Forbidden Druid V2 Review: High-Minded High Pivot

Travis’s praise for the Forbidden Druid may occasionally seem hyperbolic. As if he’s exaggerating the thrills offered by a particular trail in an effort to convince you that it’s totally worth the climb. We understand why that would be a little off-putting if you’re reading this for objective buying advice. It’s hard to trust a bike review that sounds like a Happy Meal commercial. But whenever Travis talked about the Druid, it sounded like some sort of Greek myth that could defy the laws of nature … See? Now he’s got us doing it.

High-Pivot Witchcraft™

Forbidden was founded in 2019 on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. It was a time when a handful of gravity bikes like the Norco Aurum and Commencal Supreme were breathing new life into the concept of the high-pivot linkage. It’s come a bit further out of the shadows since then, but it’s still not quite mainstream. So, because this is the first high-pivot bike we’ve reviewed on The Radavist, let’s dive into the fundamentals. The short version is that high-pivot bikes raise the rear suspension’s main pivot a few inches higher than its normal position, which would otherwise be just above the bottom bracket. This yields a more rearward axle path throughout the suspension stroke. But the short version doesn’t cover everything.

On most traditional full-suspension bikes—even ones with complex linkage designs like VPP, DW-Link or Switch Infinity—the wheel moves in a predominantly vertical arch when it hits a bump. In fact, its position at bottom-out will be slightly forward of its position at sag. But the direction of the force applied by that bump is usually rearward relative to the rider. So, the primary benefit of a rearward axle path is that it will allow the wheel to get out of the way more easily when traveling forward over bumpy terrain. That gets you better sensitivity, better traction, and better braking than a traditional bike with similar travel. But it also has the effect of lengthening the wheelbase as the suspension compresses instead of shortening it. This makes for better steering stability and more optimal weight distribution in the moments when you need them most.

What’s the Catch?

A rearward axle path doesn’t play well with a traditional drivetrain. Without modification, the chain would fight the suspension and vice-versa, leading to an unsettling inchworm effect. That’s why all modern high-pivot bikes will drive the rear wheel from an idler pulley, positioned up near the titular high pivot. Look at most traditional full-suspension bikes, and the main pivot is somewhere near where the chain meets the top of the chainring. It’s similar on complex frames with a “floating” pivot point. That imaginary pivot point is connected to the rear axle by an imaginary line that usually crosses near that crucial chain / chainring junction.  Though there are many, many factors in how pedaling and suspension impact each other, the top of the chainring is where the tension originates. An idler pulley cuts and pastes that point up nearer to the high pivot, eliminating the inchworm effect. But there are still trade-offs.

A high-pivot bike’s idler pulley can create some extra drag and some extra noise. It’s more noticeable than the drag and noise caused by the pulleys on your derailleur because it’s up in the load-bearing portion of the chain. It also adds weight, adds maintenance, and can potentially require you run a chain longer than what you’ll buy off the shelf (though the Forbidden Druid works with a standard 126-link chain or shorter). High idlers also decrease the amount of chain-wrap around the chainring, which is why some high-pivot bikes have yet another idler underneath the chainring to get more teeth engaged (again, something the Druid does not require).

All this is no big deal on a big bike, when riders are expected to use a chairlift or a shuttle vehicle or their own damn Chevro-Legs to get them to the top of the hill. That’s why they first re-emerged on downhill bikes. And maybe it’s even fine on an enduro bike, when the bar for climbing efficiency is relatively low. But on a trail bike like the Druid, it’s a whole other story. So, let’s get to it.

