Pivot’s do-it-all trail bike come enduro rig, the Switchblade, was last updated in 2016. Since then, times have moved on and the trend for longer, slacker and more aggressive geometry is even more prevalent.
Like the outgoing model, the latest iteration is built around the premise that one bike can, and should, do many different things – hinted at by its name.
First launched in 2001, the Titus Switchblade – Chris Cocalis, Pivot’s founder used to own Titus – had a Fox Talus travel adjust system making it, on paper at least, versatile.
The bike’s a looker that’s for sure!Stephan Peters
Carrying the name through to his new brand, the latest Switchblade is compatible with both 27.5in and 29in wheels, as well as mullet setups, and has geometry adjustment thanks to a headset cup and linkage-based flip-chip.
It should, then, be happy on all-day trail rides as much as it is on gnarlier gravity-fed riding. So does the new 2020 Switchblade propel Pivot to the forefront of this important and increasingly popular mix of weight and capability? We attended the bike’s launch event on rocky-trailed Gran Canaria to find out.
2020 Pivot Switchblade frame details
The front end has size-specific geometry but the rear triangle remains the same across sizes.Stephan Peters
The first difference between the new bike and the outgoing model is how the tubes have gone from being fairly curvy to a straighter, more angular design.
This, Pivot claims, along with the vertically-mounted shock, has let it make a more compact frame that’s lighter and stiffer while retaining full-size water bottle compatibility across the entire range of sizes and regardless of shock type. This compact frame has also improved standover height compared to the outgoing model.
The front and rear triangles are both made from hollow-core carbon fibre. This is where the layers of carbon are wrapped around a foam core to provide structure and between each layer of carbon a vacuum is created to flatten and smooth out the carbon, reducing bumps, holes and other defects usually created by the layering process.
This process takes more time compared to traditional carbon lay-up that doesn’t use a foam structure but, as Cocalis explained to us, helps improve strength, makes the bikes lighter and also helps improve the frame’s tolerances.
The front triangle’s carbon tubes have size-specific designs and, in turn, ride tune. The XS bike has much smaller tubes than the XL bike, for example. This means that across the range, each bike should have similar characteristics for its prospective rider: someone who’s 5ft 2in tall and weighs 49kg and rides a small bike should get the same feeling as someone who’s 6ft 2in tall, weighs 89kg and rides an extra-large bike.
The front end is purposeful.Stephan Peters
This has been done by changing the carbon lay-up and changing the tube diameter and thickness between sizes. Pivot told us that medium and large bikes will have similar levels of stiffness but the bigger sized bikes need to have more frame material to compensate for the extra length and forces created by that length.
The bike’s swing arm has the same geometry and tube thicknesses, and therefore stiffness, across sizes. Compared to the outgoing bike, the new Switchblade’s swing arm is stiffer by having an asymmetrical design – because there’s no front derailleur mount that requires asymmetry – and by a wider lower DW linkage. The uprights that sit between the seatstays and chainstays have also been beefed up.
The bike is very compact.Stephan Peters
Tyre clearance for 27.5 plus wheels is now 2.8in, and 29in wheels is 2.6in. The chainstay also has in-built ribbed chain slap protection. To make the protection more effective and damping noise and lighter, each of the ridges is hollow.
The new bike has full internal cable routing, only exiting briefly around the bottom bracket area to transfer cables from the bike’s down tube to chainstays. The cables are locked in place where they enter and exit the frame using the Cable Port System , which clamps the cable guide/port to the frame with an Allen key bolt.
The frame’s got brake cable routing either side of the head tube so it doesn’t matter whether the brakes are set moto or Euro.
There’s plenty of room for a full-size bottle.Stephan Peters
It has ISCG05 chain guide tabs and can take up to a 36-tooth chainring, something the outgoing model wasn’t able to do. Along with Fox Live Valve integration compatibility and water bottle mounts on the top side of the down tube, there’s also an additional set of water bottle mounts on the underside of the top tube.
The large and extra-large bikes have enough space for a separate Fox Live Valve mounting point and the additional bottle cage bosses, but medium and smaller bikes share the Live Valve mount with one of the bottle cage bosses.
Pivot told us that there’s going to be some kind of “future integration” of on-bike tools using these additional mounts.
The claimed weight for a size small frame without shock is 2.57kg.
2020 Pivot Switchblade geometry details
The bike’s chunky but isn’t too stiff.Stephan Peters
Designed around and optimised for 29in wheels, the new Switchblade has a set of geometry numbers that would be at home on any top-end short travel enduro or gnarlier trail bike.
Although Pivot hasn’t done away with traditional height-focused sizing, it has dramatically reduced seat tube heights while increasing dropper post insertion depths, so larger sizes – with longer reaches – will fit shorter people or the bike can more easily accommodate people with different arm spans.
Pivot says the Switchblade’s seat tube is closer to the centre line of the bike so the seat angle doesn’t decrease the higher the seat is raised, and because the seat tube angle starts at 76 degrees for a size large in the high bottom bracket setting, it’s relatively steep anyway.
