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Long Term Review

2017 Pivot Firebird Review

Words Tim Coleman
Photos Dave Smith
Date Sep 13, 2017

The last time I reviewed a DW-Link bike, things didn't go so well. Short version; I wasn’t a huge fan, and the internet said I was wrong. The resulting online shit storm spilled over multiple forums with comedic comments like; “The main complaints stemmed down from him being too dumb to figure out how to setup the bike before he rode it....” or "What's his normal bike a karpiel armageddon sprung for a kitten?" I was enthusiastic to try out the new Pivot Firebird, but really hoping this wasn't going to turn into another DHR debacle. Andrew posted a First Look article going over the details back in December. Since then I’ve been out and about riding the Firebird from the steep, janky trails on the Shore, to the wide open, fast trails of the Whistler Bike Park.

Box One Timmigrant NSMB

The Pivot Firebird on test

So on to the Pivot Firebird then. It was released earlier this year and is intended to be a no compromise Enduro race / aggressive trail bike. The Firebird is available in a multitude of build options with the as tested XT / XTR build due to set you back $6,300 USD … plus the $1,300 USD wheel upgrade to the carbon Reynolds hoops.

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Ideal testing grounds for the Firebird; Whistler during Crankworx.

Firebird highlights:

  • 170 mm rear travel for 27.5” wheels.
  • Comes in carbon only.
  • Four sizes available from S to XL.
  • Geometry is short chainstays, long front center, and low to the ground. Fun!
  • Available in a gorgeous red/blue scheme or in the more subdued black/blue option as tested.


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Full gas in the Bike Park.

Ride Impressions:

The first thing you’ll notice aboard the Firebird is how well it pedals. I don’t mean well for a 170 mm long legged trail destroyer, I mean it pedals well, period. It pedals like no other long travel mountain bike I’ve ridden. Longer climbs were handled with ease. When pointed downhill the Firebird accelerated out of corners extremely well. The short chain stays allowed the front end to come up easily ... which basically means power wheelies everywhere. 


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There aren't many smooth and easy trails around these parts.

Next up, how nice the fit is. I normally ride an XL size frame, and the Large Firebird felt comfortable. If it were my personal bike, I'd likely still spring for the XL size. Due to the steep seat post, which pushes the seat forward in the bike, the Firebird feels a bit shorter than you'd expect when climbing. That said, when standing, the reach is on the roomier side, along with a generous wheelbase. I really liked the 65-degree head angle, the low bottom bracket placement, and the steeper seat tube angle. Ultimately I think Pivot nailed the geometry for both climbing and descending. And then there's the industrial design. The Firebird is a gorgeous collection of flowing, sculpted curves. Aesthetically it is an example of form and function flowing, material where it's needed, none where it's not. 

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The roomy front center allows you to move your weight around the bike.

When descending, I was immediately at home on the Firebird, in large part because of the roomy front center. I didn’t think I’d like the short chainstays, but I learned to enjoy how eagerly the front wheel would come up, and how easy it was to rotate the back end through corners around your feet. The longer wheelbase and lower bottom bracket help the Firebird feel stable and make scary trail features seem easy.

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The Firebird begged to be airborne.

Issues:

  • Dear Pivot, is the water bottle placement some sort of inside joke? Your bottle gets covered with poo, and then when you want to have some water you have to stop and get off, or be a contortionist and reach under the down tube. I almost think having no water bottle cage mounts would be better.

  • Pivot actively claims the Firebird is not suitable for any coil shock as the frame is not progressive enough to deal with the linear nature of coil springs. The only exception is a specially valved Push ElevenSIX, which is an expensive solution. Jumping on the coil spring bandwagon is going to be expensive if you have a Firebird.

  • The Fox Float X2 came with only 1 volume spacer installed, on a frame that isn’t particularly progressive. I had to run air pressure close to the shock's maximum to prevent severe bottoming. I thought the Firebird would be a better bike with more volume spacers installed in the X2, so I installed many more. This allowed me to drop the air pressure a bit, which improved the suspension's performance.

