WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
These are the components enduro riders dream of. The
carbon DT Swiss 1550 wheels are snappy and lightweight.
The upgraded star-ratchet mechanism gives the hubs twice
the engagement points and is a must for anyone who rides
DT Swiss hubs.
The Thomson cockpit is among the best we’ve ever used,
featuring lightweight performance and rock-solid durability. The new, 31-inch-wide Thomson Downhill bar has a perfect
sweep that we instantly loved. And, of course, there is the SRAM XX1 drivetrain that we have reviewed in this
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Getting it to the top: While it’s clearly not what the Firebird is designed for, this bike floats up climbs well
when it’s sporting a lightweight build kit like this one. With almost 7 inches of travel, this machine is gravity
hungry, but it doesn’t require a shuttle if that’s not an option. Still, if you
have the means (a shuttle-driving friend), this bike is
more fun on a ride that has more descending
Pedaling: The dw-Link suspension design
has a considerable
amount of anti-squat
built in, so it motors well. The suspension
tends to ride in the top end of travel, especially
during smooth pedaling efforts. We ran the low-speed
compression damper right in the middle of its range, and it prevented
any noticeable pedal bob. With a properly set up shock, the Firebird is a near-perfect pedaler.
Cornering: The 14-inch bottom bracket might be high on paper, but the center of gravity on the Firebird feels remarkably low. Carving corners is a breeze, especially at speed. The
geometry has a remarkably balanced feel that puts the rider
in a very neutral position, making it easy to maneuver on the
bike. While the suspension might seem complex, it’s designed
for all-out stiffness, and it’s readily apparent in the ride quality. We couldn’t detect a note of flex, even during hard cornering efforts.
Descending: This is where the Bird puts on its game face.
The 6.7 inches of travel lay waste to technical trails and
inspire confidence on sections that would make lesser bikes
quiver. It’s not a downhill-specific bike, but your senses will
insist otherwise when the trail gets dicey.
The dw-Link suspension has a very bottomless feel that
tends to come through when you really need it. While the
anti-squat tendencies help pedaling, they don’t affect the
deep-in-the-stroke manners of the design. As a nice bonus,
the Firebird is remarkably playful on descents. Hopping,
manualing and maneuvering this bike over obstacles is
downright fun. The front end comes off the ground easily,
and the rear end is quick to follow. When we think of fun
and “flickable” trailbikes, this will be the new benchmark.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The Cane Creek AngleSet is a finicky beast. It creaks
and cracks when it’s not set up properly, and it’s almost
impossible for anyone but a Cane Creek-trained professional mechanic to get it right. We’re torn here, because the 1-degree slacker head tube angle helps handling, but it’s not a
The SRAM XX1 is an impressive first-generation drivetrain that could revolutionize this category of long-travel trailbikes. That said, the shifting is solid but not perfect. Fitting
11 cogs in the cassette results in slightly temperamental shifting, no matter what the testing charts and graphs say. While
this drivetrain shows incredible promise, the design will no
doubt see further improvements in the next few generations.
We’ve already made it clear that we would recommend
the Firebird. It’s an outstanding all-mountain bike that can
be pushed into enduro or Super D riding and racing with
ease. It also has the versatility to do some light-duty downhill in the hands of a skilled rider. Our build kit proved to
be a perfect match for the Firebird, but it comes at a price.
If you’re into the SRAM XX1 kit, you’ll certainly be an
early adopter. It will see improvements the same way that
any technology does, but even this first generation of the
XX1 works really, really well.