The most honest and in-depth reviews of outdoor sports equipment on the planet.

2017 Pivot Switchblade 29

2016 Pivot Switchblade 29

Size Tested: Medium

Geometry: (Here)

Build Overview:

  • Drivetrain: Shimano XT / XTR
  • Brakes: Shimano XT
  • Fork: Fox 36 Factory Fit4
  • Rear Shock: Fox Float Factory DRS Evol

Wheels: 29′′

Travel: 135 mm rear / 150 mm front

Blister’s Measured Weight: 29.3 lbs (13.29 kg) without pedals

Reviewer: 5’9”, 155 lbs.

Test Location: Boulder City, Nevada

MSRP: $6,399.00

Noah Bodman reviews the Pivot Switchblade for Blister Gear Review.

Pivot Switchblade

Caveat

I rode the Pivot Switchblade at Interbike’s outdoor demo, which is located at Bootleg Canyon in Boulder City, Nevada. While people like to shun Vegas, the Bootleg trails are a little oasis of awesomeness in a land that’s otherwise dominated by neon excess. Bootleg has a mix of fast, sandy flow, and rocky cheese grater gnarliness that’s plenty technical. If you haven’t been, Bootleg is a worthy stop on any southwestern road trip.

Normally, Blister tries to get as much time on a bike as we realistically can so that we have time to play around with setup, get comfortable with the fit, and hopefully reveal any durability issues that might arise. But for obvious reasons, spending an hour or so on a bike at Interbike’s outdoor demo doesn’t give us the time to give the bike our usual treatment.

That said, there’s a lot of value in riding a bunch of different bikes, back to back on the same trails. Traits that might not be obvious when the bikes are ridden weeks or months apart become evident.

We try our best to get the bikes set up like we’d set up our own personal bikes, so that means dialing in the cockpit and suspension as best as possible, and we’ll often fuss with air pressure and other settings mid-ride to try to address any perceived issues. But given the short time on the bike, there’s only so much we can do, and we also take the component spec as we get it – sometimes the bars are too narrow, the seat too wide, or the tires too… crappy.

The “too long, didn’t read” version of this caveat is simply this: back to back comparisons on great trails are useful, but don’t take this as the final word on these bikes, especially when it comes to maintenance and durability issues.

So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at the Pivot Switchblade.

Intro

While Pivot has the popular 429 SL and 429 Trail, their lineup was lacking a more aggressive 29er that could go up against bikes like the Evil Following or the Yeti SB 5.5c. Pivot also didn’t have a plus bike in the lineup, so they killed two birds with one stone – with a slight tweak to the configuration, the Switchblade can handle both 29” and 27.5” Plus wheels.

The Switchblade falls squarely into the the “stout bike that’s made to rally downhill” category. The frame is noticeably stiff and overbuilt, and it takes some cues from the new Pivot Firebird, its longer travel mini-DH bike sibling.

The Build

I rode the Switchblade with 29” wheels in the Pro XT/XTR 1x trim. That means an XT level drivetrain mated to an XTR rear derailleur, running XT brakes. The XT components are consistently a great performer that hold up well to abuse, although they’re pretty heavy compared to the Sram offerings. Considering the XT / XTR build isn’t that much cheaper than Pivot’s Sram Eagle build kit, I’d probably opt for the weight savings and gear range of Eagle.

Noah Bodman reviews the Pivot Switchblade for Blister Gear Review.

Noah Bodman on the Pivot Switchblade, Bootleg Canyon, NV.

Suspension on the Switchblade is handled up front by a 150 mm travel Fox 36 Factory edition, which I’d argue is the best fork in it’s class for a bike like this. The only change I could ask for would be for the FIT version of the fork that features independent compression adjustments. The FIT4 version that comes stock is still excellent, and has climb / trail / descend adjustments for those that prefer having those modes.

At the back of the bike is a Fox Float Factory rear shock with an Evol can. Like the fork, I’d call this one of the best rear shocks on the market for a bike like this. It’s also worth noting that the frame could fit a piggyback shock, although it would likely render the water bottle mounts useless. Which would be a shame, because Pivot gets a bunch of credit for actually fitting a usable water bottle mount in the front triangle.

Rounding out the build are some Pivot branded carbon bits in the cockpit, Fox’s new Transfer dropper post (so far, so good), DT Swiss wheels (solid wheels, but the poor hub engagement still annoys me), and Maxxis Highroller II tires (probably my favorite rubber for a 29er trail bike).

Fit and Geometry

Most of Pivot’s older bikes are fairly short – at 5.9”, I’d likely go with a size Large if I were to buy a 429 Trail or Mach 6. The Switchblade’s geometry catches up to modern trends and is effectively a full size larger than most of Pivot’s other offerings (the new Firebird excluded).

