Pivot Cycles Switchblade 2017 Mountain Bike Review

Pivot Cycles Switchblade 2017

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Pivot Cycles 59,986

At a Glance

2017 is an important year for Pivot, with two new bikes creating waves in the highly competitive trail and enduro market. Creators of top end bikes with price tags to match, Pivot have produced both the Switchblade and it's bigger brother, the Firebird. Both feature new geometry and new technology to create machines to make mountain bikers go weak at the knees.

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The Switchblade is a trail bike, I think, but it could also be an Enduro bike, or an XC bike, or even a plus sized bike. Confused? Don't be; it's a versatile beast firstly due to being able to run either 29er wheels or 650b plus depending on riding style/preference/mood. As a full carbon machine, with Reynolds carbon wheels, it looks and feels fast like an XC sprinter, but check out the front end, and you'll find a set of Fox 36s in 150mm travel ready to challenge the toughest of descents. The rear end is a DW link with 135mm of travel and is known for a great feel and a firm pedalling platform.

As mentioned this build features Reynolds carbon wheels, XTR transmission, Fox Factory suspension and a mix of some of the finest components on the market. There is very little to get critical about when a bike like this shows up. It's also worth noting that you can run a front mech if you want, if you like that sort of thing, but with a range expanding cog bolted onto the Shimano cassette it's clear Pivot see the benefits of a one-by drivetrain.

One aspect of the Switchblade, which has got people talking is Super Boost Plus, which takes hub spacings to a new level, and puts downhill spacing of 157mm into the rear of the bike. Without going into too much detail, we get better spoke angles, shorter chainstays and a stiffer wheel which is perfect for 29ers, but for the moment will remain a little niche, unless other hub manufacturers get on board, which I am sure they will. All this may seem like yet another 'standard' but in order for bike design to progress, changes have to be made and it's good to see Pivot trying new things. No one said we all have to like it.

On The Trail

With a bike of this calibre, expectations are always high when setting off on a first ride, and things started at speed! Very simply, I went uphill very, very fast and the power transfer was immense, in part due to the frame stiffness, suspension and the rapid wheels. There is no doubt that the Switchblade climbs brilliantly, being both light and stable through the rough technical climbs, the back end working hard to keep the power on.

The expanded cockpit on the new Pivots is a great move, and the ability to run a short stem with the increased reach gives lots of breathing space and a comfortable position for climbing. This comfortable position coupled with the rapid and efficient turn of speed, make the bike feel like it could be ridden for days, which I subsequently did!

Initially, my steep local descents had me confused by the bike, struggling to get braking and control in the steep corners sorted. Some more time on the bike experimenting with body position and I found I was riding too far off the back, and the front was not getting the input it needed. Some suspension tweaking found I was a little soft and not running enough compression damping (there are three settings on the shock) leaving the bike spending too much time deep in the travel. The compression tune on the shock is light, allowing for smaller riders, but knock it up to 2 or 3 and things feel a lot firmer. A little less in the forks to match and I had my magic carpet set up, and from here on in, the suspension was beyond belief.

With such a stiff bike and wheels to match, getting the suspension and tyre pressures dialled in is even more important than usual. If pressures are too high, the bike rattles on the trail and off camber landings and corners can feel far rougher than they need to. To do a bike like this justice, setup needs to be done right, the bike deserves it, and you owe it to yourself.

With suspension sorted, everything came alive, and the Switchblade started to perform in every respect. I still had to keep forward on the bike and commit to every turn and roller, but this was rewarded with a bike that found grip everywhere, and came out of every corner faster than Mach 6 (yeah, it's a Pivot joke).

I wasn't blessed with the beautiful conditions of the Pivot's homeland, and instead, I had to deal with the finest UK conditions to be found in November. Mud and snow were the order, and although the Maxxis High Rollers weren't the best choice, the sensitivity of suspension on offer kept me on-line and maximised grip.

The super short back end means any excuse for rear wheel action must be taken, and it's the easiest 29er to manual or wheelie on that I've used. In tight steep corners or berms, it is easy to get behind the bike if you're not careful, especially being a tall rider, hanging off the back is not rewarded as the front starts to get its own ideas and wander off line. Get it right, however, and steering and tracking is so precise that you carry more speed, brake less, and as a result go faster, no doubt. The short back end means turning is incredibly fast and you quickly find yourself manualling or jumping out of every corner. It feels like a highly tuned machine, one that needs to be both set up well, and also ridden well to get the best from it. Do the chainstays need to be that short? I get the increased hub spacing for stiffer wheels, but I can't help thinking a slightly longer back end may help balance the bike a bit better in the bigger sized frames. I know this is perhaps against the grain, but this would be my only comment on an otherwise excellent set of numbers.

The ride character is a mixture of confidence and composure, instilling the pilot with the belief that anything is possible, and failure will have nothing to do with the bike. Trails are dispatched with speed and style with minimum fuss, rather than wild, flamboyant gestures, it will simply and efficiently get the job done.

The 125mm drop post didn't get me low enough to get in the groove, so I found myself slamming the seat to release the full potential. Luckily Pivot have gone longer without going taller, so a 150 or 170 drop post would work well. Also, those riders wanting to size up would be able to easily. The Switchblade is highly adaptable with its features, taking up to a 160mm fork if wanted, plus tyres up to 3.25 and 29ers up to 2.5. Full Di2 compatibility is there and even the ability to run a front mech. So many options...

With many different specifications and wheel sizes to choose from, the combinations are endless, and when buying a bike of this quality, you want to make sure everything is right. I would have opted for a longer drop seatpost and larger rotors, but this is easily changed. The rubber frame protectors are good, keeping things silent and frame blemish free but one was quickly lost in the rain, better glue needed perhaps?

Overall

This is a bike for which many superlatives could be used interchangeably, but the ride experience is what counts. Rarely is a bike this capable in nearly all aspects of mountain biking, and very few riders will be able to find the limits of what the Switchblade can do. This doesn't mean it is just for the elite, merely those who like the finer things in life and demand the highest quality in the equipment they use. If I could have only one bike, and a bank balance that would facilitate such indulgences, the Switchblade would be immediately on the shortlist.

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This review was in Issue 45 of IMB.

For more information visit Pivot Cycles

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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