A Visit To Pivot Cycles- by Grannygear

Since c_g and I were in sunny, hot, arid (Xtra-dry) Arizona, we were just around the corner from the offices of Pivot Cycles in Tempe, Az. We arranged to drop by and chat a bit with the owner Chris Cocalis and with Lisa Crampton, the new marketing person, tour the facility, see super top-secret stuff that required a blood oath, and talk bikes.


It was interesting to see how much they do in-house; from prototyping to R&D to the assembly/boxing/shipping, etc. It was apparent that at Pivot, putting out a bike is a very ‘hands on’ effort and Chris is the main force here piloting the ship from start to finish. We looked at the lab areas, machine shop, warehouse, safety check areas etc. You wouldn’t believe the number of safety checks a bike has to go through, and everywhere you look, industrial labeling shouts safety warnings at you. It’s a testament to Chris that his bikes are put through such rigorous testing, ensuring safety for both his staff and customers. Honestly, I was impressed the most when I visited the warehouse that was so neatly organized. Moreover, I could see the workers entirely geared up in safety equipment even when they were standing on something like a fixed-ladder. I was really moved to find that he takes worker safety seriously. Anyway, after witnessing this, I spent a bit of time focusing on the new Pivot Les, their carbon 29er hard tail. From that we sat and chatted about how Chris began in the bike industry, from BMX roots where he began to build parts for his own use that would not fail, to building Ti frames for many other brands, to the move out of Titus Cycles to the place where Pivot is today. In all it was a fascinating journey and I was left with an appreciation for the man himself who comes across as very genuine and open, yet has been instrumental in bringing to market technologies like the PF92 BB standard.

Chris can speak with authority on DW link and why he thinks it is the best solution for a stiff frame with a proper axle path under compression as well as how to deal with calculating the proper anti-squat in a world with fewer (and smaller) chain rings bolted to our cranks. An early proponent of 4 bar setups like the Horst link used in the classic Titus Racer X frames, Chris wanted to improve the Horst Link bikes resistance to climbing a ledge type surface while under power as well as increase overall stiffness by eliminating the pivot at the rear axle area of the triangle. He also claims that the way they worked with Dave Weagle, the DW link patent holder, to design the Pivot frames, resulted in a rear suspension that rides higher in its travel and does not ‘squat in’ like many four bar links do. This allows Pivot to run a lower BB height, to not be plagued with as many rock/pedal strikes and run a slacker head tube angle as sag is not affecting that as much.

Think carbon frames are pretty much all the same? You will not after talking with Chris for a while. They selected a certain company overseas that only builds for a select few vendors (like Enve, for instance) and that could meet the stringent design goals that Pivot has for not only the Les, but all the carbon bikes. I asked him how his track record is with failures of the aluminum frames vs. composite ones and he said the composite failures are lower than the aluminum versions. Carbon done right is a tough, long lasting way to construct bike parts and frames.

We also talked a bit about tuned compliance in a bike like the Les. He learned a lot about that from his experience with BH USA and developing their road frames, then combined that with the past history of working with Isogrid and Exogrid tubes on the Titus bikes. Although the technology is different here than Exogrid, the results he was looking to achieve, that being stiffness in the right places and compliance in the right places were the same goals targeted with the BH frames. I get the feeling that Pivot does not just walk into a China carbon factory and check a little box next to a frame design. Note the trick adjustable dropouts on the Les that are ‘click stop’ calibrated so you know how many turns out or in your are. The little molded in ‘button’ of metal is where the tensioning bolt presses on the frame.

Another thing that came across to me was a passion for making things the right way so that bikes and our ride experience gets better. It was obvious from our conversations that Pivot has their ear to the ground and listens to rider feed back. Now with 650b models from Pivot, the trails around Phoenix and around the world should see even more bikes with the Pivot label on them. We have been promised a Les hard tail sooner than later and we are excited to get on that in the hills of So Cal (well the ones that have not burned up, anyway).