Pivot has been cranking out variations of its Mach 4 29er for years now; this bike is nothing like them. True, it's a 29er and, yes, it does boast about 4-and-a-half inches of travel–it has that in common with other members of the Mach 4 clan–but this new 29er actually borrows more from Pivot's Mach 6 enduro bike than it does from the company's cross-country models.
Testers kept returning from their laps shaking their heads. We know better than to judge a bike by the numbers listed on the company website, but the Mach 429 Trail truly punches above its weight class. It's hard at first to reconcile the bike's split personality. The Mach 429 pedals as briskly as a cross-country race rocket when you are hammering up climbs, but feels more like an all-mountain bike on the descents. We're not saying that you'll mistake the 4.5 inches of rear suspension for a full 6 inches of squish, but the bike's dw-link rear suspension truly feels remarkably deep and forgiving.Pivot also did right by the Mach 429 Trail's geometry. With its long toptube, low bottom bracket and relatively slack 67-degree headtube angle, the Pivot tucks nicely within the growing niche of aggressive, short-travel 29ers. If you're eyeing the Ibis Ripley LS, Evil's The Following or the Yeti SB4.5c, you should add the Mach 429 to your test-ride shortlist. At 6 pounds, the carbon frame is on the light side of the spectrum, but it's a stout build. Pivot mates beefy carbon triangles to short, cold-forged alloy links that roll on Enduro Max cartridge bearings. Flex is not an issue here.
The sticker price on our test bike isn't low, but it's equipped with a SRAM single-ring drivetrain, 130-millimeter Fox Performance 34 and Float DPS rear shock, SRAM Guide R brakes, Sun Ringlé Charger Comp Boost 148 wheelset and KS Lev Integra dropper post. Pivot also sells the frame alone for $2,500.
Testers agreed that a few bikes in this class with shorter chainstays are easier to whip through extremely tight corners than the Pivot, but the Mach 429 scored high across the board. As one rider put it, "The Pivot pedals well, climbs well, descends well. It's the bike that ticks off all the boxes if you were looking at that one-bike-to-ride-everything quiver-killer."
Q&A with Chris Cocalis, president/CEO – Pivot Cycles
Before we even received our test rigs, we had questions about the new bikes—some of the same questions, in all likelihood, that you might be asking yourself when you start poking around at a new bike. Here's the feedback we received from Pivot president/CEO Chris Cocalis—a little something extra to chew on if you're still hungry for information after you've watched our video reviews and flipped through the Bible of Bike Tests. And, yes, Cocalis had a lot to say. This, after all, is a guy who spent two years obsessing over his handlebar grip design. Here goes….
—Vernon Felton, Bible of Bike Tests Moderator
VERNON FELTON: When you guys were designing this bike, who was the ideal rider you had in mind for it? The travel suggests cross-country racer, but the bike doesn't merely ride like a race-day-only machine. At all.
CHRIS COCALIS: The all around trail rider/mountain biker. This is the bike that would handle the full range of mountain biking for those that are not purely gravity oriented. It's a bike designed for the majority of all mountain bikers.
Last year BIKE tested the Mach 6 and talked about its versatility. The Mach 6 is also a great trail bike but aimed towards the more "enduro" rider. The Mach 6 is at home at the Whistler Bike Park but it wouldn't be my trail bike if I lived in the mid-west or planned to do the occasional 24 hour race with my friends. The 429 Trail fills that spectrum. On South Mountain here in Phoenix, Sedona, and in Moab, I can ride the 429 Trail everywhere that I can ride the Mach 6 with equal confidence. If my goal was to set the fastest time down some of the more technical trails, the 6 will certainly win that race, but its surprisingly close and the 429 Trail will beat it on the climb to the top. The Mach 429 Trail has XC level pedaling performance with a little more traction and plushness thrown in. It makes for a great 24 hours of Old Pueblo bike. It would be the perfect bike for events like the BC Bike race as well. Basically, I can take it anywhere just short of a full on terrain park and have a blast on this bike.
VF: Are there conditions in which you feel the 429 Trail really excels and, if so, what specific design attributes of the bike make that so?
CC: It's a very neutral handling bike in all conditions. It's surprising how far in over your head you can get with it and it will get your through it. It's really a fun and confidence inspiring bike. The geometry is nicely dialed in and the suspension tuning is really great for the all around rider.
VF: Are there any aspects of the frame design that you guys are particularly proud of? If so, what are they and why?
