The long 464mm chainstay length in the XL bike - which grows to around 480mm at sag and gets even longer as you push into the travel - is something you can feel straight away. Initiating a manual or a bunny-hop takes a bit of re-calibration; it requires slower timing and a more forceful, exaggerated style. The same's true on short-sharp jump faces where it's harder to pop off the lip at first. It's not like trying to hop an e-bike though, and once you get used to it it's less of an issue.
The flip side of this long back end is that it puts a bit more weight on the front wheel with a neutral riding position. That makes it easy to carry speed through fast, flat corners without fear of the front wheel washing out. It's possible to overstate this - it still pays to put a bit of pressure through the grips to get closer to a 50:50 weight distribution and keep the front wheel gripping, but if you're riding tired and you're not proactively weighting the front wheel the balance is better than other bikes. It's one of the easiest bikes to rip fast, flat or off-camber corners without the front end washing out.
Cornering the Dreadnought has its quirks too. Because the Dreadnought's chainstay gets longer as you push into a berm, it's a bit harder when you actually want to transfer weight to the rear wheel when slapping into a short, sharp catch-turn. I notice the dependable front-end traction more often than I notice this cornering quirk, however, and overall I'd say the Dreadnought is one of the best cornering bikes once you're used to it. It makes me want to try longer chainstays (460mm plus) on more bikes.
Another area where the long rear center was an occasional hindrance was on steep and awkward technical descents. The long dynamic chainstay reduces the breakover angle
- the angle from the rear contact patch to the bash guard - so it grounds out more easily than you'd expect given the BB height. This meant that on one familiar track with a few steep knuckles, I had to consciously unweight the bike (a bit like dropping into a quarter pipe on a BMX) where other bikes can just roll through. Like with the manuals, this is something you can adapt to by learning where you need to go light to avoid grounding out, but it's not ideal if you ride a lot of awkward, technical terrain. It's worth remembering that the chainstay length grows with larger sizes while the BB height stays the same, so the breakover angle will be steeper on smaller sizes. I can only report on how the XL rides.
On the plus side, when tackling steep trails I like how the high-single-pivot responds to braking. I didn't notice any real harshness under braking despite the high anti-rise suspension, which could be down to my fast rebound settings preventing it from packing down despite the brake squat. Better still, the anti-rise causes the bike to hunker down at the rear like a Sumo wrestler when hard on the brakes, which means there's less brake dive and a more stable platform on steep descents. This could help explain why Fabien Barel and Connor Fearon used braking arms designed to increase anti-rise
I rode the Dreadnought a few times at Bike Park Wales and Innerleithen DH trails, where there's a lot of fast and rough terrain. As expected, the Dreadnought really starts to come into its own here. There's tons of stability when battering through rocks at speed, and it's easy to trust the grip in loose turns. While the bike can be hard to pop off tiny lips, I had no complaints sailing off bigger takeoffs or pulling for natural gaps. More to the point, the suspension does a great job of smoothing out the small to mid-sized bumps. Wrist-sized roots are softened with very little feedback or loss of traction. Holding rooty off-camber high lines is more about technique and commitment than anything, but I felt able to commit and make them stick more often than I'd expect.
But when the terrain gets really chunky - big rocks or heavy landings - there's no hiding the fact this bike only has about 150mm of vertical travel. It's not that that it bottoms out much, in fact I only used full travel occasionally, but that you can feel the very progressive final 25% of the travel quite regularly on chunky terrain, which sends a lot of feedback through to your feet. I tried increasing the compression damping (low- and high-speed) until almost closed in order to absorb more energy earlier in the travel and avoid the firm ramp at the end, but at a certain point this increases harshness on smaller impacts and robs speed over repeated bumps. A coil spring would increase the mid-stroke support further, possibly meaning less of a sudden ramp towards the end. But the fundamental problem is the rear wheel can only move upwards by 150mm. It's not the always-forgiving ride you might expect from the high pivot design and the enduro/park bike designation.
That's not to say the high pivot design doesn't deliver - the rearward axle path definitely seems to reduce harshness over small-to-medium bumps, especially when compared to other 150mm travel bikes. But on big impacts it can only absorb so much. It's not that the suspension is harsh, but given the idler design has a few drawbacks I'd like a little more travel to fully unlock the benefits on the roughest descents.
I've been riding this bike a lot over the last few months. In that time I've had two main issues:
Firstly, the rear shock eyelet bolt kept working loose even when torqued up to the recommended torque spec (or tighter). On one of the first rides, it worked loose to the point that it started rubbing on the carbon shock tunnel, where it caused some damage to the frame. This didn't cause any dramatic play, so I only noticed this when the suspension started to feel sticky and harsh. Loctite on the threads and regular checking of the bolt has solved the issue for now, but it's something to keep on top of.
Secondly, on two occasions the derailleur has gone into the spokes and ripped off, taking out several spokes with it and destroying the wheel, hanger and chain. Both times I was riding in the smaller end of the cassette, without pedaling or shifting, and without hitting anything obvious. On the second occasion, it happened in the middle of a smooth berm, so I'm sure I didn't hit the derailleur on anything. The second time, the derailleur hanger rotated such that it damaged the carbon swingarm too.
The question is, was this just a fluke or does the high pivot design, with a large amount of chain growth in the lower span, make this more likely? That's tough to answer - I've deflated the shock and compressed the suspension fully in all the gears, and I can't see any obvious problems: the cage has plenty of scope to extend and spool out enough chain. On the other hand, it's very rare to see two derailleurs break in the space of a few months, but broken derailleurs are a fact of life and it's not beyond the realms of possibility that two freak accidents could occur in the amount of riding I've done.
I've since rotated the chain guide clockwise so the lower chainline is more taut and has less growth. I've had no issues in the dozen or so rides since doing this, but whether that has anything to do with adjusting the guide, I don't know. Forbidden say this isn't a problem they've heard customers complaining of.