PRODUCT REVIEW: PIVOT SWITCHBLADE
DUAL PERSONALITIES, AND SETTING THE BAR HIGH FOR THE FUTURE
Pivot Cycles's Switchblade was born a star. Shortly after it's official launch, it received numerous accolades for its design and performance – a feat good enough to put this bike into any Bicycle Hall of Fame, in our opinion. It would therefore seem redundant for us to sing further praises for this bike as most of us would have read numerous reviews about it by now. But, without wanting to miss the chance to test this bike in good old South East Asian terrain, we decided to pitch the 27.5 Plus and 29er variants of the Switchblade head-on to see which build might be the better one. Read on to find out more about this winner's bout!
For the unintiated, the Pivot Switchblade is a mountain bike that allows for 2 different wheel size builds – 27.5 Plus and 29 inch wheels. This is made possible by the adoption of the Super Boost Plus hub width. The frame fits up to 3.25" 27.5 plus tyres and 2.5" wide 29 inch tyres.
The Switchblade's frame is designed with the current market-popular geometry for enduro bikes – long and low. In addition, it retains all the details that make Pivot Cycles' enduro bikes stand out – ultra short chainstays (428mm), front deraileur compatibility, Pivot cable port systems for easy internal routing of shifters, brakes and droppers. It is also fully ready for Shimano Di2 integration. The short chainstays provides a playful feel from this bike on both the Plus and the 29er build. The nice bits didn't stop here though, as we soon noticed that the frame was covered with durometer rubberized frame protection at all the vital points.
The Switchblade has 135 mm of DW-Link actuated travel and is designed for 150 mm forks. But should a rider prefer a bit more front travel, the bike can accommodate up to 160 mm of fork travel to soak up any abuse the trail can dish out.
For complete builds, Pivot Cycles recommend rims with 40 mm inner wall for the plus bike and 25 mm for the 29er. And they have options to use either DT Swiss Alloys or Reynolds Carbons.
For the 27.5 Plus build, the head angle is at a slack 66.5 deg and the 29er has a head angle of 67.25 deg. This is matched with a comfortable seat angle of 74.5 deg. With a set of comfortable cockpit geometry to start with and longer effective top tube length and reach than many other brands' similar size bikes, we get lots of breathing space while we are on the bike. In short, this bike is indeed long, low, stable and comfortable.
For our test, we used a uniform setting for both builds – 30% sag for the bike, with medium speed rebound settings for the rear and a touch faster rebound up front. We enjoyed the buttery smooth and plush feel of the Open (Descend) mode on the Fox Float Factory DPS EVOL Kashima rear shock. Once again, like many other Fox shocks, we realized that our riding efficiency did not drop too much as a trade off for the more accommodating Open (Descend) setting. As for the all important tyres, the 29er ran 20 psi front and 25 psi at the rear, while the Plus bike ran 13.5 psi front and 15 psi rear. With all these settings in place, off we went.
On the descents the 29er proves to be precise and fast, reacting well to the changes in terrain conditions as we soared through. One thing we noted early on in the test was that too much late braking resulted in some pretty evident brake squat. It was not much of a bother though as we were still able to carry speed through the corners pretty well. The ride was still enjoyable and fast.
The Plus bike gives a distinctly different ride feel. First thing we noticed was the added cushioning from the larger wheel carcass as compared to the 29er. On a Plus bike, we get a psychological boost from the obviously larger carcass. The trail suddenly opened up with many more lines for us to tackle with. We just punched through every single feature with glee. And contrary to the initial impression that fatter tyres on lower tyre pressure meant a more draggy ride, it was not the case at all. The bike felt light and agile yet firmly planted – a feeling that gave us more confidence as we took on berms, roots, big rocks and loose stuffs.
During climbs, even as we mashed our way uphill, there were minimal bob from the Switchblade – be it the Plus or 29er build. Yes, we are convinced that is the wonderful design of the frame with its DW-Link. For most climbs around the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment Area, we didn't have to switch the rear shock setting to medium or firm mode. We reckon only a climb up Mount Faber (should you decide to do some epic enduro ride) on the Switchblade would prompt the rider to consciously make the switch to Firm.
