Pivot Shuttle – is this the best eMTB so far?
Pivot is known among MTB enthusiasts as being top-end. They use the very best carbon fibers throughout (unlike most brands including ones that rhyme with Fanta Blues and Betty), and are very committed to R&D. Their DW-Link suspension is highly regarded as efficient and responsive. They have race teams including our own Ed Masters, Matt Walker and Cole Lucas. So when they set out to make an eMTB, they took it seriously. Apparently they collaborated with Shimano on the E8000 motor design, and worked closely with Fox to dial in the suspension. They ended up with the lightest full-power eMTB (at just on 20kg) and had the shortest chain stays on a 29er at 437mm. What does this mean? An eMTB that on paper can claim to be the best. Does that stack up on the trail? I simply had to find out.
The configuration I rode costs around $18k, but it’s a 2018/19 build that is no longer available. For 2019/20 there are two builds, starting at a bargain $14,000 and topping out at $18k. Front fork goes up to 160mm and they come standard with 29″ wheels. They share a top-end carbon frame, but the cheaper one uses a Shimano E7000 motor, and as you’d expect the amount of carbon in the componentry increases as you spend more. The E7000 motor unit is a bit lighter so I’d expect them to weigh in similarly.
Pivot is also almost alone in speccing a wider rear hub than others (“Super Boost” at 157mm). They say that this increases rear end stiffness. I’m not a good enough rider to truly test that nor was I able to stress it in my short test ride, but it did feel like it responded accurately. In fact, overall the bike felt tight and even without power was a joy to ride.
The E8000 in Trail mode dragged me up hills without fuss. I didn’t even mind the Shimano whine. The controls on this took a bit of getting used to – the XT Di2 on the right and motor controls on the left had me wondering which was up and which was down. It’s something you’ll of course find second nature after a while, but great design doesn’t require you to ‘learn’. There is no more Di2 in the new builds so that comment is moot. I think I prefer the Steps E6000 controls and the E7000 is similar to that.
My first and lasting impressions are that this eMTB feels the most like a MTB of any I have ridden. You can pop the front wheel over roots easily and it handles changes of direction and switchbacks like a smaller bike, because it is a smaller bike… Those 437mm chainstays… Occasionally up a steep hill I found that I had to transfer weight forward to keep the front down, just like a regular bike. Those 437mm chainstays… Downhill was a ton of fun. This in many ways is the opposite of the KTM Kapoho or Trek Powerfly, which are built to plow down with no fuss. The Shuttle is built to reward the active and expert rider. It’s not doing all the riding for you (those chainstays…) , and you can get it wrong as I discovered. Thanks for asking, my ankle is feeling a bit better.
So back to my original question, is this the best eMTB you can get right now? Well, it has the best quality frame, great componentry, is the lightest, has a great powertrain, looks the part and has those shortest chainstays. So best, right?
But… this may not be the best ebike for you! If you value the most authentic ‘MTB’ feeling ebike then it is the best. To get the best out of it means you are probably an expert-level rider who wants to stay involved; the sort of person that has a Pivot Mach 5.5 in the garage anyway. If however you want a failsafe bike that makes you feel like an expert rider, then maybe not. For me, if I could only own one bike and I lived in more mountainous terrain (which I will be soon), then I’d totally love to own the Pivot Shuttle. I have two kidneys and only really need one.
Thanks to Allsports and Lewis&Co for putting on the demo day – I only had a half hour ride. I had previously been offered a chance to ride for a whole day in Taupo but rode my MTB instead. Regrets.