Pivot's Switchblade has held down the fort as one of the most popular trail slayers recently introduced to the mountain biking world, and while we love the geometry, powerful handling, and super boost spacing, there's consistently been one gripe we've had about it — the price. Fortunately the designers at Pivot haven't forgotten those of us with a tighter bike budget, and the release of their new Switchblade 29 Race XT Complete Mountain Bike is proof. This sturdy aluminum rendition of the carbon enduro-slayer comes to us like a breath of fresh air in a world of pricey rides, offering the same geometry and ride quality of its carbon brother, at a much more palatable price.
While Pivot has long held down the fort when it comes to top-tier carbon construction, you may be wondering how its alloy holds up in the mix. Instead of kicking alloy to the curb completely its designers claim that working with carbon actually changed the way they built aluminum bikes, opting for new techniques, and avoiding sticking with the standard old welding process. The new technique — hydroforming — allowed Pivot to maintain the same advanced tube shaping, while maintaining precise wall thickness. This paired with multi-axis tube shaping to dial in an aluminum frame with nearly the same strength and stiffness as the carbon Switchblade, but with a price drop that places it into the budget of many more riders.
The Switchblade's DW-Link suspension is a tried-and-true platform employed on all of Pivot's full-suspension machines. This comes as no surprise, seeing DW-Link's ability to claw up the steepest, chunkiest climbs and smooth square-edge hits on the descent. The Switchblade's 5.3in of DW-Link travel remains quick to surge forward with every pedal stroke, yet it's surprisingly confident on the descent, mainly due to the DW-Link's unflappable composure on successive hits and burly rock sections. Another thing to note, the Switchblade's DW-Link suspension uses a Phoenix-inspired, double-wishbone rear triangle that stiffens both the pedaling interface and linkage design.
Pivot takes Boost axle standards to entirely new realms with the advent of their Super Boost Plus rear axle spacing. Poking fun at the upward escalation of hub spacing, "Super Boost Plus" refers to Pivot's choice to employ a 157-millimeter rear axle, which in turn allows for increased tire clearance and incredibly short chainstays. Super Boost Plus adds an additional 9 millimeters of room to the rear axle, which results in 12mm of additional tire clearance. Essentially, it combines a DH chainline with a typical 5-inch bike's Q-factor and heel clearance.
One of the main benefits of Super Boost Plus lies in Pivot's ability to chop down the chainstays to a mere 16.85-inches, which is a ridiculously short dimension that embarrasses bikes with standard Boost rear axles. These trimmed-down chainstays equate to incredibly nimble handling through switchbacks and tight sections of trail. Another benefit to Super Boost Plus is the ability to swap between the quick-rolling 29er wagon wheels provided for voluminous 27.5+ wheels; In fact, this wider axle standard readily accepts up to 29 x 2.5 inch tires, meaning you can drastically improve traction and bump compliance, especially across loose, drifty corners and jarring rock gardens.
Delving into the geometry figures, the Switchblade is relatively slack in 29er form with its 67.25-degree head tube angle providing just the right balance of steering precision and downhill composure at higher speeds. The snappy-short rear end makes for quick turning when you're slaloming around tight corners and negotiating sketchy sections of trail where instantaneous response is necessary. It's both long and low-slung for descending confidence, with a generous reach keeping things comfortable, so you're not crammed in the cockpit.
And to ensure consistent geometry if you choose to swap between wheel sizes, Pivot supplies a 17mm headset cup that keeps the bottom bracket height and head tube angle consistent between both 27.5+ and 29er configurations. It adds additional height to the bike's front end in 27.5+ form, slacking it out and raising the bottom bracket to keep it consistent with the 29er's geometry. You can ride with this 17-millimeter cup in 29er form, you'll just notice the bike sits a bit higher and gets extra slack.
- Get aggressive on aluminum with this new trail beast
- 5.3in of DW-Link travel for efficiency and bump compliance
- Hydroformed aluminum is strong, consistent, and lightweight
- Long, relatively slack geometry for descending composure
- Super Boost rear spacing accommodates larger 27.5+ tires
- Snappy-short 16.85-inch chainstays for nimble handling
- Elements of the DH Phoenix reinforce the rear linkage