The size Medium Switchblade I rode has a 439 mm reach, and a 614 mm top tube. There are a few bikes in this class that are longer, but the Switchblade’s front end and cockpit is fairly stretched out. It’s about on par with the Devinci Django 29, but longer than the Specialized Stumpjumper 29 or the Trek Fuel EX.

The Switchblade has a 67.25° head angle, which is slack-ish, but not class leading. But our test bike was fitted with Pivot’s 17 mm headset extension, which is used to correct geometry with the 27.5” wheels, or in our case, slacken the headtube angle for the 29er. With the extension in, our test bike had a head tube angle somewhere in the neighborhood of 66.5°, but the extension also made the front end of the bike feel noticeably tall. Personally, I’d opt for the lower stack height and slightly steeper head angle.

Pivot is quick to point out that, at 428 mm, the Switchblade has the shortest chainstays in this category. This isn’t actually true – the Canfield Riot is quite a bit shorter at 414 mm, but regardless, the Switchblade’s stays are pretty short for a 29er. Those short stays definitely affect how the Switchblade rides – more on that below.
NEXT: The Ride, Bottom Line

16 Comments

  1. Kevin October 5, 2016 Reply

    I own a Switchblade built with Eagle and a Yari Fork set at 160mm with no 17mm spacer.

    It took me about 100 miles of trail riding and fiddling to get it properly setup. The rear end is really sensitive but once you get it dialed its near perfect. I had a 2016 Salsa Horsethief X01 prior and my times climbing are slightly faster on the Pivot. Descending it isn’t even close. The Switchblade doesn’t “feel” like a fast climber but I’ve been snagging some uphill KOM’s that have evaded me in the past.

    This isn’t a bike that is good for a short demo. However once it is dialed I think it far surpasses everything in the category.

  2. Sue October 7, 2016 Reply

    I too own a Switchblade, I have it set up was a 29er, 150mm travel, NO spacer. It took me 2 days to set up right for me, and I love this bike. I can ride jas as quick uphill as I can on my lighter XC bike and down hill on this bike is super fast. This bike is purely brilliant and I don’t think this review does the bike justice.

  3. Cliff October 7, 2016 Reply

    ” there are other bikes that retain its playfulness and also handle rough terrain more competently” which bikes are those? id like to look into them, but it wasn’t clear from the roundup which bikes those are

    • Noah October 7, 2016 Reply

      Hey Cliff,

      I’d put the Evil Following in that category, although with a bit less travel, it doesn’t plow quite as well. I haven’t spent much time on it, but I’d be willing to be the Evil Wreckoning should be on the list too. The Niner WFO gives up a little bit of playfulness, but irons out the trail quite a bit better than the Switchblade.

      There’s a few others that I haven’t gotten out for a real ride on, but that I think would likely be contenders in this category. The Specialized Stumpjumper 29 is the first one that springs to mind.

      • Cliff October 8, 2016 Reply

        Thanks Noah. I was originally very interested in the Following, but the low bb kind of scared me. Although in high mode it’s not too bad. The Wreckoning and Niner WFO seem like maybe too much bike/travel for my trails. I still do a lot of XC stuff. Plus those bikes are not exactly going to be lighter than the Switchblade. Neither is the following. Frame weight on all of these is on the high range for a carbon bike, but it kind of goes with the territory.

  4. Jerry October 7, 2016 Reply

    This is an interesting review. I demoed several Switchblades and from those demos decided to purchase one. I can understand how its not right for everyone, but the comment that it isn’t a good climber has left me wondering what you have been climbing on. I didn’t find a Stumpy, Hightower or a Following climb as well. As far as the suspension not being balanced, maybe a little more time on the set up would help correct that feeling, as I don’t feel it in mine.

    Any way a review is a review and if that is what you found, I believe you are being straight up. I just find I have had a significantly different experience.

    • Noah October 7, 2016 Reply

      Hey Jerry,

      I actually don’t think the Switchblade is a terrible climber, and I’d tend to agree that it’s better than the Following, but that’s a relatively low bar, since the Following isn’t a particularly good climber. Mostly, the Swtichblade’s short rear end, average-ish pedaling efficiency, and slightly porky weight make it a worse climber than some of the competition. A good comparison would be the Yeti SB5.5: longer stays, roughly equivalent pedaling efficiency, and noticeably lighter makes it a more enjoyable bike to go uphill on.

      But yeah, agree 100% that I could probably get more out of the bike with more time on it to dial things in. And at the end of the day, if you’re psyched on it, that’s all that really matters!

  5. Ben Lammons October 9, 2016 Reply

    Noah,

    Fairly negative review of the Pivot Switchblade. You seem to dislike dw link as well as other design elements. However, your review seems to be a bit of an outlier.

