Pivot has been on a tear of late, with their Mach 6 gobbling up a slew of industry awards, including "Most Versatile Bike" in the Mtbr Enduro Compare-O. The young Tempe, Arizona-based company founded in 2007 by Chris Cocalis, is one of the hottest bike manufacturers in the industry right now, and the Pivot LES is yet another example of why the company is killing it.
You might recognize Cocalis' name, he was also the founder of the ever-popular Titus Cycles. Pivot is Cocalis' latest creation; the living, rolling passion of a guy who loves nothing more than creating and riding the finest bikes on the planet. After nearly seven years of building aluminum and carbon fiber full-suspension rigs, the Pivot LES is the company's first foray into the hardtail world.
The instant I laid eyes on a pre-production Pivot LES in Park City, Utah in the summer of 2012, I was in love. I've never been much of a fan of 29ers, but this bike has some of the most gorgeous lines of any hardtail I've ever seen. It takes all the burly tube shapes and junctions of Pivot's full-suspension rigs and wraps it into a lightweight, race-ready hardtail. However, what really caught my eyes was the ingenious Swinger singlespeed conversion system on the LES that's not only the cleanest, most stealth execution I've ever seen, but also incredibly functional.
It's clear that Colcalis and his crew of engineers did their homework before penning this hardtail beauty. Out of the box, the LES features carbon fiber dropouts with a 142x12 thru-axle, replaceable derailleur hanger, a direct mount front derailleur, super-wide chainstays to clear a 2.5-inch rear tire, internally routed cabling with a fully accessible port underneath the bottom bracket for convenient servicing (disc brake cable is external thank God), tapered 1.5-inch head tube and a press-fit 92 bottom bracket to help make the LES front triangle extremely beefy and stiff, and of course, the absolutely trick Swinger singlespeed kit.
The $150 Swinger kit is truly genius and-in this singlespeeder's not-so-humble opinion-the best singlespeed convertible design on the market. Visually, the Swinger system is nearly undetectable, featuring cold forged aluminum dropouts with an indexed chain tension adjuster to ensure proper wheel alignment and prevent the wheel from ever slipping forward. Two M8 bolts on each side secure the Swinger system, and never once did I have a problem with slippage. The Swinger system absolutely rules all. Perhaps the only downside of the swinger system is that it's not available in a 142x12 setup, only in traditional 135mm configuration.
Most singlespeeders are picky about aesthetics. They eschew gears for a reason, and want a clean bike that doesn't have dangly bits or exposed areas where gears and cables once existed. So in order to appease this aesthetic, Pivot includes in the Swinger kit a front derailleur block-off plate with a sharp-looking phoenix machined on it-the brand's hallmark-as well as bolt on covers for every internally routed cable hole.
It's all in the Numbers
Looking at the numbers, geometry specs on the Pivot LES lead one to believe this bike absolutely rails downhill. A slack 69.5-degree head tube angle, super-short 17.1-inch chainstays and a 12.1-inch high bottom bracket give the Pivot handling characteristics like a nimble 26-inch wheel bike, but with the added rolling benefit of 29-inch wheels. And with geometry that can accommodate either a 100mm or 120mm suspension fork, the LES can truly be an all-mountain hardtail-if there is such a thing.
Yes, the Pivot LES has a drop-dead gorgeous exterior profile, but beauty is far more than skin deep on the LES. Thanks to a proprietary hollow core internal molding process that every Pivot composite frame is built with, the inside of the LES look just as smooth and finely molded as the outside, which equates to less weight and stronger construction.
Unlike most competitors who get compaction from the inside of the tube through the use of polybag bladders, Pivot gets far better internal tube compaction through their hollow core internal molding process by using hard internal forms for lay-up and molding.
Polybag bladders aren't nearly as consistent in compaction, leaving voids and potential weak points in a frame. The process used to make every Pivot eliminates the possibility for inconsistent pressure, delivering the highest level of compaction for greater frame strength and lower weight due to less required material.
Continue to Page 2 for more on the Pivot LES 29 and full photo gallery »
Pivot sent a LES already setup as a singlespeed for me to race in the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, and they didn't hold back on the goodies. Loaded with a pimp wheelset featuring DT Swiss 240 singlespeed-specific hubs with XR 400 hoops and Maxxis Ikon tires, a Fox Float 32 CTD fork, Shimano XT disc brakes and crankset, a Pivot carbon-fiber seatpost and handlebars and a 34:18 gear ratio, from the box the Pivot was dialed for battle and weighed in at a scant 21 pounds (without pedals). The frame by itself weighs only 2.5 pounds.
