What is it?
The Pivot Switchblade is an aggressive trail bike with 135mm of rear travel and 150mm up front. It ships with either a 29" or 27.5+ wheelset thanks to the frame's cavernous tire clearance. It is an aggressive bike with 67.25-degree head angle in 29er configuration and 66.5 in 27.5+ form. Chainstays are a stubby 16.85", yet it can still accommodate a front derailleur and 3.25" tires. To achieve all this, Pivot has borrowed the 157mm rear hub spacing from the downhill world.
But there is a catch. To design the best bike they could with all these demands, Pivot designed a new hub size. They used the width of the old 157mm downhill standard and widened the spoke flanges by 14mm for lateral wheel stiffness. This will be covered in depth later in this article.
29er and 27.5+
The recommended plus tire size is 2.8" and all measurements quoted assume the diameter of a 2.8" tire. Bottom bracket height is a fairly low 13.4" in 29er form and lower at 13.2" for plus size. The reason it's lower is a 2.8" tire is about an inch shorter in diameter compared to a 2.3" 29er tire.
How does it handle the difference in diameter between the two wheel sizes? Given that the 27.5+ tire is about an inch shorter, Pivot uses a 17mm headset cup installed at the bottom of the head tube. This raises the bike back up so the bottom bracket difference is not too severe. The head angle and seat angles change a bit, though, since there is no mechanism to raise the rear end.
The seat angle changes from 74.25 for the 29er to 73.5 for the plus version. Again, the reason for all these differences is the change in diameter wheel sizes when using the recommended 2.8" tire. The front end is raised 17mm but not the rear. If the rider uses a 3.1" tire, then the geometry will be the same between the 29er and plus versions without need for a headset spacer.
Continue to page 2 for the phases of development »
Pivot frontman Chris Cocalis talks about the many stages of the Switchblade development (click to enlarge).
Phases of development
The Switchblade took five years to develop. With an ambitious goal of creating an aggressive 29er, many technological problems had to be solved to meet the goals of quick handling and descending prowess.
Two unexpected developments came along that disturbed the progress. The explosion of 27.5 demanded that the team focus on the development of the Mach 6. And later, the arrival of wide rims and plus tires spurred the Pivot engineering team to examine its viability in this platform.
This featured the new linkage's development was interrupted by the rise of 27.5 wheels and the Pivot Mach 6 (click to enlarge).
The blue prototype accommodated boost, wider rims, and the new style front derailleur (click to enlarge).
This final prototype was the aluminum version that preceded the carbon production models (click to enlarge).
New hub size
Something doesn't compute here as Pivot seemed to have pulled off the impossible. They fit in clearance for 3.25" tires, double rear triangle beams, a front derailleur mount, and one of the category's shortest chainstays at 16.85 inches.
The key to unlock this combination is a new, wider hub size that is 157mm wide compared to the current standards of 142mm and boost 148mm. Pivot's 157mm hub affectionately called Super Boost 157 pushes the drivetrain out 6mm, providing 12mm of additional tire clearance.
With the wider hub, the stays are aggressively tapered to provide room for the rider's heels. Rotor size max is 180mm (click to enlarge).
It uses the rear hub spacing of the existing 157mm downhill standard, but spreads the hub flanges wider by 14mm compared to the flange spacing of existing 157mm downhill hubs today. So in theory, an old downhill 157mm hub will work but it will be seriously compromised since it doesn't have the wider flange spacing.
The final aluminum prototype completed the Mach 5 vision and was renamed Switchblade (click to enlarge).
Currently, DT Swiss, Industry Nine, and Reynolds make a 157mm hub. Race Face is supplying cranks that are needed for proper chainline. The size is not proprietary so any component and frame manufacturer can use it with no licensing fees.
Continue to page 3 for our ride impressions and full photo gallery »
The familiar 'Switchblade' moniker
The Switchblade model name may sound familiar to some because it is the resurrection of the Titus Switchblade from a decade ago. Pivot owner and founder Chris Cocalis, formerly of Titus, created the original Switchblade bike, and as he left Titus to start Pivot, Titus collapsed and the Switchblade name became available again.
Originally slated as the 'Mach 5' bike, Pivot noted the availability and the bike's dual personality fit the Switchblade moniker so they decided to use it for this very versatile bike.
How does it compare to the Hightower?
It seems as though full suspension plus bikes are being introduced every few weeks these days, but the obvious competition for this bike is the Santa Cruz Hightower, which also can be purchased in either wheel size.
They are both designed around a 2.3x29er tire or 2.8"x27.5 tire. One big difference is how they address the diameter delta between the two sizes. As mentioned, the Switchblade only employs a front end cup to raise the front end by 17mm. The Hightower addresses this by using a different fork (150mm vs. 140mm) to raise the front end by 10mm. However, it also raises the rear end by using a 10mm 'flip chip' in the rear suspension linkage.
