First Look: The Ethic, a High(ish) Pivot, Direct-to-Consumer eMTB

Dec 21, 2021
by Alicia Leggett  
The Ethic right at home.

If I had to dream up a bike to perfectly capture the 2021 ethos, it would have a high pivot, be made of burly aluminum with high-quality components, have mixed wheel sizes, be sold directly to consumers, and likely have a one or two-syllable name that vaguely nods at aspirational values and the higher levels of human achievement that we all aim to capture in our biking. As it turns out, my 2021 concept bike might now exist in reality, too.

We've recently caught glimpses of a new eMTB from British direct-to-consumer brand Bird that appears to be just that - an aluminum descender with a Shimano EP8 motor. It will be sold under the brand name Ethic to sidestep a copyright issue that would arise from creating a Bird eMTB - Ethic "as in work ethic, design ethic, ride ethic," the brand said. (Also, Bird says Bird-E is a terrible name.)

The Ethic and Welsh mud.

The Ethic is a high-but-not-that-high pivot eMTB that can be run as either a 29er or a mullet and will be sold directly to consumers using the same customization process as Bird's other bikes, in which customers select each component individually using Bird's online bike builder tool. The bike isn't just meant to check trend boxes, either, as Ethic makes clear in explaining how the bike came into existence.

Ethic says the idea for an eMTB originated from repeated customer requests combined with Bird and Ethic co-founder and chief designer Dan Hodge's personal riding preferences: Dan says his motto is "smiles over miles" and considers himself the type of rider who pedals uphill as a means to an end - that end being riding as much downhill as possible. Thus, an eMTB that could help him to access more descending made perfect sense.

The early stages: sketching possibilities.

The project planning started in 2019 with some design decisions. Should Ethic make a dainty eMTB that rides like a lightly-assisted trail bike, or should it be a heavy-duty descender with as much power as possible? What motor made the most sense? What about the frame layout? How could Bird fit a motor onto a bike without sacrificing space for a water bottle, a proper shock, and good geometry?

Eventually, Ethic settled on the Shimano EP8 motor because it is relatively compact and light, there's a 630 Wh battery option, and the logistics worked out with relative availability. Unlike the other main contender from Fauza, the Shimano motor also wouldn't compromise the space inside the front triangle. As for the frame itself, Ethic wanted to prioritize geometry over all else. "There is no compensation available for poor frame geometry," Dan explained, "which is why it is the most important factor in mountain bike design." No shiny parts or great suspension performance can make up for bike design with fundamentally bad geometry.

He noted that many brands end up putting long chainstays on eMTBs because there isn't much room for a motor, a traditional main pivot, and decent tire clearance all while keeping chainstays short. Still, he absolutely didn't want to create an eMTB with geometry that he would find unacceptable on a standard non-motorized bike. Looking at several digital renditions of possible bike designs and searching for a solution to that cramped bottom bracket area, it became clear that the main pivot needed to move elsewhere - up - to keep the chainstays short.

A problem to solve: too much crowding in the bottom bracket region.

Beyond simple space requirements, another draw of what Dan calls the "mid pivot" with an idler wheel is that anti-squat can be adjusted simply by changing the number of teeth on the idler wheel to raise or lower the chainline.

Ethic settled on a chainstay with a flip chip to adjust it between 440 mm and 448 mm for use with either a 27.5" x 2.8" or a 29" x 2.5" rear wheel. We don't have details on the full geometry numbers, but Bird says it has a 64-degree head tube angle with a 160mm fork.

The final design includes an idler wheel to put the chainline in the right place and a lower guide to keep the chain taut around the chainring and bring the lower chainline up as far as possible.

Through the course of the testing, Ethic redesigned the idler axle to make it much stronger and added a lower chain guide. There's clearly been some thought put into the design: "The final design uses a stainless steel jockey wheel, mounted to a thick stainless steel axle that runs on needle roller bearings on the drive side and a deep groove bearing on the non drive side. The bearings run in a oil bath that gets refreshed during the yearly service. There’s also a lip seal on the drive side to keep the dirt out and the oil in. All the seals and bearings are off the shelf items that can be easily sourced and replaced when needed."

Dan says he's ridden it much more than he normally rides to put through the wringer and says it rides just how he wants it to.

Before the idler redesign.

Now, the Ethic just needs parts and delivery dates. The bike shortage has made sourcing parts extremely difficult, and small brands are hit the hardest. Ethic says the delivery estimate for the Shimano motors is sometime in 2023, with frames coming from the brand's fabricator in Taiwan sometime around then as well. With the design and planning done, the brand is now simply playing the waiting game.

"Unfortunately, that’s the best information I have right now. We have frames on order, we have E-bike parts on order. We’ll be launching the bike as soon as possible. I think we’re all looking forward to some post Covid normality with bikes and bikes parts on more sensible lead times than we have at present," Dan wrote.

"Let's raise a glass to 2024."

It's "probably overkill for a pub bike," Dan wrote, but the bike needed to be tested anywhere and everywhere it could.

