Interbike outdoor demo 2: Pivot Firebird, Kona Dawg

By John Stevenson | Wednesday, September 24, 2008 8.00am

The opening days of Interbike are all about Dirt Demo: two days of playing in the dust and rocks of Bootleg Canyon at Boulder City, 20 miles out of Las Vegas. Among the bikes we rode at Demo day were Pivot Cycles’ new Firebird, the lightly revamped Kona Dawg Supreme and Rocky Mountain’s intriguing Altitude carbon fibre cross-country bike.

Pivot: Firebird rises

Bikeradar got to jump aboard Pivot Cycles’ 166mm travel Firebird all-mountain machine on the first demo day of Interbike Show and it turns out to be more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Our first impressions are of a quick and agile long-travel bike that’ll suit skilled riders, but that has sufficiently refined suspension manners to get the less coordinated (like your humble scribe) out of the trouble it cheerfully carried them into. I found myself caning it round Bootleg Canyon’s Mother Trail and when I chickened out the limitations were surely mine not the bike’s.

I cursed myself a couple of times for bailing on something I was sure the bike could handle and when I went for it anyway, Firebird let me rise like its namesake mythical bird from the disaster I’d have suffered on many other bikes.

While it’s no svelte cross-country bike at 31lb, the Firebird climbs acceptably, and doesn’t suffer the sag, bob and wallow that afflicts many long-travel bikes when you point then uphill.

However, it does feel shorter that the billed 23in top tube of the size M bike we rode, and it measured at a little over 22.25in. Its very upright feel puts it more in the playbike than the all-day category and riders looking for a companion for epic days out would be better considering Pivot’s Mach 5 or bikes like the Trek Fuel EX, Specialized FSR Pro or Fisher Roscoe, depending on just where in the epid/play range you want to be.

This bike was a good example of what manufacturers go through to get bikes ready for Dirt Demo, which has become a vital showcase for next year’s bikes as meejyah and shoprats alike grab the chance to actually ride bikes that might not be properly available for weeks or months. The demo day samples of the Firebird, specially built for Interbike, included a linkage and bottom bracket piece CNC-machined from a 14lb block of aluminium. As Pivot’s Chris Cocalis put it, “we get pennies on the dollar selling the swarf for scrap. It goes into the pizza fund.” Production bikes will have forged pieces which is “still not cheap” but far less wasteful.

Kona Dawg: playful puppy

For 2009 kona's popular dawg gets more travel, lighter parts and a cool green paint job: for 2009 kona's popular dawg gets more travel, lighter parts and a cool green paint job

Far more conventional fun was to be had from Kona’s Dawg Supreme suspension bike which Kona has boosted to 140mm of suspension travel for 2009, up from the previous bike’s 120mm.

It’s conventional in that it suffers from the classic problem of simple, long-travel designs: it bobs when you pedal. A lot.

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It’s fun because it still responds well to being tackled manfully up climbs – this is a not a bike to be handled gently, it likes to be grabbed by the scruff of its neck and hauled into place – and then whoops down like a two-wheeled armchair , soaking up everything in its path.

I should hate the Dawg. Its suspension design is to be blunt, ten years out of date, and only Fox’ well-controlled RP23 shock rescues it when the trail goes up. But it skips so blithely over trail obstacles and leaves you with such a big grin on your face as belt down rocky singletrack without a care in the world, that it’s impossible not to warm to its puppylike eagerness to please.

If it were a dog, it’d be a half-grown Rhodesian ridgeback puppy – all legs and feet and fun, with a turn of speed just waiting to be unleashed at the right moment.

Kona has ‘done a Specialized’ with the Dawg and ordered its own line of bars, stem and seatpost, finished in a satin-look champagne silver. They really raise the look of the bike, in a nice counterpoint to the green main paint job.

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