Balancing power and weight in a thrilling package, the Forestal Cyon is at the cutting-edge of trail bike tech
Recently we rode the new Trek Fuel EXe, with its smooth, silent, unobtrusive motor and uncorrupted handling. If that piqued your interest in the emerging category of mid-power e-bikes, but you’re looking for something a little more exclusive than a Trek, then young upstart, Forestal, might have just the bike for you.
Need to know
- Lightweight e-bike with 150mm travel, front and rear
- 60Nm torque from the Bafang-built EonDrive motor, paired with a 360Wh battery
- Carbon frame with asymmetric reinforcement strut, single pivot swingarm and linkage driven shock
- Full colour display integrated into top tube gives GPS mapping and enough data to make your head spin
But before diving into the details, first an introduction. Forestal is based in the Pyrenean tax haven of Andorra, home to one of the steepest and gnarliest World Cup DH tracks on the circuit, as well as one of downhill’s winningest brands; Commencal. It’s a strange place, with only two roads in and out, a myriad of shops selling booze, cigarettes and luxury goods, and a stack of tightly racked high rises crammed into the slender valley like an alpine Hong Kong.
The brand’s beginnings were small but its ambitions are anything but modest. Situated in one of the main streets of Andorra la Vella, in just a few years it has grown from a seed of an idea into a serious operation with a range of three mountain bikes, two urban bikes and a number of further models on the way.
For its headquarters, it has repurposed a former car dealership, where a number of glass-fronted showrooms overlook the street and wide ramps spiral between the many floors. Each level has a specific purpose – warehousing, paint, assembly, QC, prototyping and manufacturing, R&D and testing – and on the ground floor is the design and engineering team, quartered next to a huge empty space that is at the very heart of Forestal’s considerable expansion plans.
A new type of carbon manufacturing – quick, clean and zero waste
It is here that it plans to bring the manufacturing of its frames. Spools of carbon sheet will be cut and pressed into moulds – milled on giant CNC machines in the basement – by a pair of high-tech and incredibly expensive bespoke robots. The thermoplastic construction will remove the need for painstaking lay-ups and long curing times in an oven. Instead the material will be heated and compressed into the moulds by the robot as it goes, and the two halves of the frame will then be joined along the seam.
It’s quick, it requires minimal labour, zero shipping and the material can be recycled – both off-cuts and old or warrantied frames – removing one of the biggest criticisms of carbon manufacturing. Such techniques are fairly commonplace in the automotive and aerospace industries, but to my knowledge, US brand Guerilla Gravity is the only company in the bike market using a similar process.
Once up and running, the plan is to have those robots pumping out 1,000 frames a month, which is huge considering the premium price of Forestal’s products. And I have little doubt Forestal can’t pull off the plan – it’s already gone from nothing to building 2,000 complete bikes in just a couple of years.
Single-pivot simplicity with the control of a linkage
For now though, Forestal’s trail-focused Cyon uses a full carbon frame that’s made in Asia (the meticulous paint jobs are applied once the frames reach Andorra). It takes a few cues from other brands, such as the single-pivot swingarm and an asymmetric shock brace, yet it’s no cut and paste facsimile, and it manages to find its own unique style that’s visually appealing.
And there’s more than meets the eye; hidden behind the swingarm is the Twin Levity linkage, that controls the leverage rate through the travel and drives the shock via a yoke that splits around the seat tube.
Within the lissom down tube is a 360Wh battery – on par with competitors from Specialized and Trek – where the cells are stacked horizontally to help reduce the visual bulk. It weighs 1.8kg and reaches 80% charge in just 1hr 24minutes.
A range extender is available that will bring the capacity up to 610Wh if that doesn’t seem like enough. Much like the Specialized Turbo Levo SL and Kenevo SL, the battery is not easily removable – one area where it gets trumped by the new Trek Fuel EXe.
At the base of the down tube is the exclusive Bafang motor, packing 60Nm of torque, 400W peak power and a weight of 1.95kg. Compare that to the TQ motor in the Trek with 50Nm of torque, 300W peak power and a weight of 1.85kg.
It’s been developed intensively by Forestal over the last two years to reduce size, weight and noise while ensuring it has been perfectly calibrated to give a natural ride feel. But this is no done deal; Forestal continues to tune and refine aspects of the motor and the software.
Seeing is believing
It’s a similar story with the Smart Dashboard, housed within the top tube. Here the 3.2in full colour screen gives data on battery life, range, speed and location using the built-in GPS. Further information, such as airtime, power and max g-force are in development, and by hooking it up to a smart device you can see heart rate and other training tools.
Forestal is improving the system and adding functionality on a weekly basis for the touch-screen, but even now it’s by far the most sophisticated e-bike display that I’ve come across. That said, swiping between screens was not as smooth or consistent as a modern smartphone, and it did freeze at one point during my ride (turning it off and on again solved the problem).
Control over the six power modes – Off, Walk, Eco, Sport, Race and Nitro – is via a slim band-style remote. There are a couple of buttons to nudge the power up and down and colour-coded LEDs showing the mode and battery life. At the moment there’s no haptic feedback, so it’s not obvious when you’ve actually pressed a button, but Forestal has an improved controller coming that will address this issue.
