25 Mar 2019

Pivot Cycles are a brand that we've admired and followed closely for many years now. The uncompromising approach they take to suspension performance and frame construction has made them a real favourite of ours, and we've just had a chance to put their E.W.S slaying big-travel big-wheeler to the test. This is the Pivot Firebird 29.

The not-so-minor details

Product

Pivot Firebird 29

Contact

Jet Black Products

http://pivotcycles.com

Price

9999

Positives

Typical high-end Pivot construction.
Incredibly capable suspension.
Stable and confident without feeling oversized.

Negatives

Under-the-down tube bottle mount. Short rear end will divide opinion.

Watch our full video review of the Pivot Firebird 29 below!


Behold! $9999 of descent ripping Pivot, perched atop a muddy Maydena.

This is a bike that gets lots of attention.

Chris Cocalis, the bossman at Pivot, has a reputation for strong opinions, a zero-compromise attitude and obsessive attention to detail. It’d make him a hard first date, but it means he designs a very good bike. This performance-first attitude has led to some ‘unconventional’ looking bikes in the past (like the Mach 429 SL) but the Firebird gets the same eye-catching straight lines you’ll find on the Trail 429 and Mach 5.5 and it turns heads.

Back on our home trails, with a lot more rock than Maydena, but sadly a lot less elevation.

There are a variety of build kit options, but here in Australia this is the most popular – a blend of Shimano XT/XTR and FOX suspension – which is pretty staggering considering the $9999 price tag. People are willing to pay the big bucks for Pivot apparently.

It’s a big bike, but even on moderate blue-level trails like this one, it’s still engaging. You don’t necessarily need the steepest trails for this bike to come alive.

Confidence is everything.

If you’re looking for a bike to make you feel a bit invincible, this is it. We took this bike to Maydena, where we quickly got in over our heads, following a far better rider into Pro Line trails in the wet. The fact we even attempted those trails in such conditions is testament to the confidence this bike gave us. 

The combo of big hoops and big travel (170mm up front and 160mm out back) is a good foundation to build on, but there’s more to it than that. We’ve always praised the solidity and stiffness of Pivot bikes, and once again with the Firebird that feeling of cohesion, of both wheels tracking together, is a highlight. Save the squirming for when you’re watching a medical drama, on the trail it’s nice to have your bike feel like it’s with you from front to back.

Boom.
Launching through the ferns in near darkness, this bike fills you with bravado, though sometimes our skills couldn’t keep up.

It’s not hard to see how Pivot have achieved this, the chunky linkage is near identical to that found on the Phoenix, and they’ve employed a whopping 157mm rear hub spacing. This Super Boost hub spacing might mean your hub options are more limited, but it allows for a very stiff rear wheel build, and a short rear-centre too. 

The upper and lower links are stout affairs with big bearings, tying the frame together in rock-solid fashion.

That DW suspension is just so good. 

Banging through the rough the suspension feels magnificent; high-speed chattery, braking bumps, slippery little roots, flat landings when you miss then down ramp. It was all handled with equal aplomb. There’s plenty of snap out of the corners, that DW-link sure does get the power to the rear wheel nicely, and the frame stiffness just helps too. 

A 170mm FOX Factory 36 Grip 2 fork leads the way.
You’ll need a 3mm and 6mm Allen key for on-trail adjustment of the Float X2 rear shock. There’s a lockout lever too, which is definitely handy on a big travel bike like this.

You can lose yourself in the settings of the X2 shock and 36 Grip 2 fork, so go slow there, and don’t make too many tweaks at once, or you’ll get yourself all out of whack. Don’t just rely on a bounce around the carpark either, this suspension needs trail time to get it all sussed. But once you’ve invested the time, it’s another level of control. 

While the Maxxis Minions became a little overwhelmed in the mud, the suspension was so responsive on the little rippling roots like these.
A shorter rear end than most of its competitors certainly helps in tighter and slower corners.

Big, but not a boat.

Pivot have kept the back end of the Firebird pretty short, at just 431mm, which will divide some riders. For this tester at 172cm, on a size medium, it worked perfectly. The long front end, short rear end thing suits riders who like a playful, peppy ride. Despite the long overall wheelbase, we never felt like it was the bike dictating our course. Taller riders though, might take issue with the short rear end, especially when climbing with the seat up, which will put their weight more over the rear wheel. 

Climbing, in or out of the saddle is impressive, given the bike’s travel. We did use the lockout lever, but mainly to help keep the bike high in its suspension stroke, rather than to improve efficiency.

An efficient climber, limited only by the slack angles.

You can’t always shuttle to the top.

On the climbing front, like most DW bikes you can expect efficient suspension performance, it’s not too bad on the uphills. If we were climbing out of the saddle, we did use the shock’s compression lever a lot, but it was more to reduce the rear suspension sag and to help counter the slackness of the 65-degree head angle which takes some attention to hold on course when ascending at slow speeds.

On that note, the bike does have geometry adjustment to steepen it all up a little. While it’s not a feature we utilised, if you were treating this bike as a long-travel trail bike it might be useful. You can also fit 27.5+ wheels to this bike too, though all the build kits in Australia come with 29” wheels. 

Geometry adjustment allows you to steepen things slightly. We stuck with the lower setting.
Plus tyres are an option, with the addition of a taller lower headset cup to correct the geometry for the smaller diameter wheel.

User-friendly, but some will want a water bottle. 

From a practicality standpoint, the bike has some big pluses, such as the simple, robust shock mounting hardware and roomy cable ports to ease threading internal cables, plus huge tyre clearance for muddy rides. But it loses marks from us for the lack of a usable water bottle mount.

Large cable ports should make maintenance of the internal cables easier than most.
The sturdy frame design and user-friendly construction should mean the Firebird spends less time in the work stand, and more on the trails.
Neatly finished. High quality chain slap protection.
We applaud the addition of a chain guide!
You could mount a water bottle here, but would you really? You’ll be using a pack on longer rides.

Hard to look past.

If you don’t have a 29er Enduro bike in your range, well you’d better be working on one fast, because big wheels are the new small wheels in the Enduro world. While the Firebird 29 is more bike than we can justify day-to-day for our riding, anyone seeking an Enduro rocket race that’ll happily punch laps of Thredbo and amble around your local loop reasonably well too, well this one is pretty close to perfect. 

It’s not hard to see why this is the most popular model in the Pivot range here in Australia.
Woooo! Mossy hucks.
What the hell happened?