PIVOT FIREBIRD 29 - BIKE TEST
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Pivot have been on fire over the past year with some totally stunning and great bikes being launched. First the Trail 429, the 29” speed machine with low travel that could take on most trails and now this, the Firebird 29.
The new whirlwind of 29” chassis bikes coming from Pivot have been striking to look at and have a build kit to match. Eddie Masters seems to have been on form abroad a 29” Pivot last year at a few of the EWS rounds, so there must be something going on with this bike.
Suspension and Chassis
Fox have come to the table here with a Factory 36 Grip 2 170m 29” and a low 44mm offset. They are a great starting point when making a high class build and look the part to go with it.
At the rear the classic pivot DW look still lives on, offering 162mm travel and driving a Fox Float X2 performance damper. This combination had been very successful with previous models from Pivot so why change something that works?
The 29” bike is compatible with both 29” and 27.5+ wheel sizes without compromise thanks to the adjustable geometry. This is achieved with a flip-chip upper link mount and lower headset cup.
The size Large Firebird we were given concerned me after most bikes that I ride are in size XL. However after picking the bike up it was easy to see the Large fit was pretty bang on. Having reach numbers of 475mm, this stacks up well with a tasty 495mm on the XL bike. When comparing it to other bikes with great numbers, such as the Transition Sentinel and Scott Genius, the Pivot holds its own. All having a similar size structure. Some of the important numbers that account to the Firebirds overall feel being the low stand over at 702mm. This matched up with the 65 degree head angle and 342mm bottom bracket all seem to come together to make a fantastic combination.
Fox Factory 36 Grip 2 170m 29” 44mm offset HEADSET
Pivot Precision Sealed Cartridge REAR MECH
Shimano XTR 11 speed
Shimano XTR 11 Speed BRAKES
XT M8020 4 piston CRANKS
Race Face 32T 170mm BAR
Phoenix Team Carbon 800mm GRIPS
Phoenix Team Padloc STEM
Phoenix Team Enduro 35mm dia. clamp Length: 45mm POST
LEV Integra 125mm MD: LEV Integra 150mm LG, XL: Fox Transfer 150mm SEAT
Hightail Trail Team CASSETTE
XTR 11 Speed
Reynolds Blacklabel Enduro 29 34mm inner rim w/ Industry Nine hubs
Front: Maxxis Minion DHF WT 29” x 2.5” TR/3C/EXO/ MAXXTERRA
Rear: Maxxis Minion DHRII WT 29” x 2.4” TR/3C/EXO/ MAXXTERRA
The Pivot really comes out swinging when it comes down to the ride. It’s all well and good a bike looking the part, but when it performs too then it’s a thing to behold. Grip, poise, fun and fast are just a few terms that can describe the Firebird 29. The previous 27.5 platform that we have done a custom build of is still a weapon. But this 29er really is more my cup of tea. The 162mm rear travel felt almost bottomless giving plenty of hold and feel through the rough stuff. This helped keep the bike gripping even when the rider thought it would not. The 2.5” Maxxis wide trail rubber helped here too.
When it came to winching the bike back up the hill there are no complaints about the XTR gearing. It does what it should. A clean, quiet pedal with precise changes. The size Large bike that we were supplied fitted great on the descents with some real playful characteristics. The dropper length could have done with being a little longer. It is the first time I have had to raise the post manually for a while. This should be taken into consideration when specifying the build.
Moving onto the fatigue factor.... With the frame and wheel combination on this bike being carbon, 'stiff' was the word that came into mind before getting on board. However there was plenty of give from the Reynolds wheel set, allowing for very little feedback through the bike. When this is matched up with some soft padlock grips, there really is little in the way of abuse to the body. There are very few bikes out on the market that can really compare to the feel of quality and performance that you get from the Firebird. The Orbea Rallon and Trek Slash would be some that are in the same league.
Some may think this silly and petty but there is one massive elephant in the room when looking at the Firebird. Where is the bottle mount? And I’m not taking that under the frame bottle cage you sometimes see on bikes. I am not one to want my bottle covered in the mess that I am riding through. When it comes to high end bikes like this, a custom bottle that fits in the frame, where a normal "off the shelf" one will not fit, would be a nice touch.
The Shimano XT brakes that were fitted here are far better power wise than previous models. But this was never an issue with the two piston version. The noise from the pads rattling away made what was a silent bike into something quite loud. The lever has a lovely feel but there have been a number of times where the bite point was inconsistent, even after bleeding. If this was my bike it would have a set of TRP or Magura stoppers bolted on.
It may not be cheap but the expression "you get what you pay for" comes to mind. This really is up there with the best bikes I have ridden over the past year. Only minor things let the bike down from having a perfect score.
There is a great shape and feel to the Firebird 29 and with a few small personal changes it would be insane.
If I had the chance to keep the bike for longer it would have been upgraded with a coil damper and some different brakes. On the other hand, if I had to leave this job tomorrow and part with my hard earned cash to keep riding, then Upgrade bikes would be having some phone calls as this bike would be something for everything. I really can’t be nicer than saying I like it as much as the Orbea Rallon.
PRICE: £5.350 - £8,900
WORDS - Ieuan Williams
PHOTOS - Alex Hunter, Ieuan Williams