Riders near Tempe, Arizona, probably have been wondering why Strava times on some of the area’s most technical trails have been falling to absurd levels over the past 12 months. Well, now the culprit has a name. Meet the Shuttle. Pivot Cycles has been developing its first eMTB in secret for well over a year, based around Fox suspension, and Shimano’s compact Steps E8000 motor and battery system. Like every Pivot, the motorized version has a stunning carbon frame, dw-Link suspension, it’s lightweight, and it’s very fast. Pivot says that the Shuttle weighs only 19.95kg (44lbs), and will be available in four sizes from XS through XL. The MSRP is €9,999 or £8,999.
The Shuttle is aptly named, because it is designed to make short work of climbs that riders on conventional mountain bikes would be forced to either push up, or access with an uplift. Their conventional all-mountain Switchblade and Firebird enduro models leave no doubt that Pivot understands how to make a mountain bike that is responsive to rider inputs on both the ups and the downs. The Shuttle’s E8000 assist motor complements those traits by instantly matching its boost output to the rider’s pedal pressure all the way up to the legal limits. Those lucky enough to have ridden the Shuttle say Shimano’s system feels less like motor assist and more like they have been imbued with cycling superpowers.
Construction and Build Shuttle Details:
• 140mm dw-link™ rear suspension with Pivot’s mid-travel e-MTB specific linkage design
• Full carbon frame with molded composite motor casing and skid plate
• Pivot’s next-generation, long and low geometry
• Internal hose and cable routing, Full Di2 Integration
• Shimano Steps E8000 eMTB motor system
• Internal Battery compartment with automotive quality seal, external charging port
• 150mm travel Fox 36-29 fork
• Fox DPX 2 shock ,tuned or eMTB
• 157mm Super Boost Plus (DH) rear axle spacing
• 27.5”+ (up to 3” tires) with 29” compatibility
• Maxxis REKON 2.8” Silk Shield reinforced tires
• Sub-437mm (17.2”) chainstays
• Brakes: Shimano XTR
• eMTB-specific DT Swiss wheelset
• Complete bike weight 19.95kg, (44lbs)
• Sizes: S, M, L, XL to fit riders from 162 to 200cm (5’4” to 6’7”+)
• MSRP: €9,999 or £8,999.
• Contact: Pivot Cycles
Pivot’s Shuttle was definitely intended to vie for best-in class honors. Beyond its elite-level price tag, its carbon frame is constructed and finished with the same attention to detail as their non-assisted models. Much toil must have gone into shrinking the profile of the chassis to suggest that the Shuttle not a motorbike – sleek enough to appear more like a purebred racing mountain bike that has become slightly chubby. The effect is convincing, assisted by Shimano’s slender, 500ah battery, tucked from sight inside a waterproof case in the down tube. The battery need not be removed (there is an external charging port), but the compartment is designed for easy switches, should long shuttle-less days or future eMTB races require a pit stop.
The motor-drive is also compact. Pivot claims that it is the smallest made, and it too is surrounded by a molded plastic guard that provides camouflage as well as bash protection. Further suggesting normalcy, is the fact that Shimano’s E8000 power pack is designed to function with conventional-diameter chainrings. The secondary benefit of that being riders can retrofit existing chain guides and also expect similar speed ranges and gear changes from the Shuttle as they do their Shimano-equipped pedal bikes.
Pivot does not deviate from its proven dw-link suspension configuration, so all the bits. like full-compliment sealed bearings, a top-tube mounted, linkage-driven shock and low-stand-over clearance, are a given. The rear axle spacing has been widened to 157mm (the present DH standard) and features Pivot’s “Super Boost Plus” rear hub with widened spoke-flange spacing that should make for a stiffer and stronger wheel. Stronger wheels are an improvement that should be welcomed by any rider who plans to repeatedly thrash a 45lb bike. With all that extra strength, we question why Pivot arrived on only 140mm of rear wheel travel for the Shuttle? The 170mm Firebird aptly demonstrates that a big travel bike can climb efficiently. Why hobble its motorized brother on the downs?
