FIRST RIDE REPORT
THE ALL-NEW PIVOT FIREBIRD
Words, Photos & Video by Andrew “Chili-Dog” Villablanca
The previous Pivot Firebird was (and is) one of our favorite enduro bikes on the market, but Pivot Cycles has never been one to follow the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mentality. Instead, they dove head-first into a complete redesign of one of their flagship bike offerings. The all-new Firebird has always changed with the needs of the market and their pro riders, and the latest iteration sees a firm and pointed shift towards Enduro racing. In short, Pivot set out to make a purpose-built bike to win EWS races.
I’ve had the honor of reviewing the last three generations of Pivot Firebird, which has given me the opportunity to watch the evolution of the bike over the years first-hand. The previous generation was one of my favorite long travel rigs, so to say I had high hopes for this next iteration would be an understatement. Thankfully it’s rare for Pivot to let us down.
The Firebird has always been Pivot’s no holds barred enduro race slayer, and this current generation takes that to the “nth” degree. It doesn’t take a keen eye to notice that there have been some major changes to the bike, with a completely redesigned rear suspension setup, linkage and overall frame. The new design offers the same DW-link suspension we’ve come to love, but with a vertical shock layout. This gives more room for a water bottle cage up front (a major complaint about the outgoing model) and offered Pivot the opportunity to fine tune the kinematics even further. The new Firebird sports 165mm of rear suspension travel, with a longer lower link and even larger emphasis on rearward axle path during the suspension stroke. Pivot backs that suspension design with aggressive geo numbers to go downhill as fast as possible, and more importantly geo numbers that are catered to the frame size. The bike comes standard with 29” wheels and 8” brake rotors on both ends with a 170mm suspension fork, signaling its aggressive intentions. Offered exclusively in Pivot’s Hollow Core carbon construction, this is a mountain bike serious about going fast.
Pivot also wanted to firmly position the Firebird as an enduro race weapon, meaning they moved a little further away from the freeride/bike park feel of the previous model. The new Pivot Firebird received longer chain stays, longer reach numbers and a more central riding position to aid in stability and confidence when riding at the upper limit on technical, steep trails. This mountain bike is firmly planted in the enduro-gravity category.
In the low BB setting, our size large frame had a 641mm top tube, 438mm chain stays and a 350mm bottom bracket height. The head tube angle comes in at 64 degrees, with a 77-degree effective seat tube angle. The reach number is a lengthy 488mm, giving an overall wheelbase that stretches out to 1267mm. Like the previous generation Pivot Firebird, the 2021 model retains an easy-to-use flip chip to alter the geo on the fly. It’s easy enough that it can be done trail side with the help of a hex key.
The high setting steepens things slightly with a 64.6-degree head tube angle, 77.5-degree seat tube, 355.8mm BB height and 1,266mm wheelbase. The change is noticeable and helps the bike navigate flatter terrain without feeling sluggish. If you’re keeping track, that’s still longer, lower and slacker (LLS) than the previous generation bike, which had a 65-degree head tube angle, and 74.5-degree seat tube angle.
One thing worth noting further is the importance of size-specific geometry numbers. As someone that’s at the upper end of the sizing spectrum at 6’3” (190cm), I’ve grown to appreciate brands that go the extra mile to make this happen. The tooling and development costs are higher, but the end result is a bike that rides just as well for someone on a size small as it does for someone like me at the top end of the spectrum. Pivot also claims that thanks to the geometry adjustment, this bike can be configured mullet style or full 27.5” with a replacement lower headset cup, adding further to the versatility of the design.
The sizing changes for each frame are subtle but important. This is especially noticeable between the L and XL frame. While I should have opted for the XL on paper due to my height, I chose the size L to keep things a little shorter and in line with my dirt jump background. After spending more time on the bike though, I would likely opt for the XL if I was doing more aggressive and high-speed riding in say BC or an area with steeper trails than SoCal.
Pivot offers three basic build levels for the Firebird under the Race, Pro and Team names, with price and parts spec ascending in that order. Within those levels are several other sub choices centered around the wheel material and suspension. Pivot offers a SRAM and Shimano model at every build level, as well as options for coil and air rear shocks. They also offer a Fox Live Valve setup for riders wanting to get the absolute most out of the bike. No matter what your budget and parts preference there is likely a Firebird to match. While it may seem small, this is a huge feature as you aren’t forced into a particular build level to get the shock type, or the brake/drivetrain brand you like. It’s something we’d love to see from more bike manufactures moving forward as you’re often forced up or down a build level if you have a preference between Shimano and SRAM.
Parts spec on our tester is top notch as one would expect for a price tag closing in on $10,000. Thankfully that same attention to detail is present through the whole line up, with Pivot prioritizing the important bits of gear like the suspension. They also don’t skimp on the details like their easy internal cable routing, universal derailleur hangers, and massive tire clearance on the rear triangle. It’s clear that the build line up is selected by people that know their bikes, and not a penny-pinching board room looking to maximize margin at all costs. Like the rest of their bikes, the new Pivot Firebird makes no apologies for its pedigree.