New direct-sales mountain bike brand Bird ruffles some feathers with its killer value 650b hardtail
Bird is a new direct-sales mountain bike brand and the Zero hardtail is the very first model to roll off the assembly line. Bird’s goal is simple: produce great bikes at killer prices delivered straight to your door. Sounds familiar? You’ve probably heard of Vitus and YT Industries, both of which use similar models and featured in our Bike of the Year 2014 review. The key difference with Bird is that it’s based right here in the UK.
With a focus on trail riding rather than pure XC, the Zero.1 gets a slack-ish 67° head angle and a 140mm-travel fork. And because Bird is a new bike brand with zero historical baggage, it has dived straight in with 650b wheels. There are no wacky aluminium tubing profiles and the frame uses a tapered head tube combined with 142x12mm bolt-thru dropouts to keep it nice and stiff front to back. To add a modicum of comfort, the rear stays aren’t super chunky and the angle between the seat and chainstays has been kept tight to help minimise harshness. Tyre clearance is also very generous, and because the gear cables are shrouded in full-length outer and tucked neatly up under the top tube, they shouldn’t gunk up instantly when it rains. The frame also features Stealth routing for a dropper post.
There are five stock builds to choose from and all use the same 6061 aluminium frame as the Zero.1 tested here. You also get a ton of custom spec options so you can pick your handlebar width, stem length and tyres, or upgrade the drivetrain to a 1×10 set-up. And with prices starting at £1,175 for the entry-level Zero.4, Bird has a Zero hardtail to suit most budgets.
One of the key upgrades over the £1,400 Zero.3 is the RCT3 damper in the RockShox Revelation fork. The benefit isn’t just the extra adjustment, though that obviously helps; it’s more to do with how the damper deals with bigger hits. The RL tends to choke on big square-edge hits, while the RCT3 will swallow bumps for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The Revelation is also way more sensitive than the X-Fusion Sweep on the NS, so you have heaps more front-end grip and way less arm-pump.
Every aspect of the specification trumps the NS. The hollow-forged XT cranks are stiffer, the shift action lighter and the XT brakes more consistent than the Avids. Even the tyre choice is marginally better, but then we would say that as we picked the Maxxis Minion DHF and Ardent combo ourselves from the numerous custom build options. They even came set up tubeless with sealant at no extra cost.
The Race Face grips and Charge Scoop saddle are both mbr test winners, so we know they’re great. Also, the wide 760mm bar really opens up the cockpit and helps with the riding position, as the reach isn’t very generous even on the size L frame.
From the very first ride we had problems with the chain dropping off the XT chainrings and getting wedged between the granny ring and the ISCG tabs on the bottom bracket. This happened several times before we wedged it in good and proper, bending three links in the chain as a result. Thanks to our super-helpful local bike shop, Pedal and Spoke, we were up and running again in no time, but even with the shorter chain the drivetrain was still really noisy. With hindsight we should have gone with the 1×10 set-up.
Being more than a kilogram lighter than the NS, the Bird leaves it for dead on the climbs and accelerates like stink out of corners. It also has a better overall riding position even though it’s a little bit shorter in the front end. There’s definitely more high-frequency vibration through the frame, though, so at the bottom of rough trails you feel pain in your feet rather than your hands. Pretty much the polar opposite of the NS…
For a fledgling brand Bird has done a great job with the Zero.1. It’s light and easy to flick around, and even though the geometry’s not particularly cutting edge, this is still a fun trail bike that riders will instantly gel with. Where the Zero.1 really stands out is the build kit and all those custom options on offer at no extra cost. It’s simply incredible to have that much choice at your fingertips. It just a same that we had issues with the chain derailing and getting wedged between the ISCG tabs, but Bird is already working on a guard that bolts onto the ISCG tabs to stop the chain getting jammed up.