As possibly one of the last 26-inch wheel holdouts on the plant, I typically have a hard time adjusting to riding a 29-inch bike. The bigger wheels simply feel slower on climbs and most 29ers I've ridden don't want to turn when you tell it to; there's a lot of coaxing and cajoling that needs to happen first. This was not the case on the LES. Almost instantly I felt comfortable on this bike. Its slack head tube angle, short chainstays, low standover height and relatively low bottom bracket struck close similarity to my trusty old Ibis Tranny.
Last year at the 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo, I raced both a Bailey 29er and the aforementioned Tranny, and concluded that the 26er turned faster lap times partially due to the constant acceleration and deceleration of passing and the fact that the Bailey didn't have the nimbleness of the Tranny.
This year I only took the Pivot, and quite honestly, didn't miss the Tranny a bit. Thanks to its extremely beefy front triangle, the Pivot has exceptional torsional stiffness to put every watt of available leg strength into the wheels, while the short chainstays combined with the stiff front end help the Pivot rip through corners with the razor-sharp agility of a dialed 26-inch bike. As frame sizes run on the large side, I opted for a medium-size frame, which fit me perfectly (6-feet tall with 32-inch inseam).
I was no fitter this year than last year at the 24 Hours, yet my lap times this year were on average 2 to 5 minutes faster than last year, and the LES weighed in three pounds heavier than both the Bailey and Ibis (last year I went rigid fork, this year suspension). I won't say that the Pivot LES was responsible for all of those 2 to 5 minutes of additional speed, as I was running a much bigger gear this year, but I can't help thinking that the bike had something to do with it.
The LES was nimble in corners, accelerated out of the hole with authority, effortlessly soaked up bumps and water bars and blazed downhill with authority. The LES is an ideal blend of the agile nature of a 26-inch bike with the added rolling benefit of a 29er.
So are there any downsides to the Pivot? Well, although I never experienced any issues, I had a few friends mention that the relatively low 12.1-inch bottom bracket height was an issue for clipping rocks in gnarly terrain. I've ridden some granite-strewn sections of trail on the LES, and clipping rocks has not been an issue for me, so as far as I'm concerned, the Pivot LES has no weaknesses. However, it would have been awesome if Pivot made their new LES 27.5 available with the Swinger system, but alas, for singlespeed duty, the LES 29 is the sole option from Pivot - at least for now.
The Pivot LES is an exceptionally versatile hardtail, easily going from ultralight XC/marathon race bike with a 100mm fork and 2.1-inch tires to mega-burly all-mountain ripper with a 120mm fork, 2.5-inch tires and even a dropper post for good measure. And of course, the ability to go either geared or singlespeed thanks to the ingenious Swinger system makes the LES a bike that should be on everyone's hardtail 29-inch short list.
- Ingenious Swinger singlespeed system
- Exceptional build quality
- Nimble handling qualities
- Burly-yet-lightweight frame design
- Can run a 120mm fork and 2.5-inch tires
- Relatively low bottom bracket can potentially clip rocks
- Singlespeed not available in 27.5-inch
An incredibly versatile machine capable of being a svelte XC/marathon rig, burly all-mountain hardtail or stealthy singlespeed.
Pivot LES 29 XTR: $6,399
Pivot LES 29 XX1: $6,399
Pivot LES 29 XO1: $5249
Pivot LES 29 XT/XTR Pro: $4,899
Pivot LES 29 XT: $4,299
Pivot LES 29 XT/SLX: $3,999
Pivot LES 29 X9: $3,999
2014 Pivot LES 29 Key Specs
- MRSP: $1,999 (frame only) + $150 for Swinger singlespeed system
- Complete bike as tested: $5,260 (estimated)
- Weight: 21 pounds (as tested)
- Wheel Size: 29 inches
- Sizes: S, M, L, XL
- Color: Matte Carbon/Red (shown), Matte Carbon/Blue, Solar Orange
- Frame Material: Full carbon
- Fork: Fox 32 Talas CTD Kashima 100mm
- Headset: Pivot Precision Sealed Bearing
- Handlebar: Pivot Phoenix Carbon Riser 740mm
- Stem: FSA-SLK
- Grips: Pivot LockOn
- Seatpost: Pivot
- Brakes: Shimano XT Trail
- Brake Levers: Shimano XT Trail
- Shifters: N/A
- Front Derailleur: N/A
- Rear Derailleur: N/A
- Cog: 18-tooth single
- Crankset: Shimano XT 1x 34-tooth
- Rims: DT Swiss XR 400
- Hubs: DT Swiss DT 240 (single speed-specific rear)
- Spokes: DT Swiss Competition
- Tires: Maxxis Ikon
- Bottom bracket type: PF 92
- ISCG Tabs: No
- Chainguide: N/A
- Saddle: Pivot WTB Volt
- Head tube angle: 69.5 degrees
- Seat tube angle: 72.5 degrees
- Chainstay length: 17.1 inches
- Bottom bracket height: 12.1 inches
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