Bike Test: Pivot Mach 429 Trail

When Pivot introduced the Mach 429, they intended to build a bike worthy of cross-country racing without compromising the trail-worthy capabilities the company is renowned for building into their designs. The 429SL was the most recent iteration, and while we’ve tested bikes that are lighter and racier on paper, we’d be hard- pressed to find another super-lightweight cross-country bike that could tick as many boxes as it did. The 429SL (tested in the April 2015 issue) is an exceptional bike, but the 429 Trail seeks to take it a step further.

The 429 Trail is designed to take the chassis of the 429SL and make it more user-friendly. The geometry is slightly relaxed to cater to a more aggressive riding style and open the door to more technical terrain than a typical cross-country course has. The cable routing is external to keep maintenance easy for the DIY guys. Heck, the price is even significantly lower than the 429SL’s. We imported one of these Arizona-built beauties to see if the “made to do everything well” Pivot Mach 429 Trail could live up to the hype.

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WHO IS IT MADE FOR?

The 429 Trail is the quintessential do-it-all trailbike. It’s not built as a cross-country race bike. There are plenty of bikes that are lighter and faster, including the 429SL and Les hardtail, that will propel you to the finish line faster. It’s also not a gravity junkie, although the designers of the 429 Trail let on that this is the bike of choice for Pivot enduro racers on some of the more pedal-intensive courses.

The 429 Trail splits the difference between weight savings and an aggressively stiff and durable build with a frame that’s designed to pedal well and still get a little rowdy on the descents. The bike certainly doesn’t need a shuttle to make it to the top of the hill, but it also won’t stray away from tackling some of the nastier and steeper lines on the trail. It’s built to be a confidence-inspiring trailbike, one that will do nearly any ride you can think of but will excel at the ones in the meat of the bell curve.

Pivot-5Heart of the beast: The suspension rides on all cartridge bearings and uses a multi-link design. Pivot has done their homework to tuck the rear wheel as tight as possible to keep the chainstays and wheelbase short. This keeps the bike’s handling quite nimble and lively on the trail.

WHAT IS IT MADE FROM?

The 429 Trail is the most affordable version of the 429, and it’s built from carbon fiber through and through using Pivot’s Hollow Core internal molding. The bike is designed around a 120-or 130-millimeter fork and gets 116 millimeters of dw-link suspension in the rear. The bike is built around 29-inch hoops and uses the newest “standards” available, including a Boost 148-millimeter rear axle and a press-fit bottom bracket with a removable front derailleur mount to keep the aesthetics clean should you run a single-ring drivetrain. The bike has internal routing for dropper posts, but leaves all other cables and hoses externally routed for ease of maintenance.

Pivot-7Swift shifts: Shimano’s new side-swing front derailleur performs well enough that several of our test riders are rethinking their single-ring-only mentality. However, Pivot makes the front derailleur mount complete- ly removable and streamlined for those single-ring diehards out there.

WHICH COMPONENTS STAND OUT?

Our bike came equipped with the Pro 2X kit with upgrades to DT Swiss XMC Carbon Boost wheels and a KS LEV dropper post. The kit leaves little room for upgrades and worked well for the duration of the test. The new Shimano XT drivetrain proved that it’s still the workhorse group for Shimano and provided smooth XTR-like shifting throughout our test period. The new side-swing XT front derailleur is so crisp and snappy, we’d have a hard time recommending a single-ring setup as an “upgrade.” For riders who want the extra gear range, this component proves that there’s really no downside. The house-brand Phoenix carbon bar does not look like an inexpensive part. It’s right on par with any high-end carbon bar on the market and delivered a nice feel that all of our testers got used to almost immediately.

Pivot-6Boost 148: The Mach 429 Trail uses the latest rear-axle spacing at 148 millimeters wide. This allows the designers to keep the rear end short to improve handling while improving stiffness.

HOW DOES IT PERFORM?

Setting sag: The Mach 429 is very sensitive to changes in suspension air pressure, and that’s by design. The bike comes equipped with a sag-o-meter strapped to the shock that aids setup and lets the rider know that a firmer setup will result in a more cross-country and efficient feel. The softer “trail” sag setup is what we spent most of our time riding, simply because it made the 116 millimeters of travel feel like even more.

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Moving out: The external cable routing may not look quite as streamlined and clean as internal routing; however, any mechanic will tell you that it’s much easier to work on. This is also a smart way for Pivot to keep the cost of the frame lower without sacrificing any of the ride quality. We’re all for it.

