2016 Pivot Switchblade 29
Size Tested: Medium
- Drivetrain: Shimano XT / XTR
- Brakes: Shimano XT
- Fork: Fox 36 Factory Fit4
- Rear Shock: Fox Float Factory DRS Evol
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
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.
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.
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.
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