This year, Pivot’s Moab launch had a special surprise. When we were first headed to the famed red rock playground, Chris Cocalis seemingly let the cat out of the bag – we would see and ride the new Mach 429 Trail’s replacement, the Trail 429. But to Chris and Pivot’s credit, they were able to keep the second bike a complete secret, right up until its debut on the legendary Porcupine Rim Trail.
As you’re now aware thanks to the title of this article, that bike is the all new Firerbird 29. A truly long travel 29er from Pivot that pedals way better than something this big should. Something we would soon find out during our run down from Hazard County. It would turn out to be the most fun I’ve ever had on the trail, which is saying something since it’s already one of my favorites.
For anyone who’s ever started the ride at the Hazard County trailhead, you know that you’re greeted right away by a short but steep climb. Since you’re already above 9,000 feet in elevation, that climb hurts more than it should – especially since there’s no warm up. Yet, as our first impression of the Firebird 29’s climbing prowess, things were off to a good start.
Granted, Porcupine Rim has a lot more descending than climbing, but there were ample chances to get a feel for how the bike pedals up both mellow and steep grades. Without resorting to lock out levers or other suspension controls, the bike climbs admirably well. Without that climbing ability, the Firebird is just another long travel bike that is a blast when pointed down hill, but a chore when the trail points up. With that climbing ability though – all of a sudden you have a bike that can truly be pedaled to the top of almost any trail to make the most out of the way down. Sure, it’s not the fastest bike on the climbs, but if you place a greater emphasis on the downhill, that will hardly matter.
I’ve ridden Porcupine Rim enough times to lose count, but one thing is for sure – this was absolutely the most fun I’ve ever had on the trail. To be fair, I’ve never ridden the trail on another 29er with this much travel so keep that in mind. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the Firebird 29 felt instantly at home, motivating me to ride lines I might otherwise shy away from. There are a lot of blind drops on the trail as you’re mobbing your way down, and it wasn’t long before I was feeling surprisingly confident that I’d be able to stick the landing. I think part of that feeling could be due to the short 431mm chain stays of the Firebird which seemed to help out when you had to quickly pull up for an unexpected drop.
Just as important, the landings of said drops were kept in check by the excellent suspension. It certainly helped that we had Fox on hand to help dial in the suspension of the Fox Float X2 rear shocks, but once the shocks were properly tuned, the suspension was superb. It managed to soak up the slow awkward impacts of sketchy drops, while also keeping the rear end planted while riding at warp speed through the roughest chunder around. Long story short, it was impressive.
Even though the Firebird 29 was probably most at home at speed, it was also surprisingly nimble for tight, techy moves. Basically, whatever Porcupine Rim could throw at it, the Firebird 29 swiftly handled it.
If it’s possible to build the perfect bike for a single trail, this would be one of the best examples I’ve seen yet. But the bike should be equally happy on any trail where having extra suspension travel that is still pedalable would be an asset. It’s always hard to judge a bike by a single ride, but on this trail, on that day, I don’t think there is any bike I would have rather had.