The 429 Trail looks much like its cross-country race counter- part, but with a bit of an aggressive attitude adjustment. The sizing is spot-on for nearly any trail rider, with a low-slung top tube that keeps the standover height low. Our stock size-large bike fit our tall test riders well, even with a relatively short 70-millimeter stem. The ability to run a shortish stem without feeling cramped is a big plus for a trailbike like this one.

Pivot-9Just plain fun: The Mach 429 Trail is aimed at the widest cross section of riders. While it’s not going to be happy as a cross-country race rocket, nor as a bike-park sled, it will be a great companion for nearly any trail rider.

Climbing and pedaling: On paper the 429SL looks like the “best climber” in Pivot’s full-suspension lineup. While it’s true the SL sheds a little frame weight, making it a better choice for gram-counting racers, the Trail ascends exceptionally well. The dw-Link suspension has a fair amount of anti-squat built into the top end of the travel, which means it climbs with minimal suspension bob whether or not you use the compression damper on the shock to make it firm. We really only had the urge to use the lever on pavement and fire-road climbs, although we could easily say that this is one bike that doesn’t really need a “climbing switch.”

Pivot-SpreadBuilt to shred: The Mach 429 Trail might look like a short-travel 29er on paper, but we can attest that this thing shreds. It hides the larger wheels quite well thanks to a well-thought-out geometry that feels fast and fun in the corners.

Cornering: With a relatively short wheelbase and chainstay length, the Mach 429 Trail is lively and fun to throw around in the corners. The rest of its geometry finds a nice balance between high-speed stability and a quick feel that doesn’t throw its cross-country roots out the window. Bottom line: it has a balanced feel that’s both fast and fun to carve through corners.

Pivot-3Dw-link performance: The Mach 429 Trail delivers 116 millimeters of travel via a custom-tuned dw-link design. The bike has slightly more travel than its lighter-weight sibling, the Mach 429SL. With the proper setup, though, it feels like it’s much more.

Descending: With the shock setup with the softer Trail sag setting, the Mach 429 Trail feels like it gets an extra 1/2 inch of travel on the descents. We’ve even been led to believe this is the bike of choice for several of the Pivot enduro athletes when the course is very “pedally”—and we can see why. The bike has a capable but not too aggressive feel on the descents. A skilled shredder should easily be able to keep up with riders on bikes with more travel. The 429 has a controlled feel throughout the travel, and while there are some bikes with slightly more supple small-bump compliance, the suspension is remarkably plush in the middle of the travel and has a slight ramp at the end of it. This makes for a bike that’s both lively and controlled on surprisingly aggressive terrain. The bike also has a very fun and “flickable” feel; it loves to find the more aggressive lines, including some small jumps and drops. We found ourselves taking the “fast lines” on our favorite descents, even on the first ride.

Pivot-8Capable nature: The bike impressed us on some of our more technical tracks, and even tackled some impressively sizable jumps and drops on our first few rides out. The bike is certainly not a gravity junkie, but we can see why this is the choice of Pivot enduro team riders for more pedal-intensive tracks.

TRICKS, UPGRADES OR TIPS?

This bike is worthy of a dropper post, but none of the stock kits for this bike come with one. Plan to build this into the price tag. Pivot will even include the upgraded post with your kit for a small upcharge.

On our first ride the cables in front of the handlebar made a considerable amount of noise pinging against one another. This was easily remedied with a few of Jagwire’s rotating hooks. These are essentially little barbell-looking pieces that keep the cables nicely separated to prevent noise. This would be a welcome addition to any bike with this small issue.

The rear shifter housing is routed under the bottom bracket. Mechanics must be sure they include enough housing for the bike to go all the way through its travel without tugging the cable, which could lead to ghost-shifting.

Pivot-4Simple solution: The external cable routing on the 429 may not look quite as streamlined as an internal-routing setup, but any mechanic worth his salt knows that external routing is much easier to work on. The 429 Trail also features custom-molded downtube and seatstay protection to save the bike’s pristine finish.

BUYING ADVICE

The 429 Trail may very well be the most versatile bike in Pivot’s lineup. It’s not designed to be pigeonholed into one category of riding; it’s designed to do a bit of everything. It may not hold up in an elite-level cross-country race, nor in a super-technical enduro race, but for a rider looking to get into either of these disciplines, it would certainly hold its own. It also will be at the top of the heap when it comes to general trail riding, making the pilot happy on both climbs and descents. It’s a bike that simply works—and works very well.

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