Impresses with its turn of speed and balanced handling
Designed to excel in the heat of enduro competition, the new Pivot Firebird 29 is a direct descendant of Pivot’s downhill race bike, the Phoenix 29.
Yes, it has considerably less travel — 162mm verses 190mm — but these two birds still have a lot in common.
Pivot Firebird 29 Pro review
Starting at the back end, both bikes use Super Boost Plus 157mm dropout spacing –the 9mm wider hub increasing spoke angulation and balanced spoke tension, resulting in a stronger, stiffer rear wheel. And while no one likes the proliferation of standards, everyone appreciates a stronger rear wheel.
To accommodate the wider rear end and give the option to fit 27.5in Plus wheels, Pivot has curved the carbon stays for extra clearance. We’re not big fans of snaking stays, but there’s no faulting the thought process here, as clearance for bigger tyres and feet isn’t an issue. In fact, the Firebird 29 was the only bike in test without signs of heel rub, and we’ll get to why in just a minute.
Having two wheel size options requires two geometry settings, and this comes in the form of an asymmetric chip in the carbon rear triangle. The bike ships in the low setting to match the 29in wheels, but at 347mm it’s not super low, so the high position is really only of use with 27.5in Plus wheels.
In stark contrast to the rear end, the carbon front triangle is straight, bold and square. It’s low-slung too, with amazing standover clearance, making the size L – with its 471mm reach – look and feel positively compact. So compact in fact, that Pivot hasn’t left room for a bottle mount.
The head tube isn’t quite ram-rod straight, but the oversized upper race means the Firebird will take an angle adjust headset. With the stock headset we measured the head angle at a sensibly slack 63.9°, but you have the op tion to go steeper or slacker. And if you’re hell-bent on fitting 27.5in wheels, Pivot also makes a custom 17mm headset extender to maintain the correct geometry with the smaller wheels.
DW-Link suspension isn’t exclusive to Pivot and it’s certainly not a one-size fits all approach – the length and angle of the links manipulated to achieve different suspension characteristics for different applications. On the Firebird 29 that translates to ample support for pedalling, while still being able to use all of the 160mm travel when needed. Yes, it’s 2mm shy of the claimed 162mm, but we’re measuring vertical wheel travel not along the axle path.
Set-up on the Firebird couldn’t be easier. With a line on the reservoir of the Fox Float X2 shock to indicate the correct sag setting, there’s no guesswork here. Even Pivot’s recommend damping settings offer a great starting point, which means you can get the maximum performance without a deep understanding of how the four-way adjustments work.
One standout component on the Pivot Firebird 29 is the alloy RaceFace Aeffect chainset – it’s not really what you’d expect on a bike costing upwards of £8k. The chainset uses a custom spindle to optimise the chain line with the Super Boost rear end, and it pushes the crankarms further outboard. Hence the extra heel clearance. The downside is that your pedals also stick out more, so you increase the risk of pedal strikes, especially when dropping into deep ruts.
And the chainset isn’t the only eclectic part on the Pivot. Take the WTB Pro High Tail saddle for example. Designed with a cut-away in the rear to improve tyre clearance at bottom out, when we were measuring the travel it was obvious that the rear wheel never comes close to hitting the saddle even with the dropper post slammed in the frame. It’s good at catching on your shorts though.
Then there are the Pivot PadLoc grips; with their softer ends that are designed to cushion your hands. We simply moved our hands further inboard on the 800mm handlebars to avoid the squidgy part, as it felt a lot like riding with loose-fitting gloves.
Even with some parts that we wouldn’t chose to run, the Pivot Firebird 29 instantly won us over with its turn of speed. It’s all about acceleration. Pump, pedal or simply release your grip on the brakes and the Firebird 29 takes flight.
It’s stiff and response too, so you can carve corners or slash them. The short 431mm rear end plays a big part here, but the bike still climbs well enough thanks to the supportive rear suspension. Would it climb more efficiently with a steeper seat angle? Of course it would. In fact, it was the only bike here where we couldn’t get the nose of the saddle to line up over the BB. Not even close.
The size L could probably be a hair longer too, but the bike feels so perfectly balanced, we’d be afraid to change it. Granted, the carbon frame isn’t as forgiving as the Specialized Enduro, and there’s some cable and chain rattle that needs ironing out, but the Firebird 29 proved time and time again that speed and stability don’t have to come at the expense of agility.
The Pivot Firebird 29 is one of those big-wheelers where you have to check it is actually a 29er. And not because you can fit 27.5in Plus wheels to it. It’s compact without being small, and the short back end and relatively high BB make it super easy to dart around trees and slam corners. Yes, there are some aspects of the specification that we could live without, and no doubt there’ll be riders that simply can’t live without the bottle mount. Neither detract from the fact that it’s a fun bike that can be ridden to the ragged edge, with that DW-Link suspension offering grip and control in spades.