First Ride: 2020 Pivot Switchblade

A versatile bike indeed

News Pro Reviews

All photos in this feature @Copyright by Cody Wellington

Four years ago, Pivot introduced the Switchblade Trail bike with 27.5+ Plus tires and 135mm rear and 150mm front travel. We were so impressed with it enough that we bought our test bike seen here. It was a versatile and capable trail bike that seemed to do everything well and not afraid to handle the big, rowdy descents.

And in January of 2020, Pivot founder Chris Cocalis invited us to their headquarters and test trails, in South Mountain in Phoenix, AZ to see the latest incarnation of the Pivot Switchblade.

The bike received a major design revamp starting with an all-new frame with a different suspension design featuring a vertically mounted rear shock. This shock configuration allows a more compact frame design with a lower top tube, providing a stiffer and lighter frame at the same time. It also works with a more progressive shock rate, allowing the use of coil shocks that are gaining popularity these days. Water bottle clearance is improved so a large one fits now on all sizes.

The bike increases travel by 7mm from 135 to 142mm of rear suspension and pairs that with 160mm forks with 44mm offset. 29er wheels are standard fare now but the buyer has the option of going with 27.5+ wheels as well. Super Boost 157mm rear hub is called upon for rear stiffness duties and it’s not quite as controversial as before. Many hub makers now support this platform and other frame manufacturers have employed this standard when rear stiffness is paramount.

Secret Sauce

But the real key to all this is a patented position-sensitive anti-squat system that eliminates pedal bob even during very hard efforts. Pedaling efficiency is of absolute importance to Pivot so they worked through many iterations with Dave Weagle to create this latest version of the DW-Link suspension.

We believe that this is really the key reason they held the product launch in South Mountain. We’ve never seen so many technical climbs in one area. We were delighted to see our BB height hold up, not pedal strike with a heavy stroke and transfer that power as we cleared a crazy obstacle. But then we looked up and there were 50 more yards of the same thing ahead of us.

The rear suspension is mated with a 44mm offset 160mm travel Fox 36 Grip2 fork, the front suspension we consider to be the best in the business.

A Special Fox DPX2 Shock

We love the Fox DPX2 Rear shock and consider it to be the best option for Trail and light All Mountain bikes. But it can be noisy at times and not as plush on the roughest terrain. Chris Cocalis used his extraordinary clout with Fox and worked with them to take it to the next level. About ten iterations later, they came up with a very adjustable next generation Fox DPX2 rear shock exlusive to Pivot. This DPX2 has an all-new base valve design and selector plate. The new design provides more support where needed while increasing oil flow and plushness on high-speed impacts. Read on below for our ride impressions to see if we detected an improvement during our test rides.

Size Specific

Pivot is famous for catering to a wide range of rider heights, from 5′ to 6’7″ and beyond. In this new Switchblade, they went a step further and created different frame designs for different sizes. Material thickness, tube sizes were all optimized for the task at hand to ensure the short, light rider will have a very similar experience as the tall rider as far as frame clearances and stiffness is concerned.

Geometry Discussion

Of course, geometry was addressed to be made current and progressive, without going overboard. The Reach was increased (455mm for a medium) and head and seat angles were modernized to 66 and 75.5. The seat tube was shortened with longer insertion depths to allow the rider the longest dropper post option.

The Flip-chip upper linkage adjustable geometry is still present to adjust the angles and bottom bracket height. And there’s still the option to adjust the front height with external lower headset cups. This allows a no-compromise option when going with different wheel sizes, including the intriguing mullet, mixed size option.

How did it ride

We’ll break this up into three sections: how it climbed, how it traversed swoopy stuff and how it bombed down rock gardens.

Climbing fire roads, this plush suspension doesn’t move. Slow efforts, hard accelerations, the rear just sits, seems to auto-adjust and utilizes all that force forward. On rocky climbs, power is conserved as it doesn’t bob and when it’s time to put on the power move, the suspension stays up and doesn’t sink where there’s usually pedal-strike inducing rocks. We didn’t clear all the technical segments but we cleared more than we ever have in one ride. The suspension moves when hit by a rock so traction is maintained.

Traversing tight, swoopy singletrack, this system is a dream. The rear stiffness with its 430mm chainstay length really plays a part as it’s so easy to control the rear of the bike. Keep it smooth or slide it a bit, we’ve never railed switchbacks this good as we descended down what seems like 20 switchbacks on the backside of South Mountain. It is so easy and controllable to flick, rail and flick again in one turn!

And finally, there are the rock gardens and steps of South Mountain. We climbed (or walked) them all so we descended with giddy apprehension. After the first couple minutes though, it was game on as this rear suspension was plush and controlled. It was quiet and calm as I followed all the option lines of head engineer Kevin, the drop seeking missile. The rear shock on this latest Switchblade is definitely more open and controlled than its predecessor.

Of course, this is only two days of riding in South Mountain of Phoenix but I felt like I learned more about the bike than two weeks of riding in my loamy trails in Santa Cruz, CA.

Pricing

For more information, visit: pivotcycles.com


About the author: Francis Cebedo

The founder of mtbr and roadbikereview, Francis Cebedo believes that every cyclist has a lot to teach and a lot to learn. "Our websites are communal hubs for sharing cycling experiences, trading adventure stories, and passing along product information and opinions." Francis' favorite bike is the last bike he rode, whether it's a dirt jumper, singlespeed, trail bike, lugged commuter or ultralight carbon road steed. Indeed, Francis loves cycling in all its forms and is happiest when infecting others with that same passion. Francis also believes that IPA will save America.



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