A little longer, a touch slacker and a hair steeper in the seat tube aren't really radical changes. So, has the new Pivot Switchblade played it too safe?
Squint, and you’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between the brand new Pivot Switchblade V6 and the one that was released in 2020. It doesn’t help that both are full carbon 29er trail bikes and both have 142mm travel.
There are subtle differences though. The bike no longer carries the Plus wheel size compatibility tag, even if the 157mm Super Boost rear end means you can still fit a 27.5in rear wheel with a 2.8in tyre. Also the geometry, sizing and suspension have all been tweaked. Tweaked is the key word here though, as the differences are subtle. If anything, the current update highlights Pivot’s commitment to competing with the best analogue trail bikes on the market, especially given that its e-bike range – that includes the Shuttle SL and Shuttle LT – is so accomplished.
Pivot Switchblade Need to know
- 29in trail bike with 142mm travel
- Geometry designed around 160mm forks
- Fox Factory suspension, 36 fork, Float X shock
- New sizing sees longer reach measurements
- Custom tuned carbon layups on each size for optimum stiffness
- Slacker head angle, steeper seat tube angle
- 157mm Super Boost rear hub spacing
- Semi-proportional chainstay lengths
- High/Low flip chip geometry adjustment also adds MX wheel options
- Three builds available in the UK. Two Shimano XT/XTR, One SRAM X0
- Carbon wheel upgrade options from DT Swiss and ENVE
- Water bottle compatibility on all five frame sizes
- On-bike tool system colab with Topeak
Frame and geometry
So what’s new? In terms of geometry, the V6 Switchblade is 0.5º slacker in the head angle and 1º steeper in the seat tube. In the low geometry setting that equates to a 65.4º head tube and a 75.9º seat tube with the saddle at 740mm. So not that slack or that steep. But that’s exactly what Pivot was going for. It’s a trail bike, not a winch and plummet enduro bike, and the numbers reflect that.
If anything, it’s the shift in sizing that is most pronounced. There are five frame sizes, XS to XL, and all have longer reach measurements than previously. The size L test bike that I rode had a 480mm reach, which brings it bang up-to-date with current trends.
By repositioning the pick up points for the DW-link suspension in the front triangle, Pivot has also been able to introduce semi-proportional chainstay lengths. I say semi, because the XS, S and M all get the exact same 429mm rear centre measurements, while the L and XL grow to 431mm and 435mm respectively. The limiting factor here then is clearly how short you can go with a 29in rear wheel on the smaller sizes, and 429mm is pretty short.
Internal frame storage has become something of a checkbox for brands on new trail bikes, but few, if any, have done it as well as Specialized’s original SWAT, which features on bikes like the Specialized Stumpy Evo. So rather than simply ticking the box, the Switchblade retains its slender down tube and uses an on-bike external storage system that has been created in collaboration with Topeak.
If you thought the geometry changes to the new Switchblade were subtle, then get a load of this. Rear wheel travel on the old Switchblade was 142mm, and it’s the exact same on the latest version. And I know this with 100% certainty as one of the very first things I did after receiving the test bike was to measure the vertical travel at the rear axle. And guess what? It was exactly 142mm. That’s carbon frame precision and good quality control for you right there. That’s not to say that the suspension behaviour hasn’t changed one jot. Dig into the suspension curves and it’s clear that the suspension is a little more supple. But we need to bear in mind that the Fox Float X didn’t exist in 2020 when I last rode a Switchblade, so it’s not just the linkage layout that I’m feeling on the latest version.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that the shock comes chock full of volume spacers, spacers that most riders probably don’t need. It’s a cool approach though, as it guarantees that the rider actually receives all of the appropriate spacers, rather than them ending up in a workshop bin along with the reflectors and owner’s manual. And, given that riders who tend to bottom out their suspension too easily are always the first to complain, it’s an approach that seems to keep everyone happy, especially Pivot’s customer service department.
