2017 Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR

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    Review - 2017 Pivot Firebird Carbon from Vital MTB Test Sessions

    Pivot's big mountain ripper proves it's ready for anything and can pedal back to the top to do it again and again.

    Rating: Vital Review
    Review - 2017 Pivot Firebird Carbon from Vital MTB Test Sessions

    With a complete overhaul for 2017, the Pivot Firebird gets some key geometry updates inspired by its downhill counter part, the Phoenix, complete with a brand new dw-link suspension layout. Featuring 170mm of front and rear wheel travel, the Firebird comes prepared to handle the gnarliest trails. We were stoked to get this bad boy out on some of Tucson, Arizona’s rocky, loose trails during Vital MTB Test Sessions to find out if these changes result in big gains.

    Highlights

    • Carbon frame
    • 27.5-inch wheels
    • 170mm (6.7-inches) of rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
    • dw-link suspension design
    • Internal cable routing
    • Pivot Read More »

    With a complete overhaul for 2017, the Pivot Firebird gets some key geometry updates inspired by its downhill counter part, the Phoenix, complete with a brand new dw-link suspension layout. Featuring 170mm of front and rear wheel travel, the Firebird comes prepared to handle the gnarliest trails. We were stoked to get this bad boy out on some of Tucson, Arizona’s rocky, loose trails during Vital MTB Test Sessions to find out if these changes result in big gains.

    Highlights

    • Carbon frame
    • 27.5-inch wheels
    • 170mm (6.7-inches) of rear wheel travel // 170mm (6.7-inches) fork travel
    • dw-link suspension design
    • Internal cable routing
    • Pivot Cable Port full Di2 integration
    • Phoenix DH-influenced long and low geometry
    • Enduro Max cartridge bearings
    • Press Fit 92mm bottom bracket shell with ISCG05 mounts
    • Boost 148mm rear spacing with 12mm through axle
    • Measured weight (size XL, no pedals): 30.0 pounds (13.62kg)
    • MSRP $6,099 USD

    Through the combination of Pivot’s customized dw-link suspension design, plus long, low, and slack geometry, the Firebird aims to rival the descending capabilities of a downhill bike while optimizing climbing performance. New for 2017, the bike uses a Phoenix DH-inspired double wishbone rear triangle, an upper clevis, and short cold forged alloy links to maximize frame stiffness. Everything rotates freely on Enduro Max cartridge bearings at all pivot locations. The linkage is paired with a highly tunable 216x63mm (8.5x2.5-inch) FOX Float X2 rear shock with independent high (model dependent) and low-speed compression and rebound adjustments. Though it's quite progressive, the frame is designed around a large volume air can, medium compression valving, and medium rebound damping.

    As Pivot claims, "With the dw‐link’s anti squat and variable wheel travel path, we were able to optimize the Firebird’s rearward axle path in the first third of the travel to provide incredible square edge bump absorption (similar to our Phoenix DH bike) with pedaling efficiency equal to the Mach 6."

    A full carbon fiber chassis for 2017 makes the Firebird a stiff, strong, and lightweight ripper. "With our own hollow core, internal, high compression carbon molding process and the right combination of composite materials and shapes," Pivot says, "we are able to deliver a high end frame that meets the same stringent testing requirements for strength and stiffness as our downhill bike at a significantly lower weight, making it possible to build a complete bike below 28-pounds."

    Pivot shows their attention to detail and design with the stout, well balanced, and smooth frame that features some of the cleanest internal routing we’ve ever seen. Referred to as the Pivot Cable Port system, it has dialed clamps at every entry and exit point to keep cables from rattling. For those looking to add a little R2D2 technology, Shimano's Di2 electronic drivetrain can also be cleanly integrated thanks to a hidden battery port near the bottom bracket.

    The frame is protected by sizable low durometer rubberized guards in all key locations, uses a Press Fit 92mm bracket, has ISCG05 tabs, a removable E-Type front derailleur (or upper guide) mount, Boost axle spacing front and rear, 180mm rear brake post mounts, and bolts for a water bottle under the downtube (at least they are there, right?). You're able to fit up to a 27.5x2.5-inch tire, and with the stock 2.4-inch Maxxis tire mud clearance is sufficient with around 8mm of room at the tightest point.

    As with all Pivot bikes, there are a wide variety of builds to choose from. The nine model lineup ranges from $4,999 to a luxurious $10,199, each with the same tires and similar contact points to ensure a consistent experience across the line. We tested the $6,099 Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR.