  • Pivot chose to put a hard compound DHF on the front and a soft compound DHR2 on the rear. After a couple of ,scary rides in the wet, I transferred the hard compound DHF for duty on the rear tire ... much better.

  • The upgraded Reynolds carbon wheels used Industry 9 hubs. While I didn’t have any durability issues riding these wheels, the rear hub is very loud. On the upside I was motivated to always keep the cranks spinning.

  • My highly uncalibrated stiff-o-meter suggests a fairly stiff front triangle, with considerable flex through the linkage, rear triangle and rear wheel. There was significant evidence of rear tire to seat stay interaction after every ride. I personally like a very stiff bike, and noticed the rear end flex while riding. I was still able to ride the Firebird very quickly, but the stout looking Firebird is not as stiff as it appears.

  • There is a close clearance between the linkage and the front triangle near the rear tire, which has a shape that is ideal for catching rocks / stones. These rocks then proceed to remove frame material in the crevise. If you buy one of these, put some foam or mastic tape in the crack to prevent frame damage.

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Dave's idea for first shot of the day ... gulp ...

Parts Check:

  • The upgraded Reynolds Wheels were good, besides being loud. The rims have no dents or dings after months of abuse. No re-tensioning was required, and they still run straight and true. I like the rim profile; mounting tires without tubes was easy. I did have two spokes break in the rear wheel, likely in part due to spoke damage from the unfortunate Box derailleur failure. 
  • I wasn't wild about the XT brakes. They required a bleed off the hop, and were a little inconsistent. Considering this is a long legged enduro bike, the 180 mm front rotor and organic brake pads seem under spec'd. I'd certainly appreciate a 200 mm rotor up front, some metallic brake pads, and Saint / Code stoppers.
  • The bar was miter cut for the Padloc grips, which means you can't run your favourite grips without narrowing the bar, or replacing the handlebar entirely. The Pivot grips weren't bad, but I'd rather not be shoehorned into using them.
  • The Fox 36 had flashes of brilliance, but when the trail got fast and rough I felt like the high speed compression circuit was limited. On all other trails, I thought the FIT4 Fox 36 felt fantastic.
  • The Fox X2 rear shock works great, and has excellent range of damper adjustment. However, the lack of air spring progressiveness on a frame that isn't particularly progressive means getting through the 170 mm of rear travel a little too easily.
  • Shimano XT/XTR drivetrain was flawless, but like Andrew mentioned in the first look article a bash guard & chain guide would be a welcome addition.
  • Fox Transfer Dropper Post was excellent. The post had no issues, was responsive, and required no maintenance over the test period.

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The Firebird ate this move up like a champ.

My review period on the Firebird was a roller coaster of emotions. There were days I bellowed through the woods with sheer glee, and other days where I raised my sore hands to the sky asking why it wasn't working. The upside; it pedals better than any 170 mm bike I've ridden. Effort applied to the pedals results in satisfyingly efficient forward motion when pointed up and down. On smoother trails I loved the way the suspension worked, the Firebird seemed to carve through terrain with ease, and accelerated like a scalded cat. The only time I really didn't enjoy my time on the Firebird was on very rough, steeper, fast trails, where it's tough to get off the brakes. On these trails I felt like the Fox 36 Fit4 would get overwhelmed, the brakes were anemic, the back end flexier than I'd like, and I was expecting the rear suspension to soak up a bit more gnar. At times the Firebird would feel a little under gunned on trails where a 170 mm enduro machine should excel. 

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The Firebird in its happy place, carving through corners.

If you live in a place with trails where you're primarily off the brakes, and the trails aren't bombed out, you're likely going to love the Firebird. You'll appreciate how well the bike pedals, yet offers plenty of travel to enjoy on the way back down. If you prefer steep, fast, rough, technical trails with plenty of brake work, the Firebird came up a bit shorter than I was expecting. So while the Firebird isn't my favourite long legged bike of this genre, it's a bike that many folks are going to love riding.

