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Hands-on Gear Review
Pivot Mach 429 Trail 2017 Review
Cons: Gets knocked around in the rough, could use a burlier wheelset, fit is tricky
Bottom line: A serious performer that's great for uphill and less hard-core descents
A buttoned up bike that takes itself very seriously, the 2017 Pivot Mach 429 Trail is a performance machine. The best climber in the test, the Mach 429 Trail motors up climbs, letting you daydream your way past the painful parts. It's also pretty dialed on the downs, with precision handling and a surprisingly nice suspension for a 116mm travel trail bike. Unsurprisingly, its pleasantly light and nimble nature gets tossed around in the rougher sections. The narrow rims (25mm) and modestly treaded 2.3" Maxxis High Roller II and 2.25" Ardent tires don't help. While we don't consider it confidence inspiring on technical sections and it's never quite playful, the Mach 429 Trail is a very capable descender. Especially on the smoother downhills where the bike takes its fun very seriously. Despite the trail nomenclature, we found the Pivot Mach 429 Trail a bit overwhelmed on the gnarlier trails of our mountain town and all of our downhill testers had a hard time getting back behind the saddle, a fit issue. If you stay off the intense descents, the Mach 429 Trail is a solid performer in a racey, cross country kinda way as is, earning a fourth place finish overall with a score of 67. Springing for knobbier tires and wider rims would go a long way to expand its range.
March 2017 Update, Pivot Mach 429 Trail 27.5+ First Ride — We caught a few glimpses of the of the 29er Pivot Mach 429 Trail's inner wild child on rolling descents during testing. With 27.5+ wheels, it crosses over, going from focused and hardworking to let's party. Find out more below.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Trail Mountain Bikes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Pivot Mach 429 Trail 27.5+ First Ride
The Pivot Mach 429 Trail is available as a 29er or 27.5+. We originally tested the 29er version. Our most experienced testers just got out on the plus-size build. Here's their report:
In its 29er iteration, the Mach 429 Trail lacked confidence. It's short travel rear end and narrow hoops favored the smoother, racier sections of trail. Swapping the wheels out for a 27.5+ set reveals a far more grounded steed. The tires eat up chunder and smooth out the bucking sensation we got on the 29" wheels. Suddenly, 116mm of rear travel feels sufficient. It keeps its quick handling and dexterity but gains forgiveness, serving up the kind of traction we've come to expect from plus tires and unveiling a more playful nature.
All that rubber slows you up, but it's a welcome addition on rocky and technical trails and still feels efficient, climbing noticeably better on smooth trails than the 3" tires on the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie. It's certainly not as efficient as the 29" wheelset, but you don't lose much and you gain insane fun factor points, i.e. totally worth it. It's easier to get into the air than the 29er build and is light and predictable in flight. The extra traction also let us put those powerful Shimano brakes to good use. We felt comfortable pushing the plus tired bike much harder than the 29er version.
Overall it's a great crossover bike, passing for a cross-country racer when wearing its 29er wheels and feeling like an enduro basher in its 27.5+ guise. It works better in both wheel sizes than the Specialized Stumpjumper. The Mach 429 Trail's 2.8" plus-size Maxxis Rekon and Ikon (front and rear) tires seem like the sweet spot, whereas the 3" Purgatory GRIDs on the Stumpjumper feel consistently sluggish. The plus-size Pivot is easier to get around turns and faster to accelerate out of them. They are also less finicky, giving you a 15psi playground to vary your ride quality from super squish to hardpack efficiency.
While we'd pull the 29er for XC trails or race days, the 27.5+ is definitely the go-to version on this bike.
The 27.5+ version is available at Competivite Cyclist.
The 2017 Pivot Mach 429 Trail 29er PRO X01 Eagle currently on sale at Competitive Cyclist, linked above, is listed with different wheels than the bike we tested. Find out more below.
Wheels: The Bike We Tested vs. The Bike For Sale Online
Pivot builds their Mach 429 Trail PRO X01 Eagle bike with DT Swiss XM 421 Wheels with a 25 mm internal width. That's the bike we tested.
