Before we get too far into the review, it is important to talk a little bit about Pivot’s history as it helps explain a few of the key features of this frame. So who is Pivot? Pivot was started in 2007 by Chris Cocalis. Chris has a long and interesting history in the industry. He started as a BMX racer back in the day. He is one of the few people in the industry who has been a racer, worked retail on the bike shop floor, and is a USCF certified mechanic. And he happened to be one of the founders of a little bike company called Titus… After selling his interest in Titus in 2006 to Vyatek Sports, Chris went back to the drawing board to start building the Pivot business and unleash some new design thoughts.
Pivot Mach 429
The Pivot Mach 429 is their 29’er in the Pivot lineup. You can check out the technical specifics on the 429 on their website at pivotcycles.com. Chris and his team really set out to build a best in class 29’er that is race-ready. The effort really shows in some of the less than standard features. From the details provided on the Pivot website, these include:
- Use of the DW-Link rear suspension
- Front Derailleur: The Pivot Mach 429 uses a direct mount front derailleur that bolts straight to the frame in the exact location needed for perfect shifting. It’s a more rigid mount that gives you the best front shifting performance made.
- Chain-line: By direct mounting the front derailleur and precisely controlling the bottom bracket width we control the chain-line precisely. A perfect chain-line means perfect shifts and no strange cross chaining issues. It seems like a small detail, but it’s something no one else does and it makes a big difference in a race or out on the trail.
- Replaceable derailleur hanger: The replaceable hanger is made of 7075-T6 aluminum which is the strongest aluminum made. The hanger features a reinforcement rib and a design that integrates perfectly with the dropout and provides for perfect shifting every time.
- Cable routing: Our under-the-top-tube-routing is clean, smooth, and out of the way of both the elements and the rider.
In addition, there are a few things that they do not mention on the spec sheet that that are critical to the ride and overall quality of the bike. These include the use of the Fox RP23 rear shock, the incorporation of an integrated headset, and a wider (92mm) bottom bracket shell that houses and internally contained XTR bottom bracket.
Pivot Mach 429 Setup Info
Pivot sells the Mach 429 as a frame, rear shock and BB separate for $2,195. Most shops have been ordering the bike setup with Shimano’s XT lineup, Fox F29 fork at 100mm, and a DT Swiss Wheel set for about $4,995. It is available in an XTR build for a price as well. Yes, long lasting pleasure does not come cheap. For background info, the initial ride was on a large frame with a standard XT setup briefly at a Pivot demo session in Boulder Colorado. But the heavy miles were logged over a month long period on a lighter setup, which was custom spec’d as follows:
- Fox F29 fork, thru-axle version, set up at 120MM of travel
- Industry Nine 29’er Cross Country wheels. Tubeless setup.
- Thomson Elite stem
- Thomson post
- SRAM XO (twist version with Blackbox rear)
- XT front derailleur
- Raceface Deus XC cranks
- XTR internally mounted BB
- WTB Rocket V saddle wit Ti rails
- Avid Elixr R disk brakes.
- Salsa ProMoto flat carbon bar
- Time ATAC pedals (std. crmo)
- Maxxis Ignitors tires
- Salsa flipoff rear skewer
- Hope QR seat clamp
The setup was put together to lighten the overall and rotating weight over the standard XT package while maintaining an eye on cost. The intended use of the build was to build a race ready machine that was also fun to ride for everyday trail use.
The Pivot Mach 429 Frame
The frame details were discussed above, but let’s talk about how they impacted the ride quality. Overall, it is safe to say that there is more of an emphasis on ride quality than on weight.
Geometry – When you look at the angles on the frame, they are fairly racy. Our large frame had a 71.2 degree head tube angle. It is setup to be very responsive. This is nice in that it allows the rider to run a 100MM fork or more of an all mountain 120MM fork without losing too much in the handling department. It should be noted that the headset configuration does limit the headset options available. Sorry Chris King fans, you will have to wait another season until the king of headsts is available to fit this design. Also, the frames do run a long effective top tube. Normally, I run right on the edge of a Large (circa 19”) frame and an XL (circa 21.5”) frame. Due to the long top tube, I found that the Large fit well. For those of you that are kind of tweeners in frame size, I would recommend the smaller of the two sizes on a 429.
