First Ride: Pivot’s New Mach 5.5

It’s a beauty!

Holy red beast bike! What is that? 

The latest bike from Pivot is called the Mach 5.5 Carbon. A robust looking 140/160mm trail bike, that rolls all the Pivot traits and design features we like into grippy and lightweight all-rounder.

Cast an eye over that rear end – pretty solid looking, huh? The linkage and one-piece rear end are so stout – don’t expect any waggle in this puppy’s tail. That said, the claimed frame weights are from 2.35kg, which is bloody light for a 140mm bike.

160mm up front, 140mm out back, and the most aggressively elegant Pivot we’ve seen yet.

We have fond memories of the Pivot Mach 5.7, we still remember it as one of the best trail bikes we’ve  ridden, and it looks like the 5.5 Carbon builds on the legacy of the Mach 5.7 nicely, bringing that classic trail bike formula into a modern format.

Pivot’s long-standing use of the dw-link has lead to some exceptional suspension refinement.
The new FOX 36 and 2.6″ Maxxis Minion.

Big rubber! 27.5+?

The waters are getting muddier. When does a tyre move from being just a ‘big’ 27.5” tyre and become a 27.5+ sized tyre? Does it even really matter? We know for sure that there are more 27.5 x 2.6” tyres options coming soon, so get used to seeing bigger treads on trail bikes.

Either way, the end result is traction with a capital ACTION – the 2.6” tyres and excellent suspension make for much malarky but without the vagueness of a 2.8” or 3.0” tyre.


Looks similar to the Switchblade.

It sure does, albeit a little less swoopy in its lines. But where the Switchblade is built to run either 27.5+ or 29er wheels, the 5.5 is 27.5 only. Complete bikes are all specced with the big 2.6” Maxxis we’ve got here, and 35mm rims. You could run smaller, lighter tyres of course, though the bottom bracket height will drop. The 5.5 also uses standard 148×12 rear axle spacing, rather than the 157mm Superboost spacing used on the Switchblade.

We reviewed the Switchblade recently. It shares very similar DNA with the 5.5.

In other regards, the 5.5 with a 160mm fork shares almost identical geometry to the Switchblade with a 150mm fork in a 27.5+ format. The only differences of real note being the slightly increased travel,10mm more reach and a slightly lower stack height on 5.5. Both share a 66.5 degree head angle.


What’s the ride like? 

Well, we’ve had a grand total of maybe two hours riding this bike at Stromlo, but so far it re-confirms for us the levels of grip, efficiency and superb build quality we’ve come to expect from Pivots. The ride does, admittedly, feel a lot like a Switchblade in 27.5+ format, but there’s an extra degree of precision that we assume stems from the slightly smaller tyre size. Pivots have been getting longer in recent times, and there’s definitely more room up front to work with in this new bike than previous Pivots. Still, we’d be tempted to try upsizing and running a shorter stem if you’re an aggressive rider.

The suspension is magnificent. The stability and efficiency of the dw-link is tops, and the new air spring in the 2017 FOX 36 is a noticeable improvement too, more supple than ever before.

It’s going to tick a lot of boxes for the 27.5″ wheel fans, with the market expanding on 29ers, the 5.5 will have a place. On the trail the bike feels nimble, precise and confident, especially on jumps with tight landings and super-techy corners that would have a 29er struggling.

The 160mm travel fork is very tall when combined with the high stem mounted above a conical headset spacer, so when the climbs got steep the front wheel would lift and wander about. We’d love to experiment lowering the stem for a better climbing position, and given how confident we felt punching the descents we expect a lower bar height wouldn’t detract from the bike’s descending ability too much at all.

Note all the neat frame protection on the down tube and swingarm. It’s all soft durometer rubber too, so it dampens a lot of noise as well.

What about other details? And is that a front derailleur mount? 

Every one of the five frame sizes will fit a full-sized water bottle, even the XS. Like other recent Pivots, the bike gets neat cable ports and is fully ready for Di2 shifting with a battery port and wire guides.

Shimano Di2 battery port, but perhaps the space for a battery will serve for more than just Shimano?

There’s some neat attention to detail, especially in terms of frame protection, and also we notice a few entry and exit ports for more electronics, we can only speculate about why there is a place for something by the rear disc rotor and in front of the rear shock. Perhaps sensors, accelerometers, and suspension adjusters…?

