2022 Pivot Firebird Review

2022 PIVOT FIREBIRD REVIEW

THE DOWNHILLER’S ENDURO RIPPER

Review by Chili Dog

The new Pivot Firebird is the Arizona brand’s race-ready enduro race machine. This 29-inch wheeled, carbon framed sled sports 165mm of DW-Link rear wheel travel and a star-studded parts spec. For 2022 Pivot redesigned the Firebird and brought it in-line with their other offerings that feature a modified vertical shock arrangement, updated geometry, and refined kinematics to better meet the needs of their EWS team riders.

The stoke was high when we unboxed the new Pivot Firebird, and I still remember the excitement as we texted photos of the bike back and forth between the team before it had been officially launched. We were all curious to see how the new geometry tweaks, suspension layout changes, and parts spec would alter one of our favorite enduro and park bikes. After a few months with the new 2022 Firebird, we can finally share our thoughts.

QUICK HITS

  • 29er | Mullet & 27.5 Compatible
  • HTA 64
  • STA 77
  • REACH 488mm (Large)

Price: $6,099.00 – $13,399.00
Website: Pivotcyles.com

THE LAB
Our first ride report covered most of the technical changes from the previous generation Pivot Firebird, so if you’re comparing bikes we highly recommend giving that story a read. To summarize the changes however, this most recent generation got (unsurprisingly) longer, lower, slacker, and now employs the newly redesigned rear suspension layout. It is a modified version of Pivot’s tried and true DW-Linkage design and delivers the 165mm of rear travel. The frame is only available in their Hollow Core Carbon fiber, and Pivot paid attention to the finest details to unlock the best performance for riders of all sizes, with size-specific geometry and even a tweaked layup on the carbon to tune the frame stiffness for the size and assumed rider weight range. The complete bikes are only available in a dual 29” wheel setup, but Pivot say you can run a mixed 29F/27.5R or even dual 27.5” setup if you wish.

2022 Pivot Firebird Shock and Linkage

There are build specs ranging from $6,000 to $13,000 (€6,599 – €14,249) to cater to a range of (higher-end) budgets. When the bike launched, the interweb net-bangers were quick to point out that the entry level starting price was too rich for their blood, but Pivot has never been one to shy away from their top-tier product. They build bikes so that even their cheapest spec is quite literally race ready with zero parts changes or substitutions. While it makes for a less accessible beginner bike, you can’t argue with their approach as a skilled rider. I for one prefer that approach, instead of brands who hit lower price specs at the expense of build quality in the small details. Even better, Pivot offers every single level of bike in both a SRAM and Shimano drivetrain spec. No matter what side of the fence you’re on, you can get choose the build and brand you want.

Speaking of spec, we were lucky enough to test the ($8,649/€9,499) Pro XT/XTR Carbon wheel build. I personally have a preference for the Shimano components and was delighted to see an XTR 12-speed drivetrain and XTR 4 piston brakes when I opened the box. That drivetrain is complimented with a Fox Factory suspension spec. To further add to the plethora of build options, Pivot allows customers to choose between an air, coil or Live Valve suspension setup depending on needs and taste. Our bike was sporting the air spec with a 170mm Fox Factory 38 and Fox Float X2 combo. Rolling stock came in the form of ultra-stiff Reynolds carbon rims on I9 hubs and Maxxis Minion tires to round off the notable parts list. As one would hope with such a solid (expensive) parts spec, there were zero issues or serious complaints during testing.

The new Pivot Firebird’s geometry is aggressive and caters towards the needs of modern enduro racing. In the low BB setting, our size large frame had a head tube angle of 64 degrees, with a 77-degree effective seat tube angle. The reach number is a lengthy 488mm, there are 438mm chain stays and a 350mm bottom bracket height, giving an overall wheelbase that stretches out to 1,267mm. Size-specific chainstays help to maintain the weight balance between each wheels, and reasonably short seat tube lengths offer the possibility of sizing up or down for many riders if a different fit is desired.

2022 Pivot Firebird Fork Spec

Like the previous generation Pivot Firebird, the 2022 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 better than the EWS-ready mode.

If you’re keeping track, that’s still longer, lower and slacker than the previous generation bike, which had a 65-degree head tube angle and 74.5-degree seat tube angle. I started in the low setting, but quickly realized even the steepest trails I had access to didn’t warrant that slack of a bike, except for a few sections. After a week in the slack setting, I left the bike in the high setting for the remainder of my testing. Thankfully the adjustment is possible trail side, so you can switch easily depending on the rides you do each day. That’s something that can’t be said of geo adjustment systems that require the removal of the rear axle or headset.

As we’ve come to expect with Pivot bikes, the fine details are meticulously taken care of on the new Firebird. Pivot looked to increase seatpost insertion depths to fit the longest droppers for most riders and sizes. The chainstay and downtube are well protected with plastic guards. The internal routing uses bolted ports to clamp cables tight and ensure there’s no rattle and limited chance for dirt ingress. The derailleur hanger is the universal SRAM UDH, and rear axle spacing is the SuperBoost Plus 157mm to offer a stiff, dishless wheel. Rounding out the features are ample room for a water bottle in the front triangle on all sizes, and tool mount bolts on the underside of the top tube.

Santa Cruz Bronson V4 CC Action

THE DIRT
I’m ashamed to admit that I had a bit of a love / less-than-love relationship with the new 2022 Firebird, and I think it was due to my refusal to admit that it has a new purpose in the Pivot lineup. The outgoing model was one of my favorite bike park bikes ever made. The long front center, short chain stays, and well-rounded geometry mixed well with the supple, yet progressive suspension to deliver a potent park and jump line slaying weapon that was still fun and lively on mellower trails. This new version has its sights set on a different prize: all-out speed.

Initially I struggled with the new Firebird, feeling like it was a bit too long, and slow to come around in tighter corners. I also had trouble trusting the front end’s traction on my local trails. For reference, my local trails tend to be fast, dry, loose-over hard pack with lots of rocks and flat corners. The turns can either be sandy or hard pack, but berms are few and far between in the hard Southern California dirt. I believe steeper terrain and berms would reduce some of my front-end issues, which makes sense, since this bike is supposed to be ridden by the fastest riders in the world at Enduro World Series events.

In my quest for front end traction, I adjusted stack height, made countless suspension adjustments, talked with Chris Cocalis and the Pivot team and even swapped the front tire from a Minion to an Assegai, one of the stickiest tires I know of. Then I realized, I was the issue. Despite being 6’4” on a size large bike, I wasn’t using my weight effectively. This bike rewards aggressive and purposeful body positioning in corners. Once I realized I simply needed to throw myself over the front end and charge harder, things began to click. It takes commitment though, and the Firebird rewards riders who are willing to throw themselves 100% into a turn. That said, the new Pivot Firebird is no longer a jibbing park rat. Instead, it’s a carefully tailored tool for speed. The Firebird has become even more of a high-speed trophy truck, while the Mach 6 has taken over the nimble rally car-esque, bike park role.

2022 Pivot Firebird Tire Clearance

Despite its love for speed and downhill capabilities, it somehow still maintains such an impressively efficient climbing platform that it makes my head hurt. Pivot’s DW-Link suspension designs plays a vital role in that efficiency, as does the effective seat tube angle which increases in steepness as the frame size increases and places you in a great position to crawl up the steepest of hills. Together, they really do make for a bike that is somehow able to defy the climbing expectations for the travel category and geometry.

The long wheelbase craves speed and offers incredible stability. The trade-off of course is that this bike isn’t well suited for flat, tight corners. Once again, that isn’t really what it was made for, and Pivot has a whole line of bikes that fit that role well. The Firebird felt right at home on the steepest and fastest trails I could find near me. On rock gardens and tech, it was absolutely unstoppable and shaved time off my previous records through segments. In the air the bike is confident, stable, and feels incredibly balanced, but retains a playful edge. It really has all the traits you could want in an enduro race machine.

We’d likely spec a slightly thicker sidewall tire if we were racing the bike, but the current spec is probably sufficient for most riders in their home terrain. Also with the current tire shortages, we have to take what we can get! The one other complaint that might arise is the overall stiffness of the setup. Pivot is known for their ultra-stiff frames, and coupled with the Reynold’s wheels, this bike offers seriously torsional rigidity. Some riders will love the snappy responsiveness of a setup like that, but it does take careful and precise management when the terrain gets rowdy. Similarly, if you spend lots of time on off-camber corners, loose terrain or wet roots, the stiffness could have you looking for more compliance and traction.

2022 Pivot Firebird Drivetrain

The Wolf’s Last Word

To put it simply, Pivot’s new Firebird is a seriously bad ass machine, but it isn’t the bike for everyone. As Pivot’s other bikes have grown in capability, they’ve encroached into the territory of the outgoing Firebird. As a result, Pivot decided to move this bike even further towards their Phoenix 29 DH bike. The new Firebird will cater to a small group of people, but a diehard group. If your goal is to ride the gnarliest, most technical terrain while still being able to pedal to the top, say hello to your new bike. It is designed for hard charging racers and gravity junkies and isn’t the bike that would work best for the casual weekend cruiser.

To use an analogy, think of it like the guy who buys a Ferrari just to commute on a freeway in bumper-to-bumper traffic. Sure, his ego may feel good when people see his bright red race car, but just as it bogs and struggles going 15mph in first gear, with the stiff racing seats numbing his ass cheeks, so too will this bike make you realize, a more practical option could have been a better option. For example, we’d likely pick the Pivot Switchblade, which happens to be one of our favorite bikes of the year, as it’s much better suited for a wide range of terrain. On the other hand, if you live down the street from Laguna Seca, or some fast, steep, and rowdy downhill trails, not many bikes will shred like the Firebird.

Price: $8,649 | €9,499
Weight: 32.32 lbs
Website: Pivotcycles.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: Carbon | 165mm
Fork: Fox 38 GRIP2 | Factory | Grip 2 | Boost | 170mm
Shock: Fox Float DPX2 | Factory | 3-pos | 205×65

COCKPIT
Brakes: Shimano XT M8120 4-Piston | 203mm
Shifter: Shimano XTR | 12s
Stem: Phoenix Team Enduro/Trai | 45mm
Handlebar: Phoenix Team Low Rise Carbon | 20mm R 800W
Headset: Pivot Precision Sealed Cartridge
Saddle: WTB/Phoenix Volt Pro
Seatpost: Fox Transfer Factory

WHEELS
Wheelset: Reynolds Blacklabel Wide Trail Carbon | 34mm
Front Tire: Maxxis Minion DHF EXO+ 3C MaxxTerra | 29“ x 2.5 | EXO Casing
Rear Tire: Maxxis Minion DHR2 | 29“ x 2.4 | EXO+ Casing | 3C MaxxTerra

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket: SRAM Dub pressfit
Cassette: SRAM XG 1295 | 12s | 10-52T
Cranks: Race Face Aeffect R | 32T
Derailleur: Shimano XTR | 12s

2022 Pivot Firebird Shock Pocket

We Dig

Extremely capable
Efficient pedalling
Steep terrain crusher
Speed machine

We Don’t

Tricky to weight front wheel
Demands gnarly terrain
Flimsy tire spec

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