Nothing new about the Firebird. It’s been a top contender in the best 6″ AM category for a few years now. I reviewed the FB when it debuted at I-bike four years ago. I really wanted to like this bike and if you read my review there was a lot I did like…. it just wasn’t very plush.
So four years later and I’ve never had the chance to ride the Firebird again. So this year, after reading many reports of folks loving their FBs I figured I should give it another chance to redeem itself.
I picked up a medium with an RP23 shock (just as I did in 2008) to try and keep things as equal as possible and headed for the shuttle. We did the technical chunkfest of Skyline to East Leg on this run to get a good feel for descending ability and its ability to take squared off and consecutive hits (same run we took on the original test run 4 years ago). Some things did not change. The bike is still beautifully built, laterally stiff, still climbs and pedals with the efficiency that escapes most bikes with this much travel and burliness, and it still has some noisy chain rattle issues going on around the front derailleur in the rough. I love, LOVE, a solid, quiet bike. I want to hear the thump thump beat of big tires pounding out a raucous drum riff off the rocks when I’m descending through this kind of gnarl. And that’s all. It also had a creak in the headset area that was distracting. I know it may not effect the performance of the bike…. but it effects my overall experience while riding. Points deducted for noisiness.
So the big question. Was it plush? The simple answer is yes, it was much more plush than the first FB I rode back in ’08. Was it as plush as my coil sprung Delirium T? No, but few things short of a full on downhill bike are. One of the things contributing to the overall improvement this time was the 180 Float fork (I was told later at the booth that it was lowered to 170mm). The Fox handled the oncoming chunder and junk with confidence and authority. While not as plush as a 180 coil fork it did not wag its head, flex, or transmit excessive harshness back into the handle bars. It tracked true and the rear end followed suit only feeling a little overwhelmed on the roughest of hits and fast consecutive shots.
Float 180 lowered to 170mm was a good match for the rear end.
I was reminded why I like 26 inch tires in this kind of riding. The whole package just felt so compact and responsive. In fact I liked the Pivot quite a bit (other than the noise) and really doubted when craigstr kept hollering up at me how much fun the Carbine 275 was and how much I was going to enjoy it. Could a Carbon bike based off the same Carbine 26er we rode last year come anywhere close to exceeding what I was feeling on the Pivot?