In contrast, the Pivot Mach 429 Trail PRO X01 Eagle available for purchase online at Competitive Cyclist, which we link to above, is currently built with DT Swiss M 1700 Spline TWO wheels with a 22.5mm inner width. This may detract from the bike's rocky descent and cornering confidence. The 25mm rims we tested gave us a smaller tire footprint than we'd like and provided less traction and cushion than the other bikes in the test. Even narrower rims would likely exacerbate the effect.
Analysis and Test Results
To find out how the Pivot stacks up against the Yeti SB5.5, Ibis Ripley LS, **Santa Cruz Bronson*, Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie and Intense Recluse we had six expert bike testers race these bikes across mountainsides in a process two years in the making. Check out our How We Tested article for all the nitty-gritty details.
When our three-time trial results are tallied in seconds per minute ridden, the Mach 429 Trail comes in just after the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Pro Carbon 6Fattie and the Yeti SB5.5 in overall speed. We tend to set aside the Specialized results on the technical uphill though, given how painful they were to achieve. That puts the Pivot up front with the super speedy Editors' Choice, the SB5.5.
The two bikes dominate in different ways. The SB5.5 pulls ahead on our techy uphill timed course, The Soul Grinder and wins the hard-hitting downhill test on the punishing Scorpion. Meanwhile, the Pivot dominates the two uphill courses, The Soul Grinder and the smooth and winding Crank. The Ibis Ripley LS joins the Yeti in its downhill focus but performs better on smooth uphill tracks than the rocky ones.
Everything has its place and time. When descending on laid back hardpack singletrack, the Mach 429 Trail arrives. As one tester says, it's "like having a mullet at a Skynyrd concert." The Mach 429 Trail is fast and direct, and that makes it fun, on mellow terrain anyway. Riding the white lighting down a rugged mountainside is a harsh experience. Though the suspension takes everything we toss its way, it doesn't do so gently.
All of our downhill testers had a hard time getting behind the saddle (we dive into this more in the Build section), keeping them from setting up for the techy aspects of our downhill benchmarking time trial course The Scorpion. It was manageable, only feeling consistently desperate for our 5'7", 140lb downhill tester. All told the Mach 429 Trail rides like an aggressive cross country bike, which is what it is. It's a scrappy one though, never abandoning its rider. We rate it a 6 of 10 for its downhill skills. The Yeti SB5.5 takes the top prize at a 9 and the Intense Recluse comes in after the Pivot with a 5 of 10.
Vying with the Ibis Ripley LS for the title of Best Accelerator in the Test the Mach 429 Trail feels like a race machine. It pedals and rolls fast, so you have to think fast to keep it on line. It works great on the smooth straightaways, but that stiff 116mm suspension isn't going to bail you out if you get offline in the rocks. Between all that route finding, suspect tire traction and tall bike cornering skills, the Pivot had us hitting the brakes more than we'd like on our burly downhill time trial course, The Scorpion. As a result, the Mach 429 Trail took at hit in the downhill performance rankings.
The Pivot came in fifth, at an average of 3.9 seconds in front of the last place Intense Recluse. It trailed the more aggressively angled Ibis Ripley LS by 4.6 seconds and came in 5.5 seconds behind the enduro ready Yeti SB5.5. The descending advantage that the burly SB5.5 enjoys over the Mach 429 Trial is obvious. Its extra inch of travel is just one of the factors giving it superior chops on the downhill. But the gap between the Pivot and the 120mm Ripley LS is less so. Especially since the Pivot's suspension actually outperformed the Ibis on bigger hits, never once bottoming out whereas the Ripley LS did so regularly. However, the Ibis had better small bump compliance, more trustworthy tires and fit our riders better, making it easy to shift off the back at will. These factors combine to make us feel more comfortable opening 'er up.
The Mach 429 Trail has a tiered confidence system. It grants conviction in your acceleration and precise handling abilities on hard pack and increases your trail cleaning and friend-beating odds on the climbs. At the same time, it detracts from daring on descents involving knobby rock gardens or steep slabs and just never feels confident in the corners. The svelte 27lb Mach 429 Trail gets a bit rattled in the rough. It's smaller 2.3" Maxxis High Roller II and 2.25" Ardent tires don't help. Their lack of traction stole some confidence in the corners and on the steeps. You have to be heads up in the techy stuff, you can't just black out and charge like you can on the Yeti SB5.5 or Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie.