And yes, Pivot are still wedded to front derailleurs. Ok, we get it, some people still want them, but surely it’s a small contingent asking for a front mech on a bike at this level?


Pricing? 

This is a top end piece of kit, so take a deep breath. A frameset will leave your wallet $4799 lighter, and complete builds start from $7599 for an XT build kit up to a whopping $14,999 for the team build kit with XTR Di2 2×11. The XT/XTR 1×11 build kit option we’ve ridden here is $8999.

What next? 

We had to leave this bike in Canberra for dealers to have a look at, but we’ll be reviewing it properly in the coming weeks. In the meantime, read our full review of the Pivot Switchblade here, and the Firebird here.

Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo’s New Jump Track

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9866
Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-05059
The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

Stromlo Vapour Trail-04853
Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04860
The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04885
Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04957
Unmistakably Canberra.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04919
Hooking in on the upper turns.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05009
Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05030
Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05095
Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05036
Incoming.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05109
Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9813
Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9878
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Bulk Air Time: Vapour Trail, Stromlo's New Jump Track

Think you know what Stromlo Forest Park is all about? Think again. This legendary destination, best known for its magnificent cross country trails, just had a change of pace with the opening of the new Vapour Trail, an incredible two-kilometre long jump track built to celebrate the venue’s tenth anniversary.

We headed to Canberra to meet up with some of the country’s best riders – Thomas Crimmins, Timmy Eaton and Ryan Walsch – for a day of bulk air time.


Watch the full video of Canberra pinners Thomas Crimmins, Tim Eaton and Ryan Walsch ripping it up on Vapour Trail below.


Stromlo Vapour Trail-05048
Ryan ‘Raymond’ Walsch flows into the lower sections of Vapour Trail.

The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant.

Vapour Trail is a big jump ahead for Stromlo, quite literally, with some pretty serious air time on offer if you’re hitting the big lines. The inspiration for this beast stems directly from the international reputation of some of the best-known trails on the planet, trails like Whistler’s A-Line and Dirt Merchant. After all, why should the Canadians get all the fun?

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9828
Jump trains with mates. Nothing better.

It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps

Darren Stewart of Makin Trax (who carry out all the maintenance and construction at Stromlo) has been a long-time believer in the importance of a trail like this to ensure Stromlo stays ahead of the curve and helps progress mountain biking in Canberra. “I’ve been personally agitating for this trail for many years. We made a start on the Vapour trail a couple of years ago with the help of Jared Rando, and recently the ACT Government funded the development of the newest sections you see here.”

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9866
Crimmins over the shark fin.

“It’s a bit of an all-you-can-eat banquet of jumps, this one,” says Darren. There are around 40 jumps on the trail, and while it’s classified as a black diamond trail, all of the jumps can be rolled, and there are loads of options for A and B-Lines too. It all makes Vapour Trail pretty ideal as a training ground to progress your riding, letting you gradually build into the bigger jumps, rather than committing you to launching straight away.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-05059
The lower jumps get some good size to them if you’re hitting the big lips – Eaton casual as you like over an 8 metre gap.

Getting the timing and speed right on a trail like this is a real art form – you want it to naturally flow, so each jump builds into the next, without a need to pedal too hard or hit the anchors. The construction team, led by Mike Long, also included Ben Cory. Additional feedback from riders like Timmy Eaton, Thomas Crimmins and Damian Breach all added to the huge pool of experience required to nail this trail perfectly.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9933
Thomas Crimmins lofts its into a perfectly built series of booters.

From our perspective, we find it incredibly exciting that government is getting behind trail project like this. It definitely represents a new era for the sport in Australia when the highest levels are recognising that full-blown jump trails like this (or notably too, the new Hero Trail in Bright) can become real drawcards to bring travelling mountain bikers into a region. According to Darren Stewart, more trail like this are in the wings: “plans are already in place for some blue level jump trails too, that will complement what we’ve now got with Vapour Trail.” Looks like we’ll be making many trips to Canberra in the coming years then!