There are two geometry settings thanks to a flip-chip in the bike’s upper swing arm to rocker pivot. The flip-chip changes the bike’s geometry by 0.5 degrees when changed from low to high. It also changes the bottom bracket height by 6mm.
The angles attempt to bridge the gap between trail and enduro.Pivot Cycles
The flip-chip and accompanying 17mm-stack lower headset cup retains the same 29er geometry when 650b wheels are installed. The geometry can also be retained if the bike’s run in mullet-mode by changing the rear flip chip to high and with a 650b rear wheel fitted but keeping the standard 29er headset and wheel up front.
Across the sizes (from XS to XL) you get specific bar widths and dropper post lengths. The XS bike is fitted with 760mm wide bars and a 100mm travel dropper. The small bike has a 125mm dropper and 780mm wide bars. Medium bikes have 150mm droppers and 780mm bars, while large bikes have 780mm bars and 175mm droppers, and extra-large models have 800mm wide bars and 175mm posts.
The 175mm Transfer dropper worked well.Stephan Peters
Standout numbers include, for a size large in the low setting, a 66-degree head tube angle, a 75.5-degree seat tube angle, 413mm chainstays, a 1,216mm wheelbase and 470mm reach.
The Fox 36 supplied with the bike is also running the shorter 44mm offset.
2020 Pivot Switchblade suspension details
Built around Dave Weagle’s DW-Link suspension, it’s cool to see how the design has moved on over the years, and the Switchblade has 142mm of rear wheel travel.
The front end has size-specific geometry but the rear triangle remains the same across sizes.Stephan Peters
That said, the Switchblade still has the famous characteristics provided by the virtual pivot point on the DW-Link system. Even though the shock is now mounted vertically, compared to the old frame’s horizontal orientation, this doesn’t effect suspension kinematics.
In fact, Pivot claims its new Switchblade has a progressive leverage ratio that’s supportive enough for coil shocks to be used. The range of new Switchblades all come supplied with Fox’s DPX2 air-sprung rear shock, however.
Abandoning the clevis design – the small linking rod between the upper linkage and shock that bridges the gap across the seat tube – of its old Switchblade has also helped to reduce loads through the shock, aiding compatibility with more fragile coil shocks that have less bushing surface areas.
It’s nice to see a short offset fork on the bike.Stephan Peters
The DPX2 shock has also been redesigned for the Switchblade with a new base valve and updated internals. This, Pivot says, should make it feel plusher with less spike over high-speed impacts and also offer more support deeper in the travel.
These new internals have been developed by Pivot in conjunction with Fox and we were told that Pivot is currently the first and only manufacturer to have this new DPX2 shock on its bikes.
There’s a Fox 36 with 160mm of travel and 44mm offset up front on all bikes in the new Switchblade range.
2020 Pivot Switchblade models and specs
The top-spec models use the better Fox Factory suspension.Stephan Peters
There are three models in the new range: Race, Pro and Team. The cheapest Race build costs $5,499, while the most expensive Team bike is specced with SRAM XX1 AXS and Fox Live Valve and costs an eyewatering $12,399.
It’s possible to upgrade to Fox Live Valve on Pro and Team models, but that’ll set you back an additional $1,900.
Fox Factory Live Valve shock, Fox Factory Live 36 FIT LIVE fork: £1,900 / $1,900 / AU$2,000 / €3,000
Pivot Phoenix in-house bars and grips
Pivot’s own-brand bar and stem.Stephan Peters
Like a lot of brands, Pivot has embarked on the journey of creating in-house products. The bars, stems and grips fitted to its new Switchblade model are all in-house creations.
The bars have a 35mm diameter clamp but Pivot claims they’ve been designed to have more flex than a 31.8mm bar.
Currently, the bar is only offered in a 20mm rise option and are only available to buy on Pivot’s US website, but there are plans to make them more widely available in the future.
Loads of different specs are available.Stephan Peters
Similarly, its new grips are designed in-house and feature a tapered outer diameter; the thickest point is towards the outside of the bars, and there’s a single lockring, integrated bar end plug and a vibration-damping surface.
They come in six colours and are claimed to weigh 100g a pair and cost $29.99 / €29.99.
Alex started racing downhill at the tender age of 11, later going on to compete internationally representing the UK. At 19, he moved to the Alps to pursue a career as a bike bum clocking up moon-mileage riding the famous tracks in and around Morzine, France. In that time, he broke more bikes than he can remember. Alex then moved back to the UK when he landed a job working for Mountain Biking UK as their Features Editor — BikeRadar's sister title — as their features editor. Since working for MBUK, Alex's focus has moved to towards bike tech and he now wants to find out what bikes and components represent the best value for money regardless of discipline. Alex's current fleet includes his trusty commuter bike, a 2017 Marin Gestalt 3, his long term Orange Stage 6 RS enduro bike, a used and abused 2015 GT Sanction Pro, a Scott Voltage YZ dirt jump bike and a Deluxe Pro 2 BMX.