Pivot Firebird – Reviewed at Pinkbike!

What weighs close to thirty pounds and has 170mm of travel? Inside we take a closer look at Pivot’s lightweight and hard hitting Firebird, a bike that is sure to break molds and open people’s minds to the possibility of taking their long travel bikes to new places. Inside you can check out all of the details and specs, as well as multiple videos and lots of photos.

Read on,
Pivot Bicycles is one of the three companies licensed to use the DW suspension linkage design. The dw-link, developed by Dave Weagle (hence the “DW”) is designed to be efficient, provide good traction, and eliminate pedal feedback. Pivot Bicycles was formed in 2007 by bike designer Chris Cocalis, who is known for building tough, good quality bikes and creating a dedicated following of riders. If you know about suspension, you will have heard of Chris. If you don’t, know that he is up there with the most respected bike builders in the world.

The Firebird, designed in conjunction with downhiller Kevin Tisue, is Pivot’s fourth frame model introduced in 2009. Having 6.7inches of rear travel, weighing it at 31lbs, this is Pivot’s first long travel trail bike. Is it good enough for a one bike quiver? The Pivot high above the Chilliwack River valley. A long hike for a short, but incredible descent.

The Firebird comes in four sizes – small, medium, large and extra large, with the medium being used in this review. The made in Taiwan 6061 aluminum frame uses large diameter tubes, and the one piece rear triangle is connected to the frame via the carbon upper rocker at the top and an aluminum link at the bottom. An aluminum upper rocker link is available for purchase as well. The shock is not rigidly bolted to the front triangle, but mounted to the lower link instead. This creates a floating shock that allows the engineers to have an easier time fine tuning the rate to their liking. All pivots feature oversize axles that rotate on sealed cartridge bearings, there being 8 in total. The rear triangle is stiffened via vertical tubes connecting the seat and chain stay. This provides a unique look to the frame, as well as using enough material to keep the bike light, but stiff. The seat tube drops low enough to provide ample seat post extension, but provides enough room in the linkage area for the suspension design. The 30.9 seat post size can accommodate the Gravity Dropper, Kind Shock, Command Post and Joplin adjustable seat posts, among others. This is an important consideration being that a lot of Firebird owners will look to spec their bikes with one of the above. It uses a 10 x 135 mm rear axle in the name of stiffness, as well as a full length 1.5″ head tube (although our test model was equipped with a tapered steerer Fox fork. Hidden behind the drivetrain are the ISCG05 tabs that let you easily mount up a guide if your riding demands it. A bare medium sized frame weighs in at 7.11 lbs.

A closer look at the business end of the Firebird. Take note of the carbon fiber upper link and quality pivot hardware. Hidden from view is the floating front derailleur that tracks the chain through the bike’s travel.

1.5inch head tube is designed to accommodate a 160mm or 170mm fork, but also allows you to use one of the new angle adjusting headsets if desired. The Firebird comes standard with the Fox Float 36 RC2. I was told that the top tube and down tube are welded separately to the head tube for weight savings and strength.

Pivot Firebird geometry, size medium

  • Head angle – 66.7 degrees (with 170 mm fork)
  • EFF Seat Angle – 71.5 degrees
  • Theoretical Top Tube – 23″
  • Chainstay – 17.25″
  • Bottom Bracket Drop – 13.85″
  • Standover – 28.5″
  • Wheelbase – 44″

