Pivot Switchblade 29

Pivot Switchblade 29 Mountain Bike Review

Words By Chili Dog & Michael Darter
Photos by Chili Dog

In the endless pursuit of having the latest and original content available, bike reviewers don’t always get the opportunity to truly test bikes long enough to have real-world issues closer to what the end consumer experiences. Luckily, Pivot entrusted us with their 29-inch Switchblade for the better part of a year. Having a bike for that long let us genuinely get familiar with the bike’s character, durability, and quirks.

This bike has seen the dust and rock of the desert, the holes, and jumps of bike parks and even mucky NorCal winter riding. Typically our test bikes get ridden hard, but few understand the length of torture testing this poor Switchblade was subjected to. Yet despite all it went through, this bike was boxed up and shipped back to Phoenix with plenty of life left to live.

Pivot Switchblade 29

The Lab

Geometry – Pivot designed the Switchblade to be a versatile, all-around trail bike. A jack-of-all-trades. The bike is compatible with either 29-inch or 27.5 wheels with Plus tires. Since we aren’t huge fans of Plus tires, we primarily ran ours in the 29er specification.

Long, low, and playful is the pervasive theme of this bike. The ingredients blend together to give the bike a strong, stable feeling. Thanks to a delicate balance of numbers, the Pivot Switchblade’s long 46.8-inch wheelbase, in size large, doesn’t feel as long as it looks on paper. It does give a beautiful blend of stability without sacrificing the maneuverability we loved.

For riders wanting a more aggressive stance, the bike can be raked out with the 17mm head tube spacer, meant to increase the BB height on the 27.5+ set up. Head angle is normally set at a playful yet attack-ready 67.3 degrees. All sizes share the same manual friendly 16.85-inch chainstays.

It’s also worth mentioning that this bike makes use of Pivot’s “Super Boost” 157mm rear end with wide hub flanges. The name seems like even Pivot is making fun of having yet another hub standard, but the design is undeniably stiff and compliments the already rigid carbon frame. While we hate to say it, we like the ride enhancement as much as we hate another hub “standard” exists. However, we’ve never thought that a traditional boost hub was noodly.

Pivot Switchblade 29

Suspension – Pivot’s familiar DW-Link continues to suspend the Switchblade and features an upper clevis and linkage and double-wishbone rear triangle. Damping is handled by a Fox Float Factory DPS Evol shock with a nifty integrated sag indicator to help you set up the 135mm of travel. In front is a 150mm Factory Fox 36 fork. According to Pivot, riders can also run a 160mm fork.

Unsurprisingly, both the fork and shock proved to be durable and offer fantastic performance in a wide range of conditions. Without consulting the 135mm logo on the side of the frame, a rider could easily mistake this bike for having 20mm more rear travel. Only the roughest bike park conditions reminded us of the bike’s less aggressive intentions.

Pivot Switchblade 29

Component Spec – With the exception of the Race Face cranks, Shimano, Fox, and Pivot’s in house parts make up the build for this rig. We’ve been long-time fans of the rock-solid reliability of Shimano and Fox components, and this bike shows why.

After a full calendar year of hard riding with zero maintenance, aside from some drivetrain lubrication, the bike is still going. It isn’t without its battle scars; however, as the derailleur clutch, cassette teeth, and chaining teeth have seen better days. The wheels proved to be standouts of the build, taking significant abuse with little to show for it aside from some superficial scratches. Even with a few pinch flats and plenty of bike park time, there wasn’t a single crack or flaw in the structure of the carbon. The Fox Transfer post also functioned well, but we found ourselves frustrated by the short 125mm of travel.

Pivot Switchblade 29

The Dirt

We had the good fortune of riding the Pivot Switchblade in a massive spectrum of terrain. This 29er got flogged in the dusty Santa Monica mountains, the infamous rocks, and twists of New Mexico, a beat-up and bomb hole filled Northstar bike park and even the jump trails of Snow Summit bike park among others. It’s been a year of torture testing, yet the Pivot Switchblade emerged victoriously.

Even with just 135mm of travel, it ate up trails, challenging our preconceptions. The one place that proved to be too much for this trail bike’s genre-blurring performance was Northstar’s full-blown DH trails like Pho Dog and Karpiel. Big hits off drops and non-stop bashing through extended boulder gardens seemed to overrun the 135mm rear suspension. It’s hard to hold that against the Pivot Switchblade, however, since terrain like that is well above its pay grade. But hey, we had a job to do!

This mountain bike really comes alive at full gas. The nimbleness of the Pivot Switchblade allowed us to tiptoe through the rough stuff and keep the momentum going, managing enough speed to skim rather than plow. Though the 29-inch wheels add stability in fast, technical situations, they undeniably hinder mid-flight maneuverability.

Pivot Switchblade 29

The Pivot Switchblade is less willing to whip and turn when compared to its 27.5 brethren, but in corners, they didn’t seem to hold it back. The stiff Reynolds carbon wheels and SuperBoost 157 frame feels very stable, especially when pushing the rear sharply to slash corners. Local terrain and riding style will dictate if this is going to be an issue for you, but it wasn’t something that deters us from loving this bike.

While we’ve let our colors show, the Switchblade was also designed for climbing. With the shock locked out, it does so with the ease of an XC machine. In the mid setting, the bike was still a very capable ascender, putting power efficiently to the ground. With the great range of the 1X drivetrain, the most noticeable drag on climbing was from the beefy Maxxis Minion 2.5 /2.4 tire combo. But, they’re so damn good everywhere else we simply didn’t care. Their grip also comes in handy when making short burst technical moves climbing over natural features.

The short chainstays make these kinds of moves more comfortable as well. They also make wheelies, snapping corners, and climbing tight switchbacks easier. We chose to run the bike slacked-out with the 17mm head spacer installed. While that reduced some low-speed, techy handling benefits a bit, we made the concession since we’re pedaling this bike up to come back down.

Pivot Switchblade 29

The Wolf’s Last Word

There’s no better way to get to know a mountain bike than to own it, and this was probably the closest we’ll ever come to calling a test rig our own. Despite a year of abject flogging, the Pivot Switchblade impressed us. Sure it wasn’t without its battle scars and a worn drivetrain, but given the abuse, it was subjected to, that’s understandable.

We took this bike into terrain far above its intended purpose, and each time found ourselves leaving with a smile. With a solid component spec, proven suspension design, and pinpoint geo, the Pivot Switchblade is a formidable choice for an enduro or trail rig. Pivot has once again shown us that their bikes have what it takes to be top contenders in the market place. Hopefully, the next one we get comes with a longer dropper post!

Price: $6,399
Weight: 29.3 lbs
Website: pivotcycles.com

Frame: Carbon ; 135mm
Fork: FOX 36 Factory 150mm FIT4 Boost
Shock: Fox Factory Float DPS EVOL

Brakes: Shimano XT 8000
Handlebar: Renthal 35mm Fatbar Carbon 800mm
Headset: Pivot Precision Sealed Cartridge
Saddle: WTB Vigo Race
Seatpost: Fox Transfer; 125mm
Shifter: XT 11 Speed R
Stem: Pivot Phoenix Team Enduro 55mm

Hubs: i-9
Rims: Reynolds Carbon
Tires: Maxxis Minion

Bottom Bracket: Race Face
Cassette: XT M8000 11-46 11 Speed
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect SL 30T
Derailleur: XTR 11 speed GS

Pivot Switchblade 29

We Dig

Tight Handling
Agressive Geo
Confident Ride
Solid Spec

We Don’t

125mm Dropper
Another Axle Standard

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