On technical trails, the Ibis feels more confident and a big part of that is its small bump sensitivity and forgiving Schwalbe Nobby Nic 2.35"/2.35" tires stretched across 34mm rims. We could definitely use some larger cornering knobs on the Mach 429 Trail's tires. Even on smooth tracks, it feels best between 70% to 90% of speed, or even less. At 70% is starts coming to life. After 90%, your fingers start creeping to the brakes. Those tires have you worried about skidding out and your 29er-tall position feels catapult-like. In comparison, the Santa Cruz Bronson comes to life above 80% of speed on smoother trails and you feel confident pushing it all the way up to 100%. (On rougher tracks not so much.)
Fit was also an issue. All four downhill time trial testers had a hard time getting off the back of the bike (read more about the fit in the Build section). It was rarely desperate but still shook confidence and slowed our times down. Bottomline — On the technical descents, where you need to trust your bike the most, the Mach 429 Trail doesn't have the suspension or lower center of gravity to find a good line on its own. It doesn't feel like it's going to take care of you on the descents unless you're on your game.
The Mach 429 Trail is a pistol, but you can't just haywire it down the hill. You have to be on the steering more than the Ibis, Yeti, Specialized or Santa Cruz. Luckily its steering is assertive, predictable and capable of surgical precision on moderate trails or at moderate speed. Unluckily, it can also get twitchy when descending steep pitches and cumbersome in a typical-29er way when rolling slow. It's maneuverable but not the most, i.e. it doesn't have the Yeti's solid steering at speed or the sharp low-speed handling of the Ibis.
More of a traditional 29er than the Yeti or the Ibis, especially at slower speeds, it's hard to pilot the Mach 429 Trail through tight, sharp maneuvers. It rolls fast in a straight line and can turn quickly, but it feels really long in hairpin corners climbing or descending. You can't just swing it around. Our smaller testers (both 5'7" and 140 pounds) felt like they really needed to muscle the bike off of its preferred straight-lining trajectory. (The medium would have probably been a better descending bike for them, though they fit the large on the climb.)
It doesn't have that awkward on stage at a party feel of some 29ers, it's still a big bike. (We tested a large, for more information see the build section). Because of this, we have a few body positioning challenges on the Mach 429 Trail, including the aforementioned challenge of dodging the saddle when seeking a speedy retreat off the back. The bike seems to set you up further forward in the cockpit. If you can't move back fast enough the measured 68° steep head tube angle (the steepest in the test) puts you right over the front wheel, twitching up the downhill steering.
The spry bike is the easiest in the test to pick up and over obstacles, but the tires detract from sturdy steering. They lost traction on The Scorpion's long rock slab on occasion — a combination of the rear tire missing a little bit of suspension and the powerful Shimano Deore XT brakes being easier to lock up than the SRAM Guides on the other bikes. The back tire also spins out on rocks when it's wet.
Still, the Pivot wants to get the job done. While its cross country roots show on roughest trails when the going gets smoother the Mach 429 Trail feels like a trail bike. Point it downhill and do nothing and you'll have a trail-bike amount of time before things feel out of control. A true cross country steed would go rogue, and force action, much faster.
Suspension and Traction
Stacking a 116mm xc/trail bike against uber aggressive trail bikes edging into enduro category is obviously a broad ranging comparison and an informative one. The Pivot's most obvious sparring partner is the other short travel ride, the 120mm Ibis Ripley LS. The two bikes, both featuring anti-squat DW-link suspension systems, took opposing routes.
The Ibis worked to open up small bump compliance within the DW-link's notorious pro-pedal platform, adding extra volume with its Fox Factory Float DPS EVOL rear shock. The Pivot kept it low volume and linear with a straight Fox Factory Float DPS. Thus the Mach 429 Trail has a firm and fast feel to the Ibis's supple sensation in the moderate rock gardens. The Pivot rattles you around and blows through the travel quickly but never bottoms out, unlike the Ibis. (NOTE: We added a volume spacer to the Ripley LS after testing and found it to steepen up the suspension curve enough to reduce running through the travel on the reg). We really appreciated the small bump compliance on the Ibis, its Schwalbe Nobby Nic tires on 34mm rims also helped cushion the smaller hits. We also credit the Mach 429 Trail for standing up better to the bigger hits. It isn't plush, but we never bottomed it out.
