Down Time: The faster and rougher the trail becomes, the happier the Firebird 29 becomes. It's an enabling relationship, almost more of a challenge to see if you can find its limit as successive hits only seem to strengthen its countenance. It's happiest at speed, low-speed descending requires a bit more planning ahead, thinking over maneuvering but being a light bike, it's easy to throw the Firebird 29 around.
The Upside: The Firebird 29 is an efficient climber. You sit within the travel, but don't blow through it, even with harder pedaling. Because it's a plusher bike with a relatively late ramp up to its stroke, there is somewhat of a seesaw effect when pedaling, but it never feels as though efforts are wasted. When things became very steep, testers noticed the seat angle felt slack and the overall positioning felt more challenging than on other bikes in the test.
Dollar for Dollar: The Firebird 29 is an expensive bike, but not the most expensive in the test and it uses its money wisely: Suspension, brakes and wheels are prioritized in all of Pivot's builds, placing an emphasis on discernible performance. It's hard to call a $8,300 bike a value, but it's money thoughtfully spent. Pivot also offers builds starting at $5,100, with the same prioritization of performance.
Pivots of past have perplexed Bible testers as they've often had an indifferent feel, muted in everyday, soft-pedaling situations. As pace quickens, invariably they've always come to life, previously bored and now alert for that touchdown pass. "Oh, you're ready to rip, here I am," they've seemed to say. The harder you pedal, the happier they are.
The Firebird 29, with 162 millimeters of rear travel, 170 up front, is a lot of bike so it's no surprise that our initial, early-on impressions we're as they've been, time to go wake up the Pivot. But after some quick fiddling with suspension settings--opening things up quite a bit and running between three and five clicks from completely open for rebound and compression adjustments, we found our spirit[ed] animal. She's alive. Quite.
Indeed, we had our playful Pivot. Maybe not as buoyantly poppy as the Nukeproof Mega 290, but worlds more forgiving when finding oneself bumbling down an erratic line. Worth noting is that our Firebird 29 Team XTR came spec'ed with a Fox Float X2 DH air can, running a smaller-volume DPX2 could create a livelier feel from get go.
Regardless, once adjusted, testers regaled the Firebird's downhill prowess and do-it-all, be-bothered-by-nothing composure. Gaining a more-lively feel didn't take from steadyhanded descending, not often the case.
Climbing, the Firebird felt efficient, as can be guessed with a dw-link bike and it felt most at home on contouring, semi-technical singletrack ascents. There was plenty of traction with the sensation of sitting within one's travel; wheelspin over Mammoth's granite chunks was a nonissue.
Huffing and puffing up our maniacally steep fireroad climb was difficult. As can be expected. But on any steeper incline, testers noticed the seat tube angle. Below this review, founder and CEO, Chris Cocalis, describes the holistic approach Pivot takes to listing and determining its seat tube angles by the height riders will run their saddles if on the appropriately sized frame. Kuddos are due, it makes nothing but sense. Regardless of whether Pivot's doing the right thing and its 74.5 is really another's 76, we felt the seat tube angle could be steeper, particularly on a bike so-recently released with a longer-reach measurement. It reared its head when things rose steeply--on low-angle stuff, it was nonexistent.
Other than the seat tube angle, there wasn't much we could complain about. And we're accomplished whiners, mind you. Somehow, this was the lightest bike in the test, yet still had the stoutest frame-and-ride feel. One tester bemoaned the 4-pot XT's finned pads rattling, the other two praised the brakes, pick your poison.
Overall, Pivot's Firebird 29 is well-rounded, smartly spec'ed and incredibly capable--unflappable through demanding terrain. Once we opened up the Fox Float X2, it gained a lively feel without detracting from surefootedness, impressive to say the least. Now if only we could find a way to magically steepen that seat tube angle ... just a little bit.
