Long Termer Review: Benji’s Pivot Mach 4

May 25, 2011

The final verdict. Looking for adventure.

Pivot Mach 4
Price: £1649 frame only
From: Upgrade www.pivotcycles.co.uk
Tested: 6 months
Weight: 27.8 lbs as depicted

Over the past few months I’ve had the Mach 4 built up in a few different ways. It’s swayed from XC through to pseudo All Mountain burliness. Throughout my testing the bike has always kind of eluded a precise classification. Or rather, it’s never been fully happy in a narrow niche. When I built it up with lightweight XC-ish stuff (100mm fork, 90mm stem, 680mm bars, tubeless QR wheelset, skimpy tyres) it’s felt like a bruiser on a diet rather than a proper XC bike. When I’ve had it built up with burlier All Mountain stuff (120mm bolt thru fork, short stem, wide bars, hefty wheels, chunky tyres, droopy seatpost) it’s felt a bit more at home but although it gained some aggro-riding confidence it seemed to lose a lot of nippiness and nimbleness. After all my fettling and swapping the bike you see here is what I reckon is a great build for this frame.

In brief, it’s burly where it needs to be and it’s lightweight where it can be. In other words, I’ve saved weight on the bits that don’t add much to how the bike handles and how hard it can be ridden, but I have saved weight on the bits that don’t impair the fun or capability of this frame.

So, the strong stuff: the 120mm bolt-thru Manitou Minute Pro fork, stiff and strong wheelset from Superstar, fast but capable WTB Mutano 2.4 tyres, short RaceFace Atlas stem, wide RaceFace Atlas Freeride bars (cut down to 740mm). None of this stuff is overly ‘heavy’ OTT but it is chunkier than XC stuff.

The lightweight stuff: Crank Bros seatpost, FSA K-Force chainset, TRP Dash Carbon disc brakes, Prologo saddle, Shimano XT gears.

When I’m on board the Mach 4 it offers a good all round stance and riding position for lots of different types of riding. It’s not too steeply angled for fast or technical trails. It’s not too long or slack so as to be un-nimble and overly ‘stuck to the ground’ (unsagged BB height is 13.2in).

The ride feel is one of rangy (24in effective top tube on this Large frame) and low with lots of stand over so it’s possible to really be able to move your way in and the around the bike as the terrain dictates. The Mach 4 really promotes an active riding style. In other words, it likes people ragging it hard – up, down or around trails. Unusually for a ragging bike, it also doesn’t mind being spun along doing some mile-munching.

The suspension feel is extremely consistent. It feels and behaves the same all the through its travel. And it feels and behaves the same whether you’re pedaling or braking. And it feels and behaves the same whether your riding fast, slow, smooth, rough, skilfully or clumsily. The feel is very firm but with a bit of give. It’s not super-stiff under pedaling or rider input, but neither does it blow through it’s travel or bob excessively. It feels a little like you’re riding on a sprung floor. Or an eraser. Or a muscle. It’s this feel that takes a bit of getting used to if you’re coming from other suspension designs as it can initially feel a bit vague. But once I got I used to it I began to appreciate its attributes and ‘use’ it properly.

I ran the Fox RP23 rear shock without ProPedal but with lots of rebound damping dialled in to prevent excess bobbing on climbs and to calm down the ‘slingshot’ effect that DW Link bikes can exhibit out of fast, bermed, hairpins.

On climbs the suspension grabs a lot of traction. It doesn’t stiffen up overly up like some bikes and as such it rarely spits traction under high load. And it’s less jarring and skittish up over rocks and roots. Some people may not like this efficiency as it can feel like the bike is doing it all for you, but if like me you like climbs to be despatched with as much ease of possible or you go on rides that last for hours and hours, then you’ll start to appreciate the uphill assistance. The 72° seat angle is steep enough to prevent excessive wander, especially if combined with an inline seatpost (the long top tube helps prevent the cockpit from feeling too short).

On descents the Mach 4 was a blast. It really does bely its modest amount of rear travel. Like a lot of DW Link it feels like it has an inch more travel than it does. The stable but nimble riding position had me going at speeds more common to my longer travel bikes. It was bit more of a white knuckle ride but I’d hesitate to say that I was much if any slower on the Mach 4. Bit hits and landings were dealt with extremely well with no compression spiking or crazy kickback rebound.

On steeper, tighter technical descents the bike surprised me with how capable it was. The 69° head angle (measured unsagged with 120mm fork) did sound like it would be a bit of a handful of truly steep stuff but it didn’t turn out that way out on the trail. Having a longish top tube (and wide bars and 50mm stem) afforded me the space to get low inside the bike and lower my centre-of-gravity as and when required. And there’s a lot to be said for good brakes and capable tyres – not to mention the confidence that comes from riding a fundamentally uber-predictable bike.

A quick word about the tyres. If you have a capable but hefty bike that you want to ‘nippy up’, stick a pair of WTB Mutano 2.4 tyres on it. I’ve been amazed at how fast rolling they are yet they still have the grip and strong carcass to handle hard riding with minimal compromise. A non-draggy tyre will make your bike feel a few lbs lighter.

The bike felt like I could hammer nails with it all day and it wouldn’t complain. The main limiting thing I experienced on descents was only having 120mm of travel up front. The 100mm at the back felt fine. Not being able to run bigger forks is the one thing that prevents the bike from keeping up with bigger bikes on bigger mountain trails.

The stiffness of the frame is immense. There’s no twanging or flex to be felt anywhere. It wasn’t knocked off line easily. It responded to rider input (pedal strokes, manuals, hops, dig-ins, drifts) beautifully. The Mach 4 did everything I told it to instantly and accurately. It’s the frame’s stiffness that makes this bike much more aggro-friendly than other 100mm travel bikes out there.

Living with the Mach 4 has been painless. Once I’d decided on its final build I haven’t had to fettle or tweak or repair it at all. The suspension is set-and-forget. None of the pivot bolts has ever required tightening. It doesn’t creak. I’ve never even had a puncture on it (which is something of a miracle for me!) It’s been a very easy bike to take for granted. I’ve never been unwilling to take it out no matter where the riding location was or who I was to be riding with. It was a no-brainer choice. What bike shall I take? I’ll take the Mach 4, it’s bound to be okay for wherever and whatever we’re doing.

Overall: It’s a Jack of all trades. It might be beaten by ‘niche superstar’ bikes on certain types of riding. It’ll be a few yards behind the race whippets on XC stuff. It might not go as fast or as high as bigger bikes. But it’s always going to be there or thereabouts no matter what. It’s a genuine all-round mountain bike. It’s been the bike that I’ve taken with me when I knew what the riding was going to be. It’s been the bike that I’ve taken with me when I had no idea what was in store. It hasn’t felt unwilling to go that extra mile ‘over the next hill’ to see what’s there. It hasn’t felt out-of-its-depths or overly restrictive when attempting unknown technical descents. It’s been a great adventuring bike.

Click here for a video of the Pivot Mach 4.

Any questions? Feel free to leave a comment below…

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