The Mach 429 Trail's boosted 130mm Fox Float 34 fork punches above its weight class, aided by an extra stiff front triangle. We suspect this burly joint fusing the top and down tubes keeps the bike from feeling very poppy or playful. Hard to say, but the angle of approach is well worked out, handling the trail in a predictable manner that compliments the 29er wheel size. Still, fist-sized rocks deflect the front wheel, and the head tube can feel steep when you're not in the rear travel. On the bigger hits, the Fox fork also feels abrupt and the small bump compliance isn't the best. Several of our testers prefer pike forks for that reason. It didn't dive or destroy our arms, but it wasn't as smooth as the boosted 150mm Pike RCT3 Solo Air on the Santa Cruz Bronson, 20mm of extra travel always helps.
The Mach 429 Trail is skittish in chop and harsh on big hits. We were more inclined to hop over obstacles than to plow through them. Still, it holds up on the trail and we aren't particularly worried about bottoming out or going over the bars. On smooth trails, everything is glorious, with the front and rear working well together.
The Mach 429 Trail makes climbing easy, winning the metric with a 9 of 10. It edges out the versatile Santa Cruz Bronson by a point and beats the two Editors' Choice winners by two — the Ripley LS and SB5.5 both came in at a 7. Nearly automatic steering, easy maneuvering, great rollover and excellent power transfer have us reaching for the Pivot every time for long climbs. As such, it won the category at a 9 of 10, with the Santa Cruz Bronson in second place at an eight.
On the technical climbs you've got to pick a line, certainly, more than you do on the Yeti SB5.5 and definitely more than the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie and the back tire is wimpy, and can spin out on rock steps. Those are our biggest complaints. On the flip side, i.e. the smooth trails, the Yeti and Specialized feel like much heavier bikes. We'd rather spin around on this light and lively guy any day.
You can feel the Mach 429 Trail's snappy acceleration on the uphill as well. Once you're rolling it feels like a road bike.
The Soul Grinder, Technical Uphill Benchmarking Performance — This climbing speed landed it in third place for the technical uphill climb on The Soul Grinder, more or less tying the Yeti SB5.5 and a 3.2-second step back from the insane skills of the Stumpjumper 6Fattie. But the Mach 429 Trail is a more pleasant and energizing climber than either. You're not expecting a two-minute wind sprint on the Specialized, it doesn't feel appropriate. It feels normal on the Pivot. If you aren't trading off all that work for a descent worthy of the SB5.5 or Stumpjumper 6Fattie, the Mach 429 Trail is your machine.
The Crank, Smooth Uphill Benchmarking Performance — Equally pleasant on the smooth time trial test, The Crank, the Pivot more or less tied for first place with the Santa Cruz Bronson, which came in only 0.3 seconds ahead. While the zippy tires and 29er momentum made sense for the Mach 429, we're not sure how the Bronson pulled it off. The Pivot is the only bike in the test that feels spritely enough to jump into a xc race.
The Mach 429 Trail's two solid racing results make it the fastest overall climber in the test. It's also one of the most balanced climbers, along with the similarly light 29er, the Ibis Ripley LS, and the Santa Cruz Bronson. All three bikes acquit themselves well on the rough and smooth climbs. The Pivot just does so more quickly, and doesn't suffer from the Ripley's pedal striking issue or the Bronson's slower rolling 27.5" wheels. As a result, if both climbing courses were connected, as shown in the chart above, the Pivot would finish 1.9 seconds per minute ridden ahead of the Ibis and 0.6 ahead of the Bronson.
Pedaling the Mach 429 Trail bike on fast rolling singletrack is pure bicycle bliss. It feels quick off the line, holding momentum and rolling way faster than the Intense, Specialized or Santa Cruz. These bikes want to keep a steady pace, while the Pivot can handle stopping and starting, an asset on technical trails. It's a smooth grind standing or sitting, but when you're cranking for speed it feels better in the saddle.
