Saturday, February 7, 2009
Tracking the Pivot Firebird
RC (Richard Cunningham) of Mountain Bike Action drools all over the new 6.5-inch travel Pivot Firebird on MBAction's Web site. You have to chuckle at how RC tries to top himself with accolade after accolade, but here's the kicker:
"Those who have read this far might believe that we have exaggerated our report in favor of Pivot's Firebird, but the plain fact is that it is such an enjoyable ride that is truly hard to find fault in it-beyond the fact that the day seems too short and the legs and lungs, too weak to completely enjoy a ride like this. Every once and a while a top bike designer falls upon the right combination of knowledge, experience and pure luck, and the resulting magic cannot be improved upon."
RC's detailed review answers a number of questions about the Firebird, while leaving several unaddressed, which we'll get to. I appreciated the detail of the floating derailleur setup, aimed at curbing chain toss during the acceleration/decelleration moves we've all experienced. (Especially on my VPP Intense 6.6, remarkably not on the DW-Link Ibis Mojo, altho my riding buddy has had severe chain jams on his Mojo for some reason.) But the plate-and-pin engagement begs the question of what happens when one or the other snaps? Or wears down?
I ride in the Northwest, where 3-foot drops, launches and just plain rocky terrain are a given. I want to build a Firebird for aggro trail riding. I'm worried about the pin-and-plate design failing. When it does, can you still shift? Can you ride at all? What do you do once you get the bike back to the shop? Does the whole frame have to be replaced, or is it just a matter of servicing a bolt or ordering a new part?
Not a word on this from RC, alas. Perhaps once I see a Firebird up close I'll be able to judge. Maybe it's not an issue. I hope so, because if the bike rides as RC raves it does, it would be a shame for an innovative but fragile feature to drag down the Firebird. (This isn't a matter of Chris Cocalis backing up his products. You just don't want your bike to fail on that special 2-week tour of eastern B.C., or spring vacation to Boulder City.)
Although I understand the limited logistics of bike testing, I would also have appreciated RC testing a burlier build on the Firebird. It seems like Mountain Bike Action always wants to test the stupid-lightest build out there. But face it, how many of us are going to be riding a 30-lb. Firebird with full XTR blah blah. We're not racing this thing XC after all. If we want to race we'll go with a carbon weenie bike.
There's been a lot of talk on the lists about a coil build for the Firebird, and Pivot has told Bike Intelligencer that the frame will accept a DHX 5.0 (there's enough clearance). But Dave Weagle, the DW-Link wizard who worked closely with Pivot designing the Firebird, says the bike is optimized for the RP23 air shock and, presumably, the Fox 36 Talas or Float. I would've appreciated RC's perspective on this, but again, silence. We'll have to look at it ourselves; we'll also report what the groms say on MTBR and elsewhere.
As long as we're talking wish lists, I'd also be curious if Pivot will issue any additional colors (beyond brown and black ano). I don't like root beer the soda, so why would I like a root beer color bike? Black is fine, but what about powdercoats like in a pearl white? The Firebird cuts a dashing figure and deserves more bling.
Anyway, we'll keep an eye on this baby and update as more details become available. Right now Firebirds are winging their way to shops everywhere. RoaringMouseCycles in San Francisco is expecting frames momentarily and Speedgoat says they got 'em in. Here's Speedgoat's take on the floating derailleur:
"But the floating design of the Firebird anchors the derailleur to the frame on a sealed cartridge bearing pivot. Controlling the movement is critical, and the Pivot design incorporates a small (replaceable) strike plate and swingarm-mounted lift pin. All this technology leads to a 6.5" travel frame that not only shifts beautifully (we know; we tried to jam it up as best we could), but also allows far easier setup and does a better job of keeping the chain on the chainring."
Finally, a Vimeo (hi-res) video of the Firebird in action! Courtesy of Pivot...
Riding the Firebird Prototype in Prescott from Ken Bennett on Vimeo.