CC: We wanted to design a bike that would make the widest range of riders happy. Part of that was working to hit a price point that Pivot bikes don't usually occupy. We focused on the design to make sure it hit all our benchmarks for strength and stiffness (and of course suspension performance) while not going overboard. The frame is not quite as light as the 429SL, which uses some really pricy materials, but it's still lighter than the Mach 6. It has clean, external, full-cable routing with internal routing through the chainstay and through the seat tube for the dropper so it achieves all the same benefits of the more expensive models at a frame price that's $500 less than our other carbon models. It's also the first bike to feature our new front derailleur mount system (though you don't need it on the X1 test bike). This design allowed us to make everything bigger and stiffer around the pivots and opened up our options for tire clearance as well. Plus, when the mount is removed, the area is really clean.
VF: Component spec is always a tricky thing to nail—what were you aiming for with the spec (on this particular build kit) for this bike and how did you achieve it?
CC: I have a policy that we don't spec shit on our bikes. If we spec it, it has to be something that I would personally be happy owning and I will readily admit that I am a bit of a bike snob. My feeling is that as we go down in price, about the only thing that should really change is weight.
The X1 bike you tested is a great example of this because the SRAM 1X drive-trains work similarly from GX1 to XX1. There are only two chains and they are the same strength and shift the same. The Race Face crank is a high-quality part, and the 2016 Fox suspension is also great across the range.
The new Sun/Ringle Charger Boost wheels are an incredible value because they feature a full Stan's tubeless profile, a nice trail bike width and they are lighter and stronger than most wheelsets that you would find on a bike in this price range. I think the thing that separates us the most is the fit points of the bike.
We have the WTB Vigo saddles custom made for Pivot. It is pretty standard fair that most bike companies change the base material and type of foam as they go down in price point. On the Pivot saddles, the top end version has hollow Ti rails where this one uses slightly heavier steel, but the saddle structure matches WTB's highest end models with their highest quality foam and base materials so you don't have a saddle that's crap in two to three months. We do the same on the tires and the grips. All Pivot models feature Maxxis' highest level tires with Foldable, Dual Compound, Tubeless Ready, EXO sidewall technology regardless of what price point Pivot the customer chooses.
Lastly, we are really proud of our grips. This was a two-year personal project for me. I wanted a grip that had the shock absorption and feel of larger grips like an ODI Rogue or and Oury grip but without that feeling that you're just holding onto a big block of rubber. It took a long time to achieve the proper balance between the outer grip diameter, the depths of the inner pocket design, the hexagonal linked structure, and the durometer to a point where we had the right feel and cushion without having the grip wear out prematurely. It's also a single-clamp design because I hate having a metal ring on the outside. The clamping bolt is slightly larger than similar designs to ensure that the adequate torque can be applied to make sure that the grip doesn't spin.
I know….that's probably way more than you wanted to hear about our handle grip. Everything in the spec has had a lot of thought put into it and it will give the rider all the performance of the more expensive builds and the quality and longevity as well.
VF: Are there any details/features on this bike that you think are particularly critical to its performance that might be easily overlooked by consumers at first glance?
CC: I know that there has been a fair amount of press regarding the new Fox forks and shocks but up until this year, it has still been pretty typical that the entry level stuff Fox products with not up to the same level of the highest end components. However, on the 2016 suspension, the fork features the same Fit 4 damper as on the Factory series fork with one less adjustment (and the stock setting is great). The rear shock also features the same tune as the Kashima coated shock and just as with the fork, the technology is the same. No corners have been cut which makes this level of bike an even greater value.
Fox has also made a lot of changes in lubrication, seals and stanchion finish. An entry level Fox 34 now has less friction than the Factory series Kashima forks from a year ago.
VF: What sets the new 429 Trail apart from Pivot's Mach 4 and Mach 429 SL?
CC: The Mach 4 is a 27.5-inch bike with close to the same travel as the 429 Trail. It occupies a very similar place in our lineup, but with slightly quicker handling and lighter weight. There are a lot of riders who just simply do not want 29er wheels and the Mach 4 fills the bill. Due to its wheel size and ultra-light frame, it can be built up really light and we have just as many riders using this as a high level pure XC bike as they do a trail bike. The linkage design is different and although the travel is very close to the same, the feel is different. The 429SL (and the previous generation 429 Carbon) were basically serving dual purpose as our XC race bike and all around 29er trail bike. It is an amazingly capable bike that up until the release of the Trail, our enduro riders used the 429 Carbon as their bike or the more pedal intensive courses. That said, I could push the rear suspension to its limits in more technical terrain. With the new SL version we kept all the same features of the original but took over a half pound out of the frame, making it an even more capable 29er race bike. All of this allowed us to make this bike here, the 429 Trail, more dedicated to trail use. Its suspension design is more similar to the Mach 6, the chainstay length is slightly more tucked in making it easier to pop the front end up and over obstacles easier and the head angle is 1.8 degrees slacker. This combined with more travel in the rear and a 130-millimeter front fork gives the 429 trail a much more trail bike specific feel.