The Pivot has one of the stiffest bottom bracket to drivetrain interfaces in the test, transferring power from the pedals to the gears with very little torque. It's an efficient, stiff drivetrain with solid power transmission. The Mach 429 Trail's suspension also does a really good job of holding the seat tube angle steep enough to pedal the bike even at extreme, rock slab climbing angles. It doesn't drop sag into the bumps. You only get mild feedback on the smoother climbs. It can feel less efficient in chunder, but the power transfer is there.
The Mach 429 Trail is explosive, powering up things easily and begging for more miles. It's a great pick for a sprint finish. If you like an efficient pedaling platform, the Pivot will impress.
Where it can be hard to move off its straight trajectory at downhill speeds, the Mach 429 Trail is easy to handle on the climbs. Direct, responsive, and ridiculously efficient at speed, it's easy to maneuver around obstacles. When rolling slower its big wheels make tight steering a little trickier, but its front end doesn't wander like the Ibis Ripley LS. It's light and easy to wheelie over obstacles. Our weight feels balanced.
Due to its light suspension, it doesn't have the most stable tracking on technical uphills. It won't just plow through the rocks, you have to work it through. Unlike the Yeti, Bronson and Specialized, the Mach 429 Trail jostles underneath you. It isn't that comfortable, but it doesn't get bounced out of line as much as we expected. If you do happen to hit something bigger than you planned, the Mach 429 Trail is quick to bounce back. Overall, it's more at home climbing on the smoother flow trail test — The Lunch Hour Loop.
Suspension and Traction
The Mach 429 Trail's suspension is strict but proficient. The stiff head tube makes the fork feel rugged and capable and the bike has a balanced feel overall on the climbs. It negotiates the hits surprisingly well, but it takes a lot to get into the travel and, once we're there, we run through it pretty quickly. The bike feels extremely firm. Its shorter suspension means that it doesn't have as much room to ramp up, making it difficult to allow for a subtle initial stroke. So it doesn't have one. The Ibis does, but then it had problems ramping up. It's hard to have it all.
The Mach 429 Trail has good traction in climbing mode, is very efficient in trail mode and is still a strong climber with the shock open. The pedaling platform of the DW-link suspension system is excellent, something we've come to expect. When locked out this bike feels like a hardtail. You barely notice there is a shock at all until you head down the hill.
The aptly named Mach picks up so much speed in the straights that it's hard to shut it down to dive into a steep corner on the descent. The same goes for flat corners. The bike really wants to hold that line, often shooting right to the outside corner. You've got to hit the brakes to get back on track. It's a fight, requiring more agro handling than the Yeti or the Ibis. As a result, the Mach 429 Trail tied with the Stumpjumper 6Fattie for last place in turning skills at a 5 of 10, the Specialized suffering due to its vague feeling at speed.
The Pivot has a high centered, control tower feel and seems like a bigger steed than the Ibis or even the Yeti on occasion. It requires a lot of energy to get the Mach 429 Trail from neutral over to its side knobs to engage the corners. You're pulling over a really tall machine that would much rather stand up and track straight. It's more of a gyroscope than the other bikes. To counteract this you have to lean more. On super steep and tight turns some of our smaller testers (5'7" and 140lbs) just had to slow down and steer through. That doesn't work flawlessly either. Moving up over the front end to properly wrest the handlebars around at slower speeds equaled twitchy handling.
While you'll always have to get back and throw your weight around aggressively to properly lay the Pivot over into a corner, the tires and rim width on this build aren't helping you out when you get there. Because the Mach 429 Trail holds all that momentum, it pushes corners, and there's not enough tread to want to open it up. Even with great trail conditions, we were getting two wheel tire slides on this thing. The Maxxis Ardent on the rear is especially inadequate. There just isn't much tire there and the cornering knobs are unimpressive, to say the least. In contrast the Maxxis Aggressor on the Yeti or Schwalbe Nobby Nick on the Ibis both feel amazing.
It's not horrible though. Less extreme corners on less steep terrain are fine. It has an energizing, light but stable feel. You just rock your body back and roll around. Switching out the tires would go a long way to help.
