Dec 29, 2023

The Updated Pivot Shuttle AM is an Electric Swiss Army Knife [Review]

The last bike in the brand’s lineup to receive their vertical shock layout, the new Pivot Shuttle AM doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, but it’s welcome nonetheless. The latest iteration of the mid-travel eMTB comes as a better rounded package with cleaner design aesthetics in line with the rest of the lineup, and a more focused intention. This is in part thanks to the addition of two new eMTB models in the last year: the Shuttle LT and the Shuttle SL, leaving room for the AM to hold its own.

Pivot describes the Shuttle AM as “the ultimate all-mountain machine,” featuring 148mm of rear travel paired with a 160mm Fox fork, 29″ wheels, and mullet compatibility plus a Bosch drive system with wireless controls and SRAM UDH dropouts. Rounding things off with modern geometry and a high-performance build kit, the Shuttle AM is the type of e-bike that most mountain bikers should be reaching for.

To get a feel for the new Shuttle AM, I spent two days riding the bike around Crested Butte, Colorado. It’s an ideal location for testing the capabilities of the mid-travel bruiser, with nasty climbs aplenty and a mix of flowing singletrack and chunky descents.

The short answer is, pretty much everything. from frame design to geometry and spec. Pivot has made some marked improvements throughout the bike, and it would be fair to say that the introduction of the Shuttle LT and SL models have left the AM in a more defined spot in the line so it doesn’t have to cover as many bases, and can do what it does much better.

One of the biggest changes to the Shuttle AM is the drive system, which moves from Shimano to a Bosch unit. The reason for this, according to Pivot, is in part due to Shimano supply chain issues, but also for performance and ride quality reasons as well.

The Shuttle AM comes in three spec levels, with the lower Ride and Pro specs coming with Bosch’s tried and tested Performance CX motor which provides 85nm torque and up to 340% support.

The top end Team spec comes with the new, ultra limited Performance CX Race motor. For now only 500 Team bikes with the Race motor will be available worldwide in accordance with their agreement with Bosch. The Race motor puts out the same torque and support as the regular model, but features a magnesium casing that drops 160g in weight, as well as some internal changes that allow the rider to use ‘race mode,’ similar to turbo mode but delivering peak power in a much more immediate manner with the smallest turn of the cranks.

Powering the motor is the Bosch PowerTube battery with 750Wh of capacity in the Pro and Team models, and 625Wh in the Ride spec. Pivot has made an effort to really make the Shuttle AM look as clean as possible, with a focus on removing unnecessary wiring, particularly in the cockpit area. To this end, the bike features a wireless remote on the left side of the bar to control power levels and walk mode, and a wireless speed sensor. The speed sensor is actually built into the motor itself and simply uses a magnet attached to the rear wheel at the valve. The handlebar remote is powered by a coin cell, and if it runs out of battery the wired controller in the top tube can also be used to cycle through power modes, with the exception of walk mode.

The top tube controller is also a tidy affair, with a familiar 5-bar display showing battery level which is graduated, changing colours between bars. For instance, four green bars and one white bar indicates 80-90% charge. All of this should hopefully mean fewer points of failure on the bike. While there are admittedly more batteries, there are fewer wires to go bad, with only the wires connecting the motor to the battery and the top tube controller, and charge port to the battery. The Shuttle AM is also compatible with Bosch’s PowerMore 250Wh range extender battery which mounts on the down tube in place of a bottle cage.

The new Pivot Shuttle AM uses the famous DW-link platform, as did the previous bike. This time around the layout has been changed to Pivot’s vertical shock orientation.

The vertical shock layout enables them to do a few things. First, it leaves more room in the front triangle, particularly in combination with a shorter metric trunnion shock. This means there’s now space for a full-sized water bottle or range extender battery. It also means a lower standover height and the ability to design a lighter, stiffer frame.

In terms of suspension, Pivot says that the new shock layout enabled engineers to better tune the suspension kinematics, with a focus on higher anti-squat numbers. While pedaling performance may seem counter-intuitive when we’re talking about e-bikes, Pivot asserts that while many e-bikes tend to squat significantly under power, the high anti-squat numbers mean the rear wheel is glued to the ground more of the time, making it easier for the rider to lay down more continuous power, particularly when standing and pedaling up a steep climb.

I personally think the new Shuttle AM is significantly more handsome than its predecessor, and while I know aesthetics are subjective, I don’t think many are going to disagree with me on this one. While the two top-end builds come with SRAM’s T-Type drivetrain, there are cable ports available for a mechanical drivetrain, and the ports are covered using plastic blanking plates. The frame features tube-in-tube guided cable routing for easy installation, and for us running our brakes moto-style, the brake hose guide splits near the head tube allowing the hose to come out either side for tidy routing no matter your brake preference. Lovely.

