2017 Pivot Switchblade 29

The Ride

Like I mentioned in the caveat at the start, sometimes it’s tough to get a really good feel for a bike in the relatively short time we get on it at Interbike, and the Switchblade was one of those bikes where I just couldn’t get it to feel right. With most trail bikes, some quick adjustments to the air pressure will get the suspension 90% of the way there, but try as I might, the Switchblade never quite felt “right.” So this could either mean that I needed more time to get things dialed (likely), or it means that I’m just not a fan of how the Switchblade rides (probably at least partially true).

The problem I had was twofold. First, the front and rear suspension never felt matched, and the rear end felt a bit harsh, even though the sag was set correctly. Second, the front end felt tall, even compared to other 29ers that are “over forked.”

On the suspension issue, running the rear shock with about 30% sag meant that I blew through the travel a bit too easily, but despite being too soft, over smaller and mid-sized obstacles in the trail, the bike felt pretty harsh. Of course, the 29” wheels did their thing and rolled through chunky terrain pretty well, but the bike had a tendency to skip around on the trail rather than hold a line.

Noah Bodman reviews the Pivot Switchblade for Blister Gear Review.
Noah Bodman on the Pivot Switchblade, Bootleg Canyon, NV.

The Switchblade, like all of Pivot’s bikes, uses a DW-Link suspension configuration, and to some extent, my issues with the Switchblade mirror other DW-Link bikes I’ve ridden. I find them to be a bit more fussy to set up, and they tend to be a bit less supple over smaller bumps. That said, I thought the Switchblade was worse – it wasn’t very active, regardless where I set the sag and air pressure (and to clarify, I spent pretty much all of my time on the Switchblade with the shock in “descend” mode).

I also found that, despite the rear end feeling a bit harsh over smaller bumps, the Switchblade isn’t setting any records for pedaling efficiency. It’s not terrible by any means, but there are quite a few bikes out there that both pedal better and have a more active suspension.

As for the tall front end, part of that is clearly due to the 17 mm spacer that was installed. That spacer slacks out the headtube a bit, but for the rolling trails we were riding, it made the bike feel unbalanced, and I found I had to work a bit harder to keep my weight over the front wheel. I think removing the spacer would mostly resolve this issue, but the fact that the Switchblade is running a substantially longer travel fork in the front could be contributing to the issue too.

Despite those two issues I had, the Switchblade is a bike where it’s not too hard to have fun. The short rear end, progressive suspension, and stiff frame make for a bike that’s ready and willing to pop off of lips and slide sideways into corners. It’s definitely a playful bike, at least by 29er standards.

I see the Switchblade as a good option for someone who likes the idea of the Evil Following, but wants a little more travel, and a bit burlier frame. So that means someone who’s more interested in going down, but will put up with the climb to get a good descent. That’d likely be someone who’s attracted to the speed and stability that a 29er offers, but still wants the bike to be fun when pumping, jumping, and slapping through berms. And, of course, the Switchblade is potentially attractive to people who are indecisive as to wheel sizes, but switching to Plus tires requires pressing in the extended headset cup, so it shouldn’t be seen as a “quick” swap or something that would be done regularly.

For more comparisons with other 29ers, and to see where the Switchblade falls on our ever-evolving spectrum, check out our 29er comparison list here.

Bottom Line

The stiff frame and geometry of the Switchblade make for a bike that’s a bunch of fun to get in the air and drift into corners. I struggled a bit with suspension setup and never quite got the bike to feel balanced, but I think there’s room for improvement there with a bit more time.

The Switchblade sits in a fairly competitive segment of the bike spectrum – there’s a lot of really fun, extremely capable 29ers in the 120-140 mm travel ballpark, and based on my time on the bike, the Switchblade doesn’t quite stack up. It’s heavier and less efficient than a lot of the competition, and there are other bikes that retain its playfulness and also handle rough terrain more competently. That said, the Switchblade gains some points for it’s ability to run 27.5+ tires, and ultimately I’m going to reserve final judgment until I can get more time on the bike and come to some better conclusions about the suspension.

20 comments on “2017 Pivot Switchblade 29”

  1. I own a Switchblade built with Eagle and a Yari Fork set at 160mm with no 17mm spacer.

    It took me about 100 miles of trail riding and fiddling to get it properly setup. The rear end is really sensitive but once you get it dialed its near perfect. I had a 2016 Salsa Horsethief X01 prior and my times climbing are slightly faster on the Pivot. Descending it isn’t even close. The Switchblade doesn’t “feel” like a fast climber but I’ve been snagging some uphill KOM’s that have evaded me in the past.

