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Bikeradar reviews the Aeris AM9, 4.5/5, shortlists it as a key bike of 2018

Bikeradar awards a 4.5/5 score to the Aeris AM9 – read the full review here

“A sublime riding, pocket friendly trail and enduro slayer”

Longer travel 29ers really suit the rugged, rocky terrain around Peille, France

“It’s stable and fast, while still being nippy and agile. It complements and, really, flatters my riding style and technique. While it was in my garage it was without doubt my go-to bike and it’s not an empty garage either.”

“I’d honestly say that were I to go out tomorrow with my own credit card, the AM9 would be right towards the top of my shopping list, especially considering that I could get the whole bike for the same price as the frame of the other bike I so wish to own (the new Transition Scout Carbon…).”

A classic four-bar linkage

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Ella Conolly wins the U21 category of the Enduro World Series riding her Bird Aeris 145!

Ella Conolly joined the Bird Cycleworks race team after she won her category at ‘Ard Rock enduro riding a Bird Aeris 140.  She then posted the fastest overall female time at the Tweedlove enduro race aboard her brand new Aeris 145.  Here’s her story from her first Enduro World Series (EWS) race in Finale Ligure.

Three months ago I was on the start line of my last XC World Cup. Having decided that cross country wasn’t where I wanted to be, I made a late season switch to enduro with the help of Tracy Moseley. After a few weeks of racing in the UK I was then given the opportunity to enter the final round of the 2017 Enduro World Series in Finale Ligure. Who could say no?! My goal for this trip was to keep it fun. Enjoy riding my bike, not put too much pressure on myself and to decide if enduro was something I’d like to peruse in 2018. The last thing I expected was to be coming home having won.

Me and my Bird Aeris 145 at the top of the ‘Nato Base’ in the days leading up to the EWS

 

A week before practice was due to start I packed up my Bird Aeris 145 into a bike bag (with lots of padding to keep her safe during the flight) and started the journey. After a long drive, a taxi, a flight, a bus and two trains along with a lot of lugging bags around I arrived in Finale. This gave me a few days to get used to the loose, rocky, dusty trails (a huge contrast to the Scottish mud) and to fuel up on plenty of coffee, pizza and gelato. Once I was out there I met up with a couple of other British girls who have been racing enduro for a few years now; they gave me endless advice the whole trip and were so patient with my constant questions.

 

The race consisted of seven stages split over two days. Stages 1-3 were ridden the first day and stages 4-7 the second day. These included of some of the best trails I’ve ever ridden and often I found myself grinning ear to ear whilst still trying to concentrate on the stage. During the two days of practice, uplift is permitted on tarmac sections of transitions to help get to stages. On race day the 50 or so kilometres had to be ridden without uplift which, in the hot Italian sun, felt like a pretty epic day out on the bike with some of the transitions taking almost 2 hours. Luckily the Bird Aeris pedals just as well as it descends which made the long distances way more enjoyable. There was then the added pressure of having start times for each stage. This wasn’t something I’ve had to consider before and I completely misjudged the pace I needed to ride the transitions, going at more of an XC race pace rather than conserving my energy for the stage, which I’ve now discovered takes a toll after that distance!

Race day 1

Stage 1 was from the highest peak in the area and descended almost all of the way back to sea level. At 8.5km it was by far the longest stage I have ever raced and I found it really physically demanding. Over this distance there was real mixture of trail; tight corners, rocky river beds and some proper fast sections interspersed with the occasional uphill sprint. In practice we stopped regularly to look at especially technical sections as well as giving our bodies a rest. But come race day there was no stopping. By the time I was a couple of kilometres into the stage my body was really starting to complain. Hands, feet, legs and arms were all screaming and my primary concern became staying on the bike. After a couple of silly crashes up the top I settled into a bit of a rhythm and before I knew it I’d completed my first Enduro World Series stage.