Forbidden Druid Quick Hits:

  • High-pivot linkage
  • 130 mm rear travel, 150 mm front travel
  • 29″ wheels (tested)
  • Mixed-wheel build available
  • Carbon frame only
  • 31.6 lbs (Size XL, no pedals)
  • Sold through retailers, or direct-to consumer
  • $6,899 as tested (GX RS S Plus)
  • $3,799 for frame and rear shock

The New Forbidden Druid

This is the second iteration of the Forbidden Druid. The most obvious change was that it went from a linkage-driven single-pivot to something more like a four-bar design. The new configuration allowed Forbidden to move the main pivot rearward, which created more chain wrap and eliminated the need for a lower idler and a longer-than-standard chain length. It also freed up some pivot-hardware space by not overlapping directly with the seat tube. And notably, it maintains Forbidden’s commitment to a true high-pivot platform. Compare it to some high-pivot bikes from Norco, Kavenz, GT and even high-pivot devotee, Deviate and you’ll notice the Forbidden pivot is much higher, increasing the effects described above.

The new design also affixes the idler pulley to the front triangle instead of the swingarm. This created better chain retention, but also made it easier for Forbidden to mount the idler to an independent bracket, not directly to a frame member. During development, they could experiment with different idler positions without having to worry about the impact on the frame design. They even made a special bracket specifically for models that spec SRAM Transmission’s 55 mm chainline, which angles the idler towards the middle of the cassette. On any drivetrain, much of the noise originates from the chain aligning itself with the chainring as they meet. The slight angle eases that meeting.

A Brief Intermission About Value

Speaking of SRAM Transmission, every Druid build gets it. That means it comes with a high starting price. You can’t get in the front door with a complete bike for under $6,100, and the one I tested is $6,900. But let’s do a sobering temperature check real quick: That’s about on-par with other Transmission-specced bikes on the market. If you ignore all the 2024-bike-industry-crisis sale prices, a similar Santa Cruz Hightower regularly retails for $7,000. A Yeti SB140 is $7,200. For god’s sake, a Transmission Smuggler is normally $7,300.

Of course, none of those have a high-pivot linkage. And with its renaissance gaining speed, there are starting to be (slightly) lower-priced options out there. Giving up on comparable spec, let alone SRAM Transmission, there’s a carbon Cannondale Jekyll for $4,600, an alloy Trek Slash for $4,400, a carbon / alloy GT Force for $3,800. Those are very much enduro bikes, though.

The closest thing to the Forbidden Druid out there is the new 125 mm rear- / 140 mm front-travel Norco Optic, but unless they bring the alloy version to the US, the least you’ll pay in American currency is $7,000. Plus, the Optic is a different bike. I just happen to have one on deck ready to be reviewed next. I haven’t yet ridden it enough to make an in-depth comparison, but I have ridden it some. Enough to say that Norco focused much more on keeping that bike light, quick, and efficient, while the Forbidden Druid is more of a mini enduro bike in mind. But I’ll get to that later.

Intermission Over

Where was I? Oh yeah. Even the Druid’s idler itself got some love for the V2 update. It went from 16 teeth to 18 teeth in an effort to help ease the chain around the bend. It’s also gone from aluminum to steel, and the tooth profile has been modified. After looking at first-gen pulleys that had seen years of use, Forbidden noticed where material had been worn away, and they shaped the new teeth to simply not have material there.

The V2 Forbidden Druid also gets the updates we’re more used to reading about in 2024. Its new linkage yields a straighter progressive leverage curve, making for a bit more supportive, lively ride. The geometry also gotten longer and slacker, but not by much. The head angle is 65 degrees, and the reach on a size S3 (comparable to a “large”) is a pretty standard 480 mm. The effective seat tube angle got steeper, which I love to see. And thanks to that rearward axle path, most Forbidden bikes don’t have to shift or bend their seat tubes much to accommodate a forward-arching rear wheel. It means you can trust the numbers, which you rarely can. There’s also an accessory port under the top tube, room for a full-sized bottle (all frame sizes) on the down tube, and a small in-frame storage space in front of the bottom bracket.

Like the V1 Forbidden Druid, you can opt for a V2 in a mixed-wheel configuration. That drops the bottom bracket by five mm and slackens the head angle by a half degree. But it doesn’t measurably shorten the chainstays, which vary widely by frame size. Most brands are a bit timid with their size-specific rear-center measurements. They may jump by a few mm here or there. But the Druid goes from 423 mm on the S1 (small) up to 466 on the S4 (XL). That’s the one I rode, so it’s probably time to get into it.