Comments

sospeedy
+2
sospeedy  - Sept. 13, 2017, 4:36 a.m.

Very nice, detailed review Tim! Do you think your issues with the 36 are specific to the FIT4 version? I am curious...what is YOUR favourite long legged bike of this genre, and have you published a review of it? Thanks!

Reply

Timmigrant
+1
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 13, 2017, 10:08 a.m.

sospeedy; good questions. My issues with the 36 are with the FIT4 version. I think it's a good damper for most folks. For 80% of the riding I did, it was good. Just on that last 20% at full gas on rough trails I feel like the RC2 (or Lyrik Charger) damper offered a better High Speed Compression circuit. 

As for favourite long legged bike of this genre. I was smitten with the Transition Patrol, and said as much here. The Norco Range is very similar to the Patrol. So those two would be my personal picks. Honourable mentions; I had a really short ride on Cam's Yeti SB5.5 and really enjoyed the couple minutes on it. The Intense Tracer I rode at Bike Park Wales recently also impressed.

Reply

Vikb
+2
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 13, 2017, 7:01 a.m.

First thing I did when I got a Pivot Mach 6 was load up the shock with volume reducers to get some ramp up and be able to run a reasonable pressure without bottoming out all the time. Given their suspension kinematics the OEM shocks should come with volume reducers installed. A lot of riders won't know why their bike isn't working as well as they'd like and how to solve it. Kind of a shame for want of a $5 part on such bling bikes.

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Sept. 13, 2017, 8:50 a.m.

It's so odd to me how much people complain about bottles under the down tube...it's relentless.  Yeah, in the triangle is better and looks cooler, but better to not have them at all?? come on.  My last two frames have had bottles under the down tube and it's pretty simple.  You drink when you're stopped (if all you have is one bottle to drink from, let's be honest you don't need to drink while pedaling). You reach down and grab the bottle, unscrew the top cap so you don't drink dirt, and drink.  Not that big of a deal.  Yeah, I'd rather have them in the triangle but the air time this issue gets is dumb

Reply

Vikb
0
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 13, 2017, 8:59 a.m.

Personally I won't buy a bike without room for a bottle in the triangle. I bother to say something about it because I want folks who make decisions around bikes to know it's a deal breaker for me, which hopefully will result in more options I like.

A bottle under the DT is next to useless for us as we ride year round and going down there for a filthy bottle is not realistic as a regular practice. 

It's a relentless topic because it's important for a lot of people. When you look at how more and more bikes are coming out with a bottle cage option in the triangle all the "noise" seems to be having the desired effect.

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Sept. 13, 2017, 9:14 a.m.

It's great we have enough good bike options for that to be a deal breaker for you.  But i laughed when Kona said that a bottle in the trianlge was a major re-design criteria. I'd rather them focus on performance-related criteria.  It's dirty where I ride too. But again, you just unscrew your bottle cap. Or are you just adverse to touching a dirty bottle period?

Reply

Vikb
+2
Vik Banerjee  - Sept. 13, 2017, 9:48 a.m.

Why would I even bother buying a bike that had a DT mounted bottle when there are many amazing options that have a bottle inside the triangle? I'm not saying you should care about that feature, but a sensible place to carry water on the bike that's easy to use is important to enough people to motivate companies to include it.

It's certainly not a question of choosing between bike that rides great and a bottle inside the triangle so why not have both?

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Sept. 13, 2017, 9:55 a.m.

If you read my comment you'd see that I agree: "Yeah, in the triangle is better". I'm glad there are many amazing options that have a bottle inside. 

My point is that I think too big of a deal is made of this fairly minor design criteria. And that it's silly to call it a "deal breaker".  As if you wouldn't consider a new bike that you preferred in performance but had a downtube bottle.   

