The New Pivot Switchblade V3 Rockets Ahead at a Flick of the Pedals [First Ride Review]

The Pivot Switchblade is one of the brand's best-selling bikes which adds to the pressure of trying to make a great bike even greater.
Photo: Jens Staudt

It’s a big deal whenever a brand updates one of their best selling mountain bikes. Depending on the year, the Pivot Switchblade is the brand’s #1 or #2 seller, so every change had to be carefully considered.

“With the new bike we didn’t want to give up anything that it did well before, but we really wanted to push it into the Firebird [enduro bike] descending category,” said Pivot founder Chris Cocalis. “We did make a lot of small changes that add up to big differences on the bike without changing what the bike does really well.”

Photo: Jeff Barber

Pivot Switchblade V3 key specs

  • 160/142mm travel front/rear
  • 65.2° head tube angle (low)
  • 76° effective seat tube angle (low, size large)
  • 480mm reach (low)
  • Dual-mode flip chip
  • Price: $6,399 – $11,399
  • Buy from Pivot dealers

I spent two days riding the updated Pivot Switchblade in the brand’s Phoenix, Arizona backyard and came away impressed with the the quality of the new frame and its ability to descend fast, chunky trails while climbing the same trails just as capably. I’ll talk about how the bike performs and also cover some of the key Switchblade V3 changes and frame features.

On the trail with the all-new Pivot Switchblade

I went to Phoenix expecting loose and dry trails but found myself splashing through one of the wettest rides I can remember. The upshot is the normally sandy trails and sketchy corners offered enough grip to really push the Switchblade to max speed.


It’s clear that the Pivot Switchblade wants to be an enduro bike. In fact, the brand likes to say the bike is “enduro-inspired” which I take to mean it’s designed for stability when riding fast and mostly straight. After getting a quick feel for the bike on the initial descent, I quickly settled into point-and-shoot mode, choosing the most direct lines rather than the smoothest ones. The DW-link suspension soaks up square-edge hits especially well without bouncing off line.

By pairing 142mm of rear travel with a much longer, 160mm fork, the Switchblade handles chunky rocks with aplomb. Descending off South Mountain in a full-on rainstorm I found a surprising amount of confidence on blind tech sections where I might normally tap the brakes a bit harder. (I did nearly endo in the rain after braking ahead of a rock drop I thought I could roll.)

Photo: Jens Staudt

Reviewer profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 72.5kg (165lb)

On flow trails the Switchblade is a smooth and silent rocket sled. I had a blast popping off lips and grade reversals, and the bike quickly settles back into its travel ready for the next transition in the trail. There’s virtually zero noise from the bike outside of the tires crunching dirt, thanks to secure, hard plastic cable port covers that screw into the frame and a beefy integrated chain stay protector.

The longer geometry clearly shines on fast, open trails like the ones found in places like the mountain west. But I’m from the East Coast where the mountain bike trails are decidedly tighter and more narrow. On the few sharp turns we did ride in Arizona, it was clear the Switchblade is designed to tolerate — but not dominate — tight tracks. Pivot made a point of keeping the chainstays from growing too long, especially on the larger-size bikes, though the increased reach does noticeably stretch the wheelbase overall. For smaller riders and those who prefer nimble over nailed, the 27.5″ Pivot Shadowcat delivers a similar amount of suspension travel in a more compact package.

The Pivot Switchblade V3 has the same seat tube length as the previous iteration, though the brand points out they’ve increased the insertion depth so buyers can run longer posts. On my XL test bike I had a good three to four inches of seatpost showing and would have appreciated more than the 200mm of travel offered by the Fox Transfer. To be fair, Pivot is limited by the posts they spec — the Fox Transfer (max travel: 200mm) and SRAM AXS Reverb (max travel: 170mm). Still, I would have loved a longer travel seat post on the tighter and steeper descents.

Through brake bumps the Switchblade does a good job sticking to the ground. After a couple of descents that felt like riding a tight sine wave I slowed the rebound on the fork and shock and found near straight line bliss that had me thinking, “what brake bumps?”

Photo: Jens Staudt


Climbing on the Pivot Switchblade, you wouldn’t know that latest updates were designed to make the Switchblade a more capable descender. The DW-link driven suspension is as dialed as ever, delivering a solid climbing platform with just enough small bump compliance to keep the wheels tracking the ground comfortably. And speccing Kashima-coated Fox Factory suspension doesn’t hurt.

Pivot has always delivered bikes at reasonable weights, and this Switchblade is no different. The company says V3 frames weigh effectively the same as V2 frames despite growing in length. The upshot: the roughly 30lb bike doesn’t drag on the climbs and it’s a joy to loft off bumps in the trail.

Pointed uphill the Switchblade feels well balanced. The front wheel tracks surprisingly well given the 65.2° head tube angle. Having a smidge more weight toward the rear could help with traction on the steepest climbs, though that would require giving up some of that front wheel control. Ultimately I think Pivot found the right balance.

