by Wil Barrett
April 18, 2017
Showing up with plenty of time before an upcoming magazine group test is this futuristic Pivot Switchblade. One of the newest bikes to come from the Arizona-based Pivot Cycles, the Switchblade is a dual-personality long-travel trail bike that’s designed to accommodate your choice of 29in or 27.5+ wheels. It’s got 135mm of rear wheel travel, it’ll take a 150-160mm travel fork, and it features considerably longer and slacker geometry than has previously adopted for Pivot’s existing full suspension trail bikes.
In terms of travel and intent, the Switchblade kinda sits between the Mach 429 and Mach 6. It straddles the gap between ‘trail’ and ‘enduro’, though with the option to swap in chubby wheels, it appears to be a slippery bike that wants to avoid being pigeonholed.
We’ve got the Switchblade setup with 29in hoops, as that’s one of the prerequisites of out upcoming group test…
“Purpose-built to meet the demands of enduro and aggressive trail riding, Pivot’s Switchblade is a versatile ripper with a huge advantage no matter where you shred. As a long travel 29er, the Switchblade is a next-level enduro bike that begs for fast, steep and technical trails. As a 27.5+ machine, the Switchblade combines spider-man traction with the shortest chainstays in the category for the ultimate all-terrain, all-conditions ride” – Pivot Cycles.
The Pivot Switchblade Features
- Designed as a versatile long-travel trail bike
- Carbon fibre construction w/machined alloy linkages
- Compatible with 29in and 27.5+ wheels
- 135mm rear wheel travel
- DW5 suspension design
- Designed to accommodate 150-160mm travel forks
- Comes with 17mm lower headset cup
- Head angle: 66.5° (27.5+ mode), 67.25° (29in mode)
- 428mm chainstay length
- 157x12mm Super Boost rear hub spacing
- Max tyre width: 29 x 2.4in or 27.5 x 3.25in
- Compatible with 1x and 2x drivetrains
- Room for two bottle cage mounts in every frame except for X-Small (will only fit one bottle)
- Internal cable routing
- Di2 ready
- Available sizes: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Frame-only RRP: £3100
- Complete bike RRP: £5950 – £9400
Run by the engineering egg head that is Chris Cocalis, Pivot Cycles has been alive and kicking since 2007. Over the past seven years, the company has introduced class-leading models such as the Mach 4 XC rocketship, the long-travel Firebird, and the impressive LES hardtail. The Switchblade takes a similar no-holds-barred engineering approach to Pivot’s other models, and in so doing, comes packed with loads and loads of features that make it one of the most high-tech frames currently on the market.
Like the aforementioned Mach 429 and Mach 6 bikes, the Switchblade also features a dw_link suspension design. To be specific, it’s DW5 – which refers to the five links utilised in the back end.
The rear swingarm is crafted out of one big ol’ piece of carbon fibre, making for a stout rear triangle. That triangle is then bolted to the front end via two compact alloy links in a familiar dw_link arrangement. Where DW5 differentiates from other dw_link designs is in the use of a 5th link that connects the base of the rear shock to the upper link. This design has been employed to address several issues, one of which is a simple packaging issue. With the shock yoke (or ‘extender’), the shock can be placed further up the top tube to make room for a bottle cage inside the front triangle. The other design goal of the 5th link is to help control the shock rate, which has been specifically engineered for air shocks.
Just above the 92mm wide press-fit bottom bracket is a very compact lower linkage that keeps things tight and stiff.
Each pivot point is loaded with Enduro MAX bearings that fit in as many balls as possible into the races. This helps with load capacity in an area that doesn’t experience that much rotation, but plenty of force.
In the above photo, you’ll be able to see where the shock yoke mounts up onto the upper linkage. These are quite lovely forged and machined links that are carefully engineered to keep things compact.
It’s worth noting that the DW5 design doesn’t actually have any more rotational points than a regular four-bar or dw_link suspension platform. In fact, what that shock yoke does is eliminate the traditional DU bush found at the lower shock eyelet, and instead captures the shock 90° from normal. Essentially this allows the shock’s stanchion and the yoke to become the one structural member, extending the pivot point for the rear shock further back at the upper link.
And why do that? Firstly by eliminating the DU bush, Pivot uses two cartridge bearings at the base of the shock yoke to handle rotation during actuation of the bike’s travel. This reduces stiction and allows for a smoother feel to the suspension. Secondly, it helps the upper link to drive the rear shock in a more linear fashion, with less change to the pivot angle as it drives the shock through it’s stroke. Dave Weagle has lots more numbers and equations to fill our tiny heads with about the DW5 design, but to save you from having your brain melted, we’ll leave it at that.
Pivot Cycles designed the Switchblade exclusively around the Fox FLOAT DPS rear shock and the EVOL air can. Chris Cocalis has a longstanding relationship with Fox Racing Shox, and so the Switchblade (like very Pivot full suspension bike) has been setup with a custom tuned Fox rear shock.
One feature we really dig about Pivot full suspension bikes is the use of a sag indicator around the base of the main air can. This provides a quick and easy visual reference for your sag figure, rather than having to resort to a ruler every time you make an adjustment to air pressure.
Up front is a 150mm travel Fox 36 FIT4 fork to match the Factory Series rear shock. Double Kashima goodness.
Rather than the independently adjustable low & high-speed compression adjusters, the FIT4 version uses the same damper used in the 34 and 32 fork series. There’s Open-Medium-Firm compression settings, and you can also tweak the low-speed compression damping when in the Open mode via a black dial in the middle of the blue 3-position lever.