    Geometry

    One area we're very pleased to see Pivot making big strides is with regard to their geometry. Previously big fans of top tube sizing, they're now on trend with some serious consideration paid to lengthy reach measurements. For 2017 the Firebird is also available in size XL so tall guys can finally get their hands on this long travel trail ripper with a proper fit. The size range will accommodate riders between 5'4" and 6'7" (1.63 and 2.0m) tall. Per Pivot's suggestion, our 6'0" and 6'5" (1.83 and 1.96m) tall testers opted for a size XL with a very healthy 485mm reach - the third longest of any bike in this year's Test Sessions roundup.

    Sporting a 65-degree head angle, the bike shows it's ready to charge. We dig the use of a 49.6mm zero stack upper headset, which allows riders to further customize the bike's geometry with a Cane Creek Angleset if desired. It can also accept a standard 1.5-inch external top cup. Pivot keeps the overall length of the bike somewhat in check with snug 430mm chainstays, but make no mistake - this is one long machine. The 74-degree effective seat tube angle keeps things in check by putting the rider in a good position when it's time to settle in for a spin back up the hill.

    Suspension Analysis

    Using the bike industry's leading linkage analysis software, André Santos, the Youtube suspension whiz, was able to determine a close approximation of the Firebird's kinematics for the purpose of this review. These charts provide great insight into several key factors that impact how it rides. Those unfamiliar with these types of graphs should watch André's excellent series of suspension fundamentals videos. The results of his analysis are as follows:

    Observations:

    • The Pivot Firebird has enough progressivity for a long-travel enduro bike at 34%.
    • Due to the high initial leverage ratio, the bike has a smooth initial travel. 30% sag on the shock corresponds to a real sag of 33.5% at the rear wheel.
    • Great pedaling efficiency for a single ring setup with anti-squat values close to 110% on bigger cogs, peaking at 140% on the smallest cog.
    • As expected, due to the relatively high anti-squat values on the whole travel, pedal kickback is relatively high.
    • Anti-rise around 90% at sag, meaning that the geometry of the bike is preserved under braking.
    • Overall, the Firebird has a very good pedaling efficiency and moderately progressive suspension for a long-travel enduro bike.

    How does science meet the dirt? Did our real life ride time confirm the analysis? It's back to Vital's testers to hear how the Firebird performed on trail.

    On The Trail

    Loose over hardback is the name of the game in Tucson, Arizona. Extending up from the rugged desert floor, Mount Lemmon features some of the steepest, rockiest trails in the area with endless chunky technical features. No shortage of climbing and ripping descents, this was a great place to put the Firebird to the test. With trails like La Milagrosa on tap, rest assured that we put this thing to good use.

    The Firebird is on the longer end of the XL bike spectrum, but doesn’t feel excessive and didn’t require a really short stem to get a comfortable position. There was plenty of room in the cockpit, and the saddle position seemed well balanced for climbing when seated. This is one of the first XL 27.5-inch wheeled bikes we’ve sat on that really feels like we were ‘in’ the bike instead of towering over the wheels.

    Fitted with FOX’s 36 Factory fork and new Float X2 shock, the Firebird was quick and easy to set to Pivot’s recommended 30% rear sag using Pivot's handy sticker guide adhered to the shock. The recommended rebound and compression settings provided a great baseline for testing. The only downside of the X2 is the rebound and compression settings are only adjustable with a 3mm hex wrench, so you’re out of luck without a tool for on-the-trail adjustments.

    The 2017 Firebird is the definition of modern geometry with very long reach, a 65-degree head angle, and 430mm chainstays. With an overall wheelbase of 1,253mm, the Firebird is no doubt one of the longest XL bikes in the category, which certainly explains our initial feeling of sitting in the bike versus on the bike. Because of the length, the Firebird craves speed and honestly doesn’t really come to life until it gets moving. We found that the Firebird can handle tight and steep switchbacks, but compared to the relatively short Specialized Enduro, it required more precision and advanced cornering techniques to get it done. The slacked out front end certainly matched the 170mm travel of the Firebird well, and it was screaming to be pushed harder on the trail.

    This is a proper fitting XL bike, especially for guys in the 6'3" to 6'7" range. Riders that are typically on the shorter end of the XL spectrum may find a better position in the next size down because of the longer reach and wheelbase, and the same is true for all other sizes. The reasonable 74-degree seat tube angle proved to have a nice neutral seated position for pedaling, and the bike’s overall length, although noticeable in tighter switchbacks, made for great stability in the air and on faster sections of trail.

