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Pivot Trail 429 Race XT 2019 Review

A quick-handling trail bike that flys uphill like a cross country bike.
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Price:  $4,699 List | $4,799.00 at Competitive Cyclist
Pros:  excellent climbing abilities, sharp handling, very fast on the right terrain
Cons:  performance on sustained rock, lofty price of entry
Manufacturer:   Pivot Cycles
By Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal  ⋅  Aug 20, 2018
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#16 of 25
  • Fun Factor - 25% 7
  • Downhill Performance - 35% 5
  • Climbing Performance - 35% 9
  • Ease of Maintenance - 5% 5

Our Verdict

The Pivot Trail 429 is a zippy, xc-minded, trail bike with very impressive climbing abilities. For 2019, the Trail 429 has replaced the popular Mach 429 model in the Pivot lineup. The Trail 429 adds a small amount of travel, slacker angles, and a slightly more airy cockpit. Three professional mountain bike testers spent ten days riding this new bike as much as humanly possible. The Trail 429 is a great bike for those who like a sporty short-travel bike with tight handling and tremendous climbing abilities. This bike is best riding terrain with intermittent technical features. It carves and slashes its way down singletrack with impressive composure. Things are less pleasant in longer rock gardens. The 429 can navigate boney and technical terrain, but it requires some finesse and a good bit of precision. Climbing abilities are very impressive and we don't hesitate to call this bike one of the best climbers we have ridden. We tested the Race XT build kit which sells for $4699 and features a mixed bag of components. It is easy to call this bike a solid value for the right rider.

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Our Analysis and Test Results

Should I Buy This Bike?

Pivot states the Trail 429 is "brilliant just about everywhere. It accelerates and climbs like a cross-country bike yet more than holds its own on tough terrain." We find this to be a somewhat accurate assessment. While it certainly pedals like a cross-country bike, saying that it is "brilliant just about everywhere" is a stretch. It can hold its own on rougher and technical downhills, but it is far from brilliant in that situation. The 429 is a great bike for the right buyer. Cross country minded riders who value stellar climbing and sharp handling will love this bike. This bike is best suited for flowy to moderate trails with few big rock gardens. Oh yeah, it is fast too.

Those interested in a short-travel 29er that is more nimble and playful should check out the fun-loving and zippy Ibis Ripley. The Ripley gives up some climbing abilities and pure speed in the name of a raucous good time. The Ripley offers sharper handling, better traction, and slightly better attitude on chunky trails. The Trail 429 is still a better option for those concerned with maximizing efficiency and speed. The 2.6-inch tires and wide rims on the Ripley slightly reduce scrolling speed by creating a bit of drag. That said, the wider tires offer excellent traction and a little extra damping. The Ripley is available in carbon fiber only with prices starting at $4099.

The Santa Cruz Tallboy is another bike worth mentioning in this category. The Tallboy features 110mm of rear wheel travel and sits somewhere in between the Trail 429 and the Ripley. The Tallboy isn't quite as frolicsome as the Ripley and it isn't quite as dialed of a climber as the 429. One key reason you may want to choose the Tallboy over the Ibis and the Pivot is the fact that it is available in aluminum build kits at far lower prices. Build kits start at a very reasonable $2699. The significantly lower cost of entry can be critical for alot of buyers.

If your looking for a short-travel 29er that punches above its weight class, the Transition Smuggler rides bigger than the 120mm of travel suggests. This bike is a better choice for the rider who wants to retain a little mid-travel attitude on their short-travel rig. The Smuggler has the ability to ride bigger lines with impressive composure. Small bump compliance is excellent and does pretty well on bigger impacts. That said, the Smuggler can't come close to matching the zippy acceleration, handling, and excellent climbing abilities of the 429. The Transition is available in carbon fiber and aluminum with prices starting at $2999.

Frame Design

The Trail 429 uses DW-Link suspension and has 120mm of rear wheel travel. The DW-Link design is a dual link system that uses one link just above the bottom bracket and another link about ¾ of the way up the seat tube. As the travel activates, both links rotate in the same direction. This design offers an excellent climbing platform and nice performance under braking forces. One of the downfalls is that the small bump compliance can be mediocre.

We measured our medium Trail 429. We measured a 612mm effective top tube and 442mm reach measurement. The chainstays came out to 431 and the wheelbase was found to be 1166mm. The head tube angle was 67.2-degrees while the effective seat tube angle was measured to be 74.2-degrees.

Our test bike hit the scales and came in at 29 lbs 14 oz without pedals and set up tubeless.

