First Ride Review: Pivot Firebird 29 Pro X01

by Wil Barrett 6

After the first day of riding at the Pivot Cycles launch in Moab last month, we gathered inside the living room of one of the apartments Pivot had taken over, to get the full product presentation on the new Trail 429. We’d been out on the Mag 7 and Portal trails that morning, and aside from a few tidbits of information, Pivot had deliberately kept us journos in the dark about the specifics of the new bike. The casual living room presentation took around an hour or so, with a bunch of questions being slung at Chris Cocalis (Pivot founder and CEO), and Kevin Tisue (Pivot’s Director of Engineering).

pivot launch chris cocalis living room trail 429
Everyone gathered around to hear Chris’s fable of the long-travel 29er. Photo: Jens Staudt.

Following the Q&A session, Chris informed us that they had a surprise in store for us. We’d been expecting to spend the following day riding Porcupine Rim on the same bike, but it turned out that Pivot had a few more bikes stowed inside the enormous American-sized trailer it had parked up in the driveway. Apparently these bikes had only arrived in the country just days before the launch, so it was a little touch and go as to whether they’d be available in time.

Lucky for us though, they had arrived.

Pivot’s media relations guru, Ron Koch, then wheeled in a sand-coloured carbon fibre full suspension mountain bike that had big 29er Maxxis tyres and a long travel Fox 36 fork on the front. Written on the top tube in bold lettering was the name ‘Firebird 29’. Instead of the Trail 429, the bike we’d be riding in the morning would be this brand new, yet-to-be-released behemoth.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah
It’s the Pivot Firebird, but with 29er wheels. Photo: Jens Staudt.

The Firebird 29 is the result of a 3-year development period to produce Pivot’s ultimate long-travel 29er. During that period, Cocalis and Co. had spent a solid amount of saddle time testing out some of the best-in-class bikes from their competitors. It became clear from testing that a lot of these big travel, big wheelers were very fast, with a distinct ‘monster truck’ feel on the descents.

But Pivot being Pivot, it didn’t just want to build a monster truck. Cocalis wanted something more nimble than that, and something that pedalled well too. Something that was rideable on a greater variety of trails, and able to be ridden assertively by more riders. In Cocalis’ words, he wanted to “make something that was way more bike than you need, but there when you need it”.

Three years later, and here we have the newest mountain bike from Pivot Cycles: the Firebird 29.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah
Up in the La Sal mountain range, high above Moab. Photo: Jens Staudt.

Pivot Firebird 29 Features

  • Long travel 29er enduro/park bike
  • Compatible with 29in or 27.5+ wheels
  • Max tyre clearance: 29×2.6in, 27.5×2.8in
  • Full carbon fibre frame w/alloy linkages
  • dw_link suspension design
  • 162mm rear travel
  • 170-180mm fork travel
  • 65 head angle
  • 74.5 seat angle
  • Reach: 428mm (Small), 455mm (Medium), 475mm (Large), 498mm (X-Large)
  • Chainstay length: 431mm
  • High/Low geometry settings
  • 1x specific frame design
  • PF92 bottom bracket
  • Super Boost Plus spacing w/157x12mm rear hub
  • Claimed frame weight: 3.2kg (Medium size w/shock)

If you’re after a more detailed rundown of the tech details for the new Firebird 29, or you’d like to see the different build kit options and various prices, then check out my detailed story about the bike here. For setup and first ride impressions though, read on.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
Porcupine Rim is an unforgettable trail for the views alone. Photo: Jens Staudt.

Porcupine Rim

For the second day of the Pivot Cycles launch, we were shuttled from our base in Moab up to Mount Waas in the La Sal mountain range. Starting at an altitude of 2898m, our ride would begin on a trail called Hazard – a flowy, though occasionally rocky ribbon of singletrack that wound its way through grass, shrubs and bone-white aspen trees. This would send us into the high-speed Kokopelli trail, before dropping into UPS (Upper Porcupine System) and then LPS (Lower Porcupine System), where we were treated to jaw-dropping views of Castle Valley over on our right side as we dropped down towards the Colorado River. The views were adjoined by sheer cliff edges, keeping everyone on their toes.

The ride itself was tough. Over the course of our 35km journey, we’d be dropping almost 2000 vertical metres, with some highly technical and high-risk sections of trail presenting plenty of opportunities to put the Firebird 29, and my nerves, to the test. The rocks here seem to grow other rocks, and I can’t recall too many occasions on the UPS and LPS trails where we actually rode on soil – it was a proper beat-down for both riders and bikes. Despite our elevation loss, there was a load of climbing in there too. Moab is full of techy climbing that meant we could test the efficiency and effectiveness of the Firebird’s pedalling manners. Oh, and did I mention it was roasting? Even though we started around 8am in the morning, by the time we finished at lunchtime, the temperature gauge was already reading 37°C.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
The Hazard trail was full of fun, flowy, wide-open corners and rocky ledges to spring off. Photo: Jens Staudt.