Idler Playthings

I have exactly one unconditional criticism of the Forbidden Druid, so I’ll get it out of the way before I start with the unconditional praise we teased in the cold-open. I could hear and, in some scenarios, feel the idler while climbing. It’s no more significant than on other high-pivot bikes I’ve ridden, but it’s there. To be fair, the noise actually isn’t all that bad as long as the chain is clean and lubed. And I’m pretty sensitive to noise. Last fall, I scrapped a beautiful, moist day on the trail because of a metronomic creak that developed inside a neglected bottom bracket. But idler noise is nothing like that. It’s more like the chatter you might hear when aggressively cross-chaining on a 3×9 setup.

That’s also how I’d describe the idler’s feeling. On even ground where there are minimal bumps to absorb and minimal sudden ledges to endure, the idler is just humming along in the background. I could sense its presence through the soles of my feet. A very subtle vibration that would fade as I throttled down, or would disappear as I throttled up, negotiating something technical. But the sensation would come back when I settled into a long torque-y fire-road climb. And speaking of cross-chaining, it was significantly more noticeable in the easiest 52-tooth cog. Just jumping down to the 44-tooth would soften it significantly because the chain wasn’t working as hard to recenter itself as it joined with the idler. An immediate upgrade I’d suggest after buying a Forbidden Druid would be ditching the 32-tooth chainring for a 30. It’ll keep you in those more optimal combinations longer, and would suit the 165 mm cranks better. Regardless, I’m going to share a little well researched science about that idler drag: It don’t matter.

This was not my first Forbidden. I once reviewed the previous version of the enduro-focused Dreadnought. I felt the same soft purr in its idler, and I wanted to figure out exactly how much energy—if any—it was costing me. A power-meter crank seemed to be the best way. On top of wattage output, power meters will compile data on how much work (measured in kilojoules) you’re doing on a ride or segment of a ride. Gathering that data on the Dreadnought and a comparable low-pivot enduro bike in comparable conditions should allow me to calculate any inefficiencies imposed by the idler.

With a climbing sample of over 15,000 vertical feet shared evenly between the bikes, the high-pivot Dreadnought appeared to be 1.5% less efficient than the traditional-linkage bike I compared it to. 1.5% is not nothing, but the standard deviation among my findings was almost 2%. So, it was often close to nothing. And given the updates Forbidden made, I have every reason to believe it’s even more insignificant on the new Druid.

Numbers aren’t everything, of course. There’s also the fact that an idler is another surface to collect grit and grime. Many of my local trails involve wet creek crossings bordered by dry sand. Drivetrains hate that stuff, and a high-pivot drivetrain can sometimes complain louder than a traditional one. I’ve heard from high-pivot owners in areas with finer dirt (such as Forbidden’s Pacific Northwest home) that this isn’t a big issue. But southern California’s decomposed granite can get a little crunchy. As a result, cleanings had to be more thorough and more frequent while I was testing this bike. Of course, all of this was happening just as much on the Dreadnought during that power-meter experiment. I didn’t repeat it on the Druid, but I didn’t sense anything while climbing to tell me the results would be any different. And I did a lot of climbing.




I’m not trying to brag by including a link to the biggest ride I did on the Druid. Nor by telling you the second and third biggest stacked 9,500 and 8,000 feet of climbing respectively. I’m just trying to say that a high-pivot linkage with a well designed idler will not prevent a bike from taking you wherever you want to go. In fact, it sometimes helps.