The Specs
The front of the Firebird was graced with a new 2011 Fox 36 Float RC2 that I was very excited to put some time on. The 170mm/6.7inch travel fork weighs in at 5.18lb (with tapered steerer) and can brag about having stiffness, plushness and a very confidence inspiring ride in a relatively light package. With external adjustments of low and high speed compression and rebound, there are ample adjustments to suit any riding style or situation. The FIT damper with hydraulic bottom out resistance keeps the weight low by reducing the amount of oil used for damping by using a bladder instead of an open bath system. This system also increases low speed compression adjustability. It uses a 20QR tool-free axle system with the stepped thru axle, combined with 36mm stanchions to be as flex free as possible. The tool-free axle system facilitates removing the wheel quickly and effortlessly. Complimenting the fork is a Fox DHX Air. This 0.97lb shock features adjustable bottom-out resistance via the boost valve, air spring pressure, pro-pedal, and rebound adjustments. Enough to keep most people happy! While the Firebird is also offered with a custom tuned RP23 that is valved to work well with the dw-link suspension of the Firebird, the DHX air shock shown here is suggested for riders who will be using the bike for more downhill applications.

Frame and Size Oversized, triple butted, hydro-formed 6061 aluminum
Rear Shock Fox DHX Air (tested) or Fox Float RP23
Fork Fox FLOAT 170mm RC2 FIT Tapered
Headset PIVOT Precision Sealed Bearing
Crankarms Shimano XT Dynasys 24/32/42
Bottom Bracket Shimano XT
Cassette Shimano XT Dynasys 11-36 10Spd
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT Dynasys 10Spd
Shifters Shimano XT Dynasys
Handlebar Gravity Light OS 710mm
Stem FSA Gap
Brakes Shimano XT
Wheelset DT Swiss Custom EX1750
Tires Kenda Nevegal
Saddle WTB Vigo Race
Seatpost Gravity Light
Retail MSRP $5665 USD

The Ride

The Firebird enjoying some proper North Vancouver terrain. Dales Trail on Mt Seymour.

Sharon’s Impressions:
Riding on technical trails is where the Firebird excelled. Whether climbing or descending, the bike was plush. The suspension did not absorb rider input, but helped the bike to find traction in a lot of places where traction should be questionable. The bike liked to sit high in its travel and would only respond as the terrain mandated, no more and no less. Traits of the dw-link combined with some well thought out shock tuning? Acceleration was firm and really moved the bike forward over rough terrain, with it being noticeable while both climbing and descending. Sitting on the saddle and casually rolling over bumps revealed a bike that wants to hold its speed well, which is always a good trait of fast bike. On fast and rough terrain the rear end followed truthfully, proving to be stiff no matter what I put the bike through. On one particular deactivated fireroad descent, a rougher, rockier water bar section appeared and I had no time to slow down, the bike went straight through the chunder with one or two loud bottom outs, but didn’t eject me, much to my surprise. How the rear tire didn’t flat is beyond me. The geometry biases this bike for speed and stability, but not so much as to make it a handful on slower sections. The 44.8″ wheelbase with the Lyrik DH fork that was also tested on the Firebird, a 17.25″ chainstay, and 13.85″ BB Height combined with relaxed head (66.6 with Lyrik DH fork) and seat angles (71.5) made for a machine that advanced riders can use to their advantage, but more timid pilots will feel comfortable on. The low 28.5″ standover aids in its nimbleness. On smoother terrain the bike just wanted to go faster. The rear triangle was stiff in corners and over rough terrain resulting in smooth, consistent tracking. The bike only used the suspension it needed or what you brought out of it. The responsiveness also made changing speeds and direction quick and easy. In switchbacks or in tight trees the Firebird turned on a dime, regardless of the slack angles. Pro-pedal was used on non technical, tedious longer climbs, but I left it open on rough climbs that demanded the right line choice without it hindering efficiency.

This is the sort of ride that the Firebird felt at home on. Long climbs up into the alpine that opened up into incredible views. Lunch at the top and saddle up for desert!

