Rupert Chapman Shreds Christchurch Adventure Park

This vid is a taste of the Christchurch Adventure Park pre-fire. It may not look the same now, but we’re determined to come back bigger and better than before, just may need to wait a while for that riding fix! Thanks to Rupert Chapman for the good vibes. – Christchurch Adventure Park

Pivot Cycles would like to wish the Christchurch Adventure Park a speedy recovery process, and so would we here at Flow.

Flow’s First Bite: Pivot Mach 429 Trail

But 2017 is a new season, and look what has turned up – a new one, even better than the old one! Well, not entirely new, it’s the same frame as before, but there are a couple of upgrades to the spec that we thought were lacking in the outgoing version. So now it’s time for us to move on and forget the love that is now lost and look forward to spending proper time on this absolute beauty.

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We’re stoked to have the 429 Trail for review, and looking forward to some nice and long all-day singletrack sessions.
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116mm of DW-Link driven suspension, sublime stuff.

For a more in-depth first impressions piece on the 429 Trail where we go into more detail of the frame construction click through to our article from earlier this year.

Mach 429 Trail feature highlights.


What’s the Mach 429 Trail?

Pivot have a few 29ers in their stable, their all-mountain ready Switchblade and the carbon hardtail LES which both accept 27.5” wheels too. Then there are the two 429 series options, with the SL and Trail.  The SL is their super-light 100mm travel lean machine, for marathon racers and those looking for absolute efficiency, that frame alone is over $4600. And then the Trail model which we have here which takes a step to the back of the race grid with a more relaxed outlook on the trail. Click here for their full range.

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Our first ride was so sweet; the bike feels so light and smooth.

See our review of the Switchblade, Mach 4 Carbon and LES here:

Pivot Switchblade; choose it as a 27.5+ bike or a 29er using the one frame. 

Pivot LES; the highly versatile hardtail, choose between a single speed, 27.5″ wheel or 29er wheels.

Pivot Mach 4 Carbon; similar to the 429SL but smaller wheels for a zippy and lively ride.


429 SL vs. 429 Trail.

When compared to the SL model, the 429 Trail longer in travel, shorter in reach, shorter in the chainstay length, slacker in the head angle and higher in the bottom bracket. Why? Pivot have designed the 429 Trail to cruise the trails in a comfortable and confident manner and have a bit of fun doing it. pivot-mach-429-trail-5634


Changes from the last model you say?

Dropper post and wider gear range, excellent! No bike with ‘trail’ in its model description should be without these two things, so were happy to see them on this 2017 spec model. With a KS dropper and Shimano 11-46T mega wide range cassette, this thing is set!


What’s next?

pivot-mach-429-trail-5923
Light, relaxed, efficient and keen.

Riding, lots of it. The 429 Trail is motivating us to seek out some super-long trail rides, all-day missions and backcountry days out.

Pivot Reintroduces the Firebird

The new Firebird features some of the longest reach measurements in the sport, combined with super-short 16.95” chainstays and Boost spacing, and fits 27.5” wheels with tires up to 2.5” wide.

The Firebird is the no-compromise, Holy Grail of long travel mountain bikes ­– both an enduro bike that devours park runs and a technical climber that relishes huge lines and blazing descents. Building on its reputation as the bike for all-day missions on black diamond terrain, the Firebird now features Phoenix DH-inspired long reach measurements combined with a 65-degree head angle to deliver unmatched stability and handling.Bernard_red1

2017 Firebird - XTR 1X - Blue
2017 Firebird – XTR 1X – Blue

Pivot Firebird from Pivot Cycles on Vimeo.

“The Firebird is already known as long travel bike that can take huge hits and is also an incredibly capable technical climber,” said Pivot Cycles President and CEO, Chris Cocalis. “This new bike takes that reputation for enduro-versatility and ups the ante by incorporating our long and low geometry, and super short chainstays. This geometry really puts the rider “in” the bike, and adds up to an incredibly stable ride at high speeds and in super steep technical challenges.”

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The Firebird, with 170mm of dw-link™ suspension, is the best choice for riders seeking a no-compromises bike for all-day missions on black-diamond terrain. The new carbon frame design enabled Pivot’s engineering team to drop weight (it is easy to build a complete Firebird under 28 pounds), increase strength and stiffness, and incorporate Pivot’s signature design features – the same double wishbone rear triangle and linkage design found on the Phoenix DH, Boost spacing, the Pivot Cable Port System for super clean internal cable routing and fully Di2 integration and ultra-quiet, low durometer rubberised frame protection.


  • Full carbon frame featuring leading edge carbon fiber materials and Pivot’s proprietary hollow core internal molding technology
  • Phoenix DH-influenced long and low geometry
  • Short 430mm (16.95”) chainstays
  • 170mm dw-link™ rear suspension with upper clevis and linkage and double wishbone rear triangle
  • Fox Float Factory X2 rear shock*
  • Features a 170mm Fox 36 Factory fork
  • 5 wheel compatible, fits tires up to 2.5” wide
  • Boost™ spacing front and rear
  • Front derailleur compatible with Pivot’s stealth E-Type mounting system.
  • 180mm rear post mounts (no adaptor required)
  • Pivot Cable Port system for easy internal routing of shifters, brakes and droppers and full Di2 Integration
  • Internal dropper post compatible
  • Cold forged alloy linkages with Enduro Max Cartridge Bearings
  • New ultra quiet low durometer rubberized frame protection
  • Available in sizes S, M, L, XL for riders between 5’4″ and 6’7
  • Available in Pivot dealers, for more visit www.jetblackproducts.com

Tested: Pivot Switchblade

The Switchblade is Pivot