The frame features some other neat touches including a zero-stack headset, a Super Boost rear end, and of course UDH-compatible dropouts.There’s a flip-chip at the rocker link for a high/low position or to mullet the bike, though it comes stock with 29″ wheels.

Keeping the paint safe you’ll find some well thought out frame protection in the downtube area plus moulded protection around any part of the rear triangle that might find itself in contact with the chain. Overall it’s pretty well covered without looking garish.

The Shuttle AM frame is available only in carbon with no aluminum models to be found, as with the rest of Pivot’s range, with the exception of their dirt jump bike. There are no more or less fancy layups either; all frames are of the same quality. Coming in four sizes, small to extra large, the bike is offered in two color options: Neptune Blue and Mojave.

Geometry-wise, some things are similar to the outgoing bike, such as the headtube angle at 64.1/64.5º and chainstays measuring 444mm in length. However markedly different are the reach and seat tube angles. Reach comes in at 476/480mm in a size large – 20mm longer than the previous bike, with a seat tube angle coming in at 76.4/76.8º, almost three degrees steeper than the older bike. The longer reach should have the effect of giving the bike more stability at speed, while the steeper STA gives the bike a similar seated position to the older one, while keeping the front wheel weighted for climbing. The bike I rode was set up in the low/slack position.

With three spec levels to choose from, the Pivot Shuttle AM builds start at burly and capable and quickly move up to flashy and modern. The Ride build comes specced with a Fox Performance 36 fork and Float X shock with a full Shimano groupset comprised of SLX brakes, cassette, chain, shifter, and an XT derailleur. It rolls on DT Swiss H1900 aluminum wheels, uses the Bosch Performance CX motor paired with the 625Wh battery and uses a 165mm crank, with a specific tune in the Bosch/Pivot flow app to optimize for the shorter cranks.

The Pro and Team builds both come fitted with a Fox Factory 36 fork, Float X shock, and Transfer dropper post. Both use SRAM’s T-Type drivetrain — XO and XX respectively — with the only non-SRAM part being either alloy (Pro) or carbon (Team) Praxis cranks. Both builds feature Shimano brakes with XT and XTR on the higher-end bike while both use Pivot’s carbon handlebar and the 750Wh battery. The Pro build also gets the Performance CX motor while the Team build gets the exclusive CX Race motor. For hoops the lower build gets DT Swiss Hybrid HX1501 wheels on 240 hubs and aluminum rims while the top-end build gets the carbon version. All models get Maxxis Minion DHF (front) and DHR II (rear) tires with EXO+ casing and Maxxterra compound.

The Ride spec is priced at $8,999, the Pro is $11,799, and the Team is $13,999 USD. The bike on test here is a Pro spec in size large to fit this rider’s 6ft frame.

Again, it’s worth noting that I spent two days riding this bike in Crested Butte, Colorado, rather than my home trails. While I got a good impression of the way the bike rides, this is not equivalent of a full bike test.

Electric mountain bikes obviously make climbing easier, though some do a better job than others. Pivot decided to design a suspension platform that climbs well regardless of assist and the result is a bike with very little squat under pedaling load, either seated or standing. The bike feels extremely consistent and predictable when putting power down and doesn’t feel as though any energy is wasted.

The Bosch motor is a nice unit and the four power modes delivering torque smoothly. Eco mode puts out a consistent, low amount of power. Tour+ and eMTB modes vary in output depending on rider input and are also tuneable, while Turbo mode puts out the maximum power so long as the cranks are spinning. Race mode on the Race motor is similar to Turbo except it delivers the power much more immediately.

While climbing seated on smooth terrain the bike is easy to control and propels the rider with ease.

When things started getting more chunky I found I needed to weight the back wheel to prevent the tire from breaking traction in the higher power modes, which can be difficult when standing. The Pivot Shuttle AM responds well to standing and sprinting on the climbs however, so long as you can keep that back wheel in check.

In eMTB mode I really felt like I had earned the climbs. Turbo mode worked better on smoother ground unless I really made an effort to keep the bike tracking well through the chunder on the way up. The steeper seat tube angle does provide a comfortable seated position that makes climbing comfortable and active, though at the expense of a little less weight on the rear wheel for climbing traction.

Where the bike was somewhat tricky to pilot was through the moto whoops on the trails we rode that can sometimes be a couple of feet deep, and on flatter terrain it was tiring pumping the bike through these. It can be tough or almost impossible to pedal through this type of terrain, at which point the assist drops and suddenly the bike feels sluggish and difficult to keep momentum. However, a couple of clicks of low speed compression does improve things.

