Wheel size? Yawn. We hear you: there has been an awful lot of breath dedicated to wheel diameters over the past decade, and many of you are tired of it. But, to put a more positive spin on it, choice is never a bad thing, and with all the options in wheel sizes you now have the ability to match your equipment perfectly to your riding style and trails.
The not-so-minor details
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Build kit price:
$4824 - $10689
Impressive engineering to achieve the same travel and geometry with either wheel size.
Requires a headset cup change when swapping wheel sizes.
Having two wheel size options for the one model of bike is nothing new (just take a look that Scott Spark, Specialized Camber, Trek Fuel or many others), but an interesting recent development is the appearance of frames which can accept multiple wheel formats without compromise. For an in-depth discussion of where we see this trend going, read our opinion piece ‘The Middle Power’ here.
The Pivot Switchblade is one such bike. Thanks to a unique rear hub and drivetrain configuration, the Switchblade can happily take either 29er or 27.5+ wheels and massive tyres (up to 3.25″) all while maintaining some of the shortest chain stays on the market, at just 428mm. We’ll look at the rear hub more in our full review, but in a nutshell it uses very wide 157mm hub spacing, Pivot call it Super Boost Plus 157, to enable the rear wheel to be tucked in very close to the frame. Yes, it’s another new hub ‘standard’, but let’s not dwell on that now – there’s been plenty of internet hand wringing about it before, and this is how bike development progresses, get used to it!
So what type of bike is it? Regardless of which wheel format you opt for, the Switchblade falls into the trail/all-mountain category. Rear travel is 135mm, designed to be paired with a longer 150mm fork up front (this longer travel up front trend is something Pivot do a lot). The geometry falls mid-way between the Enduro-ready Mach 6 and the Mach 4 Carbon. Pivot have equipped the Switchblade with a FOX 36, so you know this bike means business!
Pivot’s bikes are always superbly built, and their DW Link suspension is legendary for its amazing pedalling performance and grip. We’re looking forward to seeing what the combination of DW suspension and Plus sized rubber can deliver in loose corners and scrappy climbs!
The Switchblade frame blends elements from the full spectrum of Pivot’s range; the robust linkage is clearly inspired by the Phoenix downhill bike, while the lines of the front end reflect the Mach 4 Carbon. We like where Pivot is going with their bikes – they’re seriously sophisticated frames, nothing is ‘just good enough’.
If you’re looking at this bike and toying with the notion of having two wheel sets to change between (one in 29er for lighter XC duties, one in 27.5+ for burly trail work) then you might be disappointed. Because 27.5+ wheels are a little smaller in diameter than 29″ wheels, Pivot install a taller lower headset cup on the 27.5+ version of this bike to give the correct geometry, so you can’t just chuck in different wheels for different trails.
We’ve been lucky enough to get both a 29er and Plus version of the Switchblade to review. They are identical, with the exception of the wheelset, so making a comparison is going to be easy as wheel size is the sole differentiation. We can tell you right now that neither bike is ‘better’ – our first short ride confirmed that – but they are certainly different in the way they address the trail.
The Switchblade can be purchased from Pivot Cycles retailers as a frame plus a build kit, the frame kit alone will set you back $4609.95 and build kits range from $4824.95 to $10689.95 for the ultimate Shimano XTR Di2 build.
On review we have the Switchblade 27.5+ XTR/XT PRO 1X build kit, which totals to a complete bike of $9433. Certainly not a cheap bike by any stretch of the imagination, but we’ll have more to comment on the value and pricing in our final review.
Stay tuned for our full review soon, it’s time to put them both to the test.