Safe, modern geo
Forestal has gone for a safe set of numbers for the geometry and fit across the range of four frame sizes. The Large that I rode had a healthy 480mm reach, relatively conservative 65.5º head angle and tall 345mm BB height. Seat tubes on the Large and XL are on the long side, at 465mm and 500mm respectively, and this limits your options when choosing frame sizes and dropper post lengths.
Forestal has also missed a trick by not incorporating a flip chip at the shock yoke. Adding one would give you the option to run a pedal-friendly BB height for technical climbs, or drop your feet for railing bike park turns.
At £8,499 it’s hard to believe that this is the cheapest Cyon in the range (if you seek more travel and gravity-orientated angles, the entry-level Siryon costs the same amount). As such the spec is mid-tier, with a SRAM GX drivetrain, RockShox Pike Select fork and Super Deluxe Select+ shock.
Wheels are Crankbrothers Synthesis Alloy, brakes are Magura MT5 and the tyres are Panaracer Romero/Aliso. However, specs may vary – my test bike was running Formula Cura brakes, and the bikes I saw being assembled during my visit had Maxxis tyres fitted.
How it rides
Before heading out to Andorra to ride the Forestal, I’d taken a couple of spins on the new Trek Fuel EXe. When I got back home, I went out on the Specialized Kenevo SL, so although this isn’t a direct comparison, I did get a chance to gauge the relative performance of each bike while they were still fresh in the memory.
We began the morning at the finish line for the old World Cup DH track and rode all the way up to the start of the new track, some 1,100m above, using a combination of road, fireroad and singletrack. And right away it was obvious that the Forestal delivers a gutsy punch from its 60Nm motor.
I couldn’t directly compare peak power inputs to the Trek, as that function wasn’t enabled on the dashboard, but Eco mode was more than enough to spin up the first 800m or so of Tarmac, overtaking roadies along the way. As such it felt more than a match for the Trek’s low power setting, which adds around 100w to your output.
Of course comparing the power in the lower modes is immaterial as it’s all down to the calibration, but Forestal is totally up front about the fact that it has tuned the settings to be Andorra-friendly.
In other words, the power could probably be reduced in Eco, for anyone who doesn’t live in such steep terrain. This would obviously improve range. There’s talk of a custom tuning feature becoming available for owners which will let you play with the power levels.
The power increased noticeably as I switched into Sport and then Race for the steeper off-road parts, yet always feeling like a match for the change in gradient. Even on technical sections, laced with root steps, the Cyon never flinched, despatching every tricky rise with impressive ease.
Because the bike is lighter, it’s also much easier to finesse up a series of crux moves using delicate body and pedal inputs than a full-fat e-bike, where brute force and ignorance tend to be the techniques of necessity.
With each step in power comes a faster response time from the motor. The sportier the setting, the quicker the motor engages when you press on the pedals, and the longer it keeps spinning when you ease off the power to time a pedal stroke. Overall, Forestal has done a really good job with the calibration – it’s strong, but it always feels completely natural.
Another standout trait is the brisk acceleration, and the ability to crank along easily above the 25kph limiter. This makes it so much more fun to ride on fast, relatively flat singletrack than a full-fat e-bike, as there’s no invisible wall of resistance. And the extra friction is so minimal that it’s even possible to ride with the motor switched off if you really want to.
What about the noise? Well it’s most noticeable when accelerating, where there’s a whistle that sounds a bit like a kettle boiling on a stove. Louder than the Trek, but quieter than a Specialized.
With the climb out of the way, it was time to see how the Forestal coped with the berms and jumps of Vallnord Bike Park. Ideally I’d want a slacker bike for this sort of terrain, but the Cyon felt stable at speed thanks to good length in the front centre, decent reach and a solid chassis. It was really easy to throw around thanks to the low 17kg weight and poppy suspension, making it a fun bike on smooth bike park trails.
There was sufficient support from the suspension to keep the geometry consistent when loaded up in the turns, and it had a breathtaking penchant for speed. While some of this was down to the rapid Panaracer tyres, there’s no doubt that it’s an easy bike to go fast on.
As we descended further, the trails got rougher, and this is where the cheaper suspension components started to tell. The more basic damping in the Select-level fork and Select + shock just didn’t have the buttery response I’d have liked, skipping across root webs and buzzing through braking bumps. Although, I’m perhaps losing sight of the fact that this was a trail bike being used in enduro bike territory.
By the time we reached the valley floor I had 7% battery remaining. We’d chalked up 1,200m of climbing and covered 30km. Not bad for a couple of hours riding. Over lunch we put the bikes on charge and they were all at 100% by the time we’d finished – the beauty of having a small battery – then we went out and ticked off another 17km with 350m of climbing. For big days in the saddle, then, it will require careful power management or the range extender, but for most riders, there’s ample on-bike charge for a decent length ride.
I’ve been looking forward to riding the Forestal ever since I saw the first renderings a couple of years ago, and now that I've had the chance, I can say that it was absolutely worth the wait. It gives you the superhero powers of an e-bike without ruining the dynamic handling exhilaration of an analogue bike. The tech is perfectly integrated so as not to overwhelm the experience, and the bike itself is impressively engineered. I’d love to see a lower BB (or geometry adjust) and a shorter seat tube, and the suspension doesn’t quite match the premium expectations, but it’s still a blast to ride. I can’t wait to put it up against the Trek Fuel EXe, the Fazua-equipped Transition or Pivot and whatever else comes to market over the next few months.