REVIEW: PIVOT’S UPDATED (AGAIN!) SWITCHBLADE
The most noticeable change to the Switchblade is a new appearance with straighter lines and a new vertical shock layout. Pivot offers frames from XS to XL designed to fit riders from 5 feet to 6-foot-7. Each frame is tuned with size-specific tubes, allowing riders to experience the same level of stiffness whether riding a small or large frame. This attention to detail can be seen in the front triangle, while the rear triangle remains the same across each frame size. The chainstay length increased by 2mm from the last generation to give riders a more stable ride.
Pivot continues to deliver by adding a Flip Chip inspired by the Firebird 29, a drainage hole below the shock and an uninterrupted seat tube to allow long-travel dropper posts. Other details include a mounting point under the top tube for accessories and ample clearance for plus-sized tires. Pivot also noted that the Switchblade could be run as a mixed-wheel bike with a 29/275-inch tire combo.
There’s no lack of component packages to choose from when purchasing a Switchblade. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming how many options there are. Riders can expect to pay between $6,199 and $13,399, depending on the build-kit package. At the entry point, riders will see a Shimano XT 12-speed drivetrain, along with Fox Performance suspension and DT Swiss alloy wheels. Should you dig deep into your bank account and get all the bells and whistles, you’ll see a premium package combining a SRAM AXS wireless drivetrain with Fox Live Value electronically tuned suspension and, of course, Reynolds carbon wheels. Our test bike, priced at $9,799, had a Team Shimano XTR build kit, along with Fox Factory suspension and Pivot’s exclusive Reynolds carbon wheels.
The Switchblade moved to a new vertical shock design with its dw-link suspension similar to what’s seen on the Mach 4 SL . Suspension travel was then increased from 135 to 142mm. In front, the Switchblade has a 160mm-travel fork with a 44mm offset.
When asked why the Switchblade moved to a vertical shock design, we received nearly the same answers as we did when we first saw Pivot’s new Mach 4 SL. The updated DW-link system allows for more water-bottle clearance, a more progressive shock rate and more tire clearance. It also allows for better integration of Fox Live suspension and allows Pivot’s designers to lower the standover height. Pivot used trunnion shock mounts on this frame and assured us that the suspension design is now compatible with coil shocks.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Pivot’s Switchblade is the sharpest tool in its shed, designed to take on any trail, any time. This do-it-all mountain bike is hard to categorize since it combines the descending prowess of an all-out enduro bike with trail bike-climbing performance. The Switchblade is built for riders looking to explore deep into the backcountry, race weekend enduros and challenge buddies to the top of every climb.
It’s truly amazing how capable modern mountain bikes can be. The Switchblade is by no means a cross-country race bike, but it climbs as well as any trail bike we’ve put to the test. Even with the shock set in the open position, the suspension holds up its rider well, offering little to no pedal bob and a heavy dose of acceleration. In a seated position, the Switchblade provides traction on both the front and rear end, allowing it to twist around switchback climbs with ease. Our test riders were encouraged to find technical trails for our test. They made it through difficult sections that stumped them while riding other bikes in this category. All in all, you can’t expect the Switchblade to fly up the trails like an XC race rocket, but you can rely on this bike to get you to the top of a fun descent in a timely manner.
Pivot labels the Switchblade as an enduro bike for a reason. While it’s not a heavy-hitting bike like the long-travel Firebird 29, it’s still a hard-charging enduro bike ready to battle. Once pointed down, the Switchblade feels balanced and composed, even considering its mixed suspension travel. The 160mm fork soaks up everything with ease, while the 142mm rear end floats right behind. On harder hits or jumps-to-flat, the progressive rear travel keeps the bike right in the sweet spot and rarely, if ever, hits bottom.
Along with the solid suspension platform, the well-executed geometry provides the long, slack and low numbers modern riders are looking for. High-speed stability is delivered via its long reach and slack head tube angle, and the short rear end, along with a low seat tube height, increases maneuverability on the tightest trails. Riders looking to smash through rock gardens at high speeds or slow it down through technical lines will get along well with the Switchblade’s design.
MODS AND UPGRADES
With 20 different build kits and a frame-only option, riders shouldn’t have a problem finding the parts they want and need. That said, some riders may want to do some modifications or upgrades. Riders looking to push the limits of their Switchblades in a bike park or down big mountains may find a coil shock to be a worthy upgrade. If a smaller upgrade is what you’re looking for, we’d suggest checking out some of Pivot’s mountable accessories. Our test bike was able to carry a Topeak multi-tool underneath the top tube. Other Pivot Phoenix Dock series of accessories, such as CO2 canisters and tools can be mounted to that area too.
The Switchblade is a true do-it-all bike that won’t leave you wanting more. From rock gardens to flow trails, Pivot designed the Switchblade to conquer it all. Riders can choose 29-inch wheels for speed and roll-over or 27.5-plus-inch wheels for additional cushion and traction. The Flip Chip allows riders to further tune the bike to meet their needs. The Switchblade’s price is likely to appeal more to mid-level and advanced riders looking for a serious mountain bike, one that’s capable enough to race an enduro or play around on local trails. If you’re looking to purchase a bike in the $6,000-and-above range, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than Pivot’s newly updated Switchblade.
Mountain Bike Action is a monthly magazine devoted to all things mountain biking (yes, that’s 12 times a year because we never take a month off of mountain biking). It has been around since 1986 and we’re still having fun.