Long-Travel Bird Of Prey: The Pivot Firebird
The Firebird is a remarkable
bike. No doubt about it. With nearly 7 inches of rear wheel travel, it’s
almost a downhill bike on paper. However, this test bike was built to
show the frame’s versatility. It tips the scales at less than 30 pounds
and is obviously the brainchild of a company that decided to sweat every
WHO IS IT MADE FOR?
This bike can be built to suit a number of different riders; it is a
little tough to pin down. Set up with the right suspension and
components, it is a burly, long-travel bike that could spend all summer
being abused at a bike park or flowing double-black-diamond runs without
breaking a sweat. But this long-travel design also has trailbike chops
and a thirst for miles of singletrack if set up like our test bike.
WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?
The Firebird frame is comprised of aluminum. It uses a one-piece
machined aluminum lower link and a one-piece carbon rocker to hold
together the dw-link suspension. It also uses a 1.5-inch head tube and
ISCG-05 chainguide mounts to give the rider limitless drivetrain and
steerer tube options. The front derailleur is mounted on a
patent-pending floating bracket. This allows the cage to remain static
until about 40 percent into the travel and then move with the
suspension. The chain remains aligned with the “sweet spot” of the
derailleur, even deep into the stroke, to improve shifting performance.
It also allows the inner plate to remain close to the little ring and
prevent the chain from dropping.
WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?
Our test bike was built with super-light Shimano XTR Trail components, Stan's wheels and a Fox 36
RLC fork. While the Firebird is typically reserved for a beefier build,
this kit proves that the frame is capable of success in many different
categories. Stuffed into the 1.5-inch head tube is Cane Creek’s AngleSet
headset. This design allows the rider to assemble the headset to
slacken or steepen the head tube angle.
HOW DOES IT PERFORM?
Ergonomics: The Firebird places the rider in a low and
aggressive, yet comfortable, position. The sizing is spot on, and the
drastically sloped top tube offers plenty of standover clearance. While
the Pivot house-branded carbon bar is comfortable for trail riding,
aggressive riders will prefer a wider setup.
Moving out: Our Firebird was assembled with the Cane Creek
AngleSet set to a 1-degree slack. Instead of a 67-degree head tube
angle, it was actually closer to 66 degrees. As a result, the center of
gravity felt low, which made for very stable handling.
Cornering: The relatively low bottom bracket height and slack
head tube angle give this bike loads of stability but don’t detract from
the agility and cornering prowess. The 6.3-inch travel fork tends to
bias rider weight over the bars when cornering hard and delivers ample
Climbing: The Bird climbs like its namesake and provides
efficient pedaling while feeling light and nimble. This is in part due
to the stellar build kit our test model was equipped with. The
anti-squat feature of the dw-link suspension delivers on the promise of
pedaling efficiency; the bike can find its way up almost any grade. The
components on this particular bike keep it exceptionally lightweight for
the black-diamond category. It feels responsive while climbing—in or
out of the saddle. Built with a longer-travel fork and heavy-duty parts,
this bike might lose its zippy climbing feel, but it would still get to
the top of the hill.
Descending: With 6.6 inches of travel, the Firebird shreds
descents. This is where the bike truly shines. It’s clear that while
climbing prowess was a priority for the designers, Pivot put descending
ability at the top of the wish list. The suspension has a lively feel
that’s easily brought off the ground. It is the exact opposite of most
multi-pivot bikes, which tend to feel Velcroed to the ground and like to
plow through obstacles. We loved the playful feel of the bike coupled
with the balanced, low center of gravity.
Braking: Adding to the descending ability, this frame exhibits
very little brake-induced feedback. Even when pointed down a steep
chute, the suspension remains active and confidence-inspiring.
TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?
Pivot has custom tuned the Fox RP23 shock with light velocity and
rebound damping. This works well with the anti-squat characteristics of
the bike; however, it makes the ProPedal function almost unnoticeable.
Our advice is to ride the custom-tuned shock. Just be aware that the
frame relies on the anti-squat dw-link design rather than shock valving
to deliver a pedaling platform. The Float 36 RLC fork keeps the weight
down and keeps the front end relatively low for climbing and improved
control. But job one of the Firebird is not climbing; it’s descending. A
Fox 36 170 RC2 (Fox builds this fork exclusively for
Pivot by reducing the travel of the Float 36 180 RC2 platform) uses a
stiffer chassis. It offers slightly more travel at 6.7 inches and would
be worth the additional weight. The plusher and laterally stiffer front
end would improve the already great downhill handling. The XTR
components provide impeccable shifting and braking performance if you
can swallow the price tag. If you’re hard on components, the Shimano XT
groupset will provide much of the same technology with a minimal weight
penalty and lower replacement cost when parts break.
The Cane Creek AngleSet headset developed a popping noise under hard
braking and when hitting flat-edged obstacles. We disassembled the unit,
reassembled it and still heard the annoying clicking. The noise was
irritating enough that we would rather use a conventional headset and
sacrifice the adjustability for a quiet ride.
The Firebird is a go-to trail weapon for those looking to climb
efficiently and slay it on the backside descent. In our initial test
(June 2009), we advised you not to ride this bike if you had your heart
set on anything else. Our advice is the same with this version. This is
what a versatile allmountain bike should feel like. The Firebird is a
defining bike for the all-mountain or black-diamond category and sets
the bar for the competition remarkably high.
Mountain Bike Action
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