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Bike Test: Two Pivot Mach 429s for Two Different Riders

November 25, 2013
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Considering the success of the aluminum Pivot Mach 429, one might think Pivot could simply create a carbon copy (get it?) and call it a day. Not inclinded to rest on their laurels, however, Pivot took what they learned from the original 429, further revised the geometry and dw-link suspension, and pushed the limits once again with the Mach 429 Carbon.

With its lighter weight and stiffer frame, the 429 Carbon is more versatile than the aluminum 429?and that is saying a lot. Versatility was a highlight of the original 429. We’ve seen aluminum 429s raced in cross-country events, used for endurance events, and ridden as a do-it-all trailbike and, in each case, they put a smile on the face of the rider.

To illustrate the very different roles their new frame can play, Pivot set us up with two 429 Carbon test bikes, each built with a different rider in mind. One bike was spec’ed as the ultimate trailbike, designed to rip both up and down trails. The other was spec’ed as a featherweight cross- country rig bent on crushing climbs and getting to the finish line first. We’ll call it the 429 XC.

Pivot places a high priority on frame stiffness to get the most performance out of their full-suspension platforms. Like the Mach 5.7 Carbon, the 429 Carbon’s frame is formed using Pivot’s own hollow-box internal molding process, resulting in a denser carbon structure with smoother internal walls. According to Pivot, this creates a lighter, stiffer and stronger frame.

The frame’s tubes are noticeably more robust to improve lateral stiffness, and the 429 Carbon uses a 1 1/8-inch to 1 1/2-inch tapered head tube; 92-millimeter, Press-Fit bottom bracket; and a 142×12-millimeter rear thru-axle. The one-piece carbon rear triangle is also connected via oversized dw-link pivot axles.

Pivot Mach 429 Trail

Pivot Mach 429 XC

Each bike is essentially a dream build for its intended use. With the beautiful design, execution of the carbon frames and the no-holds-barred parts specs, it’s hard to know where to focus your attention. 

Both bikes are equipped with Fox Factory-series suspension components with Kashima coating and CTD damper technology. The 429 Carbon is designed to work with either a 3.9- or 4.7-inch fork. The 429 XC build featured a 3.9-inch Fox Float, and our trail build came equipped with a 4.7-inch fork.

Fox tunes the shocks specifically for Pivot’s dw-link rear suspension. This design needs very little assistance from the shock to provide a firm pedaling platform for the rider. 

The trail build got the top-of-the-line Shimano treatment. The XTR 2×10 drivetrain featured their Shadow Plus rear derailleur, and XTR Trail brakes handled the stopping  duties?and then some. The DT Swiss wheelset featured bulletproof 240 hubs and tubeless-ready XM 450 TL rims.

The KS LEV is a favorite dropper seatpost, so we were naturally pleased to find the 4.9-inch-drop version on our green machine.

Our black 429 Carbon was decked out as if it were ready to be wheeled to the starting line of a World Cup cross-country race. SRAM’s new XX1 1×11 drivetrain feels right at home on this build, keeping the overall weight down and the cockpit clutter-free thanks to the single Grip Shift. In true Pivot fashion, they even machined an elegant, anodized cover for the unused, direct front-derailleur mount.  

The Magura MT-8 brakes feature a carbon lever and are some of the lightest brakes available. To top off this light-weight build, Pivot equipped our race bike with DT Swiss carbon tubular wheels.

Moving out: Setting up the 429 Carbon is incredibly easy. Pivot takes the guesswork out of the equation by including a sag gauge on the shock. The rider position was slightly different on each bike, thanks to different cockpit geometries, but the rider weight placement felt similar?fairly neutral with a slight rearward bias.

The trailbike came with a 90-millimeter stem with positive-rise, 29.5-inch-wide handlebars and a taller stack height under the stem. This setup, along with the slacker head angle created by the longer fork, had us sitting up in a taller, more relaxed position.

The race build took a more aggressive approach, with a 110-millimeter stem flipped for a negative rise and 27.5-inch bars set 10 millimeters lower on the steerer tube. The more-aggressive, forward-leaning race position gave credence to the claim that the 429 Carbon can fill multiple roles.

Cornering: Pivot wanted the 429 Carbon to roll like a 29er but turn like a 26er. Mission accomplished. From the first switchback we tackled, we knew Pivot had hit on something special. The 429 can carve very tight lines around corners, and the short rear end follows without hesitation.

