Another year, another trip to the mountain bike Mecca known as Moab, Utah. The occasion? That would be the celebration of the new Pivot Trail 429. Well, that wasn’t the only reason, but more on that later…
Almost as soon as we arrived in Moab, Chris Cocalis was already in the driveway pulling wheelies and stoppies. That singular image provides a great snapshot of Pivot Cycle’s owner and founder. Chris loves to build great bikes because he loves to ride great bikes. And after years of work are put into a new frame, he’s just as excited to ride it as anyone else. And he can certainly ride as evidenced by the times he flew past me on the descents because he “knew some fun drops were coming up.” I’ve been fortunate enough to ride with the Pivot crew in Moab a few times now, and it’s clear that the company has a strong culture of riding which shows itself in the final product.
But before we had even arrived to our home base in downtown Moab, the conversation turned to what bikes we were about to see. After guessing that it may involve a replacement for the Mach 429 Trail, we learned that it was indeed the new Trail 429.
“And where will we be riding?” we asked.
“We’re going to start with Mag 7 and finish on Portal,” Chris replied.
Collectively, our eyebrows raised in unison. We’re going to ride a short travel trail bike down Portal? The one with signs saying “dismount now. People have died here”? This will be interesting…
For those unfamiliar with the Mag 7 trail network, it’s a long collection of 7 trails that starts off mellow enough with a fun, fast, and surprisingly flowy section of trail that’s predominantly downhill – but you still have to work. From there, the trail turns upwards as you climb up onto the Gold Bar Rim which is where things start to get really interesting.
Just about the point that your body is starting to get tired from the constant slick rock beat down, you’re presented with a series of technical rock drops, rolls, and power moves that will certainly keep you on your toes.
The ride culminates with truly white knuckle descent down Portal which features terrifying exposure and chunky rock moves that will test even the best enduro bikes – and here we were riding a 120mm trail bike.
But honestly, we weren’t quite as out gunned as you might expect. In fact, other than having to work a bit harder to finesse the shorter travel frame through some of the bigger moves, the Trail 429 seemed more willing than me in certain sections of Portal and the rest of the trail. Would a 120mm travel trail bike be my bike of choice to do the ride again? No, probably not. But the point here was that the bike is incredibly capable and that’s exactly what we found.
One of the standout traits of the new frame is how willing it is to lift the front end – but only when you want to. On hard out of the saddle efforts, or seated climbing, the front wheel stayed comfortably planted. But come up on a surprise drop, and it was easy to quickly shift your weight and get the front wheel up to avoid going OTB.
Even thought the Trail 429 is certainly more capable than before, it hasn’t come at the cost of its climbing ability. On the long, slow slog up to the rim, it was definitely welcome to have something a little more efficient. As is often the case with Pivot’s dw-link bikes, the suspension seems tailor made for the chunky, square edged rocks of Moab but then settles in for an efficient ride when the terrain flattens out or turns upwards.
Even though the Trail 429 has a longer reach than before, it didn’t feel overwhelmingly long. In fact, it felt just about perfect – which isn’t that surprising since it’s supposedly the same as the Mach 5.5 and Switchblade, which both fit me well in a medium frame. At 5’8″ with a 690mm saddle to BB measurement, I’m can usually go with either a small or a medium, but tend to like the longer reach measurements of the bigger bike. Cocalis mentions that this is a benefit of the newer geometry trends since you now have more of a choice based on what reach you’d like to run since the frames offer more room for dropper posts.
On that note, I was very happy to have plenty of room to run a 150mm travel dropper. I was also quite impressed with the amount of room for a water bottle in the front triangle as I could fit the largest water bottle we had in the frame while running the Fox DPX2 rear shock. The medium is also fitted with a 55mm stem and 760mm bar which ends up closer to 775mm with Pivot’s Padlock grips. I’d still prefer a slightly thinner grip design, but I appreciated the extra cushion the grips provided during back to back Moab beat downs.
At the end of the day, while the Trail 429 ended up being surprisingly effective choice for the whole Mag 7 trail system, I couldn’t help but thing about its applications else where as well. To me, the bike seems like it would be the perfect choice for a lot of riders who don’t often (or ever) ride such gnarly terrain. Coming from the Midwest, it seems like it would be the perfect Midwest trail bike – or really anywhere that having an efficient bike that still likes to party would be ideal. It’s definitely more bike than the original Mach 429 Trail, but it doesn’t lose the ability to be fast or efficient when it needs to. The Trail 429 made for a perfect day out on Mag 7, and it’s a bike that I would love to see again.