Also, my comment was that it's also dumb to say no bottle is better than downtube 

How worked up you're getting about my comment on this is a good example of this phenomenon

Reply

Captain-Snappy
0
Merwinn  - Sept. 13, 2017, 11:07 a.m.

You guys are not going to agree, no matter how many times you attempt to clarify your positions. Agree to disagree.

Agleck, basically ridiculing someone's bike buying criteria, which is based on an individual's personal preferences, is not going to win you any supporters.

cam@nsmb.com
+1
Cam McRae  - Sept. 13, 2017, 12:02 p.m.

My problem was that I rode the SB 5.5 and became smitten with it - just as I was trying to ditch the backpack. It's like saying you'd never date a person with hazel eyes but you have a one night stand and then find yourself head over heels.

Reply

Timmigrant
+1
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 13, 2017, 9:59 a.m.

Agleck7; especially if racing Enduro I only drink from my bottle while moving. The bottle has my electrolytes and I ingest slowly on the transitions. The bottle and cage will get peppered with rocks and debris here. Throw in some meaty technical moves, and it's not uncommon to finish a trail with no bottle left in an under down tube bottle cage. 

So while it works for you (which is great), it doesn't work for a lot of other folks, hence the relentless airplay.

Reply

agleck7
-1
Agleck7  - Sept. 13, 2017, 10:40 a.m.

Tim - the slow drinking during transitions is a good point. My response is to the more typical "my bottle gets dirty so I can't drink" critique.  I appreciate the rocks/tech aspect, it may surprise you, but those of us not in BC also ride rocks and tech (friendly jest)... tip for those like me who have made the enormous sacrifice of a downtube bottle, the right cage/bottle interface makes a big difference in keeping bottles secure

Reply

cam@nsmb.com
+2
Cam McRae  - Sept. 13, 2017, 11:59 a.m.

I did my best to use the under TT bottle placement and I broke a cage, lost a pump mounted to the bosses and then tried a Fabric cageless bottle and smashed the bottle. This was all in a week. If I lived somewhere else where getting over logs and other obstacles wasn't an issue? Maybe but for my riding here it's useless.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
+1
Pete Roggeman  - Sept. 13, 2017, 2:02 p.m.

It needs to be said that for those of us that were around to see this all take place, it was f*cking hilarious.

Reply

LWK
+1
LWK  - Sept. 13, 2017, 1:08 p.m.

love the rock roll picture!

I imagine Pivot is relieved everyone is simply grousing about the water bottle.  Because a 170mm travel bike that doesnt handle steep, rough terrain sounds like an epic fail to me.  If this type of bike cant do that well, then what is the point?  add to that flexy rear end and blows thru its travel...  it is a pretty bike though.

Reply

JBV
+1
James Vasilyev  - Sept. 13, 2017, 3:52 p.m.

that rock roll looks terrifyingly steep with no room for a hiccup at the bottom!

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 13, 2017, 5:15 p.m.

Check on both accounts James ... except the bottom isn't in the shot ... it keeps going! I'm not going to lie, I was wishing for some elbow coverage up there.

Reply

agleck7
0
Agleck7  - Sept. 13, 2017, 6:26 p.m.

Which way does it continue? Right hander or straight? Hard to tell in the pick. Looks gnarly w no run out

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 13, 2017, 10:49 p.m.

It keeps going straight on that shelf till it peters out onto a skidder road. What you can't see it's quite a drop to said road off the riders right of that shelf. Transitioning to the shelf, without clipping to left side of the bar, or exiting stage stage right was ... exciting.

Reply

agleck7
+1
Agleck7  - Sept. 14, 2017, 4:43 a.m.

I believe it!

Reply

xy9ine
+1
Perry Schebel  - Sept. 14, 2017, 10:05 a.m.

sick line, sir. great review as well.

Reply

ib
0
IB  - Sept. 14, 2017, 11:37 a.m.