The chainstays are short yet provide massive tire clearance and good heel clearance (click to enlarge).
The result is the Hightower maintains its geometry in both versions, while the Switchblade alters it a bit. The Hightower however uses a longer fork on the 27.5+ and sits differently in the rear suspension curve.
Both are interesting solutions that result in a more aggressive 27.5+ version of the bike. It may seem like a compromise to some, but it is a very successful solution to give the buyer a bike with a massive sweet spot in this infancy stage of plus bikes. Folks can try the plus bike phenomenon without being locked in to this new platform.
Comparing the 29er version geometries, the Switchblade wins the key metric of chainstay length at 16.85" vs. 17.13" for the Hightower. Head/seat angles are virtually the same at 67.25/74.25 degrees for the Switchblade and 67/74.3 degrees for the Hightower. Note that the Switchblade gets slacker when in 27.5+ form.
The Hightower is a little lower with a 13.27" BB height vs 13.38" for the Switchblade. Reach for the Hightower is 16.93" vs. an incredibly long 17.32" for a medium Switchblade. Stack for the Hightower is lower at 23.78" vs. 24.21" for the Switchblade. Wheelbase for both bike is about the same at 45.9" size medium.
The Switchblade definitely wins in tire clearance accommodating 3.25" tires while the Hightower tops out at 3.0" tires. The Switchblade is more versatile, too, in the only one accepting a front derailleur and Di2 battery among the two. Finally, weight is about the same at 27 pounds for a bike with carbon wheels and a roughly $9,000 price tag.
How does it ride?
We rode this bike on some of the best trails of Moab, Utah, for three days. Porcupine Rim, Mag 7, and Captain Ahab were ridden with enthusiasm using both 29er and 27.5+ wheels. Normally, journalists just get a 'feel' for the bike on these bike introduction events, but we feel that we really got to know the Switchblade with these rides.
The biggest takeaway is this bike is an incredible descender. The geometry is the modern slack and long and it is so easy to control on the burliest descents. The frame and the wheels are very stiff laterally, so it tracks a line and stays the course as needed.
When it's time to corner, it is a delight as well due to the lateral stiffness and balanced suspension giving it good traction even on rough corners. The ultra short 16.85" stays make it easy to turn the bike and rail corners.
Climbing is where this bike really shines since it sits fairly high in its 13.3" BB height while under power. Pedal strikes were not too common even in the rocky trails of Moab. On the very rough uphill slabs, the bike excels as the ride remains very efficient and active while climbing up walls. The steep seat angle of 74.25 (for a medium) keeps the rider at an efficient climbing attack position.
Going full speed into dips and rock wall climbs is where this bike really shows its true colors, as the suspension takes the big hits and shoots up the wall. When it's time to pick up the power, pedaling is an efficient affair.
We paused during our test session at the Mag 7 trail to admire the Gemini Bridges vista (click to enlarge).
This bike is an engineering marvel and we're ready to proclaim it the best bike Pivot has ever made. It rides like a dream both up and down and every detail has been carefully addressed.
Colors, graphics, cable routing, components, suspension tune all seem dialed in this first rumble with the Switchblade. Compatibility with 150mm droppers and even 170mm droppers is designed in, too.
Of course, having a new hub size is a downer since that limits our wheel selection, and it's unlikely the arsenal of wheels in your garage will fit in this frame. We could be pumped about 3.25" tires and front derailleur compatibility, but we think those are very niche needs for this type of bike. It is a downside as well that the two versions of the bike have different geometries.
- Compatible with 29 and 27.5+ wheels
- Fits 27.5+ tires up to 3.25" wide
- Fits 29er tires up to 2.5" wide
- Long and low geometry
- Short 428mm (16.85") chainstays
- 135mm dw-link rear suspension with upper clevis and linkage and double wishbone rear triangle
- Designed for a 150mm fork, fits forks up to 160mm
- 27.5+ spec'd with either 40mm inner width DT alloy or Reynolds carbon wheels and aggressive new Maxxis Rekon 2.8" tires.
- 29er spec'd with 25mm inner width DT rims or 28mm inner width Reynolds Enduro carbon rims and aggressive Maxxis High Roller II 2.3" tires
- Front derailleur compatible with Pivot's E-Type mounting system
- Pivot cable port system for easy internal routing of shifters, brakes and droppers and full Di2 integration
- New quiet low durometer rubberized frame protection
- Price: $6299 for XT/XTR Pro 1x11 build for either 29er or plus version
- Price: $10,099 for Di2 and Reynolds carbon wheels
- Sub $5000 build will be available soon