One benefit of the Race mode is, according to others running the Race motor, the ability to ratchet through the whoops where the motor needs almost no input to start assisting. Admittedly this is a somewhat specific scenario and may not be representative of everyone’s trails, but this was my experience in Crested Butte. Overall, the Shuttle AM makes climbing an enjoyable experience and had me pushing hard on the climbs, particularly through rough, out-of-the-saddle sections.

Pointing the Shuttle AM downhill is even more fun than the climbs. The trails I rode in Crested Butte offered a good mix of high-speed, flowy alpine trails with some tech and chunder thrown in, but for the most part weren’t especially steep. The Shuttle AM felt really at home here.

The bike has a well-mannered but confident feeling to it, particularly on faster trails. It feels super stable at speed and isn’t easily deflected off-line thanks to the slack head angle, combined with long reach. The long and slack geometry did however prove to be more of a handful on some steep and tight switchback sections where the Shuttle AM required a little more body english than a lighter, more trail-focused bike like the Shuttle SL might.

The suspension has that typical e-bike feeling that’s pretty supple off the top thanks to the additional weight of the bike, so it feels plush over small bumps with a supportive and progressive stroke. That supportive mid-stroke makes the bike really hold up under hard cornering efforts where I was able to load the bike up and fire it back out again. The suspension has a progressive ramp up, and despite some questionable line choices and my best efforts to send it off the biggest jumps I could find, there were no harsh bottom-out events.

Although the Pivot Shuttle AM is quite long and slack for a ‘trail/AM’ bike, it feels nimble. The bike is receptive to sudden line changes, hops and jumps, and has just the right feeling of confidence and stability. It’s an excellent combo for attacking technical terrain where you have the choice to plow through it or hop over it, and know that either is going to work out.

The plush off the top feeling means that the bike holds a line really well through chundery sections without feeling nervous, but it’s just playful enough to pop up and over obstacles and onto different lines. In this regard it’s exactly what a mid-travel bike should be and overall the Shuttle AM is a lot of fun to ride. It feels like just enough bike for most scenarios without being too big to be fun on flatter trails or if you’re a less confident rider.

I’ve spoken a lot about the climbing and descending characteristics of the Pivot Shuttle AM that mostly come down to the frame and suspension, but there are some quirks and features to the componentry that deserve mention.

First, the SRAM X0 Eagle Transmission drivetrain seems perfectly suited to an eMTB application thanks to its ability to shift under load. For the most part it was something I didn’t really think about a whole lot, it just worked. That said, the Transmission drivetrain seemed to be sensitive to cleanliness, and after a decently long ride with multiple creek crossings and a lot of dust, it did start ticking and missing shifts. In the end this was something that a bottle of chain lube took care of and is something I’d expect of most drivetrains.

The tire choice is not something I’d expect on a heavy electric mountain bike such as the Shuttle AM. Admittedly I didn’t puncture while riding it, however I can’t help but feel that a heavier casing, on the rear at least, would mean the ability to run lower pressures and generate a little more grip, particularly when climbing.

On the suspension side, the Float X shock on my test bike did develop a bit of a top-out. It was only really evident when cycling the suspension standing next to the bike and less noticeable while riding. On other bikes, the Float X has not proven to be the most reliable shock in my experience. This is in contrast to the Fox 36 fork with the Grip 2 damper that we know to be consistent, reliable and well-controlled.

Finally, the bike did develop a bit of a rattle. It wasn’t enough to put me off while riding, but I could hear it. I never got a chance to figure out what it was, but it sounded like there may have been some chain noise. Or, it could have been related to the shock top-out, or even a brake hose/wire moving around.

The Pivot Shuttle AM is one of those well-rounded bikes that should suit most people’s needs. It strikes a nice balance between stability and agility, unlike some heavier longer travel bikes which, while capable, can be harder to pilot effectively. While not perfect, and admittedly there’s no perfect ‘one bike,’ I really enjoyed the way this bike handled and responded to being pushed hard, while acknowledging that it needn’t be pushed to be enjoyable to ride.

I believe we’re getting closer to full power e-bikes that ride more like ‘regular’ bikes, and the Shuttle AM definitely is a step in that direction. That said, while I like that it’s light and nimble, I might make a couple of different spec choices if it were up to me, namely the tires, at the expense of a little agility.

That aside, I really enjoyed riding the Shuttle AM. It would be an easy bike to live with on a daily basis, capable enough to be confident on almost anything and well-rounded enough not to be boring on smoother trails. It’s a pretty bike to look at, feels well put together and well-considered by a team that evidently really cares to produce a top-notch product. The ride quality is extremely refined and it feels like a fast, serious bike, but importantly, it’s also a lot of fun, and extremely versatile. I’d recommend the Pivot Shuttle AM as a serious contender for someone looking for an eMTB in that mid-travel bracket.

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