    This isn’t a bike that is good for a short demo. However once it is dialed I think it far surpasses everything in the category.

  2. I too own a Switchblade, I have it set up was a 29er, 150mm travel, NO spacer. It took me 2 days to set up right for me, and I love this bike. I can ride jas as quick uphill as I can on my lighter XC bike and down hill on this bike is super fast. This bike is purely brilliant and I don’t think this review does the bike justice.

  3. ” there are other bikes that retain its playfulness and also handle rough terrain more competently” which bikes are those? id like to look into them, but it wasn’t clear from the roundup which bikes those are

    • Hey Cliff,

      I’d put the Evil Following in that category, although with a bit less travel, it doesn’t plow quite as well. I haven’t spent much time on it, but I’d be willing to be the Evil Wreckoning should be on the list too. The Niner WFO gives up a little bit of playfulness, but irons out the trail quite a bit better than the Switchblade.

      There’s a few others that I haven’t gotten out for a real ride on, but that I think would likely be contenders in this category. The Specialized Stumpjumper 29 is the first one that springs to mind.

      • Thanks Noah. I was originally very interested in the Following, but the low bb kind of scared me. Although in high mode it’s not too bad. The Wreckoning and Niner WFO seem like maybe too much bike/travel for my trails. I still do a lot of XC stuff. Plus those bikes are not exactly going to be lighter than the Switchblade. Neither is the following. Frame weight on all of these is on the high range for a carbon bike, but it kind of goes with the territory.

  4. This is an interesting review. I demoed several Switchblades and from those demos decided to purchase one. I can understand how its not right for everyone, but the comment that it isn’t a good climber has left me wondering what you have been climbing on. I didn’t find a Stumpy, Hightower or a Following climb as well. As far as the suspension not being balanced, maybe a little more time on the set up would help correct that feeling, as I don’t feel it in mine.

    Any way a review is a review and if that is what you found, I believe you are being straight up. I just find I have had a significantly different experience.

    • Hey Jerry,

      I actually don’t think the Switchblade is a terrible climber, and I’d tend to agree that it’s better than the Following, but that’s a relatively low bar, since the Following isn’t a particularly good climber. Mostly, the Swtichblade’s short rear end, average-ish pedaling efficiency, and slightly porky weight make it a worse climber than some of the competition. A good comparison would be the Yeti SB5.5: longer stays, roughly equivalent pedaling efficiency, and noticeably lighter makes it a more enjoyable bike to go uphill on.

      But yeah, agree 100% that I could probably get more out of the bike with more time on it to dial things in. And at the end of the day, if you’re psyched on it, that’s all that really matters!

  5. Noah,

    Fairly negative review of the Pivot Switchblade. You seem to dislike dw link as well as other design elements. However, your review seems to be a bit of an outlier.

    Have Cocalis and the rest of Pivot team put out any good bikes or are they all sub par in your opinion?


    • Hey Ben,

      I actually think Pivot makes some pretty great bikes, and I’ve owned a few DW link bikes that I’ve been happy with. I owned the (older) Pivot Firebird and was happy with it, and more recently, I got to ride the newly revised Firebird which is a *sick* bike (review coming in a week or two). Of the bikes I’ve ridden relatively recently, I also thought the 429 trail was a solid bike. So no – I definitely don’t have any sort of grudge against Pivot.

      For the Switchblade, I don’t really have a great answer as to why I didn’t like it. On paper, it seems like it’d be a bike that I’d love. But yeah, I just didn’t. But like I said, my time on the bike was short, and there are other commenters saying it took them 100 miles to get the bike dialed. Maybe with more time I’d see the light.


  6. Thanks for the review Noah. I demo’d two SBs [Med and Lrg in 29er mode with 17mm cup] locally on Vancouver Island. On paper I thought it would be a pretty sweet bike aside from the steep STA [I prefer climbing and seated pedalling at something more moderate]. I was a little surprised I came back from both rides feeling “Meh” about the SB. Climbing didn’t feel efficient and the bike struggled with our tight twisty trails. The Fox suspension on both bikes was setup correctly, but never felt great. Reading your review I saw a lot of similarities to what my demos felt like.

    My current bike is a Pivot Mach 6 so I dig DW-link and I’m not comparing the SB to a XC scalpel.