That unique ability for the rear wheel to easily move out of the way makes a noticeable difference on rough climbs. If there was even moderate momentum, the Druid could swallow significantly larger bumps than most bikes of similar travel. And that had a synergistic effect, where I’d find myself able to carry speed more easily through chunky uphills, all the while not noticing any of the idler drag I just went on about. It would kind of just get drowned out. The only bike in recent memory that I’d say matched the Druid’s ability to absorb bumps under pedaling load was the Revel Rascal. In fact, the Rascal’s suspension was probably even more indifferent drivetrain input. Especially at the peak of slow ledgy up-and-overs that would stop most bikes dead if you pedaled at the wrong moment. But the Forbidden Druid excelled when in motion, and felt like it was encouraging me to remain in motion.

For another brief science chat, the Druid (on paper) has relatively high anti-squat values. Meaning, at sag and in climbing gears, the chain force is trying to lift the bike up in its travel. High anti-squat tends to make for a quicker-feeling ride that’s more responsive to pedaling at the cost of the type of bump sensitivity I described above. That cost can be partially measured in something called pedal kickback, or the tendency for suspension compression to yank back on the chainring, or for drivetrain force to prevent the suspension from doing its job. But modern high-pivot bikes have the unique ability to combine high anti-squat with low pedal kickback. Even if there weren’t numbers and graphs to back up these claims, I’d still say I still found the Druid stood out on technical climbs. It rewarded me for staying on the power, while maintaining my tire’s traction and my body’s momentum.

If I lived somewhere like southwest Utah or parts of Arizona, and I thrived primarily on the challenge of mastering widowmaker climbs or undulating chop, I might lean towards something like that Revel Rascal. Although the Druid feels more energetic when I’m going all-out at peak power, I personally can only maintain peak power for so long. At a sustainable pace on ledgy uphills, a well designed moderate-travel DW-link bike can manage nearly as well as the Druid without adding the extra idler. But I don’t thrive on undulating chop. I thrive on long, fast descents. And I have never ridden a trail bike that handles long, fast descents better than the Druid.


That Dreadnought enduro bike forced me to recalibrate the limits of what I could get away with on the trail. It’s capable of just about anything. But again, it’s an enduro bike. The types of riders and types of terrain that demand that kind of capability are kinda rare. I was at the peak of my overbiking phase at the time, and I decided it was still too much bike for me. But the Druid is more of a trail bike. It’s got a trail bike’s travel numbers and a trail bike’s head angle. Forbidden even gave it a trail bike’s front rotor size and a trail bike’s rear tire. And when you give that kind of bike a high-pivot, beautiful things happen.

First, the suspension behavior is superb. It’d be oversimplifying it to say that it “feels like it has more travel than it does.” That is true in that it can handle bigger bumps at higher speeds than other 130 mm bikes can. But there’s something about how it handles those bigger bumps. Normally, when I’m using all of a bike’s travel, there’s a rather sudden shock when I reach the end. I’m not really talking about bottom-out. If you set up a modern bike properly, it’s not gonna ring your bell every single time you bury the O-ring. I mean that trail bikes get kind of temperamental at their last 90% of travel. Like, my Canyon Spectral 125 never lets me forget I’m not on my big bike anymore.

The Druid, on the other hand, remains committed to the cause unless I really mess things up. There’s something about how the rear wheel tracks the ground that makes it feel less like a bike and more like some sentient beast actively backing me up no matter what line I take. It reminds me of how full-suspension bikes felt before I acclimated to them and started wanting them to be better. Wanting them to have better small-bump, better bottom-out, better support. That’s not to say the Druid is floaty. I still can feel the size and shape of the things I’m riding over. But I don’t have to worry about them.

And at the same time, the Druid is able to react like you’d want a 130 mm bike to react. The reason I put my overbiking days behind me is that I wanted some control back. Control over front / rear weight bias, or pumping force, or preload timing. I wanted to be able to bounce the back end out a tad to line me up around a turn or pop off a cheese-wedge rock once in a while. Those were worth giving up some high-speed capability. But the Druid truly can do both.