Complaints turn to praise on the uphill, where the Pivot's precise cornering is awesome. The Mach 429 Trail can cruise around wide corners and pedal out of sharp ones while maintaining a lot of its momentum. Flat corners are a breeze. Snappy even on the steep stairs, the Mach 429 Trail is the easiest bike to get around on our tricky uphill pedal-fest The Soul Grinder. Though if you try powering through the stairs rather than manualing over them, the bike will buck. There's just not enough compliance.
It's not the most fun bike in the test — that would be the venerable Ibis Ripley LS or the silly Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie. They tied at a 9 of 10 for pure playfulness. The Mach 429 Trail comes in fifth with a score of 6. Even the hard-charging Yeti SB5.5 has a better sense of humor, with an 8 of 10. It's more efficient than fun. As one tester explains, "it's like a great employee that you don't want to get a beer with after work" — excellent when you want the job done, not so great at the jokes.
This is especially true on challenging descents. Mostly you're on your game, just trying to get down. Its speedy nature and the slight twitchiness you can get steering through rocky terrain can feel playful, but it's not the type of lively we prefer. The Mach 429 Trail is balanced off the jumps and launches, but we didn't twist the handlebars or anything. This bike means business.
The Mach 429 Trail does fun better on flow descents, but still barely manages a smug, speed-induced smirk. Smoother uphill climbing is awesome. Climbers demanding a well-engineered ride will be very happy. Where this bike really gives you the grins is on an all-day cruise ride. When flying along singletrack for miles and miles, it has cross country skills with a trail bike feel. That'll make you smile.
Pivot set this bike up with a nice, speed focused build. We rated it a 7 of 10, just behind the Santa Cruz Bronson at a 9 and Yeti SB5.5 at an 8. The Ibis falls behind at a 6 of 10 for its too-easy-to-top-out rear shock.
Cockpit and Fit
As mentioned above, we tested the large Mach 429 Trail. We recognize that it's a little odd to test one large bike against five competing bikes in medium frame sizes. Here's the story:
In 2016, we ordered the medium-size Pivot Mach 6 for our enduro mountain bike review, based on the company's 5'7" to 5'10" sizing recommendations for our 5'7" to almost 5'10" testers. Nonetheless, we had fit problems on the Mach 6, centering around its short, 397mm reach and 71.8° seat tube angle. When we chose the Mach 429 Trail for our 2017 trail bike review, we debated which frame size to pick for this round. Based on Pivot's sizing recommendations on their website, and decided to purchase a medium bike.
Pivot Sizing, Mach 429 Trail:
S (5'4 — 5'8"), M (5'7" — 5'10"), L (5'10" — 6'2"), XL (6'2"+)
In addition to the frame sizing guidelines listed on their website, Pivot also recommends seeing a Pivot dealer for a precise fit.
During this process, we spoke to Chris Cocalis, President/CEO, of Pivot. He suggested we size up to a large in order to get a longer top tube that would better align with the style of our aggressive test riders. Mr. Cocalis said, with regard to our 2016 review of the Mach 6: "For those that are either not as aggressive or prefer more traditional geometry, the size medium would work fine. All our enduro and more aggressive riders size up." Mr. Cocalis also noted that this is an intentional design feature of Pivot bikes, being able to size by body type and riding style (another good reason to visit a trained Pivot dealer to get properly fitted).
It's a cool concept — a bike that you size according to the rider's style as well as physical size — but, it didn't work flawlessly for us. The large definitely fits our testers better for the climbs and felt good on most descents. But, even after our efforts to find the right size, the Mach 429 Trail's fit did not work as well for our testers on aggressive descents as the competing bikes.
All four downhill testers had a hard time getting behind the saddle. After finding that the dropper post and seat tube put the saddle at a descending height in line with the other test bikes, we think the issue is the cockpit's forward of center body positioning. The reach feels a little short for the top tube length when riding aggressive descents. This means you have a longer distance to travel to beat a hasty retreat behind the seat.
Bottomline: We found the sizing sweet spot to be narrow on both the 2016 Mach 6 and 2017 Mach 429 Trail and harder to hit than the competing brands we tested. The company's recommendation to seek out a Pivot dealer to get a proper fit seems wise and a more important step with Pivot than with other manufacturers.
Frame and Suspension — The boosted 130mm Fox 34 Factory fork and the Fox Factory Float DPS rear shock work well together on smoother sections and big hits. Everything in between is rough enough to affect handling stability and confidence levels. Subtleness early in the stroke is not the Mach 429 Trail's strong point.
