THE TESTING AND TESTERS
Over the course of our riding time aboard these bikes, it is very apparent that there is some crossover – they are both Pivot’s after all – but there are some undeniable advantages that each bike possesses. We had a few different riders ride both bikes, but for our “Official testing film day” we had Chris Joyce AKA Neighbor Chris come out, as he’s only recently been tainted by the dark side of eBikes – mostly when we have wrangled him out of the cul-de-sac to give us a fresh perspective. He does not work in the bike industry; has to buy his own gear; has two kids and a full-time career, so his wish list and critical analysis bring valuable insights. He’s also not quite as DH-focused as some of our other crew members are. He likes to tow his younger kids up to mellower trails, is working on his jumping confidence and gaining speed overall. He’s a very capable rider and still an advanced level rider, but he realizes he’s not searching for glory and has to get to work and care for his kids after the ride is over.
Drew Rohde is the other primary tester, and for those who haven’t read his other ramblings, he loves raw, natural downhills; chunky terrain; high speeds; tight tech and actively moving around on the trail. He also is the instigator for every one of the crew’s technical hill climb challenges, as he has a sick infatuation with trying to make people fall over while climbing heinous bits of “trail”. Flow trails and jumps aren’t his number one priority, though he does have fun catching some kooky air. He’s primarily looking for an eMTB that will give him a lively, active and supple ride that can charge hard, go deep and get him back to the top.
We set up several “Stages” to compare the Shuttle AM and the Shuttle LT against each other, helping us to determine which bike would be the best option for consumers with different goals. We had a technical climbing section that was timed and featured a very tricky corner to a vertical, loose rock wall ascent. This tested the overall speed of the section, as well as low-speed acceleration and power application along with torque and power-management capabilities.
We also had a nearly minute long lower-grade uphill singletrack that was fast and twisty with short 5 to 10-foot pitches that steepened up before flattening out.
After the climbing stages were completed, we moved onto the DH stages which encompassed a top-to-bottom race run; a drop-to-flat, and a “Scary Feature” obstacle.
As we expected, the Shuttle AM with its Bosch drive unit took the victories in the climbing and uphill race stages. The Shimano certainly has merit as it delivers a very smooth, natural feeling of assistance, but the clock and average speeds don’t lie. The Bosch unit is faster and also can deliver some power over a broader range of cadences than Shimano. Chris, who wasn’t clearing the technical uphill obstacle as repeatedly as Drew, found that the Bosch bike was able to give him the best chance at clearing the challenging section of trail. And regarding the timed-uphill segment, just how big of a gap was there? The Shuttle AM was regularly 8 to 11 seconds faster over the 50-second segment, making it roughly 10% faster. This echoes our experiences with other Bosch-equipped bikes: they just pull that bit better.
With the climbing behind us, it was time to hit the downhills test segments. We took turns doing top-to-bottom runs; repeated certain notable sections and came away with some solid impressions on which bike shines brightest when it comes to the downs.
After Chris rolled into the finish with a time of 1:51 he proclaimed, “This bike is way faster! So much more forgiving, I could feel the extra travel and it gave me more confidence.” He was talking about the Shuttle LT, as he had just dropped 19 seconds off his Shuttle AM downhill time. No small feat on such a short track! Similarly, Drew’s times were 1:36 aboard the Shuttle AM and 1:26 aboard the Shuttle LT. A smaller overall difference, but a notable one, nonetheless. Just as we expected the Bosch-equipped Shuttle AM to take the lead on the climbs, there was no surprise that the Shuttle LT is still the bike to take for pure downhill laps.
Next, we moved onto another track which was full of tight and awkward chunks; some steep and loose downhill features; drops to flat-ish landings, and the “Waterfall” – a final obstacle that has destroyed many rear wheels, tires, and a few bodies. It’s not the craziest feature in and of itself, however the run-out is short; full of holes and requires a tight turn to avoid a minefield of jagged rocks.
Hitting the drops on both bikes, it was apparent that the extra travel of the LT offered up more cushion and confidence. The AM was plenty capable, and we rode it many times without issue, however we found the bottom of the travel on just about every lap. The LT took the hits in stride, and we just kept gaining momentum lap after lap.
When it came time to hit the Waterfall, it was Chris’ first time on that trail, and his first-time eyeing up the obstacle. “Nope! I’m good on that one. I’ll pick up the camera and get another angle,” he said. I assured him there was no pressure at all: I’d be happy to hit the obstacle enough times to get the shots on both bikes, and we could always come back.
As it worked out, I was on the Shuttle AM, so I dropped into the feature on that bike first. After watching the execution, speed required and the roll out, Chris walked back up and said, “Maybe it’s not as bad as it looks.” He picked up the Shuttle LT, rolled up to the take-off point and told us he was going to drop-in. He approached confidently, hit his mark and dropped the front tire over the point of no return. The Shuttle LT ate it up, he held his line, rolled out and made the corner with a hoot.
I interrupted his cheers and adrenaline rush by asking him, “If I had dropped in on the Shuttle LT and the Shuttle AM was the bike up top, do you think you would have hit this feature like you just did?” After pausing to think for a moment he said, “I don’t know actually. I think I would have looked at it more. I definitely would have taken a couple more practice runs up to it and thought about it harder. I just knew with the LT; it had the travel and I could trust the bike to save me as long as I had it pointed where I needed to go.”
This was an interesting statement, because up until this point Chris was all-aboard the Bosch train and said the AM was one of his favorite eMTBs he’s ridden yet. I felt a tinge of pride and thought, maybe I’ve swayed him back to the Shuttle LT side? Before I got too excited though, Chris reminded me, “This isn’t the type of trail or place I ride regularly, and even though I’d pick the LT for here, I think for the majority of my riding, the Shuttle AM is a little more lively, lighter and powerful, which are things I want for how I ride.” Fair enough!
WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW
Here at The Loam Wolf we do our absolute best to keep our readers in mind when we review or showcase products. We are well-aware that riders all over the world have different skill levels, terrain and trail types, and simply different desires from their mountain bike and electric mountain bike experience. We’re all fortunate that brands from different regions also have different goals when they design their bikes, so you can find a bike that suits your style and desires best.
So, while putting the Pivot Shuttle AM head-to-head against the Shuttle LT, which bike suits me best? Unapologetically, I would still pick the Pivot Shuttle LT, even with its Shimano Steps EP8 drive unit. Chris, however, opted for the Shuttle AM, as he isn’t quite as downhill-focused as I am. He wants a more powerful drive unit to tow his kids and climb faster, and most importantly he’s looking for a shorter travel bike that is a little more appropriate and engaging for his preferred terrain.
As I said above, there is no denying that at this point in time, Bosch’s Performance Line CX drive unit is faster and more supportive than Shimano’s EP8. However, since I’m not racing uphill, taking a 10% penalty in climb times is more than reasonable for the much larger gains I see on the downhills. As a recovering downhiller, I’m not willing to sacrifice big hit confidence; flat out DH-speed, and all things downhill for the sake of a faster uphill. I want a bike that will give me the best bet at going fast, staying safe and doing what I like most. If that’s not what matters to you most, then by all means pick the bike that offers you the ingredients you like best. Maybe that is the Shuttle AM; maybe it’s the Shuttle SL, or not a Shuttle at all! There is no right or wrong here, we just wanted to take some time and share our thoughts on why you should consider more than just drive unit power when it comes time to make your next eBike purchase.
– Drew and TLW Crew
To check out the full Pivot Shuttle lineup, visit Pivot Cycles Website.