders who don’t want such a long stretch to the bar, Bird offers a ‘Medium Long’ size with a shorter seat tube but still rangy 473mm front end.
|Seat angle (degrees)||76.8||76.8||76.8||76.8|
|Head angle (degrees)||65.8||65.8||65.8||65.8|
|Seat tube (mm)||395||420||445||470|
|Top tube (mm)||605||630||655||680|
|Head tube (mm)||100||110||120||130|
|Bottom bracket drop (mm)||87||87||87||87|
|Bottom bracket height (mm)||290||290||290||290|
Bird Forge kit
There’s a fairly wide range of parts customisation available. My bike was based on the £2,357.99 SRAM GX Eagle build, but had a Formula Selva R fork and Cura brakes, instead of the stock RockShox Pike Ultimate and SRAM G2 RSCs, plus sturdy DT Swiss rims rolling on Hope hubs, with a CushCore insert fitted in the Maxxis Dissector rear tyre.
What really stood out, though, was the upgraded SRAM GX Eagle AXS wireless drivetrain, which proved dependable, consistent and frankly excellent – especially for the money.
How we tested
We put four hard-hitting hardtail frames, which can be built up into complete bikes for around £3,000, to the test on some of the UK’s toughest and steepest tracks.
These UK-designed frames were ridden at our proving grounds in the South West, on the varied tracks of BikePark Wales and in the steep loam of High Burnside, near Aviemore in Scotland.
Smooth, stable handling is a must, but so is pin-sharp accuracy, so you can thread your way between trail features that might otherwise throw you off-line.
Also on test
Bird Forge ride impressions
With a similar-length front end to the Cotic BFeMAX and the same slack head angle as the Pipedream Moxie Mx3, it’s no surprise that when the going gets rowdy, the Bird comes back for more.
It inspires confidence on the steepest tracks and holds a line well when things get loose, aided by the BB height, which is so low I was glad of the bashguard when riding rock-rolls.
Cornering performance is also stellar. The distance between the tyres’ contact patches, the raked-out fork and the proximity of your heel to the ground when you drop the outside crank arm allow the Forge to rail berms and eke out grip on surfaces you’d normally pucker-up over.
At the same time, the 435mm stays mean it isn’t a chore to lift the front wheel over obstacles.
Front-end comfort is also good. There’s a hint of zing in the frame – not quite as much as on the Moxie, but enough to retain traction over off-camber roots and keep the bike tracking true in corners.
The Formula Selva fork has an incredibly plush initial stroke, separating you from trail chatter, and the Cura brakes are favourites, too, with a light feel and powerful caliper. Like the fork, they help keep your hands fresh when battering down bike-park tracks.
The Selva offers plenty of tuning options, too, with adjustable positive and negative springs, plus swappable ‘CST’ compression valves.
The 2.4in Maxxis Dissector tyres I chose shone in dry conditions, although compared to the 2.6in rubber on other bikes on test, they felt noticeably less comfy when rattling over really rough stuff.
On rocky terrain, the CushCore insert was a real bonus, allowing me to run a touch less pressure and saving the rim a couple of times.
I tried the Forge with the BFeMAX’s chunky rubber and had no clearance issues, so one of the 2.5in Maxxis tyres that Bird offers should work well.
My only kit niggle is that I found the flange of the DMR Deathgrips made accessing the AXS upshift paddle tricky, but Bird does offer other grip options.
|Available sizes||M, ML, L, XL|
|Tyres||Maxxis Dissector 3C MaxxTerra EXO TR 29x2.4in WT|
|Stem||Race Face Turbine, 40mm|
|Shifter||SRAM GX Eagle AXS|
|Seatpost||Bird Down 200 dropper|
|Saddle||Fabric Scoop Race Ti|
|Rear derailleur||SRAM GX Eagle AXS (1x12) with MRP chain guide|
|Handlebar||Race Face SixC, 780mm|
|Bottom bracket||SRAM DUB|
|Frame||4130/Reynolds 853 DZB steel|
|Fork||Formula Selva R, 140mm (5.5in) travel|
|Cranks||Truvativ Descendant carbon, 32t|
|Chain||SRAM GX Eagle|
|Cassette||SRAM XG-1275, 10-52t|
|Brakes||Formula Cura, 180/160mm rotors|
|Wheels||DT Swiss XM 481rims on Hope Pro 4 hubs|