Up front, the Pivot Switchblade gets a 160mm travel Fox 36 Factory fork which is currently the best trail fork on the market. You can read a full review of the Fox 36 here. That’s quite a bit more travel than on the rear, but when you factor in the head angle the vertical travel is really well balanced front and rear, especially when running the fork a little firmer to ensure a slacker dynamic head angle.
Maybe it’s the abundance of blue frames, but I’ve always associated Pivot with Shimano. And while there are still two Pro level Shimano equipped bikes available in the UK, this is the SRAM X0 T-type build. Shifting with T-Type is smooth and effortless under power, and even if not as fast to react as the previous generation AXS, it’s much quieter and feels more solid under load.
Also Pivot has been smart to run the independent AXS Pod mount, rather than using SRAM’s Matchmaker mount that enables you to attach the Pod directly to the brake lever clamp. A move that allows the AXS Pod to sit higher and closer to the bar, making it easier to reach, while giving you more freedom to position the brake lever too.
The Pro X0 T-type build comes equipped with alloy DT Swiss XM1700 wheels shod with Maxxis tyres, but you can also upgrade to carbon DT Swiss wheels or ENVE wheels which are available through Saddleback, the UK distributor for Pivot.
I also like that all models have size specific handlebar widths, the 780mm bar and Pivot grips a great option on the size L bike that I rode. My only gripe with the specification is that the combination of the Fox Transfer dropper post and WTB Volt saddle meant that I couldn’t get the saddle quite as far forward on the head of the post as I’d have liked, so I found myself having to side onto the nose of the saddle on steeper climbs.
I’ve had three great rides on the Pivot Switchblade so far. On rolling terrain it slices through singletrack at breakneck speed and feels fast to react when you stomp on the pedals. Yes, the suspension hasn’t changed dramatically from its predecessor, but I found it much easier to get into that last 90% of rear wheel travel, without the bike ever feeling too soft or mushy. Best of all, I didn’t instantly feel the need to crack open the air can and remove a volume spacer.
At just under 15kg the Switchblade does not have the same turn of uphill speed as down county specialists like the Transition Spur or the Specialized Epic Evo. That’s mostly weight and tyre choice though. And as the muddy conditions on one ride proved, if you’ve not got traction at the rear tyre it doesn’t matter how light your bike is, you’ll still be off and pushing up the steepest climbs.
Push hard on the pedals and there’s not much in the way of unwanted suspension movement, especially when sat down spinning the cranks. But as I mentioned earlier, I had to pull myself forward on the saddle a touch as I worked my way up the 10-52t SRAM Eagle cassette. This is probably due to a combination of the short 431mm chainstay and sub 76º seat tube angle forcing me to get my weight more forward. It also reflects the more trail focused suspension response of the Pivot, where the shock sags in a little more as you settle into a rhythm on a climb. I guess that’s what the climb switch in the Fox Float X shock is for, right?
The flip side of the more fluid suspension is that the Pivot Switchblade also feels more planted, composed and stable on the descents than a long-legged XC machine. You don’t get that jittery lack of traction that a lot of pedal focused trail bikes have either, and it’s easy to push into the suspension to load the tyres for grip or to pick the bike up and change line at a moment’s notice.
The Switchblade has limitations though. The head angle is quite a bit steeper than the benchmark Specialized Stumpy Evo that won our Trail Bike of the Year test, so I’d like to see a genuinely low/slack geometry setting on the Switchblade for riders that don’t want stacks of travel, but still want to ride fast, furious trails that require a little more stability to really open it up.
David Brailsford, and Team Sky, popularised the idea of marginal gains in cycling. And while the latest Pivot Switchblade definitely sees marginal improvements, especially in frame sizing, it’s only marginally better than its predecessor. For Pivot fans, that could be enough to get them to part with their hard-earned cash. But in a world where great trail bikes are two a penny and most are currently discounted by percentage points that are anything but marginal, I would have liked Pivot to push the boundaries further on the latest Switchblade. An angle-adjust headset would probably have done it, while staying true to the adaptability of the Switchblade name.