Bike Review: Pivot Switchblade Aluminum
The Switchblade was first introduced as a carbon model in 2016 and quickly caught our attention due to its well-rounded trail bike package and new rear hub spacing. Super Boost Plus allowed Pivot to give the Switchblade more tire clearance to clear either 27.5+ or 29-inch wheels while keeping the chainstays as short as possible. Actually, short might be an understatement. The Switchblade featured ultra-short 428mm chainstays. Super Boost caught a lot of flak at the time for being a new standard; however, 157mm hub spacing had been used for several years on downhill bikes.
Pivot, looking to continue the growing success of the Switchblade and make it more attainable to riders on a budget, launched the Switchblade Aluminum at the 2018 Sea Otter Classic. The bike has all the features Switchblade riders have come to love but offers it all in a less expensive package. Starting price for the Switchblade Aluminum is $4100. This price may be out of reach for some riders, but it’s a thousand dollars more affordable than the entry-level carbon model. For that reason, we decided to put the all-new aluminum version to the test to see how it compares to its high-class sibling.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The Switchblade is a bike designed with an aggressive trail geometry and enough travel to take on any situation it might be thrown into during a trail ride. Featuring the same geometry, suspension hardware and 135mm of dw-link suspension, the aluminum model promises the same top-notch performance as the carbon version. Short chainstays give the Switch-blade a playful attitude out on the trails, and the option of running 27.5+ or 29-inch wheels makes the bike versatile for many riders.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
Pivot spent years developing the hydroforming technique needed to build a lightweight aluminum frame that could offer the same levels of strength and stiffness as its carbon models. The Switchblade Aluminum features the same clevis, linkage and large EnduroMax bearings as its carbon counterpart. The bike has a 150mm fork and a 67.25-degree head tube angle with 29-inch wheels. A 17mm headset cup can be added to slacken out that angle or adapt the bike’s geometry to better match the 27.5+ wheels. The aluminum Switchblade has external cable routing and internal dropper post routing. The bike features a Phoenix cockpit with Padlock grips and is available in frame sizes from small to extra large, making the bike suitable for riders ranging in height from 4-foot-11 to over 6-foot-2.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
While the aluminum Switchblade is designed to bring the price down from the carbon model, its component spec keeps its price closer to the midrange rather than the lower end. This is a well-spec’d bike with no compromise when it comes to parts. Featuring a Factory Series Fox fork, an XTR 11-speed rear derailleur and a pair of DT Swiss M1700 wheels, the bike is compatible with a front derailleur should you want to run one; however, our test bike came with a single 30-tooth chainring and an 11-46-tooth cassette.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Setting sag: Pivot makes setting sag easy with an indicator attached to the shock that marks the proper amount of sag for the bike’s suspension design. Simply adjust your sag so that the O-ring lands under the attached indicator and you are ready to go. We then set up our fork with 20-percent sag and found a base tune for our rebound and compression settings. After that, it was time to shred the trails.
Moving out: Pivot’s Switchblade Aluminum is a versatile machine made for the average trail rider. It sports 135mm of dw-link suspension in back and 150mm of travel up front. A modern long and low geometry provides confidence, and a quality component spec aids in the Switchblade’s performance. This is a bike that runs like a cheetah and descends like a fleeing gazelle. Just like its carbon brother, the aluminum model is fast and capable.
Climbing: The Switchblade uses efficient dw-link suspension to power its way up the trails. Hard pedal strokes reward riders with quick acceleration; however, this is still a trail bike at heart. Be forewarned, before racing your XC buddies to the top of the trail. That said, as a trail bike, the Switchblade Aluminum offers a great pedaling platform that will help keep you fresh for the way back down.
Cornering: Regardless of speed, the Switchblade manages to be a fun and playful ride. It’s confident in high-speed turns, thanks to its quality suspension and Wide Trail 29er tires. It’s also easy to maneuver in slow-speed switchbacks thanks to its ultra-short chainstays and relatively short wheelbase. Riders looking for more traction can opt for 27.5+ wheels; however, our testers prefer the snappy handling of 29-inch wheels.
Descending: Pedaling-intensive trails are the Switchblade’s best friend. Sure, it can handle the rough and steep stuff, but with just 135mm of travel in the rear, the bike has a lot of get-up-and-go out of corners and rewards riders who are willing to hammer on the pedals. The Switchblade’s geometry gives riders the feeling of being on a longer-travel enduro bike, and the 150mm-travel fork soaks up whatever is tossed in front of it. Whether blasting smooth singletrack or skipping over rock gardens, the Switchblade is made to handle the occasion.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
When the carbon model came out, Switchblade owners were concerned that their wheelset options would be limited. And while that might have been true two years ago, Super Boost Plus has proven to be a viable option. Today, there are a handful of companies that offer Super Boost Plus hubs.
Pivot’s 17mm headset cup is a cool feature that allows riders to make further adjustments to their bike’s geometry. Riders who have problems hitting their pedals on rocks and roots can use the 17mm cup to bring the front end up and raise the bottom bracket for additional clearance.
The Switchblade Carbon is a proven machine that was highly praised for its modern design, and the all-new aluminum model mimics the carbon model in a more affordable aluminum package. Utilizing the same geometry, suspension design and hardware, the aluminum model doesn’t skimp on quality. It’s still far from an entry-level bike, but it does make the Switchblade more accessible to more riders. And for those reasons, we give the Switchblade Aluminum the MBA stamp of approval. www.pivotcycles.com
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