VF: Why did you go with Boost 148 out back and 110 spacing up front? Originally Trek had positioned Boost as a way to stiffen 29er wheels. Lately, it's been seen as a way to accommodate plus-size wheel and tire combos. You guys seem to see it as an ideal arrangement for aggressive 29ers. Is that about the shape of it?
CC: The Boost spacing does, in fact, stiffen the wheel substantially. This is one of the things that really held aggressive 29er bike bikes back in our testing over the past several years. Unless you were running a really stiff carbon wheel, the system did not function all that well when pushed in trail bike conditions. Now, wheel stiffness is a non-issue. For us, it is more about the benefits to the frame design. In the rear triangle, a 6-millimeter gain is not a lot, but it gets us the clearance we need in all the right places. Our lower link was able to be widened over previous designs (increasing stiffness), we were able to increase tire clearance, shorten the chainstay and have clearance for 2X as well. An additional bonus to all this added tire clearance is that we were able to design the 429 Trail to accommodate 27.5 X 2.8 plus wheels/tires as well, but the goal was not to use Boost to design a plus bike. (The bike is a lot of fun and a very different experience with 27.5"+ wheels as well). In the simplest terms, this bike could not exist in its same form and be as good as it is without Boost.
VF: Okay, the new upper and lower linkage—how, specifically, do they impact the bike's suspension feel?
CC: The 429 Trail is really a shorter travel, 29er version of the Mach 6. The shorter travel design doesn't require the use of the shock extension clevis design of the Mach 6 because we don't have the same space constraints behind the seat tube. However, the upper linkage functions the same way and the lower dw-link is actually the same link as that used on the new 2016 Mach 6. We have more control over the rate at different points in the travel. The 429 Trail is plusher in the initial part of the travel than the Mach 429Sl or the Mach 4, can get into the mid-stroke more easily and then has that same bottomless feel of the Mach 6.
VF: Internal routing is sort of "a big deal" these days, but you guys opted to run quite a few lines under the downtube. What was your thinking on that?
CC: Internal routing is cool from an aesthetic standpoint and with the way we designed our bike with internal routing, it offers a lot of flexibility. We launched our new Pivot cable port system with the Phoenix DH and Mach 4 carbon frames and feel that it is the best internal routing system in the market, but every hole that gets added to the frame requires additional work and cost. With the 429 trail we wanted to have all the performance and keep things simple so we only employed the internal cable port system through the chainstay and the seat tube (for the dropper). The overall function is identical and we have been very surprised by how many people are really excited that the cable housing is on the outside. It's certainly the easiest full suspension bike in our line up to assemble and service…. even if you can see the housing when looking at the bike upside down.
VF: If someone is looking at an aggressive, hard-charging bike in your line, they are probably also looking at the Mach 5.7 and Mach 6. What kind of rider/riding condition is best served with the 429 Trail? The Mach 5.7 is at the end of its life.
CC: The Mach 6 has been redesigned for 2016 and it is the aggressive, hard-charging trail/enduro bike in our line. The 429 Trail is not really that bike. We are not billing a bike that's just shy of 112mm of travel as the ultimate EWS bike. Yes, it's super capable, but if you lean towards the super aggressive trail rider end of the spectrum, the Mach 6 is the bike. The 429 Trail is the bike that can take you there and let you enjoy it, but it does things at the other end of the spectrum where the Mach 6 doesn't shine quite as bright. I would say that given the terrain across the US and the rest of the world along with the average rider mindset and true rider capabilities, a bike like the Mach 429 trail can cover the widest spectrum of riders and riding locations. I have the luxury of multiple bikes so I can have a Mach 6 and either a Mach 4 or 429SL in my garage so that I can just pick the precise tool for the type of ride. If I can only have one bike and/or I don't know what I am in for on a given ride, the 429 trail will put a smile on my face anywhere I ride.
VF: Further afield, this is no longer a brand new niche—if anything, 2016 seems to be shaping up to be a year of aggressive, slack and low 29ers. What sets the 429 Trail apart from, let's be honest, a lot of really good bikes hitting the market right now?
CC: You're not kidding. It seems that we were all working on similar concepts at the same time in our own secret lairs! However, just as with every category, there's still a pretty good spectrum within the category. Some of the bikes are longer travel and strike a different balance.
I think what makes the 429 Trail is its overall balance across the widest range of terrain. Pivot has a reputation for striking that perfect balance and producing bikes that cover a wider spectrum of riding than most others in the market. I think the 429 Trail achieves that in spades. When we launched it at press camp, we had editors from Australia tell us that this was the perfect bike for the trails back home, a UK editor told us that this was the perfect bike for the trail centers in the UK, the Colorado guys told us that it's the perfect bike for Colorado. We heard the same from the Northeast editors the Southeast editors, and the Midwest editors. It also seems that the price point and high value features of the bike have really gotten our dealers and customers excited beyond what I would have expected.