The answer: Pivot’s Press release puts it like this:Components
Pivot flies in the face of eMTB makers who are already scaling down their component spec to pad their budgets for more expensive electronics, with builds that would be enviable on the start line of World Cups. Let’s start with electronic Shimano Di2 XTR shifting, XTR trail brakes, Custom DT Swiss Super Boost Plus wheels with alloy EB 1550 rims. Add 2.8” Maxxis Rekon tires with Silk Shield anti-rip reinforced casings (reportedly, co developed with Pivot) and a Kashima-coated Fox 36 fork and DPX2 shock. It’s a pro-level parts pick on an eMTB that is conspicuously not targeted at new converts to mountain bike riding – and its MSRP virtually assures it.
Interview: Chris Cocalis talks eMTB
As the most recent US bike maker to enter the eMTB marketplace Pivot's Shimano E8000-powered Shuttle represents at least what one brand believes to be a vision of where the emerging sport is headed. We caught up with Pivot founder and designer Chris Cocalis to get the back-story on their first eMTB.
What was your motivation to enter into the e-bike market?
Actually, it was the push from customers in Europe and other global markets. We have an office in
Germany and Pivot has been experiencing really good growth in Europe overall. About three years ago we started receiving inquires about an E-mountain bike from Pivot. In Germany in particular, what started as a simple request turned into a “must have.” Depending on who’s statistics you are looking at, it is estimated that for bikes over €4000, eMTB’s now make up over 50% of mountain bike sales in Germany. Even if it is only 30%, it’s still an incredibly large and important part of the market. It reached a level where dealers were telling us they were not interested unless there was an e-bike on the way. That was the motivation for initially looking at it. Beyond that, we always love a new challenge and working to be the best in any category we enter.
When did Pivot begin developing the Shuttle?
We started looking at it seriously 2 years ago and began working on potential designs and researching where things were headed.
With its internal mounting, the chassis is dedicated to the E8000 motor. Did you test alternative motors before choosing Shimano?
We tested bikes with other motors and actually, had a couple designs that would have potentially used systems from the other key players. I have ridden enough of the different brands to know the strong points and shortcomings of each motor design. The challenge is that any bike we develop needs to perform at the level that we and our customers expect from any Pivot mountain bike. It cannot just be “good for an ebike.” Much of this means that the motor system needs to fall into the parameters that we need to make a killer mountain bike and not compromising the design in order to simply add a pedal assist motor. We also don’t want to have a sub-par pedal assist system on an incredible mountain bike. They all need to work together perfectly and we needed to deliver a balanced and dialed product. Some of the designs we considered may have allowed us to achieve that in different ways, but the Shimano system really allowed us to bring the entire package together.
So what are the advantages of Shimano's motor?
With the Shimano E8000 system, we were able to achieve our goals. The motor assist unit is compact and allowed us to place the lower pivots (dw-link) where they needed to go to optimize the suspension kinematics. The system also enabled us to shorten the chainstays considerably from where other e-bikes are in the market. This is an area where most eMTB’s suffer, as super long chainstays can make it much more difficult to get the front end up and over things. It was an important design goal to make sure the Shuttle had that same nimbble feel as other bikes in our line like the Firebird and Switchblade.
We did have some challenges with the battery design, as Shimano’s external battery is quite large and basically built to be exposed and take a hit from any side. Their internal battery has the same capacity and power, but is 25% smaller. However, that battery is designed to be a side-loading design, with a locking mechanism built into the front of the battery case. Neither one of these solutions was optimal for what we wanted to achieve in terms of integration and light weight. However, we were able to come up with a simple replacement for the front of the battery casing that allowed us to integrate that design into the frame. This solution also opened up space for the shock reservoir so the bike can run higher end suspension (Float DPX2) and enabled us to reduce weight. The overall bike came in at 19.95kg (44lbs), which is at the cutting edge of this category.