Q&A with Chris Cocalis, Founder and CEO, Pivot Bicycles
1. The Firebird 29 is a very modern bike, released not long before our Mammoth Bible and it has many geometric traits we're witnessing gain popularity for longer-travel, more-capable 29ers: a slack head angle, longer reach, incredibly short stays. On Pivot's website, the Firebird 29 is billed as "EWS race ready, bike park capable... fears no climb." Walk us through your decision to go with a 74.5-degree (low setting) seat tube angle. We're seeing a number of bikes in this travel range and category hitting 76-degree seat tube angles.
It all depends on where the company decides to measure the seat angle from. There aren't really any modern long travel suspension bikes where the seat tube actually passes through the center on the bottom bracket. This means that every seat angle listed is a theoretic seat angle. Most companies either pick the top of the seat tube on a medium size bike or where the effective toptube length (level) measurement would cross the actual seat tube angle line. From that intersection, they draw a line between the intersection and the center of the bottom bracket to take their seat angle measurement. This makes the seat angle look really steep on paper, but no one actually runs their seat that low (unless the dropper is slammed). If you take the seat angle at an actual position where the rider sits when pedaling then the majority of these bikes would have seat angles far slacker then the 74.5 degrees we list. The Firebird 29 also has a theoretic seat angle, but it's taken from a realistic height at where about a 6'1" rider would have his saddle positioned. This means that really tall guys are not hanging over the back wheel and that smaller riders are actually experiencing a seat angle that's a bit steeper (depending on saddle height). Another way to look at this is that the reach is pushed out pretty long on the Firebird 29. That's a fixed measurement. We could pick a different point to measure our seat angle and then it would show either a longer or shorter effective toptube for the same reach. Steeper effective seat angle shown = a shorter effective toptube and slacker seat angle shown = a longer effective top tube but the bike is the same. The rider can achieve the same position on the bike in these two scenarios with the exact same position over the pedals and the exact same distance from seat to the handlebars. That's why the reach measurement is really the key driver. You cannot really compare the seat angles on any two modern trail bikes and make an educated decision. If head angles and the other things that are important to a rider (like BB height, chainstay length, and standover) are all where the riders wants them, then the bike size and the rider's ability to position themselves over the pedals properly while still having enough effective toptube length should be based on the reach measurement.
2. According to the Pivot website, the Firebird 29 is "a lightweight machine that boasts a poppy, lively feel that long-travel 29ers have never possessed." Testers noted that in order to give it a playful feel, each of the Fox Float X2's settings had to be run between 3-5 clicks from fully open, otherwise it felt unwaveringly composed and planted. Was this tune developed to give it more of a DH bike type of feel? How did you settle on the shock tune, and is there an ideal riding style and terrain for it?
The Fox Float X2 is a very DH-oriented shock with a huge range of settings. If you want a very planted DH feel from the bike, this is easy to achieve from the Float X2 shock. However, there are lots of long-stretched-out bikes that can achieve a planted feel with that shock. What makes the Firebird 29 so special is its ability to accelerate under hard pedaling without pushing deep into the stroke and the ability to still manual the bike and make easy directional changes regardless of whether or not you are running the shock really loose and open or a lot more buttoned down.
3. The Firebird 29 had the shortest chainstays and was the lightest despite a burly build and longer travel (though not the longest) than other bikes in the test. Somehow, it wasn't the most expensive bike. I understand how Super Boost Plus allows for shorter stays--does it also allow you to create a lighter frame, or is this related to Pivot's proprietary molding technology?
The majority of the weight savings comes from the molding technology which allows us to achieve higher strength with less material. At the same time, making a similar bike without Super Boost Plus would result in a frame that was less stiff, and we would need to add a lot of material in key areas to maintain strength, so the weight would go up as well. With Super Boost Plus we have more room to work with, so we can better optimize the overall design.
4. Will prospective customers see more Super Boost Plus component and wheel options in the future?
Yes, there will be a lot more. Every major component manufacturer is on board. Anything new takes time. We are always a happy to be the ones pushing things forward.