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Pivot Firebird review

15:45 10th August 2012 by David Arthur @davearthur
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Despite having as much travel as pure downhill bikes of a few years ago, Pivot’s Firebird really does rise again after it’s scorched its way to the bottom of the hill. It’s perfect if you want to wring every last drop of fun from the descents, but don’t want to walk or shuttle back up.

The Pivot Firebird is a great looking bike. Garden could do with a tidy up though…

We had our appetite for Pivot bikes and their DW-Link suspension thoroughly whetted earlier this year when we tested the new Pivot Mach 429. It’s a suspension design that’s always impressed with its control and poise, so we were keen to see how it would work n a longer travel bike. The 6.6-inch-travel Firebird was the perfect rig.

DW-Link suspension is a neat, effective arrangement and the carbon linkage looks smart.

Pivot was founded in 2007 by Chris Cocalis, formerly of Titus Cycles. Cocalis’ previous bikes used a four-bar suspension design but for Pivot, he worked with suspension engineer Dave Weagle on a development of Weagle’s DW Link design.

Cocalis is a thoughtful, measured kind of guy, and his bike’s exhibit some very smart design features and fine attention to detail.

Pivot uses the DW Link to provide 167mm (6.6in) oftravel at the rear wheel. Our test bike came with a 170mm Fox 36 Float FIT RC2 fork, matching RP2 Boost Valve shock, a mix of Shimano SLX and XT parts and DT Swiss wheels.

A bike with this much travel needs to be built to be tough. It features huge, square shaped main tubes with a dropped top tube to provide stacks of standover clearance. We tested a 2012 model; the 2013 frame has a neater top tube with a small gusset.

The DW Link comprises two short linkages. A full carbon fibre top linkage drives the shock and there’s a short CNC-machined linkage behind the bottom bracket shell, running on double row bearings. It’s all very neatly finished with a smooth finish.

The seat tube terminates about halfway down and welded to it is a CNC-machined section that acts as the lower shock mount – curving around it – and linkage mount. It’s all very neat, though not the most elegant solution.

170mm Fox 36 Float FIT RC2 forks are great for UK all-mountain riding

The rear triangle  has a stiffening brace that seems to do the job, but runs close to the rear tyre. We had no problems with a 2.5in tyre, but it could hamper mud clearance. As we found with the shorter travel Mach 429, it wasn’t sufficient to cause any concerns.

There are four sizes available. We went for a Large as we like a set-up that combines a longer top tube with a short stem. In this case we went for a 50mm stem and, with the 750mm bars, found a satisfactory fit.

However, riding the Firebird in the Alps where we conducted most of our testing of the Firebird, it felt short in comparison to the Lapierre Spicy (also a size large) that I was testing it alongside.

That didn’t hamper performance when it came to railing corners though. The DW Link is easily one of the best performance suspension designs currently in use. Key to the twin-linkage design is the elimination of squat (something that is has been tackled with platform damping on modern shocks), which it does through the precise geometry of the linkages.

This has a very positive effect on the way the bike rides. Its light and poppy characteristic makes it a fun bike to blast around the trails. It loves fast, bermed corners where the suspension demonstrates its ability to avoid squatting down deep into its travel. It thrusts out of corners with real verve and acceleration is responsive.

A 66.6 degree head angle gives it great poise on the downhills. Steep rocky step downs are dispatched with confidence. If we were being critical and we lived in the Alps, we we’d like to see it a little slacker, but for UK riding it’s probably about spot-on. If you do want it slacker, you can fit a cane Creek Angleset; the frame is compatible.

Our frame had the older 9mm QR rear axle, the latest production run have been upgraded to a 12x142mm bolt-through axle.

Who is it for?

X-Fusion dropper seat post. Works nicely and doesn’t cost all that much.

Pivot reckon the Firebird can tackle everything. And they mean from 24-hour races to gravity and downhill riding. I’m not sure about taking it around Mountain Mayhem myself, but we can see what they’re getting at. It’s versatile because it’s a light enough platform to offer choice. You could build it up with some light parts for a seriously devastating trail slammer, or build it burly, point it downhill and enjoy the sumptuous suspension.

Our Pivot Firebird had the appearance of a long-travel all-mountain bike, and you could certainly go a bit lighter with the components. The 2×10 transmission, with an MRP chain device and bash opens, is a clear suggestion of the company’s confidence in its trail riding credentials.

It ends up tipping the scales at around 33lb, which admittedly makes it a little slower up the hills than the lightweight trail bikes we’re used to, but it’s not sluggish or hard work. In fact, it’s surprisingly happy toiling up hills, and the suspension is very stable with little bob.

If you don’t mind lugging a little extra weight up the climbs, it’s worth it for the fun you can have on the way back down. It’s on the downhills that the bike feels most at home, which is was no surprise during this test.

Verdict

The Firebird feels and rides like a short travel downhill bike yet it climbs as well as it descends. Ideal for the rider who favours the fun parts of the trail but doesn’t want to walk back to the top.

Pros

DW-Link suspension
Climbs as well as it descends
Stiff frame

Cons

Head angle could be a degree slacker
Looks
Pricey

Price: £1,799 (frame only)
UK supplier: Pivot Cycles UK/Upgrade Bikes
Info from the source: Pivot Cycles Firebird page


The official word

Here’s what Pivot has to say about the Firebird:

The Firebird is the ultimate technical terrain, all-mountain weapon. For everything from enduro events to the gnarliest trail rides; there is no better tool for the job. With 6.6” (167mm) of travel packaged in the most efficient pedaling suspension design ever developed, it’s no wonder why the Firebird is a favorite among magazine editors, Enduro and Super D riders all over the world.

The Firebird’s climbing traction, acceleration, and descending capabilities are legendary and unsurpassed in the world of long travel trail bikes. No matter if you’re sending it in Whistler, going for the overall in Downieville or riding a 6 hour epic through the Rockies, the Firebird will impress. Simply put, it is the definition of the ultimate long travel trail bike.

• 6.6in (167mm) rear travel and 160mm to 180mm fork compatibility (170mm standard).

• Rearward wheel travel path for incredible square edge bump performance and unparalleled pedaling performance.

• New Pivot specific, custom valved Fox CTD shock technology featuring increased rider tunability and incredible small bump sensitivity.

• Full 1.5 headtube accepts the Cane Creek Angleset, allowing the rider to further tune the handling. Several Firebird models now come with the Angleset as part of the stock build.

• ISCG O5 mounts included for single ring and chain guide compatibility.

• Patented Pivot floating front derailleur mount keeps the chain in the sweet spot of the derailleur for better chain retention. Combine with our custom MRP LRP 2X chain guide for perfect shifting performance and worry free chain retention in
even the roughest conditions.

• 142mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle and 160mm
post mount dropouts for maximum frame stiffness.

• The Firebird (like many bikes in our line) is all about versatility; allowing riders to do everything from 24 hour endurance races, to park/gravity riding, Super D and the occasional DH race but its real home is aggressive trails where the ride up is just as technical as the ride down.

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