Which Pivot bike should I choose? 429 vs. Switchblade vs. Firebird
03 March 2023
By George Wise
You’ve wisely decided that you need a Pivot bike in your life and that the 29” wheel size is right for you, but you’re not ready to move to electric yet. Which bike, then, should you go for?
Pivot has a large portfolio of bikes, covering all the popular wheel size options, so even limiting yourself to 29” wheels leaves you with a wide range of models to consider, from across the mountain biking spectrum. There’s the Mach 4 for XC racing, the Phoenix 29 for World Cup Downhill and plenty more besides.
In the UK, the most popular 29er options are the Trail 429, the Switchblade and the Firebird. These also happen to be Bernard Kerr’s preferred bikes across different terrains, when he’s not on the DH bike. Here’s a bit more about each one to help you find your match.
Not long ago, modern geometry – in the form of slacker head angles and a longer reach – was limited to bikes with 160mm+ of travel. Riders who wanted those specifications found themselves ‘over biked’ on local trails, where less travel was required, with the excess taking away their fun and hampering their climbing abilities. Thankfully, today bikes like the Trail 429 marry progressive, confidence inspiring geometry with shorter, more efficient and playful travel.
It comes with a custom tuned, high volume rear shock that will allow you to ride beyond your expectation of what 120mm makes possible. The travel is still sensitive on small bumps, but quickly ramps up, so you won’t burn through it too easily.
Pair it with a 140mm travel fork and you'll have the perfect ‘all day’ trail bike that can keep up with your mates’ XC bikes on climbs, then put a massive grin on your face on the way down., You won’t find better than this bike for combining high mileage with riding fun. It may not be as fast as the Switchblade and Firebird on descents, but it will do everything else even faster.
If you’re still not convinced that this bike does everything well, check out Bernard Kerr sending it on the Trail 429 in the Welsh Valleys.
The Switchblade is a more traditional trail/enduro bike within the Pivot line up. Boasting 142mm of rear travel, it’s slightly more efficient at climbing, while 160mm of front travel will give you confidence to smash into the roughest terrain. Featuring progressive geometry, with a relatively long reach of 470mm in large size and a head angle of 66°, it’s roomy and delivers the stability at speed that you need when tackling technical, steep terrain.
Choose this over a Trail 429 if you want a more accomplished descender. The longer travel will also deal with multiple impacts better as you speed downhill, allowing you to concentrate on hitting the right line faster. Square edges and casing of gaps will be less noticeable, while the increase in negative travel will lead to better traction.
The compromise is that the Switchblade won’t be as efficient as the Trail 429 on climbs, or at handling less technical singletrack. Compared with other bikes in its category, though, the relatively short 142mm travel allows the Switchblade to be an accomplished all-rounder.
So why choose the Switchblade? If you need one bike to take on an all-day epic ride, then hit the bike park and enjoy some uplifts with your DH buddies, this is it. It’s efficient yet rowdy.
The newest bike of the three, the Firebird demonstrates the direction Pivot is heading in with geometry and technology. The bike of choice for the Pivot Factory Racing (PFR) EWS squad, it was designed, with input from the likes of Ed Masters and Matt Walker, to be the fastest enduro bike on the market. Since the PFR team took the overall in the 2022 EWS Series, you might say that’s mission accomplished.
A winning EWS bike must be able to descend at almost DH bike speeds down stages that could happily form part of the World Cup Downhill. It also needs to be incredibly stable and absorb big hits without fatiguing the rider, so they’ll have the energy to cover the same ground again and again that same day.
The Firebird exhibits some of the most radical geometry on the market, with a 488mm reach in size large and a 64 ° head angle. Add in 170mm/165mm travel on 29er wheels, and you have a bike with better capabilities than most downhill bikes from just a few years back.
There’s no question that the Firebird descends well, but in enduro racing, competitors are also required to ride the transitions between stages, which means taking on lots of climbing. If a bike is heavy or inefficient, the rider will miss the time cut or become fatigued ahead of the descent. The good news here is that, despite its impressive travel, the Firebird has the dw-link® to maximise its pedalling efficiency, so it climbs like a bike with much less travel.
Possibly it’s too much bike for many riders, but if you prioritise descents over climbs, enjoy bike parks and live to hit downhill runs, it could be the ultimate bike for you. Granted, it wouldn’t be your first choice for all day rides with rough descents – you’ll want the Switchblade for that – but if you’re looking to tackle laps where getting to the top is a means to arriving at the descent as fast as possible, you’ll find it will propel you to speeds you’ve never yet experienced.