 

Getting to the top of stage 2 meant a long pedal. With every corner turned we were presented with another long stretch of uphill fire road. Thankfully the rest of the stages were considerably shorter than the first, all coming in at under 3km. Stage 2 consisted of a lot more rocks and had the most vertical drop per kilometre. Oh my I’ve never had such bad arm pump in my life! I was so relived to get to the bottom without stalling on any rocks.

 

Stage 3 was the final stage of the first day and ended almost back in finale. The top section was fast and flowy but this quickly turned into some seriously tight, dusty corners on a steep hill that got more and more washed out with every rider. Towards the bottom there was one awkward set of steps to navigate down before the final few loose, rocky flat corners.

 

We then had a short pedal along the road into finale where we were given our times for the day. Much to my surprise I was sitting in second only trailing by 9 seconds. Going into the second day of racing it was all still to play for.

 

Some of the U21 girls enjoying a well deserved ice-cream after day one of racing. The grin on my face in this photo was a characteristic that stuck the whole trip. What a fantastic group to ride with!

Race day 2

Waking up on Sunday my body was tired from the two days of practice and one race day we had already completed but I couldn’t wait to get out and try and claw back those precious seconds.

To get to the top of every stage on Sunday there was an alpine style climb up the road. Without fail, every transition that day had beautiful views of either mountains or sea as we snaked our way up into the mountains which distracted from the constant uphill gradient. Stage 4 picked up where the previous day had left off; more rocks! This time we were faced with some more rocky sections of trail, littered with boulders and mixed in with some smooth single track.

 

Stage 5 was probably my favourite stage of the event. It was fast and really required me to push my comfort zone in terms of how much I was prepared to let the brakes off. Every now and again the gradient of the trail changed sharply and we found ourselves sprinting up a hill. At the end of the stage there was an awkward corner that caused me a few problems as my bar clipped a tree and proceeded to tip me over the bars.

 

The penultimate stage of the race was something I’d have expected to find in an XC race. Stage 6 started off on a downhill gradient with a few rocky sections but quickly flattened out and turned into a full on pedal. I used the frequent uphills to my advantage, making full use of my fitness from the years of XC training, putting a fair amount of time into the other girls. At the end of the stage there was no time to recover- it was straight back on the bike to pedal up to the final stage of the day.

 

At the top of stage 7 there was a mix of different emotions. Some were obviously very relived to only have one stage standing between them and a relax on the beach. But I didn’t want the day to end!

The top of the final stage started with some corners on a fairly gentle gradient which required one final sprint before opening up into the last technical section of the day. Here we were rewarded with an amazing view of the glistening gulf of Genoa. The crowds lining the final part were insane which certainly carried me down the steep track better than I thought I’d ever ride it. If you’ve ever seen photos from the EWS in Finale I can guarantee one would have been of this ‘iconic’ view of the last section of DH men with the sea in the background.

 

Having reached the bottom of the final stage I honestly had no idea if that days efforts had been enough to secure my second place or move up into first. The ride along the coast to find out was nerve racking. But, knowing I’d enjoyed every second of riding over the past few days, I had already achieved my primary goal. The sense of achievement in just completing an event like that is massive.

Riding through mountains felt like a proper adventure which I absolutely loved.

On handing in our timing chips I couldn’t quite believe it. My name was on the timing screen in first place.

 

 

Later that evening me and my Bird stood proudly on the podium. This bike took everything the EWS threw at it and I had 100% confidence in it all weekend.

I think it’s safe to say my first ever Enduro World Series was a success! I’m still absolutely buzzing and cannot wait to do more. Plans for the 2018 season are already in process…

 

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Enduro Mountain Bike Magazine review the Aeris 145

Enduro Mag rather liked the Aeris 145! Read the full review here:

“With no real minus points from us on this bike it is quite a rarity, it is on-point when it comes to pricing, looks fantastic, mixes standard aggressive geometry with forward thinking length and seat angle and rides all terrain just so well. For someone who either wants an everyday trail smasher, occasional or obsessed enduro racer we feel this bike really is a perfect choice.”

