Can Pivot's enduro e-bike justify its top-end price tag on the trails?
I find it ironic that my news feed is constantly presenting me with horror-stories about the potential dangers of AI. Yet, the feed itself is driven by AI. Maybe it’s trying to tell me that my days as bike test editor at MBR are numbered, and soon all bike reviews will be compiled by ChatGPT. Too late… I think some already are.
But what’s this got to do with the Pivot Cycles Shuttle LT 29 Team XTR? Well, it’s blatantly obvious that the model name has been configured to satisfy a search engine, rather than provoking the desired emotional response in a living, breathing, human being.
On the plus side, it does give you a pretty good snapshot of the bike rather than a fuzzy feeling of wellbeing. Clearly it’s a full 29er, has XTR brakes and drivetrain and it’s long travel. How long? Well, the top end bike of two uses a 170mm Fox 38 Factory fork combined with a Float X shock to control the DW-Link rear suspension that pumps out 160mm travel on the money. In short, it’s a pedal assist version of the Firebird.
Need to know
- Pedal assist version of Pivot’s popular Firebird enduro bike
- Full carbon frame and 29in wheels make it light and fast
- Shimano EP8 motor is paired with Darfon 756Wh battery to extend range
- Fox Factory suspension delivers 170mm up front with 10mm less on the rear
- Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes make for a Gucci build
- Four frame sizes, with generous reach measurements and short seat tubes
- Also available with an SLX/XT build option for £10k
Assistance comes in the form of a Shimano EP8 motor with its 85Nm torque and 500W peak power. Not as punchy as offerings from Bosch or Specialized, and already superseded by Shimano’s latest EP801 motor that boasts 600W peak power. What Shimano’s EP8 motor lacks in grunt though, it makes up for with gains in efficiency, as it’s noticeably less energy sapping when pushed past the 15.5mph assistance limit.
Shimano’s e-bike batteries tend to deliver less range that equivalent units from second party suppliers, so Pivot has been smart in speccing a 756Wh battery from Darfon to boost the range of the Shuttle LT. It uses a custom charging port and the battery slides out the bottom of the down tube in a similar fashion to the Specialized Turbo Levo, Canyon Spectral:ON and Whyte E-160. Handy for aspiring racers, charging the battery indoors or simply razzing around in Boost mode with a spare battery in the car for round two.
Battery swaps couldn’t be more straightforward either. Simply undo the two bolts in front of the motor and the motor cover swings back to reveal a web of wires. Unplug the connector from the battery and it slides straight out. The Darfon battery weighs 4.02kg.
To make the bike feel more dynamic, Pivot has been very weight conscious with the LT build; the complete bike tipping the scales at 22.6kg. The full carbon frame obviously helps on the scales, but so does the XTR mechanical drivetrain. Yes, Shimano’s 12-speed derailleurs are prone to exploding without warning, but the replacement cost, even for XTR, is a fraction of SRAM AXS wireless units.
Sizing on the Shuttle LT is generous, so generous in fact, that instead of instantly opting for a size L, which has a 488mm reach, I downsized to the M which still boasts a 469mm reach, putting it right in line with the S4 Specialized Turbo Levo and the size L Nukeproof Megawatt. The frame has asymmetric pivot hardware in the rocker link where it connects to the seat stays, which act like flip-chips to deliver two geometry settings. And like most Pivots we’ve tested, the low setting is still pretty high, the BB height measuring 445mm.
How it rides
After some Surrey Hills shredding for a quick shake down ride it was clear that Shuttle LT needed more extreme terrain to challenge it. So I met up with an old friend, Craig Robertson, from Ride On Bikes in Rawtenstall for a day of hammering on rocky exposed trails of the Lakes, followed by a day in the steeps of Golfie in the Tweed Valley. Now, given the variety of terrain covered, and the fact that I never clipped a pedal once, I think it’s safe to say that Pivot could make the low setting on the Shuttle LT a hair lower.
And the BB height doesn’t just impact pedal clearance, it also influences the handlebar height. With Pivot’s Phoenix Team low-rise carbon bar and stubby 120mm head tube I was running 30mm of spacers under the stem, just to get my hands high enough relative to my feet. So in the same way that bikes with longer chainstays require higher bars to get a rearward weight shift, so do bikes with higher BBs.
I found my sweet spot though, and I even had to double check that the bike was in fact a full 29er, given the speed with which it snapped around corners, and because I never buzzed my ass on the tyre once. Two possible advantages of being positioned slightly higher on the bike I suppose.
Now, the key reason why most e-bike manufacturers used mixed wheel sizes on e-bikes is to package the suspension layout around the motor more effectively, which in turn stops the chainstays getting too long. Not Pivot, the Shuttle LT boasts a 439mm chainstay length on all four frame sizes with 29in wheels. The short back gives the size M a 1,257mm wheelbase, which definitely makes it easier to navigate tighter, tech trails than some monster trucks. Sure, you forgo some of the straight line speed and confidence on more open trails, but drop into the tree line and the numbers all add up. Chopping the 800mm bar down a touch would also be a good idea.
Dropping in on the first trail at Golfie, I was instantly impressed by the rear suspension on the Shuttle LT. It offers stacks of support mid turn, without ever feeling harsh on braking bumps or webs of roots that are too sprawling to bunny hop in one go. And while you have support in spades the rear end never seems to hit an unexpected wall in the travel, hook up abruptly on square edge hits or kill your momentum. So you carry speed everywhere.
Pivot seems to have nailed the overall stiffness too, not so stiff as to feel harsh, but not so flexy as to compromise precise handling and confidence on faster trails that generate higher g-forces. The frame feel combined with overall suspension response and relatively light Newmen Evolution A.30 wheels makes the bike feel like you’re running the 2.5in Maxxis Assegai tyres a couple of psi lower than normal. No bad thing given how many runs you can smash out with the 756Wh battery.
So the Shuttle SL is comfortable, without ever feeling soft. Which just encourages you to ride it faster. The rub, then, is that the Shimano XTR four-piston brakes simply aren’t up to the job. As the days progressed and fatigue began to set in, I had to switch to two finger braking just to stop the Shuttle LT running away from me. Now, we’ve ridden some XTR brakes and been super impressed, so I suspect the Galfer rotors could be to blame here. As heat builds up, the brakes make themselves heard. And with the variable bite point creeping in on occasion too, I couldn’t help thinking that Shimano Ice Tech Freeza rotors would be a better idea on the Shuttle LT, even if they would add a little weight to the overall package.
Other than the brake spec, Pivot has nailed the sizing, range, ride feel and suspension on the Shuttle LT. It snaps around turns like a MX bike and because the 29in rear wheel is tucked in closer than most, you’ll buzz your butt less too when hanging off the back on the steepest trails. The Shuttle LT is a great bike then and while I had a total blast testing it, in the back of my mind there was always one thought: with the recent release of the new Shimano EP801 motor I can’t see many riders paying full price for it. And even if the difference between the motors isn’t night and day, when you’re dropping £12k on a new ride, you want all of the latest tech. Hopefully ChatGPT understands that.