Throwback Thursday: Bike Test: Pivot Mach 4 (from January 2015)

Pivot cycles was founded by Chris Cocalis in 2007 because he wanted to pursue his passion for building bikes that push the envelope. The company’s designs pay homage to the belief that technology can better a riding experience, but that’s not the only guiding principle for Pivot. Each bike is carefully designed to meet the needs of real trail riders, and that’s exactly who the Mach 4 is designed for: real riders.

WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The Mach 4 is lightweight with enough suspension travel to ride trails comfortably, fast, and even a little aggressively with the right pilot at the controls. It is the lightest full suspension bike Pivot has ever made and sports more travel than most of the bikes in this category, making it rugged enough to tackle rock gardens, bermed corners and technical descents.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The Mach 4 is built entirely from carbon with a short chainstay, roomy top tube, low bottom bracket and incredibly stiff chassis. The bike sports 4.5 inches (115 millimeters) of rear wheel travel, a tapered head tube, a 12 by 142-millimeter rear axle, and is built around 27.5-inch wheels and a 120-millimeter travel fork. The bike is also available with over 10 different build kits to suit nearly any budget.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

The XTR Di2 drivetrain is a no-brainer here, but we’ll get to that later. The frame finish of the Mach 4 is well executed. It features seamless routing for the Di2 system, including rubber friction grommets that keep the cables in place without pinching them. If electronic shifting isn’t your thing, the Mach 4 frame also includes a separate set of cable guides that work with the internal routing and any mechanical group. Pivot’s attention to detail and options for every rider’s component preference is impressive.

There are plenty of other standouts here, including the Reynolds Black Label wheels that feature top-end carbon rims, DT-Swiss Supercomp bladed spokes, and our perennial favorite DT 240 hubs. These wheels are lightweight, snappy, and completely “murdered out” to complete the ultimate fast-bike look.

The Maxxis Ardent Race tire setup provides plenty of traction in a lightweight and fast-rolling package. The high-volume, 2.2-inch wide casing also provides a nice and supple ride.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: Pivot makes the initial setup very easy with the included sag guide. The plastic shock measuring tool zip-ties to the air sleeve and gives perfect guidelines for recommended sag, including different recommendations for race and trail riding applications. We set the bike to the “trail” mode for the duration of the test, at about 25 percent. We then matched the fork to the same sag and hit the trails.

Moving Out: Before you even throw a leg over the Mach 4, you’ll think the size you’re used to riding is a size small. That’s thanks to an impressive sloping top tube design that gives loads of standover height. Our large sized test bike fit true to size for the important measurements, like effective top tube length and seat tube length, so we just sat back and appreciated the extra clearance. Pivot even found a way to fit a full-sized water bottle into the frame, although you’ll need to flip the shock so the CTD lever faces up to get the clearance.

Pedaling: Pivot’s interpretation of the dw-Link suspension design is a little more plush than others we’ve ridden, but it still sports the anti-squat characteristics we’ve come to know and love when the pedals are pushed. Out of the gate, the Mach 4 feels plenty snappy, and there’s no pedal bob if you use the “Trail” mode on the Fox CTD shock. In fact, we rarely found and need to use the “Climb” mode on the shock simply because the anti-squat works to do most of the pedal bob resistance for you.

Climbing: The ultra-lightweight build of this Mach 4 helps it ascend like a homesick angel. While many will scoff at the price of this particular build, much of the climbing ability of the Mach 4 can be attributed to the frame design, and the pedaling efficiency will be there regardless of which parts are bolted to it. We enjoyed the combination of pedaling efficiency with just a bit of suspension forgiveness for technical climbing. For most riders, simply setting the CTD shock to the “trail” mode will give this bike a perfectly balanced feel for any type of ascent.

Cornering: The Mach 4 sports a relatively short wheelbase and chainstay length, matched with a racy 69-percent head angle. This makes the bike feel lively and quick on the trail, just like a race bike should.

Descending: Most bikes that feel light and fast enough to dice it up on a cross-country racecourse feel twitchy and harsh on the descents. With the proper suspension setup, this is hardly the case with the Mach 4. The bike takes full advantage of its 115 millimeters of travel over rocks and chunder, making steep and technical descents a real possibility.

The Mach 4 tends to stay planted to the ground, and test riders were able to find the bike’s limitations on some drops and jumps that the bike was clearly not built for. That said, though, the suspension feels surprisingly plush and active as the frame digs past the “anti-squat” point in the stroke. As the bike digs deeper, it begs the rider to push faster through small rock gardens and technical trails.

Braking: Pivot’s take on the dw-Link suspension design does a great job of isolating both pedaling and braking inputs from the suspension. As a result, this bike feels active whether the rider is pedaling through a tough section or is hard on the brakes preparing for a corner. Enough said.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

The 65-millimeter carbon dropper post from KS is a super-light option for those looking for just enough saddle drop to tackle technical descents, but it’s still not as light as a rigid post, which gram-counting cross-country racers will prefer. Likewise, those who want to push the envelope on the descents will prefer a full 100-millimeter dropper post.

The stock Pivot grips didn’t provide enough clamping force out of the box to stay put on the bar. We swapped them for a pair of ODI Ruffians after the first ride.

The Mach 4’s remarkably great standover clearance comes at a bit of a price, placing the shock’s CTD lever far from the rider. If you like to tinker with shock adjustments on the fly, you should experiment with mounting the shock upside down to move the lever just a bit closer to your fingertips.

BUYING ADVICE

The Mach 4 will put a smile on a rider’s face who is looking for the “new generation trail bike” that uses a short-travel platform and makes the most of it. The Mach 4 is lightweight, responsive, and capable of handling more technical terrain than the mere 115 millimeters of travel would have you believe.

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