 

“On full tilt and fired into corners, this Aeris just begs to be ridden harder and faster, making the rider feel like they are out for that EWS win! Our tester found heaps of joy nailing the roughest of sections and firing off large lips on this bike, admitting he was very surprised at its ability in all situations. This is one fast aggressive bike on the downhills that leaves a true smile on the rider’s face.”

Build your Aeris 145 here:

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Mountain Biking UK & Bikeradar – Zero TR review

Mountain Biking UK awarded the Zero TR 4/5 stars. Read the full review here

“The long wheelbase and low bottom bracket make the Bird an unshakable carving machine when you’re straining your head round for a corner exit on a high-speed sweeper. The extended front end/ultra-short stem based Forward Geometry style handling means you can push the Zero a hell of a long way before it starts to feel sketchy and it’ll hook up in corners and pull off split second saves all the way down whatever black run or ragged edge backcountry singletrack you’re attacking.”

Build your Zero TR here.

 

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Mountain Biking UK (MBUK) & Bikeradar 5/5* review – Zero AM

Mountain Biking UK awards the Zero AM with a perfect 5/5 score.  Read the full review here.

“The long wheelbase (1,223mm on the XL size) and planted front end help the Zero AM rip through rooty, technical sections with a confidence and verve that make it feel more like a full-sus than other aggro hardtails from KonaRagley and Commencal we tested alongside it.”

“When combined with the superb parts list, this translates into an astoundingly fast, confident and fun trail bike. Put simply, the Bird gives you the best shot at keeping up with your fully-suspended mates on gnarly trails, or even stealing their Strava KOMs.”

Their only minor criticism was that the bike would benefit from wider rims… which are now available on all models!

Build your Zero AM now

 

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Big, Big or Biggerer? New wheel options available now.

At Bird we’re fond of pushing something good when we believe in it fully. We’ve always been fans of big rims, and we’re happy to announce 3 new wheels for the line up, available going forward.

30mm M502 DT Options and 35mm Hope options now available.
For those who’ve never tried it, widening your rims has some pretty awesome effects on tyre stability, which lets you run pressures you probably never thought you could. Lower tyre pressures in turn offer much greater traction and stability to the ride, as well as comfort. Its a win-win situation. Not only that, but lower pressures don’t slow you up, infact many studies have concluded that lower tyre pressures don’t increase rolling resistance by any notable degree. The ability to deform to the contours of the trail give huge increases in grip, without notable disadvantages.
Recently there’s been a few ‘Plus’ bikes cropping up, well more than a few! We got in early with the plus testing, and gave it a punt, but it didn’t really work out for us… I’m not going to get into a dissection of Plus tyres though, thats a fad already fading, so we’ll move on.
Instead lets look at what is commonly becoming known as the ‘Wide Trail’ format. This was pioneered by perennial tyre gurus Maxxis, as a better standard than the current non-standard for normal tyres. What you need to understand I guess is that normal tyres have no rim standard to go with. Rims, specifically the width, change the tyre profile. That changes the ride. Over the last few years we’ve seen common rim widths rise from as narrow as 17mm to 30mm – nearly a doubling of the rim width, but with no consideration of such for the way a tyre sits on the rim. The wider the rim, the taller and squarer the tyre becomes, both at the cap (the tread bit) but also the sidewalls (the bit you always put slashes in). Squaring up the tyre has disadvantages and advantages:
Disadvantages:
  • The tread can become too flat, increasing drag, and meaning the side lugs run out of grip too soon, or are too ‘edgy’.
  • Sidewalls can be perilously exposed beyond the tread, making tears more likely.
Advantages:
  • Squarer sides give better support, so reduce squirm and squish, particularly in corners, at low pressures.
  • low pressures available thanks to point 1, give increased traction at the tread

What is Wide Trail?

