SHADOWCAT Q&A WITH CHRIS COCALIS
Q: Shadowcat is a new name in the Pivot line-up: Is this an entirely new model or does it replace another bike?
A: CC – Yes, technically, the Shadowcat replaces the Mach 5.5.
Q: Why would you want to ride this bike?
A: CC – For pure fun. It’s meant to make everything easier and more fun. We built on the heritage of the Mach 5.5 but made the bike much lighter. Together with strategic changes to suspension tuning and geometry, it’s more capable and it pedals better.
Q: How would you categorize the Shadowcat?
A: CC – The bike is designed to be very capable and nimble: it’s an ultra-lightweight trail bike. From a ride characteristics standpoint, the Shadowcat would be most comparable to someone looking at a 125 – 135 mm travel trail bike. The frame is lighter than our already insanely light Trail 429 model, and as in fact very close in weight to that of the Mach 4 SL. There is only a 45 gram weight difference between the Mach 4SL and Shadowcat medium front and rear triangles. The acceleration under power is class-leading for a trail bike. However, the Shadowcat has a bit more travel to be able to handle bigger terrain, should you need it, making the bike super capable. We talk a lot about one bike being able to “do it all”, but that’s because we understand that “one bike” means different things to different people. Each rider has different performance expectations for both climbing and descending. The way in which we have focused on overall weight and unique shock tune, combined with the lighter weight 27.5” wheels, has created a whole new animal (pun intended) in the trail category. It just puts a big smile on your face.
Q: The Shadowcat adopts the vertical shock mount seen across the rest of the Pivot line. How is the overall kinematic design expressed in the bike’s characteristics?
A: CC – From a kinematic standpoint, the new Shadowcat really benefits from the development of all our other vertically mounted designs. We’ve evolved to create better pedaling bikes, and at the same time created bikes that remain plusher later in the travel. With the vertical shock design we have also much improved stand-over clearance; that particularly benefits the X-Small and Small sizes, as well as having better water bottle clearance for all sizes, room for the Pivot Dock tool system, and Live Valve integration, all on a much lighter frame.
Q: What suspension options are available on the Shadowcat?
A: CC – We have a specific balance and feel that we want out of the bike, so to achieve that there are just two suspension packages. One is using the DPS rear shock combined with a 160 mm FOX 36 Fit4 on the front, and the other is, of course, the LIVE Valve. The suspension, front and rear, has more travel than the Trail 429 – our 29” wheel model in the trail category – so the goal with the DPS and Fit4 is to keep the weight low and the efficiency high without sacrificing any capability. The suspension selection is also designed to be easy to set up. Dw-link plays a huge role in our being able to accomplish this. The suspension design is so efficient that we can spec a bit more travel without compromising any of the efficiency and poppiness that makes this bike a well-rounded trail bike. The entire package works in a way you don’t even think about.
Q: What carbon lay-up process did Pivot follow to develop such a lightweight frame?
A: CC – We are always learning how we can better optimize the material lay-up and continue to make important gains on every model. Starting with all the carbon lay-up development that went into the Mach 4SL and the Trail 429, we were able to refine the design and take even more weight out while improving the ride quality. A lot of work went into developing the frame cross sections for each size so we could get that perfect balance between ultra-lightweight, a lively ride quality, and – of course – frame strength. This size-by-size analysis in our carbon lay-up process is at the heart of our ride tuning, and it’s what allows every rider to have an incredible ride feel and great riding experience
Q: Pivot’s latest release from last summer – the all-new Firebird – comes in four frame sizes, each of which have individual chainstay lengths. This is done to balance the center of mass of the rider on the bike. Why did Pivot decide to stay with one chainstay length on all sizes for the Shadowcat?
A: CC –First, it’s important to note that we make the Shadowcat in only 4 sizes, from X-Small to Large. There is no X-Large because very tall riders are likely better served with wheels more proportionally correct for their size. The very tall riders with particularly high saddle positions are also the ones who really feel the different in balance when they are positioned too far over the rear axle. In the most extreme terrain, having more length to the rear end of the bike provides stability. However, that length can also reduce agility. The Shadowcat is all about being agile for the rider height range that we designed it for (4’10” – 6’1”). One chainstay length with 27.5” wheels is perfect.
Q: What about the overall geometry?
A: CC – We did go with fairly aggressive reach measurements on previously released models, including the Mach 6, the Trail 429, and the Firebird. As a modern trail bike, the Shadowcat is no different. More progressive geometry opens a lot of opportunities for wider range of riders. The choice between any two sizes is really based on how aggressively you want to tackle varying terrain – more bike out in front of you translates as more stability, particularly on highly technical trails. Additionally, all sizes fit water bottles in the front triangle and the seat tubes are short with excellent insertion depths for running longer droppers. As the sport continues to grow, the number of female riders or younger riders between 4’10 and 5’7” has grown a lot, and this bike is going to feel very special for that group of riders. The fit and feel of the Shadowcat in sizes X-Small and Small really sets a new benchmark for fun trail riding.
Q: Can you provide some insights about the selection of 27.5” wheels for this bike?
A: CC – From the beginning, there was no question of what the wheel size for the Shadowcat would be. We have tested mixed wheel sizes as well, but we know the goals of the bike were agility, responsiveness, playfulness, and capability. 27.5” wheels help deliver all of this. They are lighter and they accelerate quicker. They can also change directions faster and you can pick your line easier. With 27.5” wheels, you are more in control of your bike and their ride experience overall. At the end of the day, wheel size is only one factor in the overall design of a bike. The wheels need to come together with all the bike’s other key design features – head tube angle, how progressive the suspension curve is, or bottom bracket height, for example – to achieve the specific characteristics we are designing it for. Because of the wheel size, it’s a bike we can’t wait to get in our demo fleets: the majority of mountain bikers everywhere will find this bike gives them the best balance and feel for riding the widest range of trails.
