High single pivot suspension designs have long been used in the downhill world, and with a couple of successful new bikes debuting over the last year that employ that layout, they're especially hot right now. But with only a few exceptions, mid-travel bikes have largely stuck to a more traditional four-bar system. Owen Pemberton and Alastair Beckett of Forbidden Bike Company are looking to change that with their yet-to-be-named 130mm-travel, 29'' wheeled trail bike that gets the high pivot, idler pulley treatment.
Pemberton and Beckett have both been in the mountain bike industry for many years now, and Pemberton actually had a large role in one of the newest high single pivot downhill bikes that recently debuted before he left to start his own project. From that to a small start-up is a big change, but it's one that sounds like he's looked forward to for a while now.
''We want to be a smaller brand that's really focused on a specific customer, which are guys like you and I. We want to make a slightly unconventional bike that I think is the best tool for the job,'' he explained when I asked why the shift from a relatively large company to doing his own thing, which is obviously a whole lot riskier.
But with the risk comes a certain amount of freedom that can't be found when you have to answer to other people. ''So, it's risky to do it. I was nervous about people accepting a high pivot trail bike, but as a small brand, we don't need a lot of people to accept it,'' Pemberton said. ''We're sort of a little insulated like that. But the more I ride it, and the more other people ride it... People are getting stoked.''
Pemberton knows that his creation won't be the lightest out there, but it's meant to be a heavy-hitting trail bike that can take some abuse.
Of course, the bottom line counts no matter how big or small a company is, but Forbidden Bike Company's size means that Pemberton doesn't have to compromise as much as he would have if his new creation was joining fifty-plus other bikes in a thick catalog: ''When you're looking to appeal to as wide a range of people as possible, which is what a larger brand always has to be looking to do, then some things just don't make the cut that you might want to do.''
''It could be because it's just going to be a bit different, or because it'll make people question why or what's going on, then it can be too risky to go down that route. That's when we were thinking, 'We can do that now; we're in a position where we can take those risks.''
Details. And yes, the 'V7' etched into the suspension bits means that Pemberton is on his seventh version of the linkage.
But if a high single pivot is such a great layout, why haven't we seen more pedal-friendly bikes employ that design? ''The perception is that a high pivot is a downhill-focused design, but it doesn't have to be. It's actually a very adaptable design, and you can tailor all aspects of its ride characteristics; you can tailor it much more than you can any other suspension design out there,'' he replied when I put that question to him. ''And, if you think about it, it wasn't that long ago that we all had front derailleurs on our bikes, and you can't do an idler pulley with a front derailleur. That, to me, is why it probably hasn't been tried in the past, because you couldn't make it work.''
Now that we're rid of front derailleurs, will we see a plethora of high single pivot bikes hit the market? ''Hopefully, some of those other brands will see what we're doing and it'll catch on. I don't care. I don't mind if everyone is riding around on high pivot, really playful and fast bikes in a few years. It means everyone is having a better time.''
Piggyback shock and room for both a large-sized bottle and a tool kit that attaches to the underside of the top tube.
''When I started this project, I wasn't starting a high pivot project. I looked at a bunch of different designs; some four-bars, I looked at some short, twin-link four bars, Horst Link-style four-bars, low single pivots, high single pivots,'' Pemberton said while stressing that he wasn't a high single pivot devotee from the get-go. ''I did a bunch of work because I had the time to go through it all from a clean slate and which one is going to give me what I desire in suspension characteristics, but also looking at the whole package as well and how it could fit together.''
''Every time I looked at all these factors that I had and wanted to tick off, the high pivot came out on top all the time.''
We'll have a detailed look at the new bike down the road when they're ready to share more information, including angles and suspension specifics. Forbidden Bike Company will have production models available this coming spring.