Author Info:
alicialeggett avatar

Member since Jun 19, 2015
728 articles

  • 61 12
 Oh yeah, the hard test of being used as a pub bike. They certainly know their e-biking customers.
  • 75 21
 Local ride followed by a beer on the way home. Should I ask permission next time?
  • 11 35
flag trellis-opportunity-red (Dec 21, 2021 at 1:42) (Below Threshold)
 @BirdBikes this kind of interaction with internet randoms worked super well for Sick! Bikes in the end...
  • 39 0
 @not-finbar: er I think it was the whole taking people's money and not giving them bikes that killed them
  • 7 5
 @Nikewatch: lol fair point Big Grin . I still think going on the defensive is a lose-lose for brands, but what do I know?
  • 16 4
 @not-finbar: it was an attempt at humour, but maybe I need a better definition of that as well? :-)
  • 3 2
 @BirdBikes: Have you learned nothing from STW? It doesn't matter who makes the best point, it's all about who has the last word.
  • 6 1
 @BirdBikes: think it’s best not to defend yourself from every comment . This is pinkbike you will be here a while!
  • 2 9
flag fred-frod (Dec 21, 2021 at 7:06) (Below Threshold)
 @BirdBikes: No, but if this is important enough to find its way into the press release, you certainly have not done enough proper testing. Feels a lot like homebrew.
  • 23 3
 Minor correction - the final geometry does not have a 65.5 degree head angle (that's a sketch from 2018 to see what an Aeris 145 would look like with a motor), and the seat angle is steeper too

Production head angle is 64 degrees with a 160mm fork, so about 63.5 with the 170mm Zebs that I've been running
  • 5 0
 Can I put a 190mm dual crown on it?
  • 7 4
 @wburnes: it's stress tested to take a 180mm Zeb, so it depends on the A2C
  • 2 0
 @wburnes: legendary question
  • 5 0
 @BirdBikes: The correct answer there was "that'd be awesome cheers, what time do you want to pop round?"
  • 3 0
 Cool, I'll update that. Thanks!
  • 2 0
 @BirdBikes: every serious 170+ E should take a DC!
  • 13 6
 I cant believe so many people are upset by the name. I have owned 3 Bird bikes and have converted many of my friends to the brand. Everyone is happy because of how bird treat their customers, some might call this work Ethic, business ethics, or them just generally being nice people. If you choose to not purchase based on the way the name may be interpreted then you probably aren't in the market for an Ebike anyway, as we all know e bikes are evil and its a fact that everytime an E-bike is purchased a shark looses a tooth and a Polar Bear cries. Best to jump on your fully carbon high horse and ride into the distance. My father in law and his friends purchased E bikes when they retired and ive never seen a group of people so hyped on life again. E-bikes made these people happy.
  • 11 0
 Mmmm Doom Bar
  • 4 0
 Now we're suckin diesel..
  • 4 1
 Interesting take on the need for short chainstays. I've just received my first ebike which had huge 468mm chainstays and tbh I was concerned about them. Having ridden it for a few months, I now realise that the chainstays on all my other bikes are far too short
  • 1 0
 Depends on overall geometry and what you want from it. Some early ebike frames had a way shorter reach than chainstays. That's not ideal for dh but good for uphill.
  • 2 0
 @KalkhoffKiller: Agreed, it's paired with a long 505mm reach so feels very balanced.
  • 9 2
 you could sell it in different colours and call it an ethnic
  • 4 0
 I would be interested to know how long an idler will last with extra e-bike torque, I'm assuming the idler mount is somewhat beefier than a non e-bike
  • 3 0
 "The final design uses a stainless steel jockey wheel, mounted to a thick stainless steel axle that runs on needle roller bearings on the drive side and a deep groove bearing on the non drive side. The bearings run in a oil bath that gets refreshed during the yearly service. There’s also a lip seal on the drive side to keep the dirt out and the oil in. All the seals and bearings are off the shelf items that can be easily sourced and replaced when needed."
  • 3 0
 Are idlers known to be weak then? If anything, I suppose the cassette sprockets and the smallest ones take the biggest beating. These idlers don't have to transmit a torque. They're just subject to the resultant of the two pieces of chain.
  • 1 0
 Haibike has been using them for years with zero issues
  • 2 0
 I wonder if we'll see motor manufacturers start producing motors where the output shaft isn't concentric with the crank shaft, to give a high chain line. Kinda like what effigear do with their gearbox
  • 2 0
 @mattg95: Rocky Mountain?
  • 36 32
 How can they call an e-bike ethic?

ethically incorrect...
  • 35 34
 Here we go again... Ethic does not equal Ethical
  • 6 1
 That was my first thought too.
  • 13 9
 @BirdBikes: please define ethic without also defining ethical.
  • 15 18
 @radrider: it's already defined in the article
  • 23 7
 A Path-ethic?
  • 21 1
 @radrider: someone who has a strong work ethic, may not be an ethical person.
  • 10 4
Havent read the article, just came for stupid comments.
  • 4 0
Or E-thic

Or ethicAL

How would they name the carbon version?
  • 24 1
 @BirdBikes: you're right that Ethic =/= Ethical, but if you have to explain this every single time are you really sure its a name worth committing to?
  • 5 1
a set of moral principles, especially ones relating to or affirming a specified group, field, or form of conduct.
"the puritan ethic was being replaced by the hedonist ethic"
relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these.
"the ethic question is of wider import"
  • 1 0
 Ethic not Epic
  • 11 5
 @BirdBikes: there's got to be a point when you realise that over 90% of people assume that 'Ethic' is about being 'ethical' and just because you define it differently yourself doesn't mean that suddenly your definition is everyone else's default.
  • 13 15

Except it isn't "my" definition. It's THE definition.

