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Enduro

First Impressions: The New Pivot Firebird

Not another high-pivot enduro bike

Basics

- 165mm rear travel, 170mm front
- 29-inch wheels only
- Carbon frame only
- dw-link suspension
- Size-specific chainstay lengths, kinematics and carbon layup


Pros

- Supreme balance of capability and versatility
- 20 build options
- Clever touches like accessory mount and UDH derailleur hanger

Cons

- Expensive
- Currently no 27.5-inch rear wheel option
- Tires undergunned for high-level enduro racing


Price

$7,300

Brand

Pivot


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Enduro bikes are not only becoming better tuned for conquering downhill-bike-worthy race tracks. Some of these burly machines are actually versatile and efficient enough to be ‘daily drivers’ for riders who never intend to test their skills between the tape. Pivot’s new Firebird was built to check both of those boxes. Redesigned from the ground up, Pivot’s goal with the new Firebird was to create a faster bike for the Pivot Factory Racing Team as they tackle the Enduro World Series events, but also for anyone who enjoys pushing the limits of their technical riding.

The Firebird climbs so well in the Float X2’s open setting, so flipping its little blue lever may only be worthwhile on long fire road climbs.

The most immediately noticeable change to the new Firebird is the vertical shock orientation, which Pivot says delivers a more compact, stiffer, and lighter-weight frame with a lower center of gravity. It also allows for Fox’s Live Valve integration, better water bottle clearance, a lower standover, and a progressive leverage-rate curve optimized for high-volume air shocks and the new Firebird’s optional coil builds.

Aside from the shock placement, there are numerous not-so-obvious frame refinements. The new Firebird comes with various chainstay lengths to match its multiple frame sizes. The suspension kinematics are adjusted accordingly, and are also designed to accommodate the changing center of gravity that comes with changing rider sizes. Pivot says the 29-inch-wheeled Firebird will fit riders between the heights of 5-foot-2 and 6-foot-9. Interestingly, it employs a carbon layup technology more commonly found on performance road bikes: variable tube sizing and custom-tuned carbon lay-up. This approach scales stiffness across all frame sizes to deliver optimal, consistent ride characteristics for all riders of all sizes. 

The Firebird is the first Pivot to use different chainstay lengths on different-size frames. The goal is to help riders of all heights maintain a consistent, central position over the bike.

Thinking about body size in terms beyond just reach measurements isn’t new. A few brands, including Forbidden, Cannondale and Norco, have gone to new extremes in an effort to bring the most optimal experience to the most people. But riders be riders, and we like adjustability and customization. So, the new Firebird still features a flip chip to swap the bottom bracket height from 355.8mm to 350 mm and slacken the head and seat angles by 0.6 degrees. Rounding out the novel features of the new Firebird is Pivot’s Dock Tool System, an extra mount underneath the toptube and an accompanying suite of optional accessories. This exclusive collaboration with Topeak accepts their Dock Ninja CO2, Dock Ninja Tool Box T16+, or Dock Ninja Tool Box Mini 20 Pro, each ready to be bolted right to the frame, no straps required.

Those aren’t water bottle bolts. Aside from the Dock System, there are a growing number of accessories made to bolt right to the Firebird’s frame.

Also bolted to the $7,300 Pro XT/XTR Air build I tested are its four-piston XT brakes, 12-speed XT shifter with XTR rear derailleur, top-shelf Fox Factory suspension and alloy DT Swiss XM1700 wheels with Maxxis Minion DHF and DHR EXO+ casing tires. Out of the box and without pedals, it weighs 32 pounds. Although the Firebird isn’t the first bike any sane person would choose for a hill-climb race, it’ll still hold its own, especially for a bike so deep in the enduro category. How does a 165/170mm 29er get uphill so well? Sure, the DW-link suspension platform is already known for its pedaling efficiency, but on a bike this big, geometry needs to come to the rescue. 

The Firebird’s seat tube angles are calculated at ‘real’ saddle heights for each bike size. Many brands calculate their effective seat tube angles at a height that is level with the top of the headtube, which makes no sense. Nobody is grinding seated climbs with their saddle that low. The 77.5-degree seat angle listed on the XL is achieved at a perfectly reasonable height of 84cm. But it doesn’t stop there. Not only are the angles measured differently on each size, they’re designed differently. The size medium I’ve been riding is actually built around a 76.6-degree effective seat tube angle. Slightly steepening the seat tube angle as the frame size increases gives taller riders with higher saddle heights better positioning over the pedals and front end. When pointed uphill, taller riders necessarily lean farther back and, being heavier, put more load on the rear shock. As with chainstay length and suspension kinematics, this is another way Pivot is keeping the ride consistent for riders of all sizes.

But enough about saddles. Who needs ‘em. This is an enduro bike. Whether the terrain calls for pointing-and-shooting through nasty rock gardens or for quickly maneuvering through twisty switchbacks, the Firebird easily maintains speed, balance and traction. The reason, surprisingly, is moderation. The new geo features a slack, but not crazy-slack, 64-degree head angle. And the size medium has a roomy 468mm reach and a compact 434mm chainstay (though that chainstay jumps to 438 in the large and leaps to 445 in the XL). The Firebird’s agility could also be due to the size medium’s reasonable 1,239mm wheelbase. And the whole show is held up by that newly reworked linkage. Optimizing for coil and large-volume air shocks naturally makes for a more supportive ride, regardless of travel. It’s a combination that results in high-speed stability on steep and challenging terrain with snappy cornering ability, two bike-handling characteristics rarely mentioned in the same sentence. 

The vast majority of future Firebird riders will probably never zip-tie a number plate on their handlebars, so Maxxis’ EXO+ casing tire spec is a fine option for managing their local, technical trails. But any experienced enduro racer worth their weight in fanny packs knows the majority of high-level courses require proper downhill tires.. On race days, they will be swapping the EXO rubber for something with burly, reinforced casing. It’ll add around a pound more of rotational weight, but it’s still a lot faster than stopping on course to repair a puncture.

Over the years, I’ve described Pivot mountain bikes as “high-performance jewelry built for fun.” Because, for as long as I can recall, the brand’s attention to detail and build quality is second to none, and the Firebird is no different. My test bike has made some high-return investments with its $7,300, and not just that top-notch suspension. Building each frame with its own kinematics and unique carbon layup costs more than a cookie-cutter approach would. So, there are no cheap options in the Firebird lineup. With offerings currently starting at over $6,000, it won’t be for every rider, just like a Rolex isn’t for every wrist. Yet, for those who the Firebird is a contender, there are ample build options for selecting their brake, suspension, drivetrain, and wheel preferences, whether their intentions are set on the podium or tackling rowdy trail adventures with friends.

Photos: Ryan Cleek