Pivot has wasted very little time in overhauling their range, delivering new versions and brand new models at what seems like an alarming rate. Switchblade, Firebird, Mach 5.5, Mach 6, all of these feel like they were released only yesterday. The style, engineering and even elements of geometry have been shared across the range to produce a coherent collection of bikes which are true to the brand.Buy Trail Bikes on
Although Pivots share the same DNA, they all have their niche, but with plenty of overlapping versatility within each model. For the 429 Trail, it is obviously pinned as a trail bike, but with the Mach 5.5 lorded as the 'quintessential trail bike' by Pivot, it has me wondering what the 429 is all about.
First and foremost is wheel size and 29, where it's at for the 429, which makes sense for a short travel bike. There is the option and clearance for 27.5 plus, but I find it hard to imagine many getting excited by this option. Up front is a 130mm fork, with the option for 140mm if you like and out back there is 120mm of bounce controlled by the DW link which is seen on every Pivot. The DW link on this model is wider than previous to increase stiffness which has been allowed due to the removal of a front mech mount, meaning this is a '1 by' only bike which is a bold move by Pivot who usually keep the option on their frames.
Geometry is modern, and the sizing in line with most of the range, giving a 460mm reach in large yet keeping seat tubes short for long droppers. Head angle sits at 67.3 and the seat tube at 74 degrees giving evidence that this is a balanced bike for all situations, and with slammed 430mm chainstays the 429 will love some back wheel action.
This slammed back end is made achievable in part by the use of 'Super Boost Plus' hub spacing on the rear. With 157mm width, it uses DH spacing, but with wider flanges, to achieve a stiffer wheel with better spoke angles. Whilst on the subject of things to argue about on the internet, it also uses a press fit bottom bracket, which Pivot believe to be the best solution for carbon frames.
With trail bike geometry, the build kits chosen starts to give evidence that this isn't an old-fashioned trail bike or a cross-country bike in disguise. Maxxis Wide Trail tyres immediately draw the eye, with their aggressive tread and generous width. Large rotors (180mm) suggest you might have enough fun to need them and with a short stem and wide (ish) bar it starts to look like it might enjoy a good party rather than hill reps. It's also great to see a DW link cover as standard to keep it free of dirt, as there is potential to collect dirt there. ISCG tabs and a dropper post seals the deal, and a modern, short travel trail bike is ready for action, the main question is: how much action?
Over a period of a few days, I took the 429 out over pretty much the most varied terrain I could find, as versatility is key to a good trail bike. From uplifting downhill tracks to an urban XC race, we covered some ground.
First and foremost is the light, tight feeling when pushing power down through the pedals. Acceleration is there in spades, and despite the big tyres, it's a bike that flatters one's fitness instantly, as you recalculate how far you intend to go. The ride position is comfortable, and although I find Pivot's XL size a little short in more gravity fed bikes, it makes plenty of sense on this bike, giving a central feel.
With only a small amount of travel and a lightweight, climbing is as about enjoyable as you can get on a bike. Sure you could get a lighter XC bike, but you can wave bye-bye to any creature comforts. The 120mm is enough to find traction on steep sections and combined with the stiffness, it provides a good platform for pushing pedals out of the saddle. The short chainstays may work well on the smaller sizes, but for super steep climbs, a longer stay would help keep the front down.
Hitting the winding singletrack of some prime trail centres, it's clear that Pivot intended to create an engaging and lively ride, rather than a purely mile-covering machine. With short travel, it's far quicker to load and unload suspension, meaning you can pop and hop from the tiniest of trail features with ease. The large tyres give so much grip and extra damping that the bike feels reasonably planted for such a whippet. Pushing through corners, berms and rollers is a joy, and carrying speed through flatter sections is eye-opening compared to the heavy enduro bikes I tend to ride.
When the going gets tougher, the 429 tries valiantly to punch way above its weight. The grip and stiffness help it to plot a straight line through roots and rocks despite the diminutive suspension. It's certainly a reminder of how 'over biked' we have become, and it is highly entertaining to see how far you can push it without huge suspension travel to bail you out. The only way to carry speed through very rough terrain is to start getting in the air, which adds the risk of landing somewhere unexpected without a lot of back up.
This margin of error being so small, things can get sketchy very quick. Venturing onto steep off-piste style trails, it's clear you can pilot down in safety, but you need to be on your game. 67 degrees is not really slack these days and can catch you out. Though to be fair, I was taking a knife to a gunfight; a really awesome knife all the same. Landing off camber from a drop I managed to burp most of the air from my front tyre, yet the 429 just shrugged it off, this bike can get you into trouble.
The Fox 34 is a wise move, and in 130mm is stiff enough to keep you on track. The well-controlled damper takes plenty of sting out of the trail and is well matched with the rear to give a balanced feel. Sure, a bigger fork may up the capabilities, but the back end will struggle to match it.
For me it will always be a tricky call between the Mach 5.5 and the Trail 429, Pivot's website clearly puts the two in the same bracket. Both do very similar jobs, however, the Mach 5.5 certainly has the edge on more technical terrain, yet those that like pure pedalling efficiency and bigger wheels will be drawn to the 429. More choice can't be a bad thing and the masterful mix of speed and capability in the Trail 429 create a heady mix of off-road performance.
This is a trail bike with ideas way above its station and no idea when to quit. Pivot has taken the essence of the old 429 and combined it with the aspirations of an enduro bike. The end mix gives a truly versatile bike that can handle a huge range of trails and challenges with XC-like speed agility without losing out on comfort or capability. I defy anyone not to love riding this bike, it is pure riding fun whatever you do with it.
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This review was in Issue 54 of IMB.For more information visit Pivot Cycles
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By Ewen TurnerEwen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.