    Opening the bike up on descents really allowed it to show its true capabilities. The Firebird was antsy to take the Tucson trails to the limit, which had us dreaming of what could be when lapping the bike park and downhill trails. Comfortable and confident, yet manageable and fun, the Firebird reminded us of some of our favorite downhill race bikes but was surprisingly light and snappy. Having no trouble holding a line, the bike was precise and stable, but we still felt like we could maneuver tricky technical bits and make last minute line changes easily.

    In true dw-link fashion, the Firebird’s rear end sports a nicely progressive feel. After getting to know the bike a bit, we found the 30% sag on the X2 rear shock to be really plush and forgiving, similar to a downhill bike. Even at 170mm of rear wheel travel, the rear end felt poppy and playful when boosting off rollers and other hidden features, but still managed to maintain ample traction and small bump compliance. Holding itself high in the travel and always begging for more, the Firebird was fast and agile. On a few occasions we found ourselves near the end of the travel, but the Firebird took bottom outs like a champ, jumping right back and always ready for more. Throughout the test we did find the rear end to be a tad bit plush for our tastes, but the addition of some low-speed compression and an additional air volume spacer helps liven things up and provides just a little more support in the mid stroke. Pedal kickback was not found to be an issue on trail.

    The FOX 36 up front matched the qualities of the dw-link rear suspension very well. The stiff 36 chassis paired with the full carbon fiber frame seamlessly with an overall unwavering and precise stiffness. We were able to get the front and rear suspension to work well together for an evenly active front and rear end with just a few adjustments. Together, the FOX 36 and X2 proved to be a great match.

    After achieving mach speeds and pulling off some moves we’d hoped we wouldn’t regret, it was time to pedal this beast back to the top. The Firebird grinds up long climbs efficiently, even with the suspension wide open to maximize traction. You'll find an easy to reach compression lever on the FOX shock, which does aid with long and arduous road climbs. The spacious reach made for easier maneuverability on steep and technical climbs when out of the saddle, leaving us impressed with the terrain we were able to tackle against the 170mm of travel and 65-degree head angle. While seated and pedaling away, the nicely centered body position seemed to keep the front wheel well planted and traction maximized.

    On the gas, the Firebird doesn’t give you many hints as to how much travel it’s packing. It accelerates responsively and efficiently, leaving more power transferred and gas in the tank than other bikes with this much travel. Those wanting a larger chainring up front will be pleased to learn that the bike won't lose much in the efficiency department after the switch, as Pivot optimized the design for rings up to the 36-tooth size. The reasonable 30.0-pound (13.62kg) weight of our test build certainly helps on the ups, too. Considering its long wheelbase, the Firebird is a bit more difficult to swing around tight switchbacks, however this is to be expected from a long, slack bike in this travel range.

    Build Kit

    Featuring a solid mix of Shimano XT and XTR drivetrain and braking components, DT Swiss Spline Two wheels, tubeless ready Maxxis EXO casing tires, a 150mm FOX Transfer dropper post, and highly tunable FOX shocks, the Firebird Pro XT/XTR build kit is an uncompromising, race-ready build. It's also fairly priced and frankly worth every penny. Save the grips, we wouldn't hesitate to line up at an Enduro World Series event or even a few downhill races without any substitutions.

    Pivot introduced their Phoenix Component System in early 2017, and it makes an appearance on the Firebird with an 800mm wide Phoenix Carbon riser bar, Phoenix WTB PadLoc grips, and 45mm Trail Enduro stem. Using the unique WTB Padloc grip system, the bars and grips are marketed with an emphasis on vibration reduction. Pivot achieves this through a sizable chunk of low-durometer blue rubber on the outer portion of the grips, and claims the 35mm diameter bar and stem system "provides more control through stiffness in the stem and bar clamp area while matching or exceeding the comfort and vibration damping of the best 31.8mm carbon bars." However, without gloves, the softer outer part of the grip left us with the sometimes awkward feeling of sliding off the end of the bar, so we threw gloves on to give it another shot. After a full day of smashing rocks we can confirm that the grips did take pressure off the outside of our hands, but left the inside of our hands in a unique pain. Unable to find a solution to retrofit regular grips to the bike, we ended up swapping out Pivot's cockpit. Pivot later noted that they are working with WTB "on a handlebar end plug system that fills in the angle cut and allows the use of just about any standard grip in the market."

