Pivot Trail 429
THE PIVOT TRAIL 429
Hot off the production line, the Pivot Trail 429 sits as the company’s replacement to its everpopular 429 Trail, a bike that was received very positively in the Australian market. The ‘Mach 429 Trail’, previously equipped with 116mm of rear suspension travel is now shod with 120mm as the new ‘Trail 429’ bike, but this isn’t all Pivot have done to bring their new bike into the ‘modern’ trail bike era. Much has been done to the new machine to keep up with ever-progressing market demands including a longer reach, steeper 74º seat-tube, and slacker 67.3º head tube angle. With the Trail 429, Pivot is continuing to push the Superboost+ standard first seen on their Switchblade released last year. This standard does require a specific Q-factor crank and different offset chain ring, though the trade-off is super short 430mm chainstays and mega tyre clearance for up to a 29x2.6” tyre or a 27.5x3.0”. Oh, and did we mention a 30% increase in stiffness over what was already renowned as a stiff bike? Superboost doesn’t sound so bad then. The Trail 429 sits in a hotly contested market segment, it has to be able to hold its own with both an XC racer on a climb without dropping behind when the going gets craggy.
Pivot’s Trail 429 falls in line with their newer aesthetic by ditching the divisive curving, swoopy and droopy lines from Pivots of old. Straighter and boxier lines similar to their Mach 5.5 and Firebird without sacrificing the signature standover height. We think it looks good, however when out riding on trail with the general public, very few riders identified the bike was new or even a Pivot, which can be good or bad depending on what you like. Our test bike was Pivot’s ‘XT/XTR Pro’ build kit that retails for $9,199 with excellent 30mm wide DT M1700 wheels, with an upgrade to Reynolds carbon rims setting you back $10,899 for the bike instead, which is competitive with its boutique brethren. According to Pivot this XT/XTR Pro is the model you’re most likely to see out on the trails. It’s really not hard to see why, XT shifting is ever reliable if a little dull, great suspension and dropper from Fox, 30mm wide rims, and Pivot cockpit with carbon bar round out the kit, nothing to hold it back from getting a bit rowdy then. The set-up of the suspension is made very simple thanks to Pivot’s handy ‘sag-o-meter’ which has two markings, a stiffer ‘race’ setting, and a slightly higher sag ‘trail’ setting. We played around with settings throughout the test, but settled on a sag number closer to the trail number with firmer low speed compression.
As standard pivot specs a 30t chain ring on the Trail 429, which seems mighty small when matched with Shimano’s 11-46T cassette and the speed that we know DW Link bikes carry up hill. Throughout the test we swapped to a 36T chain ring to complement the pace of the thing.
ON THE TRAIL
The Trail 429 is an interesting one, despite the very modern geometry numbers, the cockpit felt short, most likely as a function of the steeper seat tube angle. Unfortunately, Pivot Australia were unable to provide us with a roomier XL for testing. The steep seat tube angle combined with a fairly short head tube put us in an excellent position for pedal mashing, the bike really looks after you on longer adventures that a bike with only this much travel would usually beat you up. The cockpit felt great, a 55mm stem combined with a 760mm bar is a good combo on the Trail 429, some may begrudge the bar not being any wider, but on natural and tight trails the bar width felt just right. Pivot’s unique ‘PadLoc’ lock grips are love or hate, for those who haven’t come across them before the, Pivot Phoenix bars have a notch cut out to allow for an extra thick part of the grip to take some of the sting out of the trail. In practice I found the PadLoc grips to be disconcerting, they make the bars feel as though they’re flexing, so the grips were changed for the latter half of the test to Ergon’s excellent GE1. Shimano’s XT/XTR mix is undeniably reliable and ever popular, but I don’t get on with it nearly as well as SRAM. The brakes felt grabby and difficult to modulate on trail, which leads to oft locked rear tyres. The Clutch on the XTR rear derailleur seemed to be a little weak, the chain would regularly jump down a cog-or-two after particularly rough sections of trail. This is, of course, a personal preference and most people will have no issue with the build kit, but when you’re so often exposed to excellent SRAM Eagle it’s hard to ignore. The Shimano clutch system is highly tuneable – it’s worth getting it set for your trails and riding. Throw a technical climb in sight of the Trail 429 and the bike is drawn to it like a magnet, this thing absolutely lives for climbing. One particular climb on my local trails is usually a 50/50 make or break for me on any other bike, awkward speedsapping rock step ups with little spare space between them, loose rocks that throw the wheels off line like an angry Donkey Kong, and oft mossy sandstone just to pilfer all the rest of your speed, and the Pivot just scrambled up every single time. No complaints, no fuss, just composure and scarcely believable DW link traction. Don’t worry