On a particularly hazardous chute near the top of my favorite trail, there’s an ottoman-sized boulder right at a tricky little curve. On my big bike, I could just brute force my way through it. Center of the trail, center of the ottoman, then center of the trail again. On my short-travel bike, I’m going a little slower, and the better route is to sort of juke around it so I can keep traction to make the curve. But on the Druid, I was able to safely maintain speed and control, while popping my front wheel up and to the left the moment I hit the boulder, centering myself for the next section of trail and catching a bit of air in the process. I should also mention that this is all possible with the stock setup of zero volume spacers in the shock. Harder-hitting riders than me are free to add bottom-out resistance if necessary.

And about “safely maintaining speed,” Forbidden bikes tend to be remarkably stable while braking. It’s got something to do with the relatively high anti-rise values, which means braking is more likely to sink you into the rear travel. That optimizes geometry but can sacrifice suspension action, making anti-rise a hot topic among bike nerds. As such, there’s a chart for it as well, but I’ve never been able to pinpoint a correlation between those numbers and my on-trail experience. So, I’ll ditch the data and just say that the Forbidden Druid somehow made “oh shit” emergency stops a bit less harrowing. Slowing down was a calmer, more predictable process than on any other trail bike I’d ridden. That was a good thing, because I was comfortable carrying more speed in more situations on the Druid. And it’s not just because the bump sensitivity had me positively blushing. Interesting things happen on high-pivot bikes as you get deeper into their travel.

To a greater extent than most bikes, my experience may be different from yours because I tested the XL frame size. It has a 466 mm rear-center length at rest. It gets even longer throughout most of the stroke. For comparison, my Canyon Spectral 125 has a 437 mm chainstay, which gets shorter throughout the stroke. It came at some cost to the Forbidden Druid’s manual-a-bility, where the harder I pulled up the front end, the harder it would push it back down. But that’s just one, frivolous diversion. Like I already mentioned, this bike offers an impossible blend of playing and plowing. The high pivot’s effect on geometry is partly to thank for the confidence I felt when riding at the edge of a normal 130 mm bike’s capability. And it’s about more than just a little extra wheelbase. I reckon it’s about where that extra wheelbase comes from.

I found myself more in control when the rear suspension was maxing out. Sometimes that meant traction, sometimes it meant stopping power, but other times it meant literal control. Like I could calmly and easily correct course in moments when I might usually just be holding on. I rarely had to choose between safely turning and safely slowing down. And I think a lot of that is because of how the lengthening wheelbase aids front-wheel traction. I came up with a theory about this after my time on the Dreadnought back in 2021. As the rear wheel extends even further out behind me, the front wheel is forced to support more of my weight. So it ought to have better bite when I go to turn. Maybe I’m pushing my luck with that analysis, especially after already taking you on such a heavily armchair-engineered review. But the proof is in the pudding. I’ve never ridden a bike that’s at once so responsive and sporty in its demeanor, but so utterly limitless in its potential.

Now, at the risk of souring the stoke I hopefully just inspired, I’m going to mention the idler noise again. I wanted to wait until after I’d gushed about what the Forbidden Druid can do before I explained why it’s worth a tradeoff or two. All bikes have tradeoffs. Thicker tires are harder to pinch-flat, but they’re also harder to whip around. Low bottom brackets are more stable, but you get more pedal strikes. A high-pivot linkage is kinda like that, except we’re not talking about marginal gains. We’re talking about a qualitatively different experience. The Forbidden Druid shifted my perspective on what’s possible. Not just with a trail bike, but with any bike.


  • Manages big and small bumps like a DH bike
  • Unshakable stability in the most challenging trails’ most challenging moments
  • Outstanding traction and smoothness on rough climbs
  • Dramatic size-specific rear-center lengths play to the bike’s strengths
  • Coil compatible, mixed-wheel compatible
  • Full-sized water bottle, accessory port, and (small) frame storage on all sizes
  • Idler-pulley drag actually has relatively little impact.


  • Idler-pulley drag does exist
  • No low-priced option
  • Long rear-centers on larger sizes limit some types of playfulness

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