While our test bike came setup with 29in wheels, the Switchblade is also compatible with 27.5+ wheels and tyres.
Inside the rear swingarm you’ll find MASSES of tyre clearance. Or if you ride in the UK, plenty of room for mud. Our test bike features 2.3in wide tyres, though Pivot says there’s room for 2.4in rubber. Note that there is plenty of width for wider rubber again, but it’s clearance down by the chainstay yoke where a taller tyre may run into some clearance issues. After all, this bike does come with incredibly short 428mm chainstays.
The ever-reliable High Roller II tyre from Maxxis up front, complete with 3C triple-rubber compound and tubeless ready capabilities.
And the matching High Roller II out back. Both tyres use the EXO sidewall protection for getting rad.
Although our bike uses Pivot’s “29 Pro XT 1x” build, it’s also been jazzed up with some trick carbon wheels from Reynolds.
These are the same carbon wheels you’ll find on the top-end XTR Xi2 build kits from Pivot Cycles. Using a full carbon fibre rim, the Reynolds Carbon Enduro 29 wheelset rocks a 28mm internal rim width and a tubeless ready design with Reynlds’ own tubeless tape and valves fitted.
Reynolds has been doing its own hubs for some time now, but the new Carbon Enduro 29 wheelset features hubs built in the US by Industry Nine. These feature alloy hub shells machined for straight-pull spokes, and come packed with sealed cartridge bearings throughout.
In the rear Industry Nine hub you’ll find the Torch freehub mechanism. There are 6-pawls that deliver 120 points of engagement for super-fast pickup, with a ‘click’ every 3° of rotation. Zzzzzzzzz!
There are numerous 1x and 2x build options available for the Switchblade, though our test bike came supplied with a 1x XTR setup that includes a Shimano XTR Shadow Plus rear mech and an 11-speed Shimano cassette that’s been hopped-up with a One Up 45t cassette expander. However, it’s worth noting that new 1x Switchblades will instead come with a Shimano Deore XT 11-46t cassette.
Alloy Race Face Aeffect cranks that use a custom-length 24mm diameter steel spindle. The custom spindle is necessary due to the wider 157x12mm Super Boost Plus thru-axle out back, which (like a regular Boost drivetrain), uses a heavy offset to push the drivetrain further out away from the frame. This is done to maximise tyre clearance, and hence end up with those mega short 428mm chainstays.
The Super Boost Plus system goes one step further than regular Boost by pushing the drivetrain out even further. Apparently you can run some regular width cranks with the Switchblade, but you might need to flip the chainring around to manage the chainline – as that’s what changes with the Super Boost Plus system.
Underneath the carbon fibre downtube is an integrated rubberised protector, which you’ll also find on the inside of the driveside chainstays and seatstays. Also underneath the downtube are two mounting bolts for an additional water bottle cage, and the plug for the Di2 battery – if you choose to run Shimano’s electronic drivetrain.
Pivot Cycles has gone to some lengths with its internal cable routing, with numerous entry and exit ports available for cable, hydraulic and electronic setups.
At the cockpit end of the bike you’ll find Shimano brake levers and shifters, and Pivot’s own locking grip system that has been designed in conjunction with WTB.
The carbon handlebars are Pivot Cycle’s own, and the bars have been diagonally cut to accommodate the PadLock grips. Got no idea what we’re on about? Check out our review of the WTB Pad Loc grip and handlebar system here.
On the left side of the bars is another Shimano Deore XT M8000 brake lever, and a compact KS dropper post lever.
Handlebars and stem are Pivot branded using the ‘Phoenix’ moniker. The bars sit at 800mm wide, and the stem is 50mm long.
Brake rotors are 180mm front and rear, and they use a Centrelock spline with Ice Tech cooling technology for teh coolnezz.
125mm travel KS Lev Integra dropper post getting that saddle out of the way.
There you go folks – a bit of a closer look at some of the lovely details on show with the latest Switchblade frame from Pivot Cycles. We’ll leave you there for now, as it’s time to get this stealthy matte black bike covered in filthy Yorkshire mud!
For more information on the Switchblade and any other Pivot models, head to the Upgrade Bikes website for all your UK availability and pricing needs.
Pivot Switchblade 29 Pro XT 1x Specifications
- Frame // Carbon Fibre, 135mm Travel
- Fork // Fox 36 Float FIT4, 150mm Travel
- Shock // Fox Float DPS EVOL
- Hubs // Reynolds/Industry Nine 110x15mm Front & 157x12mm Rear
- Rims // Reynolds Carbon Enduro 29
- Tyres // Maxxis High Roller II EXO 3C MaxxTerra 27.5 x 2.3in Front & Rear
- Chainset // Race Face Aeffect SL, Alloy, Custom Spindle, 30t Narrow Wide Chainring
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // Shimano XTR Shadow Plus, 11-Speed
- Shifters // Shimano Deore XT, 11-Speed
- Cassette // Shimano Deore XT, 11-42t w/One Up 45t Cassette Expander, 11-Speed
- Brakes // Shimano Deore XT, 180mm Front & Rear
- Stem // Phoenix Trail Enduro, 50mm Long
- Bars // Phoenix Carbon Riser, 800mm Wide
- Grips // WTB/Pivot PadLoc
- Seatpost // KS LEV Integra, 31.6mm, 125mm Travel
- Saddle // WTB Vigo Race
- Size Tested // Medium
- Sizes available // X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
- Weight // 13.38kg (29.44lbs)