about flipping the compression lever on the rear end, I tried it and you don’t need it. Even standing up on fire-trail climbs the anti-squat is fantastic and the bike just goes. Thankfully, the Trail 429 isn’t just good on straight and tech; in fact, it’s almost better on tight switchback climbs. Those miniscule 430mm chainstays let the Trail 429 whip around hairpins like a WRC car, get on the power mid-way through and you can precisely control the rear end drift with pedal strokes coming out. When you find a spot to open the Trail 429 up on a ‘mickey mouse’ trail it continues to impress. High speed flow sections that are quickly followed by unsavory short punchy climbs that snatch the wind from most bikes sails are ridden with ease on the 429 Trail. The 29” wheels combined with the accurate Superboost rear end allow the bike to simply shrug off those awkward changes of pace that litter many of our trails here in Sydney. With only 120/130mm of travel, you would expect the Trail 429 to get a little flustered out on chunderous and rocky descents, so be prepared to be surprised. This little bike rips! As a lighter rider coming from a more rigid MTB background, I have always got on well with shorter travel trail bikes, but this might not be the case for you. Luckily the Trail 429 is outstanding, I let a few people I met on the trail take it for a quick spin, and they all rode this bike faster than they rode their own bikes straight away. Point the Trail 429 down a slow and tight descent and it loves it, again the laser precise rear end just keeps on giving, you can place it with to-the-millimetre precision over and around rocks nailing every line, it’s very addictive. Aim the Pivot down a series of drops and the Trail 429 loves it. The front and rear end feel so balanced, moving through their travel without complaint, with a wonderful supportive midstroke from the Fox suspension. With a little bit more time on the bike, it would be amazing to get the suspension dialled in as I found I was using all of the Fox DPX2’s rear travel a little too often, despite running the suspension at the stiffer ‘race’ sag marker, something that volume spacer adjustment would iron out no problem. Up through mid speed trails the Trail 429 continues to shine, it digs corners, the front and rear are again so very balanced, you can take any corner exactly how you want, be that neat and fast or with a little bit more fun and pizazz, the controllability of a drift is incredible! It’s on higher speed trails where the Trail 429 can feel a little outclassed by bigger, slacker bikes. Hardly surprising really, although high-speed turns especially feel a little nervous even when compared to other bikes in its class. Pivot’s claims of the Trail 429 being a bike where “Crazy fast meets ridiculously capable” are on the money though, the bike is a hard bike to fluster, and an even harder bike to go slow on. During the test period the bike was pretty much faultless, my only concerns were the DT
Swiss M1700 wheels. Throughout the test they performed adequately, the wheel stiffness itself was fantastic as was the width, but after picking up a dent in the rim while running very reasonable pressures, I’d be interested to see how long they last, especially under a heavier rider. On a particularly muddy ride, there was a lot of gunk that built up around the lower link on the DW link rear end. This has been a problem consistent on all Pivots of late, and the Trail 429 has attempted to solve this with a little rubber flap, and it did a very good job of keeping the bike scratch-free. The Fox equipment was a stand out. The excellent Transfer Dropper that is so smooth, light, and quick enough without scaring your genitals every return like some posts. The Factory 34s feel amazing in the mid-stroke, great support and bottom out resistance that’s so important when working with this much travel. The Trail 429 stands out amongst its stable mates when it comes to climbing, the only bike that feels like it shoots up hill as well as this is the Yeti SB4.5, and yet the bikes have such different characteristics. The rear wheel sticks to the ground tenaciously, more so than just about any other bike in this class, a lot of which rely on the bike skipping over bumps where the Trail 429 tracks the ground unflustered.
Just like the previous Mach 429 Trail, the new bike is up for anything. The short travel trail-bike is one of the most hotly contested market segments, and it’s important to bring unique features so that a bike is known for more than its travel numbers. Pivot’s use of the so-far-uncommon Superboost+ rear spacing makes this bike what it is. Stiff. Some will begrudge the use of a ‘new standard’, but the truth is that it’s not new, it has been around for years and there are now a fair few hub options on the market to work with the bike. The positives from going Superboost+ make the Trail 429 what it is, stiffness and precision is the name of the game, along with amazing composure on the trail without sacrificing agile handling. At high speed and on really gnarly trails the Trail 429 does feel slightly outclassed by longer-travel 29ers, but that’s to be expected when dealing with the steeper head tube angle and shorter chainstays. Throughout the testing, the wheels were my only real point of concern, a mysterious dent in the rear is something I found greatly surprising, and again, eyeleted rims on a boutique bike are not the best look. Shimano shifting and braking are not my favourite, they feel clunky and heavy, but it’s hard to argue with reliability. Pivot does offer a multitude of specs including an X01 Eagle build which comes in at $10,499, though for only a little more ($10,899) you can get the XT/XTR Pro build with Carbon wheels. From a performance on trail perspective, the Carbon wheels would match the stiffness of the Trail 429 perfectly, so if you had to choose how to spend nearly $11,000, I would go the Carbon wheel every time and use the Shimano shifting. The Trail 429 will undoubtedly keep Pivot customers happy, great trail geometry, DW link suspension, and stiff rear ends are what the brand is known for. The new design language is likely to appeal to a wider audience, and that’s got to be a good thing for what is Pivot’s ‘most popular’ bike. Endurance racers will love this thing, if you can get past the little extra weight, throw a pair of wide XC tyres on and the Trail 429 will easily handle a 4 hour endurance race, and look after you like no dedicated XC rig would on a longer 4 day stage race. Put the standard EXO Minion DHRIIs on and you’ll still be rallying technical trails all weekend long and having an absolute hoot. Someone looking for a bike to huck, jump, and regularly race Enduro event would be better suited looking elsewhere, the high-speed stability and head angle being a little steep for those shenanigans. But if I had to pick only one bike to ride XC, Trails, and even enter a cheeky Enduro event, the Trail 429‘s excellent balance of pace and composure does make a very impressive case.