The Switchblade has been one of the best-selling bikes in Arizona-based Pivot Cycles‘ lineup since the first version dropped nearly eight years ago. Utilizing a DW-Link platform, it was one of the first full-suspension bikes to incorporate Super Boost rear spacing with either 27.5+ or 29″ wheels. Its last major overhaul was back in 2020 – which saw the bike grow bigger, longer, and lighter – and today Pivot introduces the next iteration of the Switchblade with geometry and kinematic advancements they claim “sets a new bar for how a 140-150 mm travel Trail/Enduro bike should ride.” This launch also celebrates the 35th anniversary of the first bike built by Pivot’s founder/CEO Chris Cocalis back in 1989: the Sun Eagle Talon.
Josh Weinberg, who lives just up the road from Pivot HQ in Phoenix, AZ, recently spent a couple of days getting to know the new Switchblade on some of his favorite trails and, below, shares a first look at the new model and some initial ride impressions…
Micro Moves for Macro Gains
I think of the Switchblade as Pivot’s “jack of all trades” trail bike. With 160mm of travel up front and 142mm in the rear, it’s sandwiched in the brand’s lineup between the enduro-centric Firebird and the “downcountry” Trail 429. An ideal bike for our steep and rocky terrain here in southern Arizona, I’ll often rent a demo Switchblade from Pivot for visitors in town wanting to experience iconic singletrack at places like South Mountain Park or Hawes Trails. Look no further than my friend Stef McDaniel’s Instagram for plenty of local technical climbing demos aboard her trusty Switchblade.
Pivot’s take on the DW-Link suspension helps the Switchblade feel planted with traction in steep climbs and excels at absorbing big hits and small bump chatter on the way down. Now it’s even better. According to Pivot’s founder and CEO, Chris Cocalis:
“With more capable geometry and updated DW-Link kinematics, the new bike handles better, climbs better, and is more comfortable in a bike park setting but retains its standing as a bike you can ride anywhere.”
Or, according to Spencer Harding, Pivot has “adjusted for geometry inflation.”
- 160mm front/142 mm rear travel
- Slacker head tube angle (from 66.5º to 65.2º)
- Steeper seat tube angle (from 75.5º – 76.5º in size XL)
- Longer reach (from 49.5 cm to 50 cm in size XL)
- Stretched wheelbase (from 122.9 cm to 127 cm)
- Flip chip adjustable geometry
- Size-specific chainstay length
- Mixed wheel compatible with flip chip adjustment
- Available in size XS to XL for riders from 4’11” to 6’5″
- 22oz water bottle fit in all sizes
- Mounts for Pivot’s Topeak on-bike Dock tool system
- Available in Blue Neptune, Sealth Mojave, and limited edition Pink Neon
- Ten build options with Shimano and SRAM components
- “Pro” and “Team” builds with either Fox Factory or Fox Performance suspension
- Pricing for complete builds ranges from $6,399 to $11,599
*Geo numbers are in the “low” flip chip suspension setting
Suspension and Geometry
Pivot uses the DW-Link suspension platform across its lineup of full-suspension bikes. DW-Link is different from other designs (single pivots, high pivot idlers, Horst link, split pivots, etc.) in that a solid rear triangle pivots on short links connected to the front triangle. Known for being highly tunable, brands using the same base suspension platform vary widely, and Pivot’s take on DW-Link is unique. In recent years Pivot relocated the rear shock to a vertical vs horizontal orientation in many of their bike models, including the Switchblade, which gave more open frame space for tool and bottle storage while also offering an opportunity to further dial in kinematics, lower standover height, increase dropper insertion, and build a lighter and stiffer frame.
Pivot also works closely with Fox to fine-tune suspension components specced on their bikes, optimizing for a specific DW-Link recipe. When I asked the folks at Pivot how they updated the suspension from the previous Switchblade, they talked in generalities about anti-squat, leverage curves, axle path, and other kinematic complexities that will be a topic for another article. With good reason, of course, as this is a main ingredient in the Switchblade’s special sauce. The lower suspension link did get slightly longer, however, which is a trickle-down aspect from Pivot’s flagship Firebird enduro bike, and reportedly “provide[s] better small-bump compliance, more tractability, and improved bottom-out resistance.”
I usually ride a size large mountain bike with a wide and/or riser handlebar. At 6 feet tall, I have long legs and a relatively short torso, so on less progressive bikes, this usually gets me to an appropriate saddle height while retaining a comfortable saddle-to-handlebar position. More recently, however, on bikes with steep seat tubes and slack head angles, I’ve been looking more at reach numbers for sizing, targeting those within the 490-500 mm mark. I rode an XL Switchblade test bike and the fit was spot on with a few cm of exposed seatpost on the included 200mm Fox Transfer and Pivot’s Phoenix low-rise 800 mm handlebar.
Note that my test bike was in the “low” flip chip setting. Depending on conditions, terrain, or potential mixed-wheel application, the high setting will raise the bottom bracket and steepen the head angle by .5º. Yep, that’s right, the Switchblade is still mixed-wheel compatible and can run a 27.5 wheel in the rear when using the flip chip in the high setting. Additionally, it can run 29” wheels with tires up to 2.5” wide, or 27.5” wheels with tires up to 2.8” wide.
First Ride Review
On paper, the Switchblade looks like a big bike. Its suspension numbers are quite similar to the V1 Transition Sentinel I used to own, which just wanted to point downhill at high speeds. Riding it was akin to driving my long-bed Ford pickup – stable, heavy, and a chore to maneuver. The new Switchblade, on the other hand, handles like a luxury German sedan – planted and supple while also accelerating quickly and locked into tight corners. I sold the Sentinel because it didn’t suit the kind of singletrack riding I like to do, which is a lot of punchy climbs and chunky descents. The Switchblade was designed where I live in Phoenix and rides like it’s right at home on our local trails.
