The Switchblade is the latest bike in Pivot’s lineup to receive an update but, rather than a complete overhaul, Pivot has carried out several calculated tweaks to keep it up to date with its contemporary rivals– all without losing its core all-mountain identity. We were invited to the Forest of Dean to get an early spin on the new Switchblade mountain bike.
With the Switchblade’s update, Pivot took the values of its all-mountain heritage but stretched the parameters to create a bike that can climb and descend – and even tackle hardcore bike park riding. This comes as a result of bridging the gap between the Trail 429 trail bike and the Firebird enduro rig.
This iteration of the Switchblade has been upgraded to fall right in line with the tweaks that have been seen on Pivot’s more recent bikes, including a custom-tuned carbon layup. So that’s a size-specific carbon frame with each size getting an independent strength-to-weight analysis and a stiffness profile that scales up the larger the frame gets. This is in pursuit of offering the same ride character from size to size.
There’s been a large focus on the Switchblade’s geometry to haul it up to date but also make it a more capable descender. With that, Pivot has outfitted the bike with a 10mm longer reach, a slacker head angle and a steeper seat tube, so a classic case of ‘longer, slacker and lower’. There are size-specific chainstays which have stretched across the board to add an extra hint of stability. The frame can also accommodate longer-travel dropper posts thanks to a longer insertion depth at the seat tube.
To put that into numbers, a large frame is sorted with a 480mm reach, a 65.2-degree head tube, and 76-degree seat tube and a 432mm chainstay (which is still very short considering it’s been lengthened). Across the size range, the chainstay stretches by 5mm. That’s with the bike in its low flip-chip setting and Pivot has assured us that these measurements are taken with the bike at its sag point, so they should remain true once the rider’s on the bike.
That flip-chip raises the BB and steepens the head angle by half a degree in its High setting. However, this bike will ship in the low setting as standard. The flip-chip also allows for a smaller 650b wheel to be run at the rear with a tyre up to 2.8in in width but as standard the bike rolls on a pair of 29-inch hoops with clearance for up to 2.5in rubber.
The Switchblade’s DW-Link delivered 142mm of travel and has received a bit of love with the brand claiming that it runs the same shock tune as the previous model although Pivot has made a small change to the linkage, lengthening it to create a more reward axle path. Rather than simply upping the suspension travel, this has been done in a bid to help the rear wheel over square edges, resulting in a smoother ride.
Pivot’s other upgrades are right in line with what we’ve seen on the brand’s other bikes. So there’s the same vertical shock layout as before, which has allowed Pivot’s engineers to build a stiffer, lighter, and more compact frame. It also allows space for a water bottle in the front triangle which is joined by mounts under the downtube along with an accessory mount under the top tube. Of course, this shock layout also means that the standover height can be made lower.
Here's a deeper look at the new Pivot Switchblade.
Pivot Switchblade Pro XT/XTR - Componentry
I was given the bike in its Pro XT/XTR build which is the cheaper of the two models that are being brought into the UK. Costing around £8,000, this model comes with a mix of Shimano XT and XTR for its drivetrain and brakes. The former supplies the shifter, cassette and four-piston brakes while the latter takes up derailleur duties. So this should offer the slickest shifting Shimano has to offer thanks to that mech but at a more affordable price, thanks to the XT kit hung on the bike. But let’s use the term ‘affordable’ loosely here, the Switchblade is certainly a premium offering.
Providing the bounce is top-end suspension from Fox with a 36 Factory GRIP2 fork offering 160mm of travel and a Factory Float X damps the rear 142mm. There’s also a generous 200mm Fox Transfer Factory dropper post on sizes large and extra large.
The bike rolls on a set of DT Swiss XM1700 wheels which are wrapped with the classic combo of a Maxxis Minion DHF up from and a Minion DHR II at the rear.
Finishing off the bike is a Pivot Phoenix low-rise carbon bar, a saddle from WTB, a Race Face Aeffect R crankset and Phoenix lock-on grips.
