PIVOT SWITCHBLADE PRO XT/XTR 29ER REVIEW
IF A SURVIVAL KNIFE WERE A BIKE
Words by Mike Wirth | Photos by Katie Jane Photography
When Pivot launched their original Switchblade in 2015, it wasn’t actually original at all. At least the name wasn’t. The true OG Switchblade was welded by Pivot founder Chris Cocalis’ first bike company Titus, all the way back in the early 2000’s. That bike featured a radical adjustable travel and geometry linkage system that allowed it to “switch” and adapt to a wide range of trail conditions. It was a bike that was way ahead of its time, and while the Switchblade’s travel adjustment feature is a thing of the past, versatility is still strong in the DNA of the latest version of this quiver killer. We got one of the new Pivot Switchblades to test its mettle in the SoCal desert, to see if this machine could handle the rigors of our quarantine tester’s boredom and gumption, for our latest mountain bike review.
Pivot takes all the newest material, suspension and geometry technologies to create a bike that’s better than the sum of its parts. That’s their MO—build bikes that don’t pigeonhole you into one style of riding. Take a spin on Pivot’s short-travel 429SL, and you’ll quickly find that in addition to being light and efficient, it is also stiff and plush enough to handle the rigors of the rockiest technical XC trails with aplomb.
Similarly, Pivot’s Firebird 29 is confident enough to handle Bernard Kerr’s extreme 75-foot whips over CrabApple Hits, and yet light enough to get itself to the top of the hill without a chairlift. The Switchblade takes that “Versatile Bikes are Better” mantra, and makes it the primary focus for this true, do-it-all machine.
The Switchblade comes to the trail with either 29 or 27.5+ wheels and is designed as an aggressive, all mountain or trail bike. Some of Pivot’s factory athletes have even used this new version as a lightweight enduro race bike on some of the less technical Enduro World Series stages. The 2020 Pivot Switchblade utilizes an all-new vertical shock layout that increases the travel from 135 millimeters to 142 millimeters of travel with improved stand-over height that allows riders as short as 5-feet tall to clear an extra-small frame.
As with other Pivot mountain bikes, the Switchblade’s Super Boost Plus rear wheel spacing uses 157-millimeter dropouts, which is the same spacing found on many downhill bikes. That spacing is combined with a 12-millimeter, quick-release axle and wider hub-flange spacing to create a wheel that’s stiff and balanced. The spacing also allows Pivot to design in enough tire and suspension clearance without wrecking critical measurements like chainstay length. The Super Boost Plus may seem like a new standard, but in reality it’s an optimized combination of existing standards that Pivot exploited to make a better bike and word on the street is, it’s not going away.
Each Switchblade size uses its own tube profiles, meaning Pivot can custom tune the frame to feel consistent whether it’s an XS or the XL. It means a 135lb rider won’t be riding a bike that’s way too stiff and a 210lb Clydesdale won’t feel like they’re wrestling a wet noodle. All the frames can fit a full-size water bottle, and the medium and larger sizes can fit up to a 24oz bottle. The frame also features niceties like an integrated chainstay and downtube protector, as well as nicely-executed internal cable routing that secures the housing with Allen head bolts to keep it from rattling on the trail.
A nice touch for both creature comfort and improved control is the new Phoenix Factory Lock-On Grip system, which features a profiled ergonomic core and soft rubber compound designed to damp vibration and improve hand fatigue. It’s the type of grip you’d expect to see as an aftermarket upgrade, not as a stock house brand item and we love them.
Pivot offers the Switchblade in several configurations from a frame and crank to Fox Live Valve and SRAM AXS-equipped flagship builds. Whether you prefer Shimano or SRAM, you can find a bike and level to suit your taste.