On my two test rides, I was blown away by how well it climbs. I’m currently riding a V2 single-pivot Starling Murmur and, for a trail bike, consider it a competent climber. Since we were test-riding on familiar trails I was trying to clean challenging lines I climb often and the Switchblade made it through everything with ease. I was able to maneuver it through tight switchbacks and over rocky outcroppings alike. And this was right out of the gate even on the first day without much time to acquaint myself with the bike.
While the Switchblade climbed like a mountain goat “right out of the box,” I initially struggled a bit with the suspension on descents. But once I realized I needed to slow down, or firm up, the Fox Factory fork’s low-speed compression all was good. Rolling over brake bumps felt smooth and the suspension was supportive even landing bigger hits that can sometimes feel jarring on my Murmur.
There was one point where I was following Kevin – one of Pivot’s engineers – on Twisted Sister trail at Hawes. He rolled up to a sizable drop that I forgot was on the trail and, before I knew what was happening, I was in the air right behind him. Even though I rolled into the drop with hardly any intentionality, the Switchblade did the hard work of making the landing and subsequent exit onto the trail feel smooth and effortless.
There is no sugarcoating the fact that Pivot is a premium brand. Their bikes are unapologetically on the higher end of the MTB pricing spectrum, but not just for the sake of it. A lot goes on behind the scenes in terms of development and quality control, both at their Phoenix HQ and overseas production facilities. For example, Pivot builds lugged carbon prototypes of their frames in-house. This enables them to have professional racers testing the bikes in real-time while engineers work on refining production models. And, with the addition of a few 3D printers to the workshop, this process is growing even more efficient. While this is a tangent I’d like to explore in a future article, Travis touched on Pivot’s process in his piece about lugged carbon bikes if you’d like to read more about it.
To achieve a performance congruent with Pivot’s attention to detail, the brand typically specs factory builds with high-end components and this new crop of Switchblade completes range from $6,399 to $11,599. Three levels of build kits will be available. Ride kits come with Fox Performance suspension, while the Pro and Team builds feature Fox Factory components.
From there, Team XX builds are equipped with SRAM XX transmission, SRAM Code Ultimate Stealth brakes, and DT Swiss carbon wheels. Team XTR have Shimano XTR drivetrain and brakes with DT Swiss carbon wheels. These are priced $11,599 and $9,899 respectively. Pro builds are available with either SRAM XO Transmission or Shimano XTR/XT, also with a choice of DT Swiss carbon or alloy wheels for $9,899 or $8,999 (with a $1,000 savings for alloy over carbon wheels). The Ride level kits feature a mix of Shimano XT and SLX parts with DT Swiss alloy wheels for $6,399 or SRAM GX AXS for $6,999.
The 2024 Switchblade is available in Neptune Blue or Stealth Mojave colorways.
Head over to Pivot for more detailed parts list breakdowns.
So, What’s With the Neon Pink Bike?
Back in 1989 – before Titus and Pivot were even a glimmer in Chris Cocalis’ eye – he and partner Alan Vaughn built a handful of steel-framed bikes under the Sun Eagle Bicycle Works moniker as a side hustle. Their wild-looking Talon Elite model, with X-tube design and elevated chainstays, was a response to various industry trends that presented issues to both riders and builders. According to Cocalis:
“Existing sprocket designs caused chain suck. Climbing in the small or middle chainrings, or often while shifting the chain would bind against the sprocket teeth and “suck” up against the right chainstay. That was a big problem. Also, narrow bottom brackets and the crank designs of the time cramped rear tire clearance, which forced everyone to adopt longer-than-optimal chainstays and we really liked super short chainstays back then. Elevated chainstays pretty much eliminated those issues. Plus, they looked really cool.”
While Sun Eagle didn’t last long as a brand, and only fifteen frames were produced, it propelled Cocalis down a career path designing and building bikes. And he continues to buck industry trends (press fit bb, SuperBoost rear spacing, tradational cable routing, etc) with sights set on overcoming barriers to making great bikes. To celebrate the 35th anniversary of the Sun Eagle Talon, Pivot is offering the Switchblade in a Neon Pink colorway limited to 300 frames (and $200 upcharge), which will be signed and numbered.
The design is based on one of Chris’ personal Talons, which was one of approximately four, that was finished by local artist Dino Segovis. Dino, along with other Phoenix artist Hoss Rogers, used to paint for Fat City Cycles in the 80s and 90s traveling back east to paint batches of bikes a few times per year. So, that’s why the little stick figures on the frame look familiar.
It’s always difficult to “review” a bike after just spending a few days riding it. Particularly if I were to make a bold statement and recommend someone should potentially drop over (or near) $10k on anything. But with this new Switchblade, because I rode it on the trails I ride regularly and have experience with the previous version, I can legitimately say it might be the only mountain bike a lot of folks would need. I found it to be a traction-focused all-rounder that shines in punchy undulating terrain and can take big and small hits alike. With some careful tuning attention, it could hold its own on weekday group rides or casual XC races while also feeling at home during weekend trips to the bike park or high country adventure rides.
The price point isn’t for everyone and Pivot realizes that. When someone asked if they’d ever consider making aluminum frames again, using less-fancy carbon layups, or going direct-to-consumer Cocalis responded by saying, simply: “No. Because then it wouldn’t be a Pivot.”
- Dialed geometry for a variety of riding
- Climbs and maneuvers well for long and slack 160/140 mm bike
- Supportive and active-feeling suspension
- Top-tier build options
- Size-specific geos and layups
- All sizes fit a large bottle in front triangle
- One water bottle is nice, but two would be better