Bird's comprehensive demo fleet - I rode the black Aether 9C on the far right
(Image from Birds website: https://www.bird.bike/)
There was a period in my early thirties when I remember several of my rugby-playing friends telling me that they were just too old to keep playing. They were spending more time recovering from injuries than they were playing the game they loved, and they just needed to accept that they weren’t as young as they once were.
In a similar vein, it would appear that, at the age of forty my ankles and knees have decided that enough is enough. A hardtail and three gears just aren’t sufficient for me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, the riding is still great. But all too often it is followed by several days of sore joints and hobbling around, and the whole situation doesn’t feel very sustainable. There’s a nagging concern that, if I’m not careful, I’ll start doing some long-lasting damage which may mean that I’ll permanently be unable to ride the trails I want to in the way that I want to.
The logical conclusion is that I need some more gears and extra suspension to take the edge off the battering that my body is starting to grumble about. So, I did my research and found a trail bike that ‘the internet’ agreed was OK and which I liked for a number of reasons. One – they are designed not too far from where I live (always nice), two – they come with sensible headtube lengths (so there’s a decent chance I’ll be able to get the handlebars high enough), three – the frame will hold a water bottle, and four – you can customise the spec. Oh, and they seem to be pretty good value.
And so I took today off work to ride a Bird Aether 9C (back-to-back with the Full-Moto) around Swinley Forest to see what all the fuss was about and whether it would be likely to extend my riding career. Now, as with almost every modern mountain bike, this would mean joining the looong reach club (which I have only had limited previous experience with). Prior to the test ride I imagined two likely scenarios. The first was that the laid-back geometry of my Full-Moto was indeed the amazing revelation that I had always imagined and that I just wouldn’t be able to get along with this (or any other) modern mountain bike (satisfying to know, but leaving me a bit stuck in terms of new bike choices). Or the Bird would be a revelation and I would be starkly aware that I’d been wasting my time for the last few years on a folly of a bike. Neither option looked particularly appealing.
The truth is the Bird didn’t actually feel half as different as I thought it might do. Yes, I could tell that the seat tube angle was quite a bit steeper and that the reach from the bottom bracket was longer, but the real takeaway was that, after just a few minutes of riding, it wasn’t even close to being my overriding impression of the bike. Instead, I was left pretty impressed at just how capable this thing was. When I gave it the beans this thing flew. And when I started getting tired or just lazy it flattered me.
Was it more fun than the Full-Moto? Yes and no. When everything clicks I don’t think anything can beat the satisfaction I get from having it all hooked up along a challenging trail on the Full-Moto. But if you’re just a little bit off your game then it takes no prisoners. So while I suspect that the highs on the Bird may not be quite so big for me (or at the very least they’re a bit different) they’re a lot easier to access more of the time. The Bird is cheap thrills and a taxi home, whilst there is something more deeply satisfying about the Full-Moto, but only if you can rise to it.
Overall, it was a really interesting day. Lots to process and digest, and I’m sure I’ll be mulling it over for a good while yet. At the moment I’m simply left thinking that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have both bikes waiting for me in the shed!