Its nimble nature isn’t the whole story, though. The 429 also gets it done on fast sweepers where the stiff chassis and dialed suspension really shine. The dw-link keeps the rear end active and hooked up.

Drop the KS LEV seatpost and the 429 gets even better in the cornering department. Being able to move the bike around underneath us without the saddle getting in the way increased our confidence and performance.

While we couldn’t drop the saddle on the fly on the race build, the supple Geax Saguaro sew-up tubular tires certainly added something to the mix. We had to experiment with tire pressure, but the tubular tires’ ability to conform to the trail surface was seriously impressive.

Climbing: Pivot has a reputation for building bikes with class-leading climbing ability. So with two carbon rocket ships at the ready, we knew we were in for a treat. The dw-link suspension does a great job balancing a snappy feel at the pedals with enough give to eat up climbs littered with square-edge bumps and keep the rear wheel gripping the trail.

Thanks to a beefier tire setup, a dropper post and other trail-specific amenities, the trail build is 5 pounds heavier than the race version. Even with the additional weight, however, the 429 gets up and goes.

At just over 23 pounds with pedals, our race build could hold its own against the lightest 29er, full-suspension race bikes we’ve ridden. As snappy as the trail build felt, the featherweight race bike was on another level. The tubular wheels shined on the climbs. With their low rotational weight, any bit of effort was met with instant acceleration, and the added suppleness of the tires helped the bike stick like glue to the trail.

Descending: Twenty-niners all have one trait in common: let them roll on an open descent, and they’ll take off like a runaway freight train. The big wheels come through when you let it loose on descents. The suspension eats up trail chatter and inspires confidence, especially for a short-travel trailbike. 

Once again, dropping the KS LEV post pushed our trail build to new highs. With the wide tires, extra inch of travel up front and the resulting 1-degree-slacker head angle, we found ourselves charging hard on descents that normally inspire more reserve when we are riding a 4-inch-travel bike. In rougher trail conditions, however, we found ourselves wishing for an extra inch of travel in the rear as well to better match the fork’s plushness.

The race-oriented riding position of our light- weight build tested riders’ downhill skills more than the point-and-shoot trail model. When compared to other race bikes, however, the 429 is clearly a front runner in the descending department, even if it can’t compete with its trail-oriented brother.

Braking: The dw-link suspension is designed to provide a solid pedaling platform and separate braking and suspen- sion forces. The rear end follows the contour of the trail, even under heavy braking, and doesn’t lock up and skip around. This is an especially critical feature for light-weight bikes that have a tendency for the rear end to break loose quite easily.

With an active suspension platform under heavy braking and a set of Shimano XTR Trail brakes, you just can’t go wrong. Confidence is the word here.

Just like the trail model, the race build performed really well in the braking department. While the Magura MT-8s don’t feel nearly as powerful as the XTR stoppers, they are asked to stop a much lighter bike. 

The Kenda Honey Badger tires were okay in most conditions, but we found an extra bit of performance on our loose-over-hardpack trails with a set of WTB Wolverines. The swap gave us a more confident bite in corners, allowing us to push the bike even harder. It also saved a few ounces.

The tubular tire setup isn’t a standard build kit offered by Pivot, and that may be for the best. While the ride is incredibly supple and smooth, a tubular setup means that the tire and tube are sewn together and need to be bonded to the rim with a specific gluing process. This is not an easy task, and certainly not one you want to deal with when you suffer a puncture 15 miles from home.

Picking a favorite between these two bikes comes down to the rider. As a daily driver, we would clearly gravitate toward the trail build; however, if we were looking to crush a time on a climb or enter a cross-country race, of course we would choose the race build. The beauty is that both of these scenarios are possible with one chassis.

Pivot has always impressed us with the quality craftsmanship and attention to detail that go into every one of its topnotch performers. The Mach 429 Carbon is no exception. With quick, confident handling and a dialed pedaling platform that blends race efficiency with trail comfort, the Pivot Mach 429 Carbon is simply one of the best 29er trailbikes we have ever swung a leg over. Whether you are looking to build a super-light-weight race bike or an all-around, trail-devouring machine, Pivot can dial in a Mach 429 Carbon for you.

This test first appeared in the June 2013 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine. Every month (we have 12 issues a year because we never take a month off) contains bike tests, product tests and everything related to mountain biking. You can start a subscription by clicking here.


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