Product Launch: Pivot Phoenix DH Race Bike

This past week was yet another moment in my “work” career where I had to pinch myself, hoping I didn’t wake up to discover my dream was not reality. Fortunately, I really did make the trip to Moab, Utah to ride the latest and greatest from Pivot. Those of you who live under a rock and are not familiar with Pivot can brush up on the company via my test of their Mach 429, Karl’s test of the Mach 5, and Karl’s in-depth interview with Chris Cocalis about how a Pivot comes to life.

Those of you who follow World Cup racing may have caught wind of the new Phoenix DH at this past weekend’s race in Maribor, Slovenia. After only 6-months of development, Pivot was able to deliver bikes to the race team just days prior to race practice runs. Team riders Mitch Delfs, Kyle Straight, and Will Rischbieth had great things to report about the bikes, despite the horrifically muddy course conditions.

Pivot’s new bike is a true World Cup DH race machine called the Phoenix DH. Geometry and suspension travel are on par with most other DH rigs on the market: 64º headtube, 207mm of travel, 13.6″ BB height (unsagged), 17.25″ chainstay length, 83mm threaded BB shell with ISCG tabs, 150mm x 12mm rear end.

The difference between this bike and many of the other DH race bikes on the market—even the other DW-Link bikes—is the Pivot attention to detail and emphasis on frame stiffness. The 6061 aluminum frame offers an aggressively hydroformed downtube, 1.5″ headtube, and the next generation of Pivot’s hollow BB assembly.

The “BB tower”—as Pivot designer Kevin Tisue refers to it—is a massive CNC’d two-piece affair that is welded together to create one light and strong housing for both the rear shock, and all of the rear suspension’s pivots. By placing all of the pivots within this one-piece (after welding)

BB tower, Pivot is able to maintain extremely tight pivot tolerances by reducing the heat-induced warping when the frame is assembled and heat-treated. Not only is this BB tower extremely light for its size, but is also extremely stiff. Of course, with the rear shock being cradled within the BB tower, suspension adjustability could be an issue if not for Pivot providing easy access to all the necessary adjustments. The bearings at each of the suspension pivots have also been upsized from a 15mm ID to a 17mm ID for stiffness and durability.

The Phoenix DH’s rear dropouts are a bolt-on affair that allow for adjustment of both BB height and chainstay length by swapping dropouts, depending on course conditions and a rider’s personal preferences. For those interested in using their DH bike in a park setting, Pivot will offer and dropout that raises the BB to 13.8″ and shortens the chainstay in order to make the bike a bit more playful.

Also in terms of adjustability, the headtube angle on the Phoenix DH will be adjustable via a new adjustable headset from Cane Creek. No details yet on how this system works, but look for more information soon.

Those of you familiar with the Iron Horse Sunday DH bike may be thinking “this Pivot looks just like the Sunday…” Yes, the shock is located in a similar position and orientation, and yes they’re both DW-Link bikes. However, the Sunday has a falling rate spring curve while the Phoenix DH offers up a slightly progressive spring rate, which makes the bikes feel and behave in a completely different manor. The Phoenix DH is not a Sunday and visa versa.

Pivot designed the Phoenix DH’s rear suspension to provide the compliant and plush feel we all expect from for a DH rig, but with the mid-stroke control and pedaling efficiency we’ve all come to expect from Pivot. Excellent square edge bump absorption was also a primary design goal.

Frames will be available January 2011 in small, medium, and large sizes with white or black with orange, green, or blue graphics.

Ride impressions

Our group of privileged (spoiled) journos had a chance to ride the new Phoenix DH in Moab—9 of the 14 Phoenix DH frames in existence were under our sorry asses. We shuttled up to Kokopelli, UPS, LPS, Porcupine Rim, and Singletrack trails back down to the Colorado River. We’d have shuttled higher, but the Hazard country trails were still muddy and even snow covered in many places.

This 22-ish mile ride rewarded long-travel bikes that pedaled well, as it alternated between high-speed chatter, slickrock, and moderate drops while occasionally climbing all of the above. I’m ecstatic to report the Phoenix DH pedals better than some 5-inch bikes far better than many 6-inch bikes I’ve ridden, but delivered the plush big travel you’d expect from a DH bike. Sounds like a bold statement, I know. Trust me on this one. The Phoenix DH’s position sensitive anti-squat (sensitive to both the gear you’re in and the angle of the terrain) delivered incredible pedaling performance and 8.15″ of buttery travel when you needed to hit a drop or chatter through the rough stuff. Also didn’t hurt that the bikes we were riding weighed in right at 39 lbs.

There aren’t a lot of true DH race bikes that would have been fun on the 22 miles of rolling trail we rode, but the responsive nature of the Phoenix DH sure made for a rocking good time. This bike is completely devoid of the under power mid-stroke wallow many DH bikes have.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the Pivot performs in the World Cup circuit. This is one precise, fast, and efficient DH rig and should create quite a stir in the gravity world. I know I’d sure like to get my hands on one for a long-term test…

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