Tubes – The bulk of the frame is aluminum with one carbon piece in the suspension. It is not an exotic material by any means, but the shape of the tubing is. The front triangle is all oversized with the down tube being a very large square shaped tube. The rear is thicker horizontally and thinner laterally. Each tube shape is used to enhance strength and rigidity while keeping an eye on overall weight.
Welds – The welds are beefy. This is a kind of a mixed bag. The welds are laid very heavily and do not look as clean as a frame from Independent Fabrication or a Fat Chance. But, weigh on the side of function over form.
Rigidity – From one look at the frame construction, one can tell that the frame is very stiff. Like the Titus, there is a stabilizer bar welded from the top tube to the seat tube. While adding a little weight, this design allows for a great deal of stand over height while reducing flex while riding in a seated position. In addition, one cannot help but notice the stabilizing brace welded behind the rear suspension system. That combined with the wider BB shell pair for maximum rigidity while pedaling seated or standing. It should be noted that the BB shell design does limit crank selection as brands like Truvativ are not compatible with the internal mounted XTR BB. One of the more interesting design features is the headset. Most 29er frames are built such that the front end sits up high and the rider is forced to use a negative rise stem. With the 429, the headset runs internal to the frame on the lower stack, effectively offsetting the height difference and allowing the rides to run a more standard angled stem.
Weight – The 429 weighs in at about 7.7 lbs for the frame and rear shock. For a trail bike with 4” of travel and 29” wheels. This is not bad. But it is a little heavy for the race crowd. And for those converting from a 26” wheeled bike, it is downright beefy. In speaking with Chris Coacalis at the demo, he felt like you could build a sub 26 lb. bike “if you shot the money gun at it.” This is probably an area for improvement but the ride quality is spectacular. I would suggest running a lighter wheel set on the 429 as a reduction in rotating weight is a great weigh to increase the snap of any bike.
The DW-Link – The 429 uses the dw-link. This is an area where Chris departed from his days at Titus. The Titus runs a Horst Link and Pivot has gone another direction. The DW-Link is used on a number of high end brands such as Ibis and Turner. Without getting into the physics of it or the argument over what the best suspension is, it feels great. It is plush and gives the impression that it inches the bike forward rather than up and down. On the bob side, you can make the bike feel like a hardtail while riding the pavement to a trailhead by locking out the Fox RP23. When the shock is fully open, there is no perceptible bob in the large or middle rings, but there is a hint of bob while in the little ring that is only noticeable on smooth steep climbs under heavy load.
The Finish – The early models are all anodized. For next year, a painted option will be available. The finish is good, but the color choices limited. This year, it is only available in anodized red and silver. The red looks a little pinkish after a while. The silver is fairly industrial. But they are durable. It is what it is.
Cable routing – Pivot seems to have remembered what many builders have long forgotten – cable routing is not something many people look at when buying a bike, but it can become an annoyance if done improperly. The cable routing is simple, well laid out, and clean. There are no extra bends required and the cables are never an annoyance while riding.
Chain line – The chain line is perfectly set on the 429. In addition, the front derailleur is mounted directly to the frame. There are no brackets to mess with. It is always where it should be. One thing that was a real pleasure was how the longer chain line on the 429 worked with the shifting system. It actually allows the rider to cross up the chain line without any grinding. Translation, you get all 27 speeds on a 3×9 setup. Now it is not recommended to ride this way often, but in a pinch it is nice to know you can without negative repercussions.