You're right in that I can't control some misconceptions, but it doesn't change the meaning of the word.
  • 3 0
 @mashrv1: This is probably starting to sink in now.
  • 16 0
 It has ethic downtube and a skinny top tube
  • 6 4
 @BirdBikes: lol how does work ethic, and ebike go together? is my tricks playing brain on me again?
  • 2 0
 @Hamburgi: EthiC and EthiCC.

What was wrong with Bird E again?
  • 1 0
 @mashrv1: of course. 'What makes a Bird a Bird?'--trademark protection
  • 16 3
 @BirdBikes: "Denotation" and "connotation" are two sides of the same coin that must be considered when branding anything. "Dick" is short for 'Richard" but you wouldn't create a brand called "Dick Bikes" because of the obvious connotations of the word "Dick".

You are not wrong with your denotation of the word "Ethic", but, likewise, people are not incorrect with their connotations either.

Given your timeline to fulfilling orders you might have time to change this, and I would urge you to do so as it's killing what is otherwise a pretty well received eBike. For what it's worth I think Bird-E is a cool name, as do all my colleagues who I've spoken to.
  • 1 0
 @Hamburgi: Crampsroller
  • 5 0
 @BirdBikes: Re "it's already defined in the article" I'm just going to point out that it's most definitely not. The article provides examples, not the definition.
  • 4 1
 I like the look of that, pleasing on the eye and what looks like a good chain line/ pivot set up?
  • 5 4
 This one of the few ebikes I’d consider. I’m slightly biased as I have an AM9 and it’s the best bike I’ve ever ridden by far. You know that this is going to be amazing to ride. Bird do geometry right.
  • 1 0
 I saw Ben riding at Bike Park Wales, and in the flesh this bike is epic. I had the original Aeris Mk1 and when I traded it out after 5 years other manufacturers had just about caught up with this. However, having ridden the Shimano motor vs Bosch and Spesh I don't think I'd go for it - however, the customisability they've talked about on Singletrack could change my mind. Guess we'll see how things look in 2024?

(although I wouldn't want to explain why my Ethic ebike isn't ethical everytime I go for a ride)
  • 1 0
 @RadBikeBro: just stick a letter m before the name and you're sorted
  • 1 0
 Here here, I agree! I love my AM9 and I think Bird are a great brand that I would buy from again! I love ebikes, but I find Ethic which relates to work ethic, and ebikes something of an oxymoron.
  • 3 0
 Another well thought out and good looking bike from Bird, waiting till 2023 sucks
  • 3 1
 This is on my shortlist for my first e-bike. There is one bike on that list.
  • 2 0
 What? No E-thic quips? Come on pinkers!
  • 1 0
 But what does the name really mean, Dan! You knew it was gonna happen again
  • 2 0
 AM9 with a motor? Yes please
  • 1 2
 Had me at direct to consumer “highish pivot”…..lost me at EP8…….Must be an easy motor to set up and configure a frame around but clearly(and per most reviews) the Bosch system is superior
  • 1 0
 Over on STW he explained that Bosch don’t supply motors to companies under a certain size as one of the reasons.
  • 1 0
 Looks like a beast. Never listed what travel it was?
  • 1 0
 160, 170, or 180mm with single crown. ~195mm if dual crown.
  • 1 0
 Will it be available as frame only? Will it have the same bird warranty?
  • 1 0
 Can I assume that that idler wheel on an e-mtb will be short-lived?
  • 1 0
 Not really if you engineer it right. This seems pretty solid. I think you'll be replacing casettes a lot more often than idlers cause that's where torque goes, but who knows
  • 1 0
 @kanioni: uhmm sprockets with few teeth are always the first to wear out ... put the power of an engine in the way ...
  • 2 0
 @blacktea a rear sprocket transmits all your power (+motor) to your rear hub. Without it you are going nowhere, right? An idler transmits zero power, so that's the big difference. Ofcourse there is much load on the bearing but that's mostly it.
  • 1 0
 I know a little forest you can try the bike out in.
  • 2 1
 Anyone else find the name slightly ironic?
  • 3 5
 Looks mega. Great to see smaller brands like Bird, Cotic and Privateer bring out ebikes.
  • 1 2
 Interesting choice of tires in the CAD model.
  • 1 3
 Transition bottle rocket with a motor??
  • 1 0
 Are you aware of their (Bird) range of bikes? This is an electronic version of those, not the outdated bottlerocket.
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