The same low bottom bracket that helped to make the Firebird so confidence inspiring at speed resulted in more pedal strikes than I expected. This was most annoying on technical climbs and traverses when you wanted to maintain an even cadence. It was necessary to choose lines carefully in these situations to allow for pedal clearance if any extra stroke was needed. The 23″ cockpit was comfortable for climbing and descending, but the slack head angle was noticeable on longer climbs when more concentration was needed. The 71.5 degree seat tube would also contribute to this feeling, making me feel as if I was behind the pedal axle a bit too much. The 28.5 inch standover made riding slow technical trail sections easier. We had two weeks of riding in wet, mucky conditions and the bike performed flawlessly, although the pivots did begin to squeak slightly, but this was fixed with the application of some lube. While the floating front derailleur is designed to move in line with the chain throughout the bike’s travel in order to keep shifting consistent, I found that it resulted in a lot of clanging on rough terrain. The chain would also slip down into the granny gear, but would immediately return to the middle ring once I started to pedal. I’ll admit that I never had an issue shifting, so maybe there is something to this feature as besides being noisy, it did work as advertised.

Overall the Firebird is fun and poppy for how much travel the bike sports. It is really responsive to rider input, both while climbing and descending, and this plays a large part in the bike’s great acceleration. Not many bikes weighing 31 lbs and having 170mm of travel can brag about that. While the bike climbs great, the geometry and suspension make it more than capable as a park bike if that’s your gig. If you need to choose one bike for all your riding needs, this could be it. Light and efficient enough for long pedaling rides, tough enough for burly descents.

Lee Lau’s Impressions:

Riding in the Babines, Smithers

In its class, the Firebird is an outstanding climber. Where it particularly shines is its stunning traction in slow technical climbing. On fireroads, it was no better or worse than any bike with its amount of travel – meaning you will get to where you want to go without much fuss. A short story; what inspired us to ask for the Firebird to review was following John Finch around Sedona’s technical trails. John could ratchet then stall then ratchet, accelerate and/or crawl up the most relentlessly steep grinding technical climbs. Being someone who enjoys technical climbing, I was incredibly curious about the Firebird. What I found was that, although John was indeed a remarkable climber, he was also on a bike that climbed remarkably well. I think there are a few reasons for the Firebird’s climbing ability. First, the bike sits high in its travel. Even properly sprung (with appropriate sag) the suspension stays taut and keeps the climbing rider from striking pedals or BB on babyheads or the ground. This is the case with or without the Firebird’s DHX air suspension ProPedal engaged. Second, the Firebird sticks to the ground when you grind up trails, providing incredible traction for the rider. As long as you keep a fairly steady cadence and soft-pedal, the bike works its way uphill in slow and steady fashion without letting anything stop it. It goes without saying that the Firebird is not an XC bike and shouldn’t be expected to climb like one. Where this will become apparent is in sprinting out-of-the-saddle climbs, a situation where the angles and travel will work against you. Relax, sit down, and make your way to the summit in a non-fussed manner and you’ll be rewarded. After all, who won the race between the tortoise and the hare?

It is a bit of a given that the Firebird excels as a descender. It’s confidence-inspiring in the steeps, it jumps incredibly well, and it’s easy to manual – all important ingredients to any fun bike. The angles keep it from being nervous at speed and this fact combined with the stiff rear end made me never question its abilities. While it is a great descender, that really isn’t the story here for me. The way that the bike allows you to earn those turns without excessive punishment is my focus.

A great bike no doubt, but the Pivot Firebird is not without its quirks. As alluded to by Sharon, the floating front derailleur takes some getting used to; I found the sound of the chain slap to initially be distracting and I was always worried that the chain was dropping. It took one ride for me to get used to that sound and to learn how to finesse the chain so it would stay in place. Also, the Firebird rewards rider input and accordingly, is ridden actively. I found that it was a very playful bike and responded well to pumping; I could keep rolling through terrain where other riders had to pedal just by using body English and by popping the suspension. This is not to say that someone who prefers to be more passive and ride the bike more like a couch couldn’t also enjoy the Firebird. Because of this trait, I think that the Firebird would be an especially rewarding ride for dynamic, aggressive riders who like to move their bikes around under them.

Get the Pivot FireBird today at Tionghin!

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