How far can you push a bike with 120mm of travel? (hint: it’s really far!)
Full disclosure, I started mountain biking back when there wasn’t XC, Trail and Enduro bikes, there were just mountain bikes. My first suspension fork had 60mm of elastomeric travel, and that was cutting edge. As mountain bikes evolved, I’ve struggled with the notion of XC, marathon, trail, enduro, etc, because you can race a hardtail XC bike downhill, and you can pedal a 160mm enduro bike uphill (although I wouldn’t recommend it!). So the question becomes not what is the right bike for the terrain, but what is the right bike for your riding style. With this in mind, I recently had the opportunity to test the redesigned 2019 Pivot Trail 429 during my annual trip to Vermont. The trails in Vermont can be very rugged, with lots of vertical, so what better opportunity to test Pivot’s newest trail bike.
The “Trail 429” is the new version of the “Mach 429 Trail”. Pivot has significantly updated the frame to give the bike more ‘progressive geometry, including a slacker head tube at 67.3O (with 29” wheels), and a longer reach (440mm for my medium). Mountain bike geometry is changing, and the Trail 429 reflects the fact that bikes are getting longer and slacker to make them better descenders without sacrificing climbing (if you’re skeptical, check out the head tube angle on the 2020 Specialized Epic hardtail, the lightest hardtail race bike ever made!). To keep the wheelbase nimble, the Trail 429 has extremely short chainstays for the category at 429mm. All Trail 429’s come with 120mm of rear-wheel travel, and 130mm up front. My size medium wasn’t crazy light at 28 lbs, but considering the type of terrain that this bike is capable of handling, sub 30 lbs is reasonable.
The test bike I rode was the mid-range XT/XTR build with DT Swiss 1700 rims. The rear wheel uses a 157mm ‘super-boost’ rear hub. The additional width is meant to increase the stiffness of the rear wheels by increasing the distance between the spoke flanges. The Shimano XT/XTR drivetrain shifted reliably, even under heavy load, and the XT brakes performed great, with no noticeable fade, even on long Mt. Killington descents. It came equipped with Maxxis Rekon 2.4” tires, which are a good all-around tire for varied trail riding, but I’d recommend something beefier if you want to push the limits. The finishing kit on this bike is mostly Pivot’s in-house brand Phoenix, who supply the handlebar, stem, grips, and saddle. The phoenix kit is up to the task and performed admirably. In particular the low rise carbon handlebar, which was stiff and light, and at 760mm, not ridiculously wide. Another nice touch on the Trail 429’s is the Fox Transfer dropper post that is standard on all models, except for the AXS equipped models (that get the wireless Rock Shox Reverb AXS). The Fox transfer is a great dropper post which offers 150mm of travel on the medium and large sizes. This is plenty of range to allow the rider to pedal efficiently on the uphills, and then get aggressive when the trails turn south.
On the Trails
Our first day, we hit the uber-popular Kingdom Trail System in East Burke, VT. If you’ve never ridden at KTS, you need to plan a trip, it’s a must-visit destination for anyone in the east. The trail system is extensive, and purpose-built for mountain bikes. Check them out here
We parked at the bottom of the hill, so my first 2 minutes on the bike were grinding up the Darling Hill Road to the trailhead. I was immediately impressed with the climbing abilities of the Trail 429. We were climbing up a paved road, so any pedal induced movement would have been noticeable, but there was very little, mostly thanks to the DW link suspension (the same suspension system on the XC-oriented Mach 4 SL). Once we got on the singletrack, the Trail 429 showed exactly why modern trail bikes are so much fun. The bike absolutely shredded the downhills, the handling was confidence-inspiring, just point the bike down a line and hold on. I couldn’t believe this bike had only 120mm of travel, what most would consider closer to XC race bike travel. Carving my way down Troll Stroll on the Trail 429 may just be the most fun I’ve ever had on a mountain bike.
The next day, we saddled up for a day at the Mt. Killington Bike Park. This was a great chance to push the limits in a lift-accessed, DH oriented environment. Mt. Killington’s trails are known for being very rocky and rutted, and I was amazed by how capable the Trail 429 felt bombing down the mountain. Just for comparison purposes, I jumped on a friend’s 160mm enduro bike for a few runs. The Pivot felt just as capable descending in gnarly terrain.
The Specialized Stumpjumper ST 29, with 130mm front / 120mm rear, is the closest option. Although the stack/reach are both shorter than the Trail 429, and the seat tube is almost a full degree steeper, so the Trail 429 may feel longer and lower.
Who should buy this bike
Anyone looking for a bike capable of aggressively tackling any gravity oriented trail out there, but still capable of ripping up the local XC course on a Wednesday night.
– Capable climber, nimble in tight terrain
– Instant confidence boost on the descents
– Great performance from the Shimano spec
– 157mm super-boost rear wheel standard limits aftermarket wheel choices
– No suspension lockout options
– A fast fun trail bike capable of tackling any type of terrain you can throw at it