Review and photos by Greg Hotchkiss, staff at The Path Bike Shop.
I've always had mixed emotions about trail bikes. I spend most of my time riding hardtail single speeds (yep, I'm that guy). I prefer the endurance side of riding over the enduro side. Yet every year I convince myself I should own a trail bike for all the winter riding fun we have in SoCal's Santa Ana mountains. Trabuco to Bell just isn't as fun on a hardtail compared to a trail bike.
Rewind to last August. I'm investigating trail bikes to see what I should buy. I rode the Santa Cruz Bronson, which I loved, but wanted something with a little more travel and a new Eagle drive train. I figure if I'm going to haul around gears and suspension, I might as well have all the gears and all the suspension. I narrowed it down to the Santa Cruz Nomad, the Giant Reign or the Pivot Firebird.
I did the usual. Looked up reviews, studied and compared geometry charts and laughed at the bike jargon that manufacturers use in their press releases. I wrote off the Pivot Firebird and The Giant Reign based on the geometry because they both seemed a little too slack and low to meet my criteria for proficient pedaling. Santa Ana riding adventures usually average 3000 feet of climbing, so it's a deal breaker for me If I deem a bike to be a bad climber.
Fast Forward to this August and I got the itch for a new trail bike (again). We had a Pivot Firebird in the demo fleet and I figured I'd give it a ride to confirm my initial analysis. Boy, was I way wrong! I took it out to Aliso Woods and was blown away by how well it pedaled. Cholla is the perfect trail to gauge how a bike will climb in just about any scenario. I swear on the unmarked grave of Frank Zappa, this bike climbs better than just about every 130mm-150mm I've pedaled. I then took it over to the Car Wreck trail to see how it felt on the descent. As you can imagine, it was a blast. So enthralled by how great this bike was I, that I pedaled back up Mathis and took it down Mentally Sensitive to see how it felt in the loose steep stuff. Again, it felt great. It does have a bit longer of a wheelbase than most of the 130mm-150mm bikes that were on my radar, so some of the tight turns demanded a bit more out of me.
Now that I've owned the bike for a few weeks ,I can say that the longer wheel base and lower bottom bracket are no longer an issue. It only took a couple rides to adjust my riding style to feel completely comfortable on the bike. Direct from Pivot this bike is in no need for upgrades or adjustments. But, I'm a bike snob so a few upgrades were in order. I went with the XO1 build so I had no desire to change anything as far as drive train, brakes or suspension. Wanting to support some of my other favorite bike companies, I threw on a set of Santa Cruz Reserve 30's, a Maxxis 2.8 DHF up front, A Kona 40mm stem with matching blue Kona Key Grips (they look and feel awesome) and a Chromag BZA 800mm bars with the 15mm rise.
In the last few weeks I've had The Firebird, I've ridden Kernville, Trabuco, Bell, Laguna, Noble Canyon, and a handful of Luge Loops, and I can undoubtedly say this is the best trail bike I've ever ridden. Pivot called this an "All Day Adventure" bike when it was released. I couldn't agree more with that statement. There's currently a lot questions in the cycling world about where the 170mm trail bikes fit in. This Firebird definitely fits my need for a bike that can handle big days in the saddle without compromising on the climbs or descents. I can't wait to see what Pivot can do to make this bike even better in the future years.