I am a big fan of trail-capable 29ers, and have test-ridden quite a few of them (the Gary Fisher Rumblefish and the Niner RIP to name just two). For a guy my size, such a bike offers a grip at both ends of the stick: It feel like an XC bike when climbing or going on fast-and-long rides, yet it handles the technical stuff as well as any 26er. Naturally, I was excited to try the Mach 429.
Chris suggested that at 6’1” I should try the Large. Nevertheless, I knew that the 24” top-tube of the Medium was exactly what I needed to get some technical riding out of this bike. Mr. Cocalis was kind enough to let me to go with the his own private Medium Mach 429. As you’d guess, it is pimped-up with a Fox Talas 120-90 fork, Industry Nine wheelset, and SRAM XX components. Yummy.
First ride on the Desert Classic trail of Phoenix’s South Mountain was a great experience. The Mach 429 out-performed even my high expectations. To begin with, it just pedals great. So many of today’s bikes rely on rear-shock platform to support pedaling-efficiency, but with 429 the platform switch was redundant. I never used it, and yet the bike was bob-free – even when climbing smooth, steep terrain. Did it bob when hammering out of the saddle? If it did, it wasn’t noticeable, and the bike sprinted like an XC machine.
The real advantages of going platform-less becomes apparent when you hit the rough stuff. The suspension becomes immediately active, and in the case of the 429 it delivered a magic-carpet feeling. Everything was so easy on this bike!
For the third, last (and longest) day of riding, we rode the Templeton trail in Sedona. My guess is that most riders would have chosen the enjoyable all-new 5.7, but I could not give up the opportunity to ride the 429 for another 5 hours. Call me an amateur, but boy was it worth it!
While the official numbers of the 429 tell of a steep head-angle (71.2 degrees), these probably refer to a 100mm fork setup. With the Talas’ 120 millimeters the head-angle felt just right for even the gnarly sections. As I assumed, shorter top-tube of the Medium sized bike was handy when flickering it thru the rough sections. The 429 basically did everything I asked for: From going fast on the twitchy singletrack, to steep descents and occasional air-time. On the uphill sections I did not even bother with the Talas travel adjustment, as the bike felt right with the 120mm setup.
A perfect trail 29er? Well, yes actually. I have no negative note of the frame, and even the spec was close to perfect. The only thing I’d replace is the 6” front-rotor. XX or not, it did not provide enough stopping power.
My other nick-pick concerns sizing: Chris still thinks I should have gone with the Large, but considering how well the Medium felt for me, I would have to disagree. Furthermore, it is my observation that this strange sizing can be noted with most bike companies, and not just Pivot. Fitting a rider with a bike that is too-large, specifically too-long, contributes in my humble opinion to the notion that 29ers are slow-handling fun-killers. So to conclude, when considering a 29er – look very closely at the bike geometry… you might find that you’re better off with one size smaller than what you’re used to on a 26′er.