Climbing performance is important to me since I pedal and climb a lot on most of my rides. However I think the Switchblade climbs a little too well for an all-mountain bike. The pedal efficiency is certainly a nice surprise but it makes me wonder how much better it would descend if some of that climbing performance were sacrificed. Not that I need any more bike when it comes to downhills; the Switchblade is actually just right for me as it is. For riders who are ok with suffering a little extra on the climbs if it means a rowdy descent the Switchblade may feel like it’s leaving some spare change on the table.

If I were riding the Switchblade on my home trails I would try switching the flip chip into high mode. Granted, this shortens the wheelbase and chainstay length by just 1mm but it also raises the bottom bracket by 6mm which is welcome on more technical and pedally east coast trails.

Given the bike’s overall efficiency and descending capabilities I could certainly see myself owning just this bike and not needing another mountain bike in my garage.

Geometry: Longer, lower, and slacker

In order to make the all-mountain Switchblade descend more like an enduro bike, the geometry needed a few tweaks. On paper the biggest change was the head tube angle, which got slacker by almost a full degree to land at 65.2°. The seat tube got steeper, but by a slightly smaller amount.

Size large SwitchbladeV2V3Change
Seat tube length432mm432mm0mm
Top tube length638mm650mm🔺 12mm
Head tube angle66°65.2°🔻 0.8
Seat tube angle (eff.)75.5°76.0°🔺 0.5°
Chain stay length431mm432mm🔺 1mm
Bottom bracket height346mm344mm🔻 2mm
Standover height696mm701mm🔺 5mm
Wheelbase1216mm1242mm🔺 26mm
Stack630mm643mm🔺 13mm
Reach470mm480mm🔺 10mm

The V3 Switchblade is definitively longer as well. Reach measurements on the size large grew by 10mm to 480mm and the overall wheelbase increased 26mm.

Even the chainstays got longer, though by just 1mm on the size large, which few will notice. For the latest Switchblade, Pivot has moved to size-specific chainstay lengths for sizes medium through extra large, and the brand made a point of keeping the chainstay size bumps to a minimum between those sizes.

As for the bottom bracket height, it’s been lowered by 2mm across the board. Along with the change, Pivot is moving from speccing 175mm cranks to shorter, 170mm cranks, which promises to reduce pedal strikes while improving the handling of the bike.

Photo: Jeff Barber

Pivot Switchblade frame features

Pivot has largely moved away from aluminum bike frames in favor of all-carbon offerings. The latest Switchblade is no different, though unlike some of the larger brands, there’s only a single, high-grade carbon frame available. Each size features optimized tube sizes and carbon layup to strike the right balance of light weight, durability, and ride feel.

A two-position flip chip allows the Pivot Switchblade to run a 27.5″ wheel in the rear with a 29er wheel up front. However, the brand does not offer mixed-wheel builds so buyers will need to bring their own parts. The flip chip ships in low mode which is well suited to the riding in places like Phoenix; for those who ride tighter, more technical trails, and for those who want a mixed-wheel setup, the high mode is a good option to have.

More and more brands are moving to down-tube, in-frame storage in their latest releases, but not Pivot. The design team sees a lot of issues with current implementations, and is pushing external accessory mounts instead. The Switchblade frame has mounts below the top and down tubes that are designed to fit Pivot Dock repair tool kits and other standard accessories. The down tube mounts in particular are slightly recessed for added rock clearance.

All frames also feature water bottle mounts inside the front triangle.

Pivot moved to a vertical shock orientation on the Switchblade in the last generation, and that’s continued with the latest version. Cocalis says this “allows us to decouple the shock mounting from the top tube and get everything really low on the frame, which gives us the ability to have better standover clearance, use shorter eye-to-eye shocks with trunnion mounts and still fit full size water bottles.” The Switchblade is said to accommodate riders 4’11” to 6’5″ tall.

An elongated lower link — which grew from 34mm to 45mm — is designed to mimic the Firebird and allows the Switchblade to plow through descents better while also offering improved traction on loose climbs.

The Pivot Switchblade can fit plus tires up to 2.8″ wide thanks to flared chainstays and Super Boost rear spacing. Not only does Super Boost allow for wide tires, it also gives the bike an optimized chain line according to Cocalis. Consumers seem to be somewhat skeptical and wary of Super Boost as a non-standard, standard but Cocalis makes a good case for its use on the Switchblade.

“We’ve had people say, ‘that’s just gonna make the wheel too stiff.’ But it just makes it the same [stiffness] as the front wheel. And I can notice it.” He says that on particularly compliant carbon wheels the balanced front and rear wheel stiffness is especially important.

It’s been 35 years since Cocalis built his first mountain bike frame, a bike he named the Talon. To celebrate, the brand is producing a limited number of Switchblades with Talon-inspired colors and graphics. The neon color scheme is a bit of a departure for the brand, though it’s fitting for a bike that’s optimized for having fun, from flowy XC-style trails to the bike park.

Pros and cons of the Pivot Switchblade V3


  • Climbs extremely well for an all-mountain bike
  • Incredible frame and build quality
  • Highly capable descender


  • Tight cornering suffers at the expense of fast, straight-line descending
  • High cost of entry

Bottom line

The Pivot Switchblade really does put the ‘all’ into all-mountain bike. With the latest refinements it’s an incredibly fun and capable descender that can also climb comfortably all day long.