Pivot Mach 4 SL First Impressions

While proud of the bikes they make, Pivot confess they haven’t historically been the brand of choice for many cross-country racers. Their Mach 429 SL was a fast bike with positive reviews, but the swooping, organic looking frame was, undeniably, polarising.

With the release of the Mach 4 SL, fortune may have pivoted (sorry) in their favour.

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For a cross-country race weapon, Pivot have struck the metaphorical target straight in the bullseye. The finished frame weighs in at a featherweight 1930g including a Fox Factory Series shock, with complete builds as low as 9.4kg fully dressed. Attentions to detail include size specific tubing (tunes stiffness to be the same for each size) and using a matte coating on the raw carbon finish instead of gloss (saves 100 grams). It’s a more angular looking design than its predecessors and personally I’m a fan. The 3 available decal schemes all look great as well.

The chain stays are a tight 431mm, and the head tube a slack (for XC) 67.5 degrees in the 120mm forked test bike I rode. I’ve been told that with a stand over of 61.3cm the smallest frame size has enough room for riders as short as 4’10, despite using 29er wheels like the rest of the range and having enough front triangle real estate available to fit a full-sized water bottle!

The bike is designed to work with both 100mm and 120mm forks, with 100mm of DW Link driven rear suspension providing the oomph out back. This system provides a lot of anti-squat, keeping the rear very stable under pedalling forces without losing power on the climbs.

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The most electrifying aspect of this bike is the option to integrate with Fox’s new LiveValve electronic suspension system. In brief, the suspension locks out automatically on the smooth stuff, then unlocks seamlessly the moment you hit a bump, so quickly you don’t notice the transition at all. It’s all very clever (and will be covered more in depth in a later article) but from my day of testing it’s an absolute no brainer for a cross country bike. Data shows that the average XC racer will use a lockout around 70 times during a race, whereas LiveValve will use it over 700 times! 

While the geometry may suggest otherwise, the Mach 4 SL is not built to fit into the “down-country” aesthetic that’s become popular of recent. It’s a race bike, unapologetically so. It’s tuned to be firm and fast, converting leg power into dirt miles as seamlessly as possible. There’s no flex at all in the bottom bracket, the steering is direct and precise, the ride quality raw and efficient. Even with the 120mm fork and dropper post fitted, I felt ready to shave my legs, zip up a skinsuit and line up at the world cup in Nové Mesto this weekend. The adjustments to the geometry, compared to its predecessor, simply make it more capable rather than more forgiving. It’s not some squishy pseudo trail bike, it’s a cross country racing thoroughbred. And in that it excels. I’d even dare to say that, if money were no object, this is the bike I’d choose to race XCM on.

Pivot were understandably excited to show us this bike, and after a few hours riding I understand why. It’s a bike that has had a lot of thought and care put into it, that shows in the execution of the product. After all, who doesn’t love flexing over friends and competitors alike with cool tech that you have, and they don’t? Pivot may not be the household name for high end XC bikes, but look for that to change in the near future…

Words: Robin Page
Images: Cameron Mackenzie

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