Now although the terrain was incredibly challenging and an excellent test for the bike, I need to point out that I only spent the one day riding the Firebird 29. Riding unfamiliar trails can be a great way to quickly get a feel for how confidence-inspiring a bike is, but given how different the terrain was to our local Calder Valley singletrack, there’s only so much I can deduce from my experience. After all, Moab doesn’t exactly give you a lot of opportunity to test things like mud clearance.

That aside, I can confirm that the Firebird 29 has plenty of presence on the trail – it’s a big and bold bike that feels rooted to the trail surface. The Medium-sized test bike I was riding has a reach of 455mm, which felt spacious with the 800mm wide ape-hangers. And because the PadLoc grips have that thick padded wedge on either end, you’re encouraged to ride with your hands a little further apart, squaring off your elbows and widening the effective bar width. Paired up to that huge carbon fibre frame, sticky Maxxis rubber and 36mm Fox fork, and the Firebird 29 has a very unshakeable feel on the trail.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
The 800mm wide bars and PadLoc grips allow for a broad stance over the front of the Firebird 29. Photo: Jens Staudt.

Setting Up

Set up took us a little longer compared to the Trail 429, mostly due to the extra damping adjustments. Because the trails were so rocky and so unrelenting, I found that I had to fiddle more with those adjustments throughout the ride to get the fork and shock performing how I wanted.

Initially I set up the 36 fork with 64psi, and had both the high and low speed compression adjusters wound 1/3rd of the way in from zero. Even with no volume spacers inside, I found I wasn’t getting anywhere near full travel though, and the fork was feeling a little un-compliant on the square-edged hits. I dropped pressure down to 60psi and backed both the LSC and HSC settings all the way off, which helped to smooth out the travel and allow me to get further into the stroke. Rebound damping was set as per the handy setup guide on the back of the fork lowers.

pivot firebird 29 fox float x2 shock
The Float X2 shock has a huge air can and a piggyback reservoir. Photo: Jens Staudt.

The Float X2 shock was a little simpler to set up, since it was the blacked-out Performance Series model that only features low-speed rebound and compression damping (there’s no external high-speed adjustments). Just like the fork though, I ended up winding the compression damping all the way off over the course of the ride to help improve small-bump sensitivity and comfort. Sag was set at 30% with 170psi in the main air spring, and rebound was 16 clicks off full slow. Of note is that the X2 shock is a new metric-sized variety, and the total stroke is actually the same amount as the total stanchion showing. That means full travel is easier to eyeball, since the O-ring will be pushed all the way to the end at bottom out.

Once I had the suspension set up and had dropped a bit of pressure out of the tyres (these were originally set at 25/27psi by the conservative Pivot team, due to the high risk of pinch-flats. I ended up dropping pressure down to 23/25psi), I started feeling more comfortable.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
For a bike of this travel, the Firebird 29 is an incredible climber. Photo: Jens Staudt.

On The Trail

Of course there are no doubts that this is a big bike with a whole lot of travel and meaty tyres, but it’s surprising how easy it feels to move about when needed. The suspension design is very efficient, with the dual-link system keeping the rear shock steady when you’re on the pedals. Normally pedal efficiency wouldn’t be a huge concern for me on a bike with 170/162mm of travel, but in this case it really adds to the Firebird 29’s versatility and contributes to its excellent climbing manners. The lightweight carbon frame and short back end helps here too, making it easy to pop the front wheel up onto rocky ledges before thrutching the rest of the bike up and over. There was plenty of that sort of riding once we were on to UPS and LPS, and I was glad to have the speedy freehub engagement to help ratchet the pedals while trying to thread the bike through some narrow rocky passes. The responsive Reynolds carbon wheels also add a good deal of enthusiasm to the Firebird 29, aiding acceleration and making the most of your pedalling inputs.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
It’s also lively through the corners, thanks to that short and stout back end. Photo: Jens Staudt.

The stable suspension platform also helps the Firebird 29 to maintain its dynamic geometry well. It doesn’t feel like it wallows in its travel, and on steep ascents you don’t get that folding sensation that you can get with some other full suspension bikes. This means your weight distribution sits more consistently over the BB, retaining the effective seat angle rather than it slackening off the moment your front wheel points upwards.

On the smoother and flowier trails we rode, the Firebird 29 impressed me with how natural it felt through the turns. The short back-end is a big contributor to the bike’s nimbleness here, and reduced the amount of wrestling I had to engage just to get the bike through to the exit. There is a touch more damping to the steering due to that shorter fork offset, but after the first two corners I’d gotten used to it, and was able to throw the front tyre in more assertively.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil
Moab is full of surprise-drops, and the Firebird 29 saved my bacon on a lot of them. Photo: Jens Staudt.