Wide Trail (WT) is the moniker Maxxis gave to tyres designed specifically for wider rims. They are NOT plus tyres. Hell, they aren’t even half-plus in many ways. Plus is a new direction that sets its own path, while WT evolves the existing with an updated way of thinking. When Maxxis launched Wide Trail tyres, they also stated ‘these tyres are optimised for 35mm internal rims’. As we’ll discuss later optimising is not the same as set in stone, but at least they made their stand, they called a rim width out and said ‘this is it’. Someone, somewhere, thought about the their best combination of the variables available and made a call. That is the big deal here. Plus on the other hand is not so well defined. Why does this matter? Well I guess it does for many reasons, but really it matters because theres a range of rim widths and bike designs for Wide Trail that works properly, and a range that doesn’t, and thats kind of it. For the first time someone is saying ‘This tyre, this rim.’ No messing, no pretending its the best new thing ever, just a statement of intent. Stick within the boundaries and you’re all good.
Wide trail in essence is tyres deigned for 35mm rims. Bigger tyres, designed for 35mm rims. Thats it. No magic, no marketing BS. Just thoughtful design.

Why Should I Care?

OK, not the first time I’ve used that title in a Facebook Note, I apologise for the repetition. You should care though because Wide Trail, and the many variants of that which other manufacturers, not allowed to call their tyres ‘wide trail’, but serving the same purpose, IS the future.
I’m quite lucky I guess. I get to try things much earlier than most people. I’ve had WT tyres since before most of the people reading this knew it was even a thing. And I like them. I like them a lot, because it serves a very obvious purpose, improving grip without too many compromises. Thats something I, and I guess you, can buy into.
Boost, or not so much?
One point worth noting, but not labouring is Boost, and what it offers, or rather doesn’t. You may notice that our new bikes, the Aeris 120 and 145 are both Boost-ed. Boost is basically, for those who don’t know or really care, a 6mm wider axle spacing than a normal bike as has been for ever. For the longest time the rear axle spacing on your bike was effectively a 142mm spacing (even if it was 135 QR – its the same in essence) but now its moved to 148mm, so 6mm more. Both sides of the bike at the back are 3mm wider, which gives more room for your tyres… Sort of.
The sort of comes from the fact that 3mm either way is, well, not that much. Squeezing in all the stuff you need to race an FS bike meant that when you accounted for mud, and I mean proper, British mud, even a 2.3 was a pinch on most bikes, impossible (even in the dry) on some. Boost translates to 0.19 of an inch either side, so 0.38 Inches in total extra width. Supposing you had a 2.3 tyre in a non-boost frame, you could move to a 2.68 tyre in a boost frame easily enough. Well nearly… Boost however doesn’t account for lack of change in q-factor, essentially the width of the cranks at the tip, so even though you get a theoretical .38 inch gain, when you take into account the fact that you need to cut the chain-stays in to their original width at the crank tips for the unchanged q-factor, you’ll find boost doesn’t really offer you that gain. Its a little less. Let’s call it 0.3 inches for now. Boost gets you to about a 2.6 tyre in terms of modern bike design without significant messing about. Now you maybe start to see why 2.5/2.6 is probably the future? Sure we can mess about with oddball split chain-stays etc. to get a 2.8 or 3.0 tyre in there, but ask yourself (especially if you’ve ever owned a very tight clearance FS bike) ‘Why didn’t you do that for me before?’. There are good, and not so good reasons, but what you need to take away from this is that Boost doesn’t equal plus. Not even close.

