In the axle-path wars of the mid-2000s, cooler heads prevailed. VPP was considered the holy grail at first, with its natural support under pedaling load. Suspension was still seen as the enemy of efficiency back then, and any way to stifle it was universally embraced. VPP used a slightly rearward axle path just past the sag point to essentially lock out the rear end if you were pedaling hard enough. But in each successive iteration of VPP, that axle path got a bit more calm, and the relationship between pedal force and suspension movement got less aggressive and more passive. DW-link had that as a goal from the start, as did Giant’s Maestro, Canfield’s CBF and Esker’s Orion to name a few. As brands slowly came to meet in the middle, focus shifted from axle path to leverage curve, and few brands continued to experiment with anything but the subtlest changes to axle path. One recent exception is the handful of brands who have used high-pivot linkages on their downhill race bikes. Norco and Commencal made the leap to bring up the rear because of the obvious (if not totally understood) benefits of rearward axle paths.

If it’s something you’ve never thought of before, you’re not alone. In a nutshell, leaving the pivot down around the chainline results in the wheel traveling upward relative to the front triangle, perhaps even slightly forward, when the shock compresses. Raising that pivot while, of course, leaving the wheel where it belongs will result in the axle following a more rearward path as the shock compresses. The idea here is that impacts come from in front of the bike, and a rearward axle path is uniquely adept at getting the wheel out of the way in impacts. It’s the reason why the concept’s recent resurrections have been only in the DH sphere.

The other reason is that one does not simply raise a pivot point. Without attention paid to where the chain force comes from, you’ll turn a mountain bike into an inch worm, and those early VPP models will seem like hover bikes in comparison. That’s why high-pivot bikes use a chain idler—a small gear like your derailleur pulley but much stronger—to redirect the driving section of the chain upwards, more in line with the main pivot point. It potentially adds weight and drag and complicates frame design. But perhaps the main reason that it’s generally employed only in DH bikes is that it would probably never have worked in the days of the front derailleur. Those days are gone, and today, Cumberland, B.C.-based Forbidden Bike Co has revealed the name, availability and specifics around its high-single-pivot trail bike, the Druid.

Apart from being a great name for a metal band, the Forbidden Druid is a carbon-fiber 130-millimeter rear-travel 29er that can be paired with either a 140- or 150-millimeter fork. As is necessary, the Druid’s chain runs on an idler cog that is offset slightly from the main pivot. That’s another benefit to high-pivot suspension, in that designers had free rein in choosing exactly where the driving force should come from, which is where the idler was placed. The Druid offers relatively high anti-squat values (more firm under pedaling forces), but Forbidden claims that the unique design means it comes without the cost of excessive pedal kickback. For now, we’ll just have to take their word for it.

 

The linkage that activates the shock below that high pivot point received as much attention as the pivot point itself. In concept, it seems to resemble the DELTA link used on Evil’s bikes. The swingarm moves a link that then moves another link that then moves the shock. The resulting leverage curve makes that DELTA resemblance much more clear. Instead of a simple curve that’s even, straight or with a decreasing radius, the leverage curve on the Druid increases steadily toward the mid-stroke, stays relatively constant for a moment, then increases again before bottom-out. The goal is to combine initial small-bump sensitivity, supportive mid-stroke and a resistant bottom-out. Basically, exactly what you’d want.

The Druid’s geometry isn’t as outlandish as its linkage design; 66-degree head angle and 76-degree seat angle with a 140-millimeter fork and a 470-millimeter reach for a large seem to say that this bike wants to be your friend. And not the kind of friend that forces you into situations you’re not comfortable with. It’s down for whatever. Even the chainstay length will adapt to you. As opposed to some brands for whom it’s a stretch to offer two rear-center measurements throughout their lineup, Forbidden offers totally unique lengths for each size, ranging from 414 on the small to 450 on the XL.

For now, the Druid is only available in a frameset, but if you’re techy enough to be into this bike, you’ve probably got your own ideas on how you’d build it up. The full-carbon frame, Fox DPX2 Performance Elite shock and custom e-thirteen chain guide system (covering both the chainring and the idler) goes for $3,000 U.S., $4,000 Canadian and, because Forbidden is simultaneously opening a warehouse in the UK to serve European demand, 3,150GBP. Frames are available now on Forbidden’s website, and will be shipping by April 12.

We will be getting ours soon after, and we can’t wait to tell you what we think.