    The proven 2.5-inch Maxxis Minion DHF and 2.4-inch DHR II TR Wide Trail EXO casing tires held up longer than expected in Tucson's rough terrain, but by the end of the our test we ended up with a puncture in the rear tread. Despite flatting the rear tire, the combo was fast and the corner knobs set in with authority to rail turns in the loose over hard pack terrain. Good braking traction front and rear matched the sufficient power of the Shimano XT brakes with dual 180mm rotors.

    Tubeless 30mm internal width DT Swiss Spline Two M1700 wheels paired well with the Wide Trail Maxxis tires, adding to the bike's stability and traction. Pivot upgrades the ratchet to 36-teeth out of the box, providing a nice balance of quick engagement and low drag. This wheelset is tough, and after we beat it up on the hard granite rocks both rims came away with only minor dingers and a slight wobble. The wheels gave us confidence in their ability to handle the rough downhill terrain that the Firebird thrives in.

    Shimano's 11-speed rear XT shifter and XTR derailleur were crisp and responsive on the XT M8000 11-46 tooth cassette. Matched with the RaceFace Affect SL cranks and 30-tooth chainring, we were happy with the gear range both climbing and descending. Although the Firebird features ISCG05 chainguide tabs, Pivot decided not to include a chainguide which is surprising based on the bike’s descending prowess. We did in fact drop the chain in a rough section of trail which could have been avoided by the addition of a simple upper mount guide. In continuously rough terrain the bike was not entirely quiet and the chain could be heard slapping on the chainstay. Aside from the lack of a guide and a bit of noise, the drivetrain performed well.

    With the exception of the handlebar and grip system, the addition of a chainguide for peace of mind, and a tougher casing rear tire to match the all-out smashing abilities of the Firebird, the Pro XT/XTR build is performance oriented and the $6,099 price point is well justified.

    Long Term Durability

    Pivot definitely took long term durability into consideration when going carbon on the 2017 Firebird. The frame is well guarded in the chainstay, seat stay, and downtube areas to avoid damage from slapping chains and flinging rocks. While pushing it in rough terrain, the carbon frame proved to be stiff and resilient. The build spec is solid, and with the exception of a tougher rear tire we felt confident that the parts would hold up to a solid beating. Bearings are easily accessible for maintenance and seem appropriately sized to withstand lots of abuse. This exploded diagram lists all torque specs. The use of a Press Fit bottom bracket can often lead to creaking, though we have yet to experience creaks on any Pivot test bike thanks to the tight tolerances they hold. The bike is backed by a three year warranty.

    What's The Bottom Line?

    Holding true to Pivot’s bold claims of downhill performance, the Firebird proves to be a top contender amongst 170mm travel 27.5-inch bikes. Confident and stable, yet poppy and playful, the Firebird is a race-ready trail slayer. The fact that it was taunting us to be pushed harder around every bend left us certain that the Firebird belongs in the bike park, crushing Enduro World Series events, and even proving itself in some downhill races. Despite its exceptional descending capabilities, the Firebird remains efficient when making the haul back to the top by rivaling the pedaling performance of shorter travel bikes. Living for rowdy descents, the newly re-designed, full carbon fiber Firebird definitely deserves to be a top consideration for riders looking to crush gnarly descents and pedal back to the top.

    Visit www.pivotcycles.com for more details.

    Vital MTB Rating

    • Climbing: 4 stars - Excellent
    • Descending: 5 stars - Spectacular
    • Fun Factor: 4.5 stars - Outstanding
    • Value: 4 stars - Excellent
    • Overall Impression: 4.5 stars - Outstanding

    Bonus Gallery: 24 photos of the 2017 Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT / XTR up close and in action


    About The Reviewers

    Dylan Stucki - Age: 28 // Years Riding MTB: 17 // Height: 6'5" (1.96m) // Weight: 195-pounds (88.5kg)

    "I'm a fun-haver, always looking for new ways to interpret the trail. Gettin' sidewayze and balls out fast is rad too!" Dylan brings some serious speed to the Vital test crew, a heavy dose of hijinks, and routinely breaks things you think can't be broken. He's been testing mountain bikes and parts for several years which gives him good perspective on the full spectrum of what's on the market.

    Mint Henk - Age: 32 // Years Riding MTB: 18 // Height: 6'0" (1.83m) // Weight: 180-pounds (81.6kg)

    "Ragged, with a hint of Neanderthal." We decided to bring Mint onboard after watching him absolutely rocket up and down Colorado's high country like it was no big deal. Meanwhile, we were huffing and puffing trying to keep up. Mint is the real deal, and he brings a fresh eye to the Vital MTB testing game backed with years of relevant experience.