The frame's front triangle is very rigid, increasing stability and the stiffness of the fork. The rear suspension linkage function solidly but the seatpost height does seem too lofty for the other proportions of the frame.
Groupset — We loved the function of the SRAM X01 eagle drivetrain, with smooth, pleasant shifting and a near-enough to endless gear ratio, BUT we busted three chains during testing, on three separate bikes. When the Pivot went, it went big. Tossing our tester into a crumpled heap to the side of the trail. Luckily no one was injured, but we don't take chain failure lightly.
The Shimano Deore XT brakes feel amazing. We all like them, but the transition from the SRAM Guides on the other bikes is always startling. The Shimanos are more grabby, taking less finger strength effort at the lever to slow your roll. Mixing SRAM eagle shifters with the Shimano brakes came at a cost though. They don't mount on the same bracket. This places two brackets side-by-side, making it harder to micro adjust their relative positions. If you get the shifting lever in perfect placement, the brake must go on one side or the other (and vice versa). That's a pretty big leap. Only one tester really had a problem with it, and some feel this adds more adjustability than a matchmaker clamp would. It's not a deal breaker but can be an annoyance.
Handlebars, Seat and Seatpost — The fat and soft Phoenix Lock on grips are comfortable for resting but less so for riding. The Phoenix Carbon Riser handlebar is fine if a little narrow at 740mm.
One of our testers like the extra substance on the WTB Vigo saddle, but the rest of us felt like it was just too wide. We'd like something narrower, especially when dropping back for control on the descents or steep turns. There it was a major problem, making some of our testers feel a little desperate trying to dodge it quickly. The 150mm Fox Transfer Hydraulic dropper post serves its purpose, but we don't love the lever.
Wheels and Tires — The Maxxis High Roller II and Ardent front and rear tires mounted on 25mm rims are light and efficient. But, the rims feel really narrow and the overall lack of traction keep these tires from working in the gnar, especially if you encounter the wet. The front tire's poor cornering knobs don't help. Squaring up to a corner has us sliding out every time and we have to slow our cornering approach. The rear tire also looses traction when conditions deviate from the ideal. You can get tossed around a lot. They are fine on hard packed, mellow trails but are less predictable when it gets loose or rocky.
The tire size just wasn't enough for the speed (i.e. aggressive riders who like to go fast) and terrain (i.e. mountains with rocks). We'd like a wider set that we could put some confidence in, like the endless traction offered by the Ibis Ripley LS's Schwalbe Nobby Nics mounted on 35mm rims. The rear Maxxis Minion DHR2 on the Santa Cruz Bronson has superior traction on wet rocks.
We'd take the Mach 429 Trail for 30 miles on an aggressive xc trail. It's not your shuttle ride machine. If you mostly ride flowy trails with a minimum of techy / big-hit descents and want to be able to hang with the xc crowd, this bike is a great pick. Adding the Ibis's wider rim wheels and tires and possibly a volume spacer in the rear shock to make it more progressive, letting you use less air pressure and get a little better small bump compliance would widen the range of trails this Pivot could attack.
With the lowest price in the test, the Pivot Mach 429 Trail's value is solid. When you add in the optional 150mm Fox Transfer Hydraulic dropper post, the Pivot's price rises from $5,999 to $6,263. At this price, it's still $786 less than the Yeti SB5.5, $336 under the Santa Cruz Bronson and Ibis Ripley LS, and $237 less than the Specialized Stumpjumper 6Fattie. It's also, $1,036 less than the Intense Recluse. Finishing in fourth place in a tight race as the least expensive bike in the test translates to a well-priced ride. Its build also features high-quality components, giving you a lot of bike for the price.
This 116mm xc/trail bike pushes past the more aggressive trail bikes on the climb and is a scrappy descender for its weight class. It climbs like a dream and, while it's just not as fun on the downs, the experience could be quickly improved by some wider rims and burlier tires. If you only hit the occasional rocky section and tend towards smoother trails this is a great bike for you as is.
— Clark Tate, Curtis Smith, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal, Sean Cronin, Cat Keenan, Otto Trebotich
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