    I’m hoping to get another SB demo over the next few months for a longer ride that will let me adjust the suspension more and expose me to a 3rd set of Fox suspension products in case there was something defective about the ones I rode. Ideally I’d like to try it without the 17mm cup, but demo bikes seem to all have them installed to let the bikes be switched between 29er and 27+ mode easily. On paper the SB should be a bike I like a lot so I was surprised at how I felt at the end of those two demo rides. I’m a prime candidate to be a Pivot fanboy. ;)

    Thanks for the review. If you get a chance to ride another SB I’d be interested to hear if your opinion changes.

    • One thing that’s unfortunately hard to gauge with negative to “meh” reviews – how much of it is a bike deficiency versus rider preference? If you like steeper STA, maybe that’s the explanation right there. But maybe not.

      • If the SB was great for me on steep climbs and downs where I wasn’t seated I’d be fine using a seatback seatpost to adjust the STA to my liking. Luckily STA is one of the aspects of a bike you can adjust a fair bit. So it’s not a deal breaker for me.

        I’m going to try and get another demo with more time on the bike so I can play around with adjustments more. I don’t have to get the bike running perfectly for me on a demo, but I do want to get to the point that I can see the potential for it to work well for me. Then I’m cool with spending the large $$ that a high bike costs these days and taking my time to nail the setup.

  7. People tend to get emotionally tied to their rides and their favorites, so I truly appreciate this type of honest feedback. I have owned a lot of nice bike from Turners to Ibis to Ventanas to Santa Crus to Pivot to Yetis etc. I am tied to NONE and will switch brands happily, as long as the bike is stellar and the customer service reputation is stellar (yeah, not Yeti, sadly). Thanks for the review and for being honest about the cons. I’m in the market and looking for a 29er or 27,5+ that pedals really well uphill and still smoothens out small bumps decently. These types of reviews really help. Just gushing over a bike is a disservice to readers and I am really glad you did not do that. We will likely demo them anyway, but this helps us stack the pros and cons and compare them across the choices. Well done!

  8. I found the Switchblade to be better than my old Following mainly due to it’s stiffness and steeper STA. The Following is a kick a$$ bike and I definitely recommend it for riders that like to attack. On the SB, I’m running 29er, no cup and 150mm. My old Pivots were easy to set up, but my 429T and SB was a PITA. A spacer helped the 429T and the X2 helped the SB. When I firmed up the DPS to eliminate wallow, it really sucked up the chunk on the downs but was too harsh for the rocky trails I ride. I found a happy medium, but I do feel the X2 is noticeably better.

  9. Noah,
    I really value your reviews, unlike many other bike industry peddlers’ out there. Is there a chance of you doing a 2017 Banshee Prime review? Numbers look really interesting to me, on paper at least. I would like to read your review of this bike.

  10. Nice, honest review. I don’t get some of the “takes awhile to setup the suspension” comments.

    When I get a new ride, I ride a short-ish known test loop at 25, 30 and 35% sag. One of those choices is always a clear winner — and this applied to my DW Czar of a few seasons ago — so what takes so long with the Switchblade?

  11. the firebird was great too for almost downhill bike went uphill great and better at big drops than switchblade but handling more fun on switchblade but I guess theyre different categories. the other lower travel pivot bikes with 650b wheels got caught up on roots etc so not for me

  12. wow I loved the switch blade went uphill better than my cc enve tallboy and I found it the most efficient pedalling bik eive tried esp didn’t get snagged on bumps uphill like the vpp bikes do but more efficient than likes of specialised and really snappy playful handling. maybe not the plushest at handling larger drops so I think I pretty much found the opposite but really a lot is how well the bike fits your body and It seemed just right for me. I might like higher front end as I found too low ion hightower and preferred XL even though im a hair under 6 foot but have long legs which pume foreward on down when standing.
    I want one but £8000 for top of the range is quite expensive

  13. I think the problem Noah had was mainly related to DPS and 17mm cup.

    SB is fantastic bike, especially for bigger people (I’m 190cm, 90kg and ride XL) but the DPS limits it’s potential and isn’t good fit like it is for 429T.

    Furthermore, 17mm cup is just no. It rises the front and there’s no need if you’re running 29″ wheels.

    X2 shock is perfect match for 36 on this bike. It offers much smoother performance and better traction while keeping higher pressure and less sag so you don’t blow through travel or bottom out easily.
    This way you can keep 36 at around 15% sag and x2 at 20-25% so your BB isn’t too low and it climbs great at this sag, better than my 429T used to…

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