Riding the Pivot Mach 429
I have played with plenty of bikes that all have the right stuff on paper yet don’t seem to feel right on the trail. And after a year of contemplating the switch to a 29er, I have had the pleasure of testing a number of different bikes from hardtails to the Salsa Big Mama, Gary Fisher HiFi 29, the Niner Jet9, Niner RIP, and the Intense Spider 29er. The ride quality in comparison is both stout and plush. It is stout in terms of minimal bob and stiffness of frame and plush in terms of having a full 4” of travel on a suspension that like to move you forward. To compare, it feels like the Niner Jet9 with the ability to descend much more comfortably.
In my head, I still had questions about how a full suspension 29er would climb relative to my trusted 26’ bike. After three weeks of play on the 429, my fears vanished. It tracked well through singletrack switchcbacks and rolled effortlessly on the flats. It was confidence inspiring on the downhills and it almost felt like I was cheating on technical sections. It did feel more sluggish on the climbs though. As an experiment to see what I should ride in an upcoming marathon race, I timed myself on an 8 mile ascent from home to the Mid Vail lodge at Vail ski resort on a 24 lb full suspension 26” that I have raced for years. Then I timed the return home, a fun twisty singletrack through the trees. All of this was done riding at a fast but comfortable speed at a constant heart rate of 150 for the climbing portion. I repeated the same exercise on the 429 two days later in similar conditions. The time of the climb was one minute faster on the ascent, which I would call dead even. But the downhill was over four minutes faster. Perhaps as important was that the combination of the suspension and the large wheels left me fresh as a daisy by ride’s end. I would equate it to riding in a brand new Escalade. It looks good, can handle anything you throw at it, and the ride is smooth.
Some of the concerns I had regarding bottom bracket height and bob in the small ring were also handled well. After riding for several weeks in chunky terrain, I only tagged the pedal on the down stroke once. And the bob in the small ring on climbs is not noticeable in normal mountain bike riding conditions. It does not feel as catlike on the climbs, but it gets the job done.
Conclusions on the Pivot Mach 429
Overall, this is a great do anything bike. It can be raced in longer distance settings and is a very comfortable and capable all around trail bike. A 29er is never going to feel as zippy as a 26” bike on a short track, but for everyday riding, it is hard to beat. It allows you to clean a lot of obstacles you may not have even attempted on a 26” and is much racier feeling than other full suspension 29ers. Of course, all of that comes at a price. And in this economy, not many people are going have $5,000 to throw at an XTR build. That said, the creative MTB consumer can spec this cheaper and lighter and knock some serious dollars off the price tag.
Good Pivot Mach 429
- Geometry flexible enough to handle 120mm travel fork
- Ascends quickly
- Descends like downhiller
- Carves switchbacks well
- Suspends forward and feels active
- Laterally and horizontally stiff
- Beautiful attention to detail in the chain line and cable routing
Bad Pivot Mach 429
- Price – $2195 for frame and rear suspension. No, it does not have pedals or wheels yet!
- Welds could be cleaner
- Weight – 7.5 lbs for a large frame means you have to spend some money to get this to a raceworthy 26 lbs.
- Limited finish options
- No carbon option available
More on the reviewer – Eric Pringle:
In his day job, Eric runs Integrated People Solutions, a full service executive search and HR Consulting firm. But after work and on the weekends, he likes to pack in as many miles as he can on the trails of Colorado and Utah. His passion for bikes goes way back to getting hooked on BMX racing as a kid in Michigan. Later, he got into road biking and doing a few road crits. In 1987, he bought his first mountain bike and has been hooked ever since. He has spent extensive time mountain biking in Colorado, Utah, California and even a little up in British Columbia. Older and slower, he has turned his focus towards pleasure riding and a few marathon events. He just finished is 11th Leadville 100 in as many attempts. He also enjoys a lot of road biking and a little bit of cyclocross. Always a tinkerer in his garage, he has tried a lot of bikes and countless parts looking for that perfect combination of strength, quality, weight, and value. All of this in the hopes of finding that perfect ride where it all comes together hassle free and fast with a few bucks leftover for a beer and a burrito. One step forward, one step back.