Comparing this Firebird to the previous model is like looking at CrossFit before-and-after photos. Sometimes we're not sure they're even the same bike, and in many ways, they're not. The new 170-millimeter-travel Firebird takes design cues from Pivot's Phoenix downhill bike, so it's no surprise it was the longest, slackest and biggest-travel bike in this year's garage. The numbers looked as good as the bike itself, and the pressure was on to use the Firebird to its potential. To our surprise, much of that potential was on the uphills. The long cockpit, short chainstays and steep seat angle made for powerful and comfortable climbing, even without clips. The proven DW-link adeptly isolates pedal force from suspension force, especially important on such a squishy bike. It wouldn't have climbed the same without the Fox Float X2 Lever, which kept us from sinking too deep into all that travel.
But we happily sunk into it on the descents. To soften square-edge hits, Pivot tuned the axle path to bend slightly rearward early in the stroke, another cue from the Phoenix. Out of the box, the suspension felt tuned, deep and linear. A little too linear to some, but volume spacers can fix that. Its geometry was nimble for the category, and it was always the most laterally stiff bike on the tailgate, but we would hesitate to call it playful unless it was at top speed. Only when we were careening down serious, burly trails would the Firebird really feel at home. With such a nonstop appetite for gnar, it would be the perfect park bike, especially when ridden with a heavy hand. Several bikes in this category, even ones approaching the same travel range, are springy, long-legged trail creatures, but not this. There's no mistaking the Firebird's DH lineage.
The frame is clean and well-thought-out. The cable ports allow easy access, but also anchor wires down for a quiet ride. There's even a Di2 battery port, but no in-triangle bottle mount. Pivot offers eight stellar build kits and lets you choose between two wheelsets and three dropper-post lengths. The buy-in is at least $5,000, with good reason. Big-travel trail bikes often make too many compromises, but with the right rider on the right terrain, the new Firebird makes none.
Q&A with Pivot Cycles
The Firebird has been around a long time. Long before the rise of enduro racing. How, if at all, has the enduro scene influenced the evolution of the Firebird, especially this version?
While they occupy similar travel ranges, the new Firebird is a completely different bike from the previous version and is heavily influenced by the steeper courses riders will find on EWS tracks and in the backcountry. The new Firebird geometry is heavily influenced by our Phoenix DH bike–it features some of the longest reach measurements in the sport and very short chainstays (16.95"). Because of the short stays, and the dw-link design the Firebird is an incredible technical climber–we've got riders who are making this their go to trail bike in places like the Pacific Northwest where the climbs can be as technical as the descents. The new Firebird was really designed to be a next level pro enduro bike which makes it really versatile for everything from steep park terrain, technical riding and even most DH courses just short of World Cup level tracks.
Besides the longer front end, shorter rear end, and lower BB, what else is new about this year's Firebird?
Most importantly, this is the first time we have made a bike in this travel range in full carbon–it is incredibly light and stiff. It is not hard to build a sub-28-pound Firebird, which is pretty incredible for a bike with 170mm of front and rear travel, and it still meets all the same testing requirements as does our downhill model. The bike is designed for 27.5" wheels with tires up to 2.5" wide and is Boost front and rear. The shock tuning is something we are very proud of, which you will experience when you get out on the trail.
A few brands have started moving away from the press-fit bottom bracket while many, like Pivot, are still running them on some models. What benefits of PF are keeping Pivot on board?
Press Fit bottom brackets are by far the superior choice for wider pivot placement, better bearing support, better control over chainline and no need for metal inserts that are heavy and could cause problems down the road. Press Fit is lighter and opens up a lot of doors in terms of advancing frame design and reaching our goals of creating the best riding, stiffest frames available. We can build a full carbon frame with no issues that can result from bonding a threaded shell inside the carbon frame. Whether it be a car, a motorcycle, a bicycle headset, etc., bearings are generally not threaded in. With the press fit, we mold it all in and then the entire side of the shell is CNC machined to the proper tolerances developed for the press fit (this is quite unique to Pivot but the way it needs to be done). In the end, we know it allows us to build a better bike and a better system with bearings supported in the frame as wide as possible.