Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Dusten La Pointe

It has been strange (and awesome) to see dual 27.5”-wheeled bikes return to the market over the last couple of years, as for some riders they could be the key to unlocking the most fun possible out of their rides. Our time riding Pivot’s Shadowcat (along with the burlier Pivot Mach 6 and the Yeti SB135) has served as a pleasant reminder that there are still some qualities offered by a pair of 27.5” wheels that can dial up the fun factor for the right kind of terrain and riding mentality. Let’s dive into what has made the Shadowcat so fun over the last few months, and help you decide if it’s the right trail mountain bike for you.


• 140mm DW-Link Suspension
• HTA 65.8
• STA 76 (effective)
• REACH 480 (Large)

Price: $6,399 – $11,399
Website: Pivotcycles.com


The Shadowcat is Pivot’s take on an agile trail bike, sporting a pair of 27.5” wheels to increase maneuverability and fun-factor. The Shadowcat uses Pivot’s well proven take on the DW-Link suspension design to deliver 140mm travel to the rear end and relies on a 160mm travel fork to lead the charge. In the words of Mr. Chris Cocalis (Pivot’s Head Honcho), the goal with the Shadowcat was “to build a very nimble, ultralight trail bike…a super-capable Rocketship that just puts a huge smile on your face wherever you ride it.”

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Profile Shot

Frame and Features | The frame of the Pivot Shadowcat is produced with their Hollow Core Carbon Frame construction to deliver a “class-leading strength to weight ratio” that lets a size medium frame come in at just 5lbs (2.27kg), and the standard Team XTR build at an incredible 26.5lbs (12kg). Pivot takes care of the details with well-considered frame protection on the downtube and drive side chainstay and seatstay; internal cable routing with ports that clamp the cables at each entry and exit point to prevent rattling; clearance inside the front triangle for a large water bottle on all sizes, and mounts for a Pivot Tool Dock system on the underside of the top tube. Pivot also integrated the headset cups into the carbon front triangle, shaving weight from the overall bike, and opted to use the easily sourced SRAM UDH to attach the derailleur to the frame. Pivot backs their frames with a 10-year warranty for the original owner, protecting your investment should you have an issue.

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Geo

Geometry | With the Shadowcat, Pivot sought to deliver play-friendly agility without sacrificing from the climbing manners or limiting confidence on gnarlier trail bike terrain. The 27.5” wheels led them to offer a sizing range from Extra Small to Large (to suit riders from 4’11” to 6’2”), opting not to add an XL option for the tallest riders like they do with their 29” wheel-equipped bikes. Consistent across the size range is a 65.8° head tube angle and 76° effective seat tube angle; 430mm chainstay length, and 17mm bottom bracket drop producing a 340mm bottom bracket height. The size large we tested sported a 480mm reach paired with a 623mm stack height; 432mm seat tube length, and compact 1230mm wheelbase. This is certainly not a bike that prioritizes straight line stability, but then that’s not the point.

Build Specs | With its high-quality carbon frame and SLX/XT component package as the “entry level” build kit, the Shadowcat carries a high minimum price tag of $6,299 in typical Pivot fashion, with the top-end “Team XX Eagle Transmission Live” build hitting $11,399. Our “Team XTR” build came in at $9,899, with an appropriately high-spec build to match the high price tag. Fox supplies a Factory series 36 160mm fork and Float DPS rear shock to offer a highly adjustable and capable suspension package with minimal weight, and there’s a matching Transfer dropper post. The drivetrain and brakes are full Shimano XTR as you may have guessed by the name, aside from the carbon fiber Race Face Next SL cranks. Reynolds supply a pair of their 27.5” Blacklabel Trail Pro rims laced to Industry Nine Hydra hubs, which are wrapped in a pair of EXO casing Maxxis Dissector tires in 2.4” width. Rounding out the spec is a Pivot Phoenix cockpit with carbon bar, and a “Phoenix” branded WTB Volt Team saddle.

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Action


Setup | It’s been a while since I’ve genuinely remarked “wow that’s light!”, but the Pivot Shadowcat is a solid 2lbs lighter than anything I’ve tested in some time, and 5+lbs lighter than the majority of rigs that come through our test fleet. With the stock EXO casing Dissector tires doing little to inspire confidence for my riding, I opted to add some considerable weight to the package in the form of a DD Assegai up front and DH Minion DHR2 in the rear, since the test period was going to involve some riding in areas like Sedona, where I’d be tackling some rough, rocky trails blind. Suspension setup in the rear was simple thanks to the sag indicator on the shock shaft and minimal adjustability for compression. The fork needed a little more experimentation to achieve a comfortable yet supportive setting with the Fit4 damper – it would be great to see a Grip 2 damper in there instead – but I settled upon a happy spot after the first couple rides. At the top end of the large Shadowcat’s size range, and therefore the top end of recommended Shadowcat riders in general, I found the front end a little on the low side with the stock bar, so swapped out for a higher rise OneUp unit, and found myself in a comfortable spot ready to attack some trails across the west of America.