Tim, Great review. I had similar feelings about the Firebird.  Bottom out, softer rear end, flex, no bottle cage. I also did not find it very poppy and playful at slow speed. Therefore I went with the Slayer. I believe it addresses all the issues you highlighted with Firebird and at the same time adds playfulness and climbing ability especially in the steep setting.

Did you have a chance to ride RM Slayer and if so how does it compare to Firebird?

Reply

Timmigrant
0
Tim Coleman  - Sept. 14, 2017, 4:16 p.m.

Hey IB. Thanks for the comments. I haven't had a chance to ride the Rocky Slayer yet. I'd love to have a go on one though!

Reply

rndholesqpeg
0
rndholesqpeg  - Sept. 16, 2017, 1:29 p.m.

I don't know how you can't love the sound of the buzz from i9 hubs.

Reply

Svobodarider
0
Svobodarider  - Sept. 17, 2017, 1:17 a.m.

Wow, I truly didn't expect such impressions, as basically all other Firebird reviews are highlighting its performance on rough and steep sections as well as the magnificent stiffness of the frame. And you are telling the absolute opposite, Tim. On the other hand, someone already questioned the stiffness of those Reynolds wheels. Do you think that those hoops might be the main issues?

I have no problem to sacrifice a bit of climbing performance, when the bike really shines on the gnarly descents. Have to say I absolutely love my Nomad 3.0 on both, the descents and the climbs. And I am not that determined to buy the Firebird, as I was before reading this review. Tim, can you briefly compare the Nomad 3.0 and the Firebird for me, please? And tell me what is your height and weight, if you don't mind? Just for the reference. Thanks!

Reply

demo7_rider
0
demo7_rider  - Sept. 18, 2017, 9:20 a.m.

Dirt put the flex they felt in the back end of the Firebird down to the Reynolds wheels as well. I'm around 175lbs kitted up and can't say I can feel any flex in my FB shod with custom wheels using Flow Mk3s.

Also check out the last page of the thread 'New Firebird!!!' on MTBR. I've had the same experience as a couple of others on there tuning in the Float X2 - adding a 2 or 3 volume spacers, running 30% sag and backing off the HSC to 1 or 2 clicks from open results in a super plush yet still responsive ride that only bottoms out on the biggest of hits and does so with no harshness.

Admittedly, it has taken a lot of time and patience getting to this happy place with the rear suspension, but now I have, it's the best bike I've owned. Just my 2 cents!

Reply

ortonc85
0
Casey Orton  - Sept. 19, 2017, 6:08 p.m.

Would you say that now that you have the suspension dialed it can handle the rough terrain? I am looking at getting the firebird as well and was leaning towards it until I read this article and that it cant handle the rough and rowdy at high speed and that the back end is not as stiff as it is made out to be. 

The other bike that I am looking at is a RM Slayer and if I am going to be putting down a substantial amount of cash I want to make sure I am getting the best for my dollar.

Reply

demo7_rider
0
demo7_rider  - Sept. 22, 2017, 5:06 a.m.

Definitely, my local terrain is pure nasty rock and a real mix of flat out, wide open descents, and super steep, chunky, slower tech. Now I have it dialled, it feels great on everything. I can see how you'd end up going the wrong way though, as it is a linear design which encourages you to dial in more HSC. I can say without doubt the way to go is adding volume spacers and using minimal HSC. My initial rides with 5-6 clicks HSC did result in choking on chunky terrain.

As far as the stiffness goes, I'd judge it to be in between my last two bikes (I change bikes quite regularly). My last ride was a Whyte G-160 which was extremely stiff, but also very heavy. My ride before that was a 2015 Alu Reign, which was plenty stiff enough but did flex more than the Firebird. Taking my experience and every other review I've read, I'm sure the Reynolds wheels are the culprit here.

Reply

demo7_rider
0
demo7_rider  - Sept. 22, 2017, 5:17 a.m.

Reply

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