    Which reviewer resembles you the most? Don't miss our Q&A with the testers for more insight about their styles and preferences.

    About Test Sessions

    For five years a dedicated crew of Vital MTB testers have been bringing you the most honest, unbiased reviews you'll find anywhere. This time around we rode 2017's most exciting trail, all-mountain, and enduro bikes on a wide variety of rowdy trails in Tucson, Arizona. Reviews can be accessed 24/7 in our Product Guide. Test Sessions was made possible with the help of Arizona Cyclist. Tester gear provided by Troy Lee Designs, Specialized, Five Ten, ZOIC, Sombrio, Race Face, and EVOC. All photos by Lear Miller.

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    Specifications

    Product Pivot Firebird Carbon Pro XT/XTR
    Model Year 2017
    Riding Type Freeride, Trail
    Rider Unisex
    Sizes and Geometry
    S, M, L, XL View Geometry
    Size S M L XL
    Top Tube Length 59.36cm 61.57cm 63.80cm 66.09cm
    Head Tube Angle 65° 65° 65° 65°
    Head Tube Length 10.01cm 11.00cm 11.99cm 13.00cm
    Seat Tube Angle 74º 74º 74º 74º
    Seat Tube Length 39.37cm 42.55cm 45.72cm 49.53cm
    Bottom Bracket Height 34.92cm 34.92cm 34.92cm 34.92cm
    Chainstay Length 43.00cm 43.00cm 43.00cm 43.00cm
    Wheelbase 117.50cm 120.42cm 122.86cm 125.27cm
    Standover 70.79cm 71.70cm 71.70cm 72.29cm
    Reach 42.01cm 44.50cm 46.51cm 48.49cm
    Stack 58.60cm 59.51cm 60.40cm 61.29cm
    Frame Material Carbon Fiber
    Frame Material Details Full Carbon Frame, Dw-Link Rear Suspension, Upper Clevis and Linkage and Double Wishbone Rear Triangle, Internal Routing of Shifters, Brakes and Droppers and Full Di2 Integration, Cold Forged Alloy Linkages with Enduro Max Cartridge Bearings, Low Durometer Rubberized Frame Protection
    Rear Travel 170mm
    Rear Shock FOX Float X2 Performance Black
    Fork FOX 36 Factory 27.5" Kashima, Boost 110QR
    Fork Travel 170mm
    Head Tube Diameter 1.5" Straight
    Headset Pivot Precision Sealed Bearing Zero Stack, 49.6mm Top Cup/ 56mm Lower Cup, (Frame Can Also Accept a Standard 1.5 External Top Cup)
    Handlebar Phoenix Carbon Riser
    Stem Phoenix Trail Enduro
    Grips Phoenix Lock-On
    Brakes Shimano XT 8000
    Brake Levers Shimano
    Drivetrain 1x
    Shifters Shimano XT 11-Speed
    Front Derailleur N/A
    Rear Derailleur Shimano XTR 11-Speed GS
    ISCG Tabs ISCG 05
    Chainguide N/A
    Cranks Race Face Aeffect SL
    Chainrings 30 Tooth
    Bottom Bracket Press Fit 92
    Pedals N/A
    Chain Shimano
    Cassette Shimano XT M8000, 11-46 Tooth, 11-Speed
    Wheel Size 27.5" (650b)
    Rims DT Spline-Two M1700 Wheels, 30mm Inner
    Hubs DT Spline-Two M1700 Wheels, 36 Tooth Star Ratchet Upgrade
    Spokes DT Spline-Two M1700 Wheels
    Tires Maxxis Minion DHF WT, 27.5"x2.5" / Maxxis Minion DHRII WT, 27.5"x2.4" TR
    Saddle Pivot WTB Vigo Race
    Seatpost FOX Transfer (LEV Integra for S)
    Seat Post Diameter 30.9mm
    Seatpost Clamp Quick Release
    Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions Boost 148mm x 12mm
    Max. Tire Size 27.5" x 2.5"
    Bottle Cage Mounts Yes
    Colors Red/Blue, Black/Blue
    Warranty 3 Years
    Weight 30 lb 0.4 oz (13620 g)
    Miscellaneous Wheel Upgrade: Reynolds with i9 Hubs, 27.5" Enduro, Carbon Boost 110mm Front /148mm Rear
    Price $6,099
    More Info

    Pivot Website