Design Highlights

  • Accommodates 29-inch (tested) and 27.5+ wheels
  • Designed around 130mm fork. Also accepts 140mm fork.
  • Carbon fiber only
  • 1x drivetrains only
  • 10-year warranty
  • Runs metric shocks

Downhill Performance

The Trail 429 offers a reliable and sharp-handling downhill experience. This bike can ride some rocky and rough trails, but you need to use a good deal of finesse and dial the speed back a few notches. The Pivot is far more fun carving down flowy trails with intermittent rock gardens. The component grouping worked fairly well given this bike's intended application.

This bike descends quite well if we consider its intended use. This 120mm trail bike undoubtedly leans more towards the cross country application rather than trying to hang with the mid-travel crowd. If we keep that in mind, the 429 holds its own on the descent. While this is not the best for carrying speed through chunder, it can always make it through. The rear suspension could be described as sporty and tight rather than plush. This description of the suspension feel may sound like a criticism. That said, when you're hammering out of a corner and getting on the gas, the tighter suspension is beneficial to supreme power transfer. It shouldn't be a surprise that this bike isn't meant to plow through rocks.

The 67.2-degree head tube angle is slack enough to be stable at moderate to high speeds on most terrain. The reasonable head tube angle allows the 429 to steer quite well in most situations. At slow to mid speeds, this bike operates with excellent precision. Rider input immediately transfers to the bike. At high to very high speeds this super quick steering can feel a little twitchy. It takes a dose of speed to feel that way, but the 429 isn't one of those bikes that feels better at a blazing pace.

The component grouping was decent. Given this trail bike's cross-country attitude, it makes sense to run a mid-width pairing of a 2.4-inch Maxxis DHR/Rekon. If you are using this bike as a trail bike with no intention of racing, a meatier tire combination would be beneficial. The added grip and extra damping provided by a 2.5 or even 2.6-inch rubber would be beneficial. The 130mm Fox 34 Performance fork was serviceable but felt a little flimsy when pushed hard.

Climbing Performance

The Trail 429 is an excellent climber. This bike offers a firm and ultra-efficient pedal platform that has plenty of pep. This bike crawls up technical climbs very effectively, but we wouldn't necessarily call the 429 comfortable over rocks and roots. The geometry is spot-on despite a slightly cramped top tube. The component grouping is effective on the climb.

The 429 sets you up for success. When perched in the saddle, you are smack dab on top of the cranks. With your hips right above the bottom bracket, your pedal stroke is very direct. Testers found the top tube on our medium test bike to be on the lighter side of the spectrum. It is by no means debilitating and the 442mm reach number seems about average for a medium frame. That said, all three testers stated that the bike felt short.

The Pivot is very impressive when scurrying uphill. There essentially no energy wasted into the suspension. The 429 along with the Yeti SB4.5 are the most efficient climbers we have ridden in the past year. With the climb switch open this bike does just fine. Standing or seated, there is just enough suspension movement to maintain traction without bobbing. With the climb switch in the middle position, the pedal platform is even more impressive. The shock stays high in its stroke and doesn't settle into a low, geometry-killing, sag point.

Climbing over rough and technical terrain is fast and confident but the trail surface is significantly translated to the rider. This isn't necessarily a negative as the rider looking into a short travel bike should not be expecting an especially plush ride. The suspension remains active enough to offer great traction on rough and rocky trails, but be prepared to feel it.

The 429's uphill handling is impressive. The direct steering and shorter wheelbase allow this bike to change direction relatively quickly. The measured 431mm chainstays can be a curse and a blessing. While they create a nice, stiff, rear end, they can be problematic on steeper turns where the rider is seated. A quick punch of power can cause the front end to lift and loop out. The short chainstay pulls the rear axle inward to the bottom bracket and provides a little less stability in this situation. This is by no means a crippling problem, but you need to pay attention when your seated and powering through a technical uphill turn.


The Trail 429 is a perfect example of a bike that does what it does very well. It is a fantastic climber, offers sharp handling, and is serviceable on the descent. Our test bike retails for $4699 with a solid build kit featuring a Shimano XT 1x11 drivetrain, SLX brakes, and Fox Performance suspension. While this bike carries a sizeable price tag, it delivers stellar performance and could be a fantastic choice for the right rider. It is easy to call this bike a solid value.


The Pivot Trail 429 offers impressive climbing abilities, quick-handling and a personality that leans towards the cross country side of the trail bike spectrum. When aimed downhill, this bike is capable, but it shies away from rough trails and super high speeds. The Trail 429 operates very well within its comfort level. This is a stellar option for the rider who wants a cross-country weapon with a little bit of extra travel and more relaxed angles.

Pat Donahue, Joshua Hutchens, Paul Tindal