The New Options (on your next Bird)

So heres the fun bit, for me at least. We’ve got some new options coming online for you, that we’re really happy about. 3 new wheel-sets that offer versatility and future-proofing, as well as being pretty damn cool among your riding buddies 🙂 They are:
  • DT 350 Hubs with DT Swiss M502 30mm* rims
  • Hope Pro 4 Hubs with DT Swiss M502 30mm* rims – coming soon
  • Hope Hoops Pro 4 Hubs with Hope 35W 35mm* rims
* Given widths are internal width.
I should say at this point I am a wheel geek. Proper geeky. Nothing gets me excited like a new wheel to build. For me wheels are the my favourite bit of a bike to perfect after shock tunes. I leave the really tricky stuff to Dan, and simply lean over his shoulder occasionally and shout things like ‘It needs to be slacker’, or ‘Make it prettier’. My technical input is limited by my lack of technical FEA/CAD/Super-techie-engineering-knowledge at best in such matters, but when it comes to wheels, thats a whole, big, other story.

30 vs 35?

We’re launching** wheels in 30 and 35mm widths, and that’s where it’s important to understand what that means for you, the bike buyer. Specifically what’s the difference? Well 30mm will run current and WT tyres, while 35mm won’t really. Its not to say your wheels won’t go round, or you won’t enjoy it, but I think the cut off for non-WT tyres is around 32mm internal width. Bigger than this and the drawbacks begin to outweigh the benefits on non-WT tyres. They get too square, and the sidewalls too exposed. It’s a word of caution I guess. If you’re going wide, 30mm is as wide as you can go and still have all the tyre choices available to you. At 35mm you are committing to WT as far as I can see. Thats not necessarily an issue of course, as long as you don’t mind the cost. While we’re starting to bring in WT tyres direct from the Maxxis factory, reducing the cost to you the buyer, its still a significant premium option at the moment. WT style tyres are appearing at a significant rate – you wont be short of options, but you might find a 30mm rim offers more options right now at a better price than 35mm.
** Technically we launched the DT 350/M502 wheels months ago, but hey.
Can I run WT on 30mm?
From my view, the answer is a resounding yes. While the stated optimised width is 35mm, I’ve found 30mm to be very effective. Its also bourn out in the numbers. Comparing a Minion DHF 2.3 and WT 2.5 gives the following widths:
  • Minion 2.3 (standard) on 30mm Rim: Tyre width = 2.26 Inches
  • Minion 2.5 WT on 30mm Rim: Tyre width = 2.42 Inches
  • Minion 2.5 WT on 35mm Rim: Tyre width = 2.46 Inches

L>R Minion 2.5 WT on 35mm rim, Minion 2.3 on 30mm rim, Minion WT 2.5 on 30mm rim. Note the block size, significant width and height differences.
You will no doubt see the WT tyre sizes up very similarly on a 30 and 35 rim. I’m personally running WT tyres on a 32mm rim right now, and I’m happy with the results. Perhaps its compromised over a 35mm rim, but its still good!

What Else Do You Need to Know?

Well, WT tyres are taller, thats an important point, its not the be all and end all, but it sneaks the 27.5 tyre size towards its ultimate pinnacle of being genuinely half way between 26 and 29 inch tyres. It improves the roll over a little and offers even lower viable pressures.
We’re offering 3 new wheel sets, and of course weight is always relevant. Real weights are:
  • DT 350 Hubs with DT Swiss M502 30mm rims – 1908g
  • Hope Pro 4 Hubs with DT Swiss M502 30mm* rims – 1999g
  • Hope Hoops Pro 4 Hubs with Hope 35W 35mm* rims – 2100g
Tyre wise the options opening up for you in WT are:
  • 2.5 WT Minion DHF 3c Maxx Terra
  • 2.4 WT Minion DHR2 3c Maxx Terra
  • 2.5 WT Shorty 3c Maxx Terra
  • 2.5 WT High Roller 2 3c Maxx Terra
  • 2.5 WT Minion DHF 3c Maxx Terra Double Down
  • 2.5 WT Shorty 3c Maxx Grip Double Down
… with more to come!
I hope thats been a worthwhile 10 minutes of your time, any questions mail us at info@birdmtb.co.uk!
Ben