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The Beta Tests

The Beta Tests: Pivot Firebird Pro XT/XTR

Leading the resistance against the high-pivot apocalypse

Basics

—165mm rear travel, 170mm front 
—29-inch wheels
—Frame accepts mixed-wheel or full 27.5-inch wheels (although Pivot doesn’t offer configurations other than 29 front and rear)
—Full carbon frame 
—Available with coil or air shock 
—Adjustable geometry flip chip on the upper link mount 
—Size-specific chainstays 


Pros

—Fast, up and down
—Excellent parts spec 
—Extremely capable in different types of terrain 

Cons

—Expensive 


Price

$7,800


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We don’t usually use adjectives like “energetic” when describing how a long-travel, trail-devouring enduro bike climbs, and we almost never lead the conversation with climbing characteristics on a bike with this much travel. But the new Pivot Firebird had us lauding its ascending prowess with nearly the same excitement as its descending abilities. 

The Firebird is Pivot’s long-standing enduro race bike, designed to withstand the rigors of Enduro World Series-caliber courses under top racers like Bernard Kerr and Morgane Charre. And while many enduro bikes treat the transitions like an afterthought, Pivot makes the Firebird feel like it actually cares about the non-timed parts of the race as well.

In its fifth version, the Firebird underwent fairly significant changes from its three-years-ago self, led by a new carbon layup to shave frame weight, a vertical shock orientation, re-tuned DW-Link suspension informed by Pivot’s downhill bike with a more progressive leverage curve, and the usual gamut of geometry tweaks. It got a slight bump in rear travel, and now sits at 165mm of rear travel (170mm front), delivered through either a Fox Float X2 air shock or Fox DHX2 coil. On paper, the assumption is, this bike likes to party, probably just tolerates everything else. 

Our test course in Bellingham started off with a sustained singletrack climb, gaining 1,000 feet in elevation over 2.5 miles, through a mix of gradual, smooth sections, short, steep punches, and a few techy roots and rocks along the way. Right away, it was clear that the Firebird wasn’t here to slowly lumber up the climb on its way to show off where it really excels; it responded instantly to pedaling inputs, and the more gas you gave it, the more it livened up, paying dividends for added power with an ultra-efficient-feeling ride that rarely required extra support from the shock. The suspension does bob slightly when soft-pedaling, adding to the motivation to stay on the gas. We’re not claiming XC-bike efficiency here, but the Firebird is hands-down one of the best pedaling enduro bikes we’ve ever tested. 

And, of course, it doesn’t disappoint when it’s pointed downhill either. While many bikes in this category are ultra-stable, inspiring confidence in consequential terrain that often comes at the cost of maneuverability, resulting in a bike that feels safe, but also really big, long and, often, kind of dull. The Firebird has a touch more of that playful, nimble spirit. It carries its dimensions well, and checks more of that all-arounder box versus strictly being a discipline-specialist, despite a long-ish wheelbase (1,239mm, size medium and 1,267mm size large) and reach (468mm size medium, 488, size large). This is where Pivot’s size-specific chainstays most likely pay off. With a chainstay range between 16.8 inches (size small, low BB setting) to 17.4 inches (XL), Pivot aims to achieve a consistent, comfortable ride for varying sizes of riders.

This level of customization is becoming more common, but Pivot took things one step further, and designed each front triangle around angles based on a changing rider size; the seat tube angle varies between 76 degrees and 77 degrees, depending on frame size, with the idea that a steeper seat angle will put taller riders will in a more optimal climbing position (again, with the climbing!). This most certainly contributed to our testers’ unanimous feedback that the Firebird ticks that elusive ‘instant comfort’ box, and feels at home all over the mountain. It’s a bike that could win an enduro one weekend, rally the park the next, and survive a big high-alpine mission above 10,000 feet in the Rockies after that. 

Most of the other bikes we tested in this travel range were designed around the high-pivot concept, and the Firebird had us questioning that approach—if you can get a bike that rides this well and is this simple, why bother with any extra complications? Well, price for one. Pivot’s reputation as the #1 Dentist-Recommended Brand is likely to persist, with the cost of our test bike coming in at a lofty $7,600 (tack on another $200 if you want a coil shock). It’s a big ask, but one that buys you a no-sacrifice build—Fox Factory suspension, Shimano XTR drivetrain, XT 4-piston brakes with 203mm rotors, carbon bars, DT Swiss XM1700 wheels wrapped in Maxxis Minion rubber and a Fox Transfer post—top-of-the line engineering and a level of detail seen on very few other bikes in its class.

Other touches include room for a water bottle inside every front triangle, mounts under the toptube for Pivot’s Dock Tool system so you can bolt one of Topeak’s Ninja toolsets directly to the frame, full internal cable routing and a universal derailleur hanger for ease of replacement. 

Entry Point: There isn’t one. Or there is, but it doesn’t come at a price typically befitting an ‘entry-point’ descriptor. Pivot is a high-end brand and it doesn’t generally dabble below $5,000. In this case, the price starts at $6,100 and goes all the way up to $13,400 (XX1 AXS with Fox Live Valve, gulp). That said, you’re still getting a full carbon frame, Fox Performance Elite suspension and a Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain. So even though it’ll cost you more to get into the Firebird, there’s nothing you’ll want to get out of before you hit the trail. 

Photos: Anthony Smith