During our ride, we noticed that the Switchblade has very good anti-squat provisions and was extremely efficient under pedaling forces. The Fox Float Factory DPS EVOL Kashima rear shock did its job relatively well except for some cases where the mid stroke of the suspension seems to dive a little too quickly. (Perhaps a small volume spacer may help?)
WHAT TO WATCH OUT FOR
When riding bikes with big tyres, it is important to keep your tyre pressure in check. Many times, it is a trial-and-error process that could take a few rides before you arrive at the feel you like with the performance you expect. During our test runs, there were some instances when we did some tight lean angles as we entered a berm/turn or landing onto angled surfaces and we felt the tyre squishing, almost as though it would burp anytime. We were glad it didn't. But we are open to more trial-and-error tyre pressure runs.
While Plus bikes come with "oversized tyres" (these are still not the current standard for MTB tyre widths, thus the term "Plus"), they are not so big that they create that bouncy characteristic of fat bikes. The right way to describe the feel on the Plus build Switchblade would be – "Planted".
Should you wish to bring your Switchblade for long mixed terrain rides, the better bet is to use the 29er. The 29er would be a more efficient bike across a myriad of terrain, from trail to roads and anything in between. The Plus bike would obviously require a lot more effort on roads as the rolling resistance from the fatter tyres can be hugely energy sapping.
While we are sure the frame is designed to take on major abuse on all kinds of terrain, the perfectionist in us couldn't help but notice that dirt tends to deposit themselves at the linkage right above the bottom bracket. And as we rode on, with the frame's moving parts rocking, it is very easy for the dirt to seep in-between the moving parts. This could be a major nightmare for those who hate cosmetic damage, especially when the particles seeping into the linkages are tiny but hard pebbles or big grains of sand. Some personalized protection is needed here.
Another tiny issue is to remind yourself that the Switchblade is a wide bike, with lots of tyre width clearance. And in creating this wide tyre width clearance, the chainstays flare out quite a bit where conventional sized bikes would have tapered in as the stays join the bottom bracket. Some getting used to is required for those who point their heels inward.
WHAT ELSE DID WE LIKE
The SRAM Eagle 1 x 12 Drivetrain on our test bikes made short work of trail rides, especially climbs – the fruit of awesome product research & development. There is now no excuse for not attempting to climb up that slope (or hill) anymore. Our minds drifted to Mount Kiara when we were fiddling with the Eagle and thought just how easy it would be to climb all the way to the top to enjoy the descends.
The "long and low" frame design is simply sweet in our opinion. The cockpit is more comfortable, with more room to maneuver, which means we can find our best position for both climbs and descends, yet do not feel that the bike is too big for us. Love this design direction!
ALL SAID AND DONE
We love both the 29er and Plus build variations of the Switchblade! The 29er retains that racey trail-XC MTB personality with lots of performance to boot. The Plus build is the personification of fun, allowing you to go crazy in the trail yet ride out of any gnarl or hard line with room for a little style and laughter. Be careful though, you may get carried away and start to think that all other bikes can do the same too.
With such a well designed bike, it will be a tough act for competitors, as well as Pivot Cycle themselves to outdo. One serious performance oriented personality and one fun and playful personality. You decide how you wish to ride the Switchblade. It has 2 cool personalities which you would grew to love. Yes, both of them.
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To get your hands on these awesome rigs, visit Pivot Cycles website.
Or visit Tiong Hin Co for some expert advice.
Tiong Hin Co. Tyre
Block 108, Hougang Ave 1, #01-1293, Singapore 530108
Tel: (+65) 6280 0416 Fax: (+65) 6382 6982
Operating Hours: 2.30 pm – 10.00 pm (Monday to Saturday) Closed on every Sunday
Tiong Hin Trading (Pte) Ltd
Block 28, Sin Ming Lane, #04-133, Midview City Singapore (573972)
Tel: (+65) 6659 0903 Fax: (+65) 6659 0913
Operating Hours: 3.00 pm – 9.30 pm (Monday to Saturday) Closed on every Sunday
Tiong Hin Cycle
Block 163, Bukit Merah Central, #02-3607, Singapore (150163)
Tel: (+65) 62734583
Operating Hours: 1.00 pm – 7.00 pm (Monday to Saturday) Closed on every Sunday