On steeper rolls down, the front-end calmness also helped the Firebird 29 to help me not to die on several occasions. There were several heart-in-mouth moments where I’d accidentally committed to something that I really shouldn’t have, but the bike had my back each and every time. When you’re bombing at speed, this mini-DH feel to the Firebird 29 allowed me to get away with a lot more than I should have.

I won’t comment too much on the components strapped to the Firebird 29, mostly because of my limited time aboard the bike, but also because everything worked as it was meant to. The sleek Shimano drivetrain shifted beautifully, and the KS dropper post provided a light and fast action with a good top-out noise. I also enjoyed the smooth and powerful braking feel from the new XT 4-piston stoppers, though the light ticking noise from brake pads moving inside the calliper was pretty annoying. As with the Trail 429 I rode the day before, I found the WTB PadLoc grips to be brutally rough – particularly as I’d forgotten to wear gloves. If anyone’s wondering, riding gloveless on a hot day in Moab is not something me or my callused palms will recommend.

Overall

Though I only had limited time aboard the Firebird 29, there are a few takeaway points I can establish. For a start, its impressive frame weight and excellent pedalling manners give it a surprising amount of pep and determination on rolling terrain. For a bike with this much travel, it genuinely surprised me with how well it climbed – particularly if those climbs were technical.

On the descents, its well-damped suspension package and big 29er tyres give it a mass of stability and dependability for launching into oblivion with confidence. On the many surprise-drops I encountered in Moab, the Firebird 29 saved my bacon on numerous occasions. I came nowhere near pushing the bike to its limits, but I was definitely happy to have its steamroller-like abilities when my skill reserves had been run dry.

That said, we would need more time aboard the Firebird 29 on home soil before we could make a full evaluation of its capabilities. For more details on the bike in the meantime, head to the Pivot Cycles website, or get in touch with Upgrade Bikes to find your nearest Pivot dealer.

pivot firebird 29 moab utah wil mountain
Gracious, strong and purposeful. Not sure about Wil though. Photo: Jens Staudt.

2018 Pivot Firebird 29 Pro X01 Specifications

  • Frame // Hollowbox Carbon Fibre, 162mm Travel
  • Fork // Fox 36 Float, Factory Series, FIT GRIP2, 170mm Travel
  • Shock // Fox Float X2, Performance Series, 230x65mm
  • Hubs // Reynolds Black Label Enduro 29, 110x15mm Front & 157x12mm Rear
  • Rims // Reynolds Black Label Enduro 29, Carbon, 34mm Internal Rim Width
  • Tyres // Maxxis Minion DHR II EXO 3C MaxxTerra WT 2.5in Front & 2.4in Rear
  • Chainset // SRAM X01 Eagle w/One Up 32t SB+ Switch Spider Chainring
  • Rear Mech // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Shifter // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Cassette // SRAM X01 Eagle, 12-Speed
  • Brakes // Shimano Deore XT 4-piston, 180mm Front & Rear Ice Tech Rotors
  • Bar // Phoenix Team Carbon, 35mm Diameter, 800mm Wide
  • Stem // Phoenix Team Enduro, 35mm Diameter, 45mm Long
  • Grips // Phoenix Team Padloc
  • Seatpost // KS LEV Integra, 30.9mm, 150mm Travel
  • Saddle // WTB Hightail Trail Pro
  • Size Tested // Medium
  • Sizes available // Small, Medium, Large & Extra Large
  • RRP // £8,100

Disclosure

Flights and accommodation for this trip were covered by Pivot Cycles.

Review Info

Brand:Pivot Cycles
Product:Firebird 29
From:Upgrade Bikes, upgradebikes.co.uk
Price:£8,100 (as tested)
Tested:by Wil Barrett for a day

Comments (6)

  1. That list of trails, that’s ‘The Whole Enchilada’ isn’t it?

  2. Looks like a brilliant machine, but that price made me double take

  3. The price is pretty steep but that is obviously the tip top spec with carbon everything.

  4. @Rubber_Buccaneer – Not quite. As I understand, the Whole Enchilada starts further up with a trail called ‘Burro Pass’. I’m guessing it was either time or the snow line that meant we couldn’t do the entire thing. Was still a huge day out on the bike!

    @Tim – It’s a pretty bling build hey! FYI, that price includes a hefty carbon wheel upgrade. The standard build with alloy wheels goes for ‘only’ £6,400. There are two spec levels below this one though, with complete bikes kicking off at £5,350.

    There’s further price and spec info on the whole range here; https://singletrackworld.com/2018/06/pivot-cycles-goes-big-with-170-162mm-travel-firebird-29er/

    ST Wil.

  5. If I was to purchase myself such a tasty, aggro machine, I certainly wouldn’t want it in … beige…! Does it come in any other colours?

  6. Yes, it also comes in a really shitty dark blue. Nobody likes Navy Pivot. Nobody. Although I’ll probably end up buying the vomit cream colour.

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