There is a big difference when riding a the Shuttle at 19.95kg (44lbs) versus the typical 23kg (51lb) eMTB. On the assist side of things, the Shimano system was developed for mountain bikers by mountain bikers. There are other good systems in the market, but we feel that the E8000 system allows the rider to ride exactly like they would normally ride a mountain bike. There is no need to pedal a certain cadence or have to anticipate for the power to come on in a certain way. You just ride it as you would your normal bike, with the major difference being that you feel like you are having your best day on the bike.
Pivot has been a close partner with Shimano, and it's no secret that the release of their E8000 motor was delayed a number of times. Was that a factor in the timing of the Shuttle's debut?
With our timeline, It takes time to test and do things correctly and we would rather wait until we have it dialed, then rush a system to market - so any delays that Shimano had has not really affected our project.
Do you perceive the eMTB primarily as a new market growing from the sport mountain biking, or will Pivot be designing eMTBs as an integral and logical extension of the mountain bike?
That is a bit of a loaded gun. The perception is not really so much up to me. However, we are not out to add a new market beyond the sport of mountain biking. We (Pivot) are a technology, engineering and innovation driven BIKE company. We love challenges and we love making cool bikes. We wouldn’t do this project if we didn’t have interest and a strong passion for it. It’s not going to replace my non-pedal assist bikes but depending on the rider, it may. That’s up to the individual rider to decide what they are looking for in a mountain bike. Not everyone wants a fully rigid carbon fiber single speed hardtail, nor does every rider want a full blown Phoenix DH World Cup downhill bike. There’s a huge spectrum of riders, terrain, trails, etc. EMTB’s are different, but they are still very much mountain bikes. This just adds another way to have fun on a bike.
Geographically, how will Pivot's eMTBs be marketed?
Currently, the new Shuttle is for the European market only. We are assembling the bike in Germany for sales within the EU using the EU specifications. That said, we will look at the customer demand for other potential markets in the future. If you see a Shuttle in your future, let us know and we will see what we can do to make that happen. We are taking a bit of a wait and see approach to other markets.
Some say it is inevitable that eMTBs will evolve into restricted-power legal models and more powerful, closed-course racing models. Where do you see Pivot's place in the future of eMTB development?
There are companies that seem to have already entered into a bit of a horsepower race and there are companies working hard on e-motocross bikes. Fortunately, the e-bike market does have some guidelines set. A class 1 e-bike has a maximum assist speed of 25 kph (20mph in the US), has to be pedal assist (cannot have a throttle) and then it is classified as a regular bicycle. This is a constant source of debate in the US, but in a growing number of places, it is becoming the regulation. I think that this sets a nice set of parameters to work within.
We have already seen some industry leading bike brands diluting their mountain bike development programs as they focus upon ramping up for the burgeoning eMTB market. How can a small, prestigious bike maker like Pivot play both fields without falling into that trap?
I think this has a lot to do with what a company’s vision is. We are ramping up and adding to our engineering and design team so that we can do more across the board. I do know of other fairly large bike companies that have diverted resources and basically look like they’ve become an e-bike company. For Pivot, every project we do supports the others. We build on our R&D to make each bike better then the last. I think that everyone will see in the near future that the Shuttle project has in no way diluted our mountain bike development or changed our focus.
Insiders claim that eMTB sales will capture over 75% of the mountain bike market (at least in Europe).If that proves true, can you envision a time when Pivot transitions exclusively into an eMTB brand?
I think 75% is a bit of a stretch, but the numbers are still significant. Still, there is no specific category that has absolutely dominated mountain biking in this way. Some say that cycling is a sport of suffering. A lot of the draw to competitive and recreational cycling is to push yourself both in fitness and technical abilities. It’s part of the satisfaction of cycling and why certain riders are so against e-bikes. For that reason, I don’t think that 75% is a realistic number. However, for those that haven’t ridden a good eMTB: you can suffer [on an eMTB] as much as you wish. In fact, it kind of begs you to punish yourself. Suffering is a lot easier to deal with when you are having too much fun to stop.