Editor's Note: Once again, Mtbr welcomes longtime forum member Kent Robertson to the front page. Kent - or KRob - has been riding and evaluating bikes for two decades. This year, he and testing partner Ben Slabaugh headed to Moab, Utah, for the annual Outerbike consumer demo event. There they rode as many bikes as possible. Now you get to find out what they thought. First up, a quick explanation of their testing protocol.
Check out the entire Outerbike Test Sessions archive and see all of Kent's First Ride Reviews.
I missed a couple demo events this year and there has been several really interesting bikes to come out, so my test list for Outerbike was quite long. But with three or four extra testers to help grab bikes, we made a serious attempt to knock off as many of my must-rides this year as possible. The list was packed with several aggressive geometry 29ers in both shorter and mid- travel configurations, short travel 27.5 Knolly Endorphin competitors (Kent's current bike of choice), and several longer travel enduro rigs.
I arrived in Utah three days early to get some extra Moab riding in before the demo began, starting off with what has become maybe my favorite Moab ride: Mag 7 to Portal. A day later, I caught an early shuttle for what was supposed to be Geyser Pass, but overnight rain kept us lower for our starting point for the Whole Enchilada. These two rides were a great way to get mind and body ready for the next three days of testing.
Never been to Outerbike? Find out what this consumer demo event is all about.
The same qualifiers apply to these reviews as always. They are first ride impressions only. We try to get the set-up and suspension dialed as well as we can for a short ride that usually lasts from 30 minutes to an hour. These are not full-on extended reviews. However, we stand by our opinions, and feel like we are pretty good at feeling out the true identity, strengths, weaknesses, and soul of any given bike. All bikes are rated on a scale of 1-5 for visual impression/looks, climbing ability, descending, cornering, general agility, fit, and an intangible factor. Lowest possible score is 7. Highest is 35. Now on to the first review.
The original Titus Switchblade was tops on my list when I was ready to invest in my first real, high-end full suspension bike 15 years ago because it ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in an aggressive trail bike. The new Pivot Switchblade was tops on my list for this demo for the same reasons. It definitely ticked all the boxes. The Pivot Switchblade is an aggressive trail bike with 135mm of rear travel and 150mm up front. It ships with either 29er or 27.5+ wheels. It also sports pretty slack head angles at 67.25 degrees in 29er configuration, or 66.5 in 27.5+ form. Chainstays short at 16.85", yet it can still accommodate a front derailleur and up to 3.25" tires. With a stiff carbon frame that's fairly light, it can be built up in the sub-30-pound range without totally breaking the bank. It sounded like the perfect all-trail bike (Yes, I'm coining a new bike category. You're welcome.)
Read the Mtbr Pivot Switchblade First Ride Review here.
I scrambled to the Pivot tent first thing and was able to secure this black, size large set up with 27.5+ wheels. As with all Pivot's recently, the Switchblade has a compact, visually balanced look. The bottom bracket, seat tube downtube junction is thick and oozes stiffness. The links are short and well executed, keeping things tight and aesthetically pleasing. The fit was perfect for my 71-inch average body type.
Getting around tight switchbacks was natural and didn't require any major adjustments in technique.
Moving up the trail was easy and the Switchblade responded well to pedal input. Lateral stiffness kept things in line and for a 130mm travel 27.5+ it bumped off small kickers and drops with relative ease, but felt slightly sluggish doing it. Cornering also felt a bit vague with the bigger tires. They didn't really lack for grip, I just didn't ever really feel a nice edge to set with confidence. I took it on some rocky, more technical climbs and was impressed at its efficiency and climbing grip, though less so with its ability to roll up and over square edges. The rear end seemed to stiffen too much and caused a noticeable hop in its progress though no discernable pedal kickback.
Getting around tight switchbacks was natural and didn't require any major adjustments in technique. I'd give it a 4 out of 5 on smooth and technical climbing. This is a good characteristic for an all-day trail bike and an enduro race rig.
For a longer travel 27.5+ what wasn't expected is that it didn't feel super plush on rougher descents and didn't seem super smooth on smaller trail irregularities, an area where the Ibis Mojo 3+ really shined. Maybe I didn't ever get the tire pressure dialed, which I know is critical. Or maybe I didn't ever get the Fox Float shock adjusted correctly, but quite a bit of fiddling didn't substantially improve this lack of plushness. I'd like to try it again with a Float X2 or Cane Creek DB Air. Perhaps a nice custom coil like the Push ELEVENSix would be the ticket, but the Float shock wasn't doing it for me.
Unlike my fellow tester, I liked the SRAM drivetrains better than the Shimano. This one had vague shifting and kept missing shifts and dropping gears.
I know Pivot knows how to give a bike that deep and plush rear suspension feel because I've ridden the Mach 6 on several occasions, but I couldn't help but think how the Switchblade felt more akin to the 429 Trail than the Mach 6. Maybe that was by design, but I expected more of a Mach 6 29er/27.5+.
When I took the bike back to the Pivot tent I asked the technician to "switch" on the 29er wheels. I immediately felt more comfortable. It felt more responsive to pedal input, cut into corners better, and rolled up and over square edges with less kick. The bigger wheel transformed the bike for me. It still wasn't perfect, but I liked it a lot better.
Outerbike Test Session Score: 30/35 in 27.5+ form; 32/35 in 29er form.
For more information visit www.pivotcycles.com.