Outerbike Test Ride Review: Pivot Phoenix DH Carbon

It’s no secret that Pivot is broadening their footprint this cycling season, particularly with the viral videos of Bernard Kerr doing stoppies aboard this bike on seemingly-impossible terrain. I was excited to see that Pivot had the elusive Phoenix DH carbon fleet, but the only problem was that the Bar M demo area is no place to test a bike like that even for a few minutes. Fortunately, on Saturday, a shuttle was offered to “Dave’s” trail, a semi-legal trail with relentless chunk and steep, rocky meanness.

The 204mm of suspension and 27.5in wheels really help a brother out...
The 204mm of suspension and 27.5in wheels really help a brother out…

I was lucky enough to grab the better of the two demos, complete with a Fox 40 Kashima 200mm fork, Shimano Saint drivetrain, a dropper post, and some seriously-expensive 27.5″ Reynolds Blacklabel wheels. The frame alone only weighs 7.1 lbs.–this bike felt light, definitely less than 35lbs, and Pivot has built an even lighter version in the 31lb range (wow). Pivot has consistently said that a lot of forward thinking went into the design of a DW-link equipped, super-lightweight, World Cup slaying wunderbike. They succeeded.

Low, slack, and menacing. Note the clean internal cable routing
Low, slack, and menacing. Note the clean internal cable routing

The Deets (from Pivot Cycles):

  • 204mm dw-link® suspension
  • Full carbon frame featuring Pivot exclusive hollow box internal molding technology
  • 27.5” wheels
  • S, M, L, & XL sizing
  • Adjustable +/- .75 degree headset option
  • Full length internal cable routing with Pivot’s exclusive cable port system
  • Dropper post compatible with internal routing
  • Enduro Max cartridge bearings used throughout
  • Fox DHX RC4 Coil-Over rear shock
  • Frame weight from 7.1/3.2kg lbs (small w/air shock) or 8.1lbs/3.6kg (small w/coil shock)
  • Complete Shimano Saint equipped w/Fox 40 fork, Maxxis DH tires, and pedals from 33.5 lbs
  • Rubberized integrated downtube and swingarm protection.
  • Carbon ISCG-05 tabs
  • 157mm X 12mm rear end
  • 107mm full carbon BB shell
  • 180mm rear carbon post mountsDSC_0505

The geometry is progressive, with a 62.5-degree head angle and 24.75in top tube (size medium, tested) and phenomenally-short 17.4in chainstays. You’d think a DH bike like that would be twitchy, but the contemporary 48.74in wheelbase evens things out quite nicely.

The DW link is nicely tucked away, and there is a bumper stop to protect the frame if you run a different shock than the Fox RC4 and the fit is less than ideal. Nice touch.
The DW link is nicely tucked away, and there is a bumper stop to protect the frame if you run a different shock than the Fox RC4 and the fit is less than ideal. Nice touch.

I ride a medium frame with almost every other manufacturer, and the medium Phoenix felt right at home. I did virtually nothing to dial this bike in before I did a couple of runs down Dave’s, and it felt perfect.

Dave’s starts out with a steep, off camber section that’s about 60-80 feet long and full of steep, rocky drops. This is a recurring motif, separated by loose, serpentine stretches that build speed fast, punctuated occasionally with big drops and near-vertical rollers. This bike soaked up everything, even when I choose lines poorly, although I smacked the bottom bracket pretty hard a few times on some unfriendly geological obstacles (fortunately Pivot protects the frame with a leathery strip).  I sent a few features I would probably have been terrified to try on my personal bike. My heart was racing after the first run, but there was a grin on my face, and like the other shuttle participants, we couldn’t wait to get up there and bomb down that thing again.

This is the first feature of Dave's as you drop in, and arguably one of the easier ones
This is the first feature of Dave’s as you drop in, and arguably one of the easier ones

Impressions? What can you say about a DH bike in two runs? Not much, except I liked (no, loved) this bike enough that I plan on forking over some hard-earned cash to demo it this summer on lift-served Colorado runs and put it though its paces.

One thing that is notable: 27.5in wheels. Pivot started designing this bike to be either a 26in or 27.5in-wheel platform, but after their pro riders starting shaving significant time off of their runs and placing higher, they abandoned the 26in wheel design altogether. This is on par with other leading DH companies like Santa Cruz. Having spent considerable time on different wheel sizes, there is a remarkable difference with the 27.5in wheel over the 26in wheel. It just rolls over things better, without the sluggish wagon wheel feeling that a 29in wheel has on downhill runs. On Dave’s, I was happy to have a slighly larger wheel, helping smooth out the bumps. It is clear to see how this makes the bike faster, without sacrificing much maneuverability.

It’s no secret that Pivot makes some of the best bikes in the industry, and so far it seems that they hit a home run with this one. I cannot wait to ride this bike again… if I can find one (they are hard to come by).

Even on near vertical sections, this bike feels like butter
Even on near vertical sections, this bike feels like butter. Photo: James Shackleford

Check out more information on the Pivot Phoenix development process here, in this video.

Impressive creativity with the bottom bracket to get the chainstays down to 17.4 in
Impressive creativity with the bottom bracket to get the chainstays down to 17.4 in

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Choice Blacklabel wheels weighing in at a mere 1528 grams and ready to rumble
Choice Blacklabel wheels weighing in at a mere 1528 grams and ready to rumble
An interesting feature on a DH bike, and something we are sure to see more of as bikes get lighter and more capable
An interesting feature on a DH bike, and something we are sure to see more of as bikes get lighter and more capable
Scoping out the run before our first run on Dave's with some accurate and stern warnings from our guide.
Scoping out the run before our first run on Dave’s with some accurate and stern warnings from our guide.
One of the faster sections on this trail. We started above on the right side of the photo
One of the faster sections on this trail. We started above on the right side of the photo. Photo: James Shackleford
The start of Dave's, near the exit of Hell's Gate. It's a beautiful day to be in Moab for Outerbike!
The start of Dave’s, near the exit of Hell’s Gate. It’s a beautiful day to be in Moab for Outerbike!

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