This season we've seen a wave of new long travel 29ers hit the market, and by the look of things there are even more on the way. Pivot's new Firebird 29 is the latest entry into this burgeoning category, with 162mm of rear travel and a 170mm fork up front. It was designed to take on extra-technical enduro race courses, or for knocking out laps in the bike park, with modern geometry numbers inspired by the Phoenix, Pivot's DH bike.
The Firebird 29 may have been created with a strong focus on the descents, but Chris Cocalis, Pivot's founder, says that they wanted to make a bike that was more than just a monster truck. To accomplish that, they worked to keep the weight down, and to ensure that the bike still remained manageable on the climbs.
Firebird 29 Details
• Intended use: enduro / park
• Wheel size: 29" or 27.5+
• Rear wheel travel: 162mm
• Carbon frame
• 65° head angle
• 431mm chainstays
• Frame weight ( w/ shock): 7 lb
• 12 x 157mm rear spacing
• Sizes: S-XL
• 10 year frame warranty
• Price: $5,099 - $9,199 USD
• Colors: sandstorm, steel blue
From a distance, the Firebird 29 does resemble its smaller-wheeled sibling, but there are several key differences. Visually, the most noticeable is the shock mounting position and the shape of the swingarm – the shock is now mounted to the downtube, and the swingarm is less curvy and more angular.
In order to accomplish all of their design goals, Pivot reworked the dw-link suspension layout compared to the 27.5 version, and made the switch to Super Boost Plus spacing. Yes, it's time to poke that hornet's nest again – just like the Switchblade, and the Trail 429
, the Firebird has 12 x 157mm rear spacing paired with a BB92 bottom bracket. According to Pivot, going with Super Boost allowed them to give the Firebird short, 431mm chainstays and a generous amount of tire clearance, along with increased wheel and frame stiffness over what would have been possible if they'd stuck with 12 x 148mm spacing.
The Firebird 29 still uses a dw-link suspension design, with two short links connecting the swingarm to the front triangle, but the upper link is now attached to the front of the seat tube, and the shock is driven by a mini-clevis. The suspension has more of a rising rate than the Firebird 27.5, although running a coil shock still isn't fully endorsed due to that mini-clevis mount. The design works well for air shocks, but it can potentially create side loads that can cause unwanted flex in a coil shock due to the reduced bushing overlap.
Coil sprung shocks may not be recommended, at least until Pivot completes further testing, but the frame is dual crown approved, and that 1.5” headtube is nearly identical to what you'd find on a downhill bike. Of course, with 162mm of rear travel it's best to avoid going too wild – 180mm is the maximum recommended fork travel.
Not surprisingly, the Firebird 29 isn't front derailleur compatible, but all of the bikes do come with Pivot's own upper chainguide as a standard feature. There's also full-length tubing on the inside of the frame for easy cable routing, a BB92 bottom bracket, and metric shock spacing.
There's no room for a water bottle inside the front triangle, but that's not for lack of trying. According to Chris Cocalis, “If we magically could have fit it in there we would have, but the kinematics and the whole platform of the bike came first. Keeping the frame weight down, keeping the bike compact, low standover, and the ability to run a long dropper used up all the space.”Geometry
The Firebird's geometry can easily be adjusted to accommodate different wheel sizes or to get it as slack and low as possible. The simplest way to make a change is via the flip chip in the upper shock link. That allows for a .5° change to the head angle, along with a 6mm bottom bracket height change.
Pivot also make a 17mm lower headset cup that can be installed in order to keep the bottom bracket height from getting too
low when the bike is set up with 27.5+ wheels (27.5 x 2.5” is the smallest recommended tire width in the Plus configuration). Want to run that cup with 29” wheels? Go for it – that'll result in an even slacker head angle, somewhere in the neighborhood of 64.2°.
In keeping with current geometry trends, Pivot increased the Firebird 29's reach by approximately 10mm when compared to the 27.5” version, while steepening the seat angle by .5°, to 74.5° in the low geometry setting. With four sizes in the linuep, riders from 5'4” to 6'7” should be able to find a bike that fits them. Specifications
There are three build kit categories – Team
, and Race
– with a Shimano and SRAM drivetrain option in each. Prices for the Firebird 29 range from $5,099 for the Race XT build, which has a Fox 36 Grip fork, DPX2 shock, Shimano SLX brakes, and an XT rear derailleur, and go all the way up to $9,199 USD for the Team XX1 kit, which is fully decked out with Reynolds Blacklabel carbon wheels, a SRAM XX1 drivetrain, and Guide Ultimate brakes. All of the bike are spec'd with forks that have 44mm of offset.
I've ridden in Moab, Utah, countless times over the years, but I still remember my first time hitting up the Porcupine Rim trail – I was on a scandium XC hardtail, fully clad in spandex, and with my seat sky high. I must be getting soft, because nowadays I wouldn't want to go anywhere near it without at least a few inches of rear suspension. It's not the steepest or most technical trail, but it is unrelenting, with miles of sandstone ledges and lumps. All of those square edged hits make it a prime proving ground for a bike like the Firebird 29 – if there was ever a place that big wheels and a little extra travel make a lot of sense, this is it.
The day's ride was mainly downhill, thanks to a van ride to the top, but there was a short bit of climbing before the descending really began. It wasn't much of an ascent, but it did provide a peek at the Firebird's climbing abilities. It's not going to be able to go head-to-head with something like the Trail 429 when it comes to nimbleness, but it does pedal well, with minimal bobbing even with the Float X2 in the open position.
Once that brief climb was over, it was time to bomb down through the desert landscape. It wasn't long before I felt at home on the Firebird, and I found myself sprinting into rocky sections of trail and trying to stay off the brakes as long as possible. There's enough stability and suspension travel that it was more of a mental battle – the bike took it all in stride, but whether my brain could process all of the trail data at that pace was another matter. For the most part it worked out, except for one flat tire, the result of a knife-shaped rock slashing my sidewall. The Firebird has a snappiness that not all bikes in this category possess – it'll plow straight through the rough stuff, but when it comes time to toss in a few pedal strokes it's extremely responsive.
This is just a brief first look, not a review, so I'm not going to dive in too deep, but I do have a pick and a pan to mention. My pan is regarding the Shimano XT 4-piston brakes, specifically the finned brake pads. Those pads rattled incessantly against the caliper on rough sections of trail – if this was my bike the first thing I would do is swap them out for the non-finned version, heat management be damned.
As for my pick, it's the Fox 36 Float GRIP2. It's a seriously impressive fork, especially the way that it can handle repeated extremely hard impacts without losing its composure – my hands weren't sore in the slightest after all that trail smashing, which is a good sign that everything was working properly.
The days are long and bike park season is in full swing, so we'll be getting a Firebird 29 in for a long-term review in order to really see how it stacks up in this category. Stay tuned.