The other build being offered in the UK is the Pro XO Eagle Transmission build which gets much of the same listed above, but with SRAM’s XO Eagle T-Type drivetrain and SRAM Code RSC brakes. That’ll set you back £9,000. Both builds are available with an optional wheel upgrade which will kit the bike with a set of carbon wheels for an additional £1,200.
Pivot Switchblade Pro XT/XTR - Ride impressions
At first glance, the new Switchblade is quite the looker. It carries an impressively high build quality that more than justifies the premium outlay that Pivot is asking for. For my short time with Pivot’s new bike, I was invited out to the Forest of Dean to ride some of my favourite trails and tracks.
And it doesn’t take long to get a feel for the improvements that the brand has made to its all-mountain bike. Power transfer feels immediate and, during lengthy efforts in the saddle, the rear end of the bike is kept well under control, giving very little of its travel up to efficiency-sucking pedal bob. While I don’t have an accurate weight measurement, giving the bike a quick lift and bounce in the car park hints that it’s a fairly light bike for its given intentions.
Cranking the Switchblade up a hill is a pleasure given its steady rear end and well-considered seat tube placement. It places weight sensibly over the bottom bracket and, during my short time with the bike, I felt it was further forward than its geo-chart suggests. However, Pivot promised that the bike’s geo is measured with the bike at sag, which is fantastic for the consumer but it also explains why it felt steeper than expected.
But even then, the seat tube isn’t ridiculously steep. Rather, it’s a well-calculated angle as the brand has stuck to its all-mountain guns. Pivot wants the Switchblade to be capable of riding everything, so remaining calm in its choice of seat tube angle results in decent weight distribution over a plethora of gradients. However, when things get properly steep, I did have to shift weight forward to stop the front of the bike from lifting – the chainstay is still very short despite the extra length. Its rather long front-centre doesn’t exactly aid the cause either. That said, the uphill performance was excellent, owing to that well-designed kinematic.
Push the bike into a descent and that urgency on the pedals translates almost perfectly, with each stroke transferring power to the rear wheel without hesitation. This results in heaps of easily gained forward momentum, serving a healthy helping of zip when pedalling out of corners and sprinting into trails. But impressively, the great pedalling characteristic of the Switchblade does little to get in the way of it opening up when the bumps come thick and fast.
This could be a direct result of that more rearward axle path because it feels much more plush than I would expect of a bike with 143mm of rear travel. It simply gets to work, soaking up all manners of chunk and it feels like far more than a mere 143mm. The rear end’s ability to absorb technical terrain does a fantastic job of holding momentum and it allowed me to focus on what’s coming next. This, combined with its rather gravity-oriented front end, makes the bike feel effortless in descents. Although I only rode a few trails aboard the Switchblade, I felt almost completely at ease with it as soon as I dropped the cockpit a little.
However, I must say that the plush rear end doesn’t feel like your average 140mm trail bike in the way that it dulls down quite a lot of feedback. Granted, I didn’t have a lot of time with the bike but I felt as if it didn’t quite have the lively and engaging feel that I would expect of a bike of this travel. It didn’t wallow in its travel at all, which is a plus but mid-stroke support and pop weren’t as abundant as I expected. But given that the Switchblade is designed to be comfortable even through to bike park levels of gravity riding, it’s a character that I’m sure heavy hitters will appreciate and some more time with the bike would uncover.
Pivot Switchblade Pro XT/XTR - Early verdict
Thanks to its long front-centre that comes as a result of its 480mm reach and the 65.2-degree head angle, the front of the bike cooks up plenty of support when dropped into steeper terrain, and it provides a confidence-inspiring level of stability at speed. And that makes the extended chainstay length an interesting topic as even though it’s a few millimetres longer, it’s still very short and it’s obvious that the Switchblade relies on its front-centre more for its stability. This is by no means a bad thing as the stubby rear end is easy to flick and rotate around a corner which comes into its own when the gradient steepens.
Although short, my time with the new Pivot Switchblade has piqued my curiosity thanks to its climbing capability and appetite for fast descents. As far as first impressions go, the Pivot Switchblade will be loved by those who enjoy a range of different riding styles.
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