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Action

Climbing | With the efficient suspension platform and low weight – notably in the wheels – the Shadowcat gets off the mark impressively fast and makes for a great technical climber until it gets particularly chunky. The climbing position is comfortable and well rounded, but combining a slightly more relaxed seated position with the relatively short rear end can lead the front wheel to go a little light when the climb gets steep, for my tall stature at least. Shorter riders will likely obtain a more balanced climbing position to really harness the snappy acceleration and supportive pedaling platform. On all but the steepest climbs there’s little to complain about when climbing Pivot’s small-wheeled trail bike though.

The DW-Link suspension offers enough support to let you forget about the climb switch in the shock, but in doing so retains enough sensitivity to keep the rear end passably comfortable. Make no mistake however, the Shadowcat falls on the firm and sporty side of things when pedaling. Traction out back is acceptable, especially when suitable tires for the terrain on the menu are used, but the drawback to the climbing performance with the small wheels comes when the terrain gets particularly chunky. In areas like Sedona, you’ve got to be mindful to keep your wheels moving through some of the wheel-eating holes and compared with a 29” wheel the likelihood of the Shadowcat’s hoops getting hung up in a hole is notably higher. For many this won’t matter, but it’s notable how much less care you need to take when climbing a 29” wheel-equipped bike to keep momentum.

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Action

Descending | All of the agility from the way up the hill carries onto the way down, making for a seriously fun trail machine. Darting from side to side on the trail and lifting the front end or placing the bike is incredibly easy, and there’s a fine mixture of support and sensitivity on both ends to feel connected to the trail below without being completely beaten up. With 140mm out back and the 160mm fork, the Shadowcat can still hang on for the ride through some impressively rough terrain, albeit with some slightly more careful line choice to keep the wheels out of the largest holes.

Once speeds rise or the descent steepens the Shadowcat begins to show its limitations, with a slight nervousness that can quickly detract from confidence. Brake-bump riddled trails, especially with hardpack berms, highlight the increased chance of the smaller wheels being swallowed up and unsettling the bike. Keep it within the trail bike remit though and the Shadowcat will handle some fairly aggressive riding without concern.

The overall stiffness that Pivot has managed to achieve with the combination of chassis and wheel choice on the Shadowcat is impressive, offering up plenty of confidence to pop and play down the trail or hit turns hard. It’s not going to iron out the trail like some can, but in its class, it still retains enough comfort to support some long days in the saddle.

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Action

Build Comments | The Maxxis Dissector EXO tire spec is a good match for the bike in drier climates, especially if you’re likely to cover some big miles in the saddle, but capability can be increased considerably by fitting burlier and grippier options. For my preferences the Grip 2 damper would have been nice over the Fit 4 unit fitted, but I understand that some riders within the Shadowcat’s target group may appreciate the ability to lock out the fork for extended periods of climbing. At nearly $10k, the Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR build spec better be good. It’s nigh on impossible to call a bike at this price “good value”, and the chances are that none of our crew would ever be able to justify dropping the money for this level build. That said, there’s nothing to complain about with Pivot’s selection of components on this build, and the frame is amongst some of the most refined out there, so riders with pockets deep enough are unlikely to be disappointed.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Although 27.5” wheel bikes are likely to remain somewhat of a niche market moving forward, it’s safe to say that a lot of riders would have a great time on board the likes of the Pivot Shadowcat, as the gains in agility and weight reduction are not insignificant. The result is a bike that is a serious amount of fun to ride in slightly less gnarly and slower paced trails, with incredibly peppy climbing mannerisms that make it a joy to pedal.

Price: $9,899
Weight: 28.8lbs as tested (Size Large with DD f / DH R tires + bottle cage)
Website: Pivotcycles.com

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Downtube Protector


Frame: Hollow Core Carbon | 140mm
Fork: Fox 36 27.5” Factory 160mm FIT4 | 44mm offset
Shock: Fox Factory Float DPS

Brakes: Shimano XTR M9120 4-piston 180F/R Rotors
Handlebar: Phoenix Team Low Rise Carbon 35mm | 780mm | 20mm Rise
Stem: Phoenix Team Enduro/Trail 35mm | 50mm Length
Headset: Pivot Precision Sealed Integrated Cartridge
Seatpost: Fox Factory Transfer | XS: 125mm; S: 150mm; M/L: 175mm
Saddle: Phoenix WTB Volt Team

Hubs: Industry Nine Hydra
Rims: Reynolds Blacklabel Trail Pro 27.5” | 32mm ID
Front Tire: Maxxis Dissector EXO | 27.5″ x 2.4″
Rear Tire: Maxxis Dissector EXO | 27.5″ x 2.4″

Bottom Bracket: Race Face Cinch
Cassette: Shimano XTR M9100 | 10-51T
Cranks: Race Face Next SL | 32T | 170mm
Shifter: Shimano XTR M9100 ISPEC EV | 12s
Derailleur: Shimano XTR M9100 | 12s

Pivot Shadowcat Team XTR Headtube

We Dig

Incredibly snappy
Very agile
Impressively sturdy
High-quality finish

We Don’t

Gets hung up in chunky terrain
Can be a bit nervous at high speed


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