Will this bird fly?
When owning, or even working at a bike shop, it’s important to know your product! I don’t mean just knowing the different build levels of a model, how much suspension travel a bike has or what genre a bike falls into. I mean knowing the characteristics of a bike and how it rides. Setup can be key, and I’ll touch base on that later.
Testing bikes is FUN! I’m lucky to do what I do and even more so to be able to test such amazing machines. Riding everything from XC race bikes to big travel enduro rigs, on local trails and trails across the country is an experience many only dream of, and I get to do it!
So that brings me to my latest demo bike. The all new Pivot Cycles Firebird. The Firebird is billed as an enduro bike. It boasts suspension travel numbers of 165mm in the rear and 170mm in the front with a slack head angle, long reach and 29” tires. This bike is built to be fast over rough terrain, and it is, but not just downhill.
As in previous reviews I won’t talk about the build spec. I will say that the Firebird can come with either Shimano or Sram and every build is nice. In this review we will cover the riding characteristics of the bike to help you decide if it’s the right bike for you.
Now I’ll admit I don’t always get a bike setup right on the first try. That was the case with the Firebird. I started riding this bike in the “high” geometry position (thought I’d like it here based on the geo numbers), with the stem 5mm down from its highest position and saddle in a spot I thought was right. On my first ride I just could not get comfortable on the bike. I didn’t feel strong on climbs. I couldn’t get a good feel for the corners and felt I needed far too much input at speed for the bike to do what I wanted. At first I chalked this up to having been up since 2am and driving for 11+ hours. So on day 2 I took the bird out again. This ride ended up being 26 miles with 2500 feet of climbing. I was still not grooving with the bike part way through, on trails I know well. At the top of a climb I decided to make a few changes. I switched to the “low” geo position, raised the stem up to the top of the stack and slid the saddle forward. Now pay attention kids! This. Made. All. The. Difference. The bike came alive for me and it felt like I was part of the machine rather than just sitting on it.
Let’s start with everyone’s favorite, climbing! When riding a big travel bike it seems we look forward to climbs even less than with a trail bike. I get it! They tend to move or wallow through their travel and rob us of the precious energy needed to get up those hills. This is where Pivot sets themselves apart even with the “big” Firebird! With 165mm of rear travel you except the bird to be a little sluggish on the ups, but you’d be wrong. Don’t misunderstand me here it’s no XC bike and if you try to push up hills like it is, it will tire you out. However if you settle into a comfortable rhythm this bike will climb very well. It climbs easy and fast on slight to moderate climbs, but does seem to stall out as the gradient increases, but if you put the extra wattage down, it will respond well. As the terrain gets steeper an interesting thing happens. When you stand up on the pedals and give it some power the Firebird seems to become more efficient again! This is due to it having a progressive mid-stroke in the rear suspension. To put it another way, it sinks into its suspension then becomes very supportive. It will push you up and over roots and rocks while keeping the rear tire planted. I can say with certainty, this a big bike I would take on an all day adventure!
When it comes to cornering the Firebird is stable, quick and responsive! It’s may be a bit less playful than the Pivot Switchblade, but will dance around and still get pushed deep into a corner. Bermed corners can be railed and with proper technique the bird will rocket out of the corner. It’s responsive in tight twisty stuff though you will want/need to lean the bike a bit more. Then with just a quick flick of the bars it will snap through corners and change direction like a gazelle dodging a predator! High speed roots and rocks are a breeze to turn through!
The Firebird loves the descents!! Though on the flow trails it’s not as poppy as the Switchblade, on the rocky and rooty stuff it’s a step above. The chunkier the trail gets the more comfortable the Firebird seems to be. I found myself clearing rock gardens and root patches like I was floating over them. I would feel the front negotiate an obstacle and then the rear would smooth out that same obstacle like it wasn’t even there. I love this bike over the rough sketchy descents. I’m not the best at flow and jump line trails, but when hitting those trails I found myself wanting to jump further and wishing I had that skill set. Those who do, will enjoy the speed this bike builds when pointing it down hill. So in short, Yes! This bike will FLY!!
Who is this bike for?
That’s simple. Enduro riders, bike park days, techy trail riders or even those that want an all day trail bike that loves the downhills and aren’t looking for KOM’s/QOM’s on climbs. If this is you? This is the bike for you!