What weighs thirty pounds and has 170mm of travel and now comes with the latest and greatest 650b option?
Pivot Bicycles was formed in 2007 by bike designer Chris Cocalis (previous owner of Titus Bicycles). Since its inception he has expanded his shop into a 26,000sqft warehouse space, employs 25 full time people, has eight models of alloy bikes, plus three carbon models.
Lee Lau and I had the privilege of touring the Pivot warehouse on a trip to Phoenix this year. During the tour he gave us a great overview of his production which was also reported on in an interview here. This was a very detailed interview so I won’t repeat except to add some other information I found to be interesting. Chris continued working on his own suspension design after leaving Titus. He wanted to create a bike with a rearward wheel path to handle square edged hits, and to ensure good pedaling efficiency, something that eluded him with the Horst Link Design. After working on his design for awhile he heard that Dave Weagle was working on a similar design. After some talking they decided to collaborate and come up with the Pivot Suspension. One issue Dave had with his design was the lack of a place to put the front derailleur. Chris solved this by mounting the front derailleur directly to the frame and coming up with the floating front derailleur for the Firebird frame.
This is one of the finer unique attributes that Chris brings to his frames; he has an idea and made the design work to create a stiff frame with a suspension that handles square edge hits, climbs like a goat and has the added benefit of Dave’s anti squat suspension. Each bike model is initially designed, prototyped and built in house with custom rigs in a step by step process to ensure the frame is exact, straight and moves within the tight constricts of its design. This precision is maintained in the Taiwanese factory by moving this production line over to the facility, training the Taiwan welders in Phoenix by drilling quality assurance into their souls and sending them back to work in the production facility after they too have become Pivotees.
To further ensure Chris’s obsession with quality and precision is maintained in all Pivots, a Pivot employee (American production manager) is on site to ensure the process is followed precisely. Chris mentioned the frustration of convincing the Taiwanese that he didn’t want to put frames out as fast as possible. He wanted frames put out RIGHT; regardless of the time and with only some concern to cost. When the Taiwanese frames return to Phoenix each are measured before the bike is assembled and shipped to its new owner.
Once back from the manufacturer each bike is checked and assembled by dedicated Pivotees.
As an added consideration, producing these frames in the USA would not be possible as these skilled trades sadly seem to no longer exist to manufacture bicycle frames to scale. Thus production in the USA would be far more expensive and nobody would be able to afford to buy these bikes. Other USA and Canadian bike manufacturers would agree. You might ask, how could such a complicated design with such tight tolerances last? Again I attribute the longevity of his frames to his perfectionist approach.
The Firebird, is a tried and true mountain machine that can climb all day and descend in the gnarliest rock garden or root infested rock you can throw at it. See my previous review in 2010. How can it be better? The current rage is the 650b/27.5 wheel. Smaller then the 29in wheel, another infatuation which can make a poorly-designed bike handle less quickly and is awkward for some riders, the 27.5 has the middle road appeal of not negatively impacting quick handling as do some 29er’s, but offering more speed and stability then a 26′er. Why were bikes 26inches in the first place? An arbitrary decision; who knows if 27.5 really is better? Current experience indicates it is faster with no noticeable downside.
After riding the Firebird 27.5 for a week in Phoenix and Sedona I can tell you that it did not negatively affect the handling of the Firebird at all; it did make it faster and more stable in chunder. Is the difference enough for those to convert their current 26 into a 27.5? Perhaps not, but if you were to choose a bike now, why not have a better climbing, faster more stable steed?
Continue reading for the Pivot Firebird 27.5 riding and overall impressions, more videos and photos.