Pivot founder Chris Cocalis made a name for himself building legendary cross-country race bikes and do-itall trailbikes, but his passion for speed (Chris is a former BMX and motocross racer) led him to sponsor a downhill race team. This commitment meant Pivot could not simply modify their Mach 5.7 or Firebird; a dedicated downhill race chassis was needed. Enter the Pivot Phoenix. The design draws from the expertise of suspension-design wizards and World Cup racers alike. The Phoenix was also piloted by Kyle Strait to an eighth-place finish at the 2010 Red Bull Rampage.
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
The short answer is Kyle Strait, but this bike is really for anyone who is OK with buying a lift ticket. The Phoenix design puts the downhill racecourse at the top of its priority list, but it’s equally at home in a bike park. If you’re looking for a versatile machine, take a look at the Mach 5.7 or Firebird. The Phoenix is intended to have gravity feed its habit.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
It’s aluminum through and through. The dw-link suspension is held together with two machined links that ride on cartridge bearings. It’s built with a tapered head tube, CNC-machined dropouts, 83-millimeter bottom bracket and a 12- by 142-millimeter axle.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
This bike looks like it just rolled out of the shop with beautifully machined and oversized aluminum links. The dw-link suspension is at the heart of this rig, and it’s controlled with a top-of-the-line Fox RC4 shock with Kashima coating. Pivot uses a cutout on the underside of the down-tube to keep the adjustments accessible. Add the massive replaceable dropouts, motocross-style decals and a smart build kit and you’ve got a bike that begs to be ridden hard.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Moving out: Throw a leg over the Phoenix DH and you’ll be inspired to conquer the most technical trails. With the Cane Creek AngleSet set to 1 degree of slack, the front-end geometry strikes a balance between too steep and too slack.
Pedaling: Surprisingly, this is a strong suit for the Phoenix. Not to say that the bike likes to be pedaled uphill, but it will be an advantage on downhill courses that have flat or short uphill sections. The suspension does not sap pedaling efficiency, and the anti-squat characteristic of the dw-link is very apparent. Throw on lighter wheels and tires and this trait would be even more noticeable.
Hang time: The Phoenix has a playful nature; it loves to come off the ground. When riding a jump line, such as Northstar’s Livewire, the bike feels fast, fun and always ready for the next boost. The bike excels in the air with a balanced and lightweight feel. It simply doesn’t take much to get this bike airborne. If sticking to terra firma is more your style, the front end comes up with ease for manuals through whoop sections.
Cornering: The bottom bracket is not the lowest out there, but the center of gravity is kept low with the rest of the chassis design. The heaviest parts, the shock and linkage, are kept close to the ground. With its sharp and not-too-slack head angle, the Phoenix navigates slow-speed technical turns with ease. The frame also handles high-speed corners well. The only weak link here seemed to be the 2.5-inch Nevegal tires, which tended to break loose sooner than expected.
Descending: It’s obvious by this point, but the Phoenix is a terrific descender. It’s completely at home on hairy technical terrain where a smaller bike simply won’t do. While there are other bikes out there with more stability at top speed, the Phoenix will inspire confidence in all gnarly conditions. Think of it as the bike you would most want to ride through that section you’re always nervous on. As an added bonus, the bike is exceptionally quiet when going through technical terrain.
Plowing through: The Phoenix has plenty of travel, but it doesn’t like to stay on the ground and plow through obstacles the way other downhill bikes do. It seems more inclined to pick a precise line and use its maneuverable geometry and flickable nature to execute it.
Braking: Most dw-link suspension designs we’ve ridden are renowned for being active while braking, and the Phoenix is no different. It’s not afraid of chattery braking bumps where other bikes can stink-bug. The fork’s low-speed compression adjustment does a nice job of resisting brake dive on even the steepest descents. Our Avid Code R brakes provided adequate power, but tended to be slightly noisy on long descents.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
The cutout on the underside of the downtube is necessary when fine-tuning the rear suspension. However, it’s placed exactly where the most mud and debris will be thrown from the front wheel. The DHX RC4 shock seems able to resist the contaminants, but a cover of some sort here would be welcome. The Cane Creek AngleSet occasionally came loose during the test and made popping noises. While the head-angle adjustment greatly improves the ride quality of the Phoenix, it would be a huge improvement if they made the system more reliable and easier to set up properly.
This bike is a downhill machine with confidence-inspiring geometry that’s especially at home in the bike park. Kyle Strait and company prove it’s also a competent race rig. The price is competitive when considering the frame quality and parts package. The design delivers above-average performance for a downhill rider of any ability. Whether you’re planning to slay a World Cup track or you just want to conquer that technical section on your toughest trail, the Phoenix delivers.
Reprinted from the February 2012 issue. Like us on Facebook