    Have Cocalis and the rest of Pivot team put out any good bikes or are they all sub par in your opinion?

    Ben

    • Noah October 9, 2016 Reply

      Hey Ben,

      I actually think Pivot makes some pretty great bikes, and I’ve owned a few DW link bikes that I’ve been happy with. I owned the (older) Pivot Firebird and was happy with it, and more recently, I got to ride the newly revised Firebird which is a *sick* bike (review coming in a week or two). Of the bikes I’ve ridden relatively recently, I also thought the 429 trail was a solid bike. So no – I definitely don’t have any sort of grudge against Pivot.

      For the Switchblade, I don’t really have a great answer as to why I didn’t like it. On paper, it seems like it’d be a bike that I’d love. But yeah, I just didn’t. But like I said, my time on the bike was short, and there are other commenters saying it took them 100 miles to get the bike dialed. Maybe with more time I’d see the light.

      -Noah

  6. Vik October 14, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for the review Noah. I demo’d two SBs [Med and Lrg in 29er mode with 17mm cup] locally on Vancouver Island. On paper I thought it would be a pretty sweet bike aside from the steep STA [I prefer climbing and seated pedalling at something more moderate]. I was a little surprised I came back from both rides feeling “Meh” about the SB. Climbing didn’t feel efficient and the bike struggled with our tight twisty trails. The Fox suspension on both bikes was setup correctly, but never felt great. Reading your review I saw a lot of similarities to what my demos felt like.

    My current bike is a Pivot Mach 6 so I dig DW-link and I’m not comparing the SB to a XC scalpel.

    I’m hoping to get another SB demo over the next few months for a longer ride that will let me adjust the suspension more and expose me to a 3rd set of Fox suspension products in case there was something defective about the ones I rode. Ideally I’d like to try it without the 17mm cup, but demo bikes seem to all have them installed to let the bikes be switched between 29er and 27+ mode easily. On paper the SB should be a bike I like a lot so I was surprised at how I felt at the end of those two demo rides. I’m a prime candidate to be a Pivot fanboy. ;)

    Thanks for the review. If you get a chance to ride another SB I’d be interested to hear if your opinion changes.

    • Cliff October 14, 2016 Reply

      One thing that’s unfortunately hard to gauge with negative to “meh” reviews – how much of it is a bike deficiency versus rider preference? If you like steeper STA, maybe that’s the explanation right there. But maybe not.

      • Vik October 14, 2016 Reply

        If the SB was great for me on steep climbs and downs where I wasn’t seated I’d be fine using a seatback seatpost to adjust the STA to my liking. Luckily STA is one of the aspects of a bike you can adjust a fair bit. So it’s not a deal breaker for me.

        I’m going to try and get another demo with more time on the bike so I can play around with adjustments more. I don’t have to get the bike running perfectly for me on a demo, but I do want to get to the point that I can see the potential for it to work well for me. Then I’m cool with spending the large $$ that a high bike costs these days and taking my time to nail the setup.

  7. marco January 9, 2017 Reply

    which set up suspensions suggested to me for the pivot Switchblade? (fork 150mm fox no cup 17mm)
    thanks

  8. Neil January 23, 2017 Reply

    People tend to get emotionally tied to their rides and their favorites, so I truly appreciate this type of honest feedback. I have owned a lot of nice bike from Turners to Ibis to Ventanas to Santa Crus to Pivot to Yetis etc. I am tied to NONE and will switch brands happily, as long as the bike is stellar and the customer service reputation is stellar (yeah, not Yeti, sadly). Thanks for the review and for being honest about the cons. I’m in the market and looking for a 29er or 27,5+ that pedals really well uphill and still smoothens out small bumps decently. These types of reviews really help. Just gushing over a bike is a disservice to readers and I am really glad you did not do that. We will likely demo them anyway, but this helps us stack the pros and cons and compare them across the choices. Well done!

  9. Donald Stephens February 11, 2017 Reply

    I found the Switchblade to be better than my old Following mainly due to it’s stiffness and steeper STA. The Following is a kick a$$ bike and I definitely recommend it for riders that like to attack. On the SB, I’m running 29er, no cup and 150mm. My old Pivots were easy to set up, but my 429T and SB was a PITA. A spacer helped the 429T and the X2 helped the SB. When I firmed up the DPS to eliminate wallow, it really sucked up the chunk on the downs but was too harsh for the rocky trails I ride. I found a happy medium, but I do feel the X2 is noticeably better.

  10. Dave February 15, 2017 Reply

    Noah,
    I really value your reviews, unlike many other bike industry peddlers’ out there. Is there a chance of you doing a 2017 Banshee Prime review? Numbers look really interesting to me, on paper at least. I would like to read your review of this bike.

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