Stromlo Vapour Trail-04853
Up with the sun for a pretty unique shuttle to the top of Stromlo.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04860
The ultimate uplift? After all, it’s all about getting bulk air time, right?
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04885
Vapour Trail follows the first 100m or so of the downhill track, before peeling off to the right.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04957
Unmistakably Canberra.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-04919
Hooking in on the upper turns.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05009
Raymond rhythms through the step-on-step-off.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05030
Getting this step-on-step-off right requires commitment, but the spacing is perfect if you’ve got the skills to carry good speed into this section.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05095
Crimmins sends his Trance into orbit.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05036
Incoming.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-05109
Big wheels, big jumps, big tweak.
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9813
Rallying into classic Canberra fast, dry turns.

Stromlo Vapour Trail-9878
Stromlo Vapour Trail-9944

Video: The Cell Stromlo on home turf

We like Australian brands, especially when they’re proud of their heritage. Cell Bikes mightn’t be the first brand you think of when it comes to Australian mountain bikes, but they design and test all their bikes locally. Their new entry-level hardtail is named after a place that still rates as one of our favourite destinations; Stromlo.

Stromlo_0323_LR_RGB

Cell’s new designer, Dave Musgrove, comes to the party with some serious riding and product development credentials and here he puts his latest creation to work on the singletrack of its namesake, shredding around Mt Stromlo on the $749 Stromlo 2.0.Stromlo_0226cropped_LR_RGB

We’re looking forward to seeing more from Cell, with Dave Musgrove at the wheel we know they’re serious about repositioning themselves with some real offerings for the mountain bike market. Keep an eye out for some high-end hardtails, and cross country and all-mountain duallies in early 2014. www.cellbikes.com.au/Bikes/Mountain-Bikes

The Scott 25 Hour Pack List

This time last year we ran a couple of how-to articles leading up to the Scott 24 Hour race. One looked at how to prepare for the event a few weeks out. (Check them out here and here. This year, the weekend includes an extra hour of racing to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Canberra Off-Road Cyclists Club who organise this massive event.

Plans for a great weekend can unravel fast if you don’t turn up prepared. We’ve put together a pack list to ensure you ride well on the bike and make the most of the times when you’re not riding as well. Half the fun is enjoying the festival-like atmosphere after all.

Web How To Scott24 prep masthead


Flow’s 25 Hour Pack List:

Sleeping things: Tent, sleeping bag, mat, pillow, silk inner (so you can sleep in your warm sleeping bag in dirty riding clothes), alarm clock.

Riding essentials: bike, shoes, helmet, gloves, pump or CO2, spare tube, multi-tool.

Spare kit: knicks, jerseys, warmer kit for cold night laps, spare gloves in case yours get covered in sweat, frost or tyre sealant.

Camp clothes: warm jacket for sitting around and waiting at transition, trackies, favourite beanie, off-bike shoes.

Lights: fully charged helmet, bar and rear lights, chargers and a petzl, torch or keyring light so you don’t mix things up at the camp site and drink a bottle of lube instead of a Red Bull.

Race food: gels, bars, energy drink. Pack enough for an item or two each lap, then pack a bit extra in case you end up doing more laps because you broke your teammates. Gels are especially handy half way through a double-lap to keep your energy levels up.

Meal food: breakfast, dinner and a couple of lunches. Or pack some cash to take advantage of the food stands at the event. Dutch pancakes are especially popular.

Snack food: muffins, bananas, chocolate, things to graze on between laps. Bring enough to share around if you’d like to make some new friends or your bike desperately needs servicing and there’s a queue.

Campsite extras: flags or decorations that mates can use to locate your digs, chairs, table, music/race radio, coffee maker, whiteboard (or pizza box/piece of cardboard/scrap of something) to mark lap times on, permanent marker, anything that will make you feel warm and awake at 3.30am.

Repair pieces: this one will depend on what you have and what you know how to use. Spare tyres, brake pads, chain, extra tubes, sealant, zip ties and gaffa tape will get you out of most difficulties. Some riders will also pack a work stand and a whole shop worth of tools and spares. Read the pre-event info to see if a bike shop will be out at the race as well to reduce the stress should something go wrong on or between laps.

Novelty items: spoke lights, walkie talkies, tequila, microwave, beanbag, jelly snakes, dress ups, team sofa, pop-up change room, a heater that won’t burn down your campsite, a friend who comes out on Sunday with ice creams. We had a friend who took his cat, Fi Fi, once, but that was an accident. Always look twice before closing lid to your toolbox.


Have we missed something that will make a great weekend an even better one? Let other riders know in the comments section below.