Q: Why did you select 148 mm hub spacing for the Shadowcat?
A: CC – We have a well-thought out reason behind everything we do. One of the goals of this bike was to build the lightest trail bike available. To do that, you need to look at everything. With 27.5” wheels and a reasonable chainstay length, we weren’t looking for more tire and chainring clearance, and we didn’t need the wheel to be stiffer. Those are a few of the primary benefits of Superboost, and they are awesome on the applications where we need them. Simply, we can achieve our goals for the Shadowcat with 148 mm hub spacing. The wheel is also slightly lighter, and riders wanting to run even narrower Q factor, XC-specific cranks can fit those options on the Shadowcat. On the topic of shaving grams, the Shadowcat also incorporates the integrated headset design of the Mach 4 SL, which reduces weight and keeps everything very clean and simple.
Q: Pivot builds bikes to be adjustable to terrain and personal preference. How can the Shadowcat be adjusted?
A: CC – We wanted the Shadowcat to be simple to set up. This is an intentional attribute of the bike, and we worked towards that goal in the design process. The suspension is tuned to be easy to set up for a wide range or riders and capabilities, but we purposefully stayed away from adding geometry and wheel size adjustability from this bike.
Q: What other key features of the Shadowcat offer riders more performance?
A: CC – Just like our other models, the Shadowcat has FOX Live Valve integration. This is the most advanced option available for any bike and sense the terrain to automatically adjust the feel of the suspension for the trail conditions. It amplifies everything the Shadowcat already does well. In addition, the Shadowcat features mounting locations for our Pivot Dock tool systems. These are well integrated and very accessible tools that enable you to carry complete multi-tools, CO2 cartridges, or anything you want in our new mini bag.
Q: The words “poppy” and “planted” are often used to describe the Shadowcat: can you tell us how volume spacers are related to these two words?
A: CC – We spend a lot of time with shock tunes, getting the feel of the suspension and range of adjustment perfect for a broad spectrum of rider weights and capabilities. However, there’s one area outside the obvious knobs, levers and air pressure where riders can further tune the suspension for their riding style and terrain. The changes can make significant changes with relative ease: both the fork and shock use volume spacers. Some companies call them “tokens”. These are plastic parts that snap into the air chambers on the shock and fork and either reduce or increase the total air volume in the suspension. When you install a larger volume space, you are reducing the air volume, which means that as the suspension moves through its travel, the pressures in the shock or forks increase at a faster rate, making it more difficult to bottom the suspension. When people refer to a “more progressive” suspension feel, this is what they are talking about. On the rear shock of the Shadowcat we’ve made the choice to go with a little larger volume spacer as it helps keep the suspension from using as much of its travel as easily. This can be described as a more “poppy” feel. It will take a much bigger hit for the Shadowcat to use all the travel. If a rider wants the bike to be plusher overall, then going to a smaller volume spacer is an option for a more linear suspension feel. On the forks, it is more about whether you are getting full travel or if you are bottoming out the suspension. A lot of riders just continue to let air out of their forks if they are not getting full travel. This may solve the travel issue but then the fork just dives deeper into the travel too easily, affecting the overall handling of the bike. In this case, it’s better to remove volume spacers and keep the pressure closer to what’s recommended. Likewise, if you ride aggressively in a forward attack position and hit big drops you may be using all the travel too easily. While it’s ok to jump up a bit in pressure, you risk the fork riding too high in its stroke, which also affects the bike’s handling. Adding a volume spacer or two is an easy and straightforward solution. We list the stock volume spacers as well as the volume spacer part numbers and options from FOX on our website. Qualified Pivot dealers are also experienced in working with FOX suspension and can discuss your options with you, as well as provide the service of installing or removing volume spacers.
Q: Pivot has a reputation for having the greatest number of build options for any one bike model. Can you describe the build options available for the Shadowcat?
A: CC – We make bikes simple and easy to understand, but we still like to offer our riders a lot of options. As with our bikes, our builds are categorized into three levels: Race, Pro, and Team. The Race level is no-nonsense. It has all the performance most riders will ever need, in the most user-friendly package, at the best price. The Pro level reduces weight, adds suspension adjustments and is our highest value package, with options for either alloy or carbon wheels. Team builds are the “ultimate”, with all the upgrade boxes checked. These are the lightest available parts throughout the entire build: more titanium, more carbon, more bling, and the lightest weight. Beyond this, we have the option of the FOX LIVE Valve suspension upgrade, which can be added to any Pro or Team Build.
Q: Are there any other details you think are important, or information you would like to share about the Shadowcat?
A: CC – Some additional technical specifications of the bike include the use of a 31.6 mm seatpost, and the use of a universal derailleur hanger, and our secure Pivot cable port system. The most important thing I can share is that the Shadowcat has been referred to as “mountain bike purity”. The Shadowcat literally disappears under the rider, that’s how seamless the rider experience is. It’s so easy to ride, and delivers pure, all-day fun. When people ask me “who is this bike for?” I ask them, “Who wouldn’t want to sign up for that kind of rider experience?” When riders get a chance to try this bike, it’s immediately obvious that the Shadowcat is something special and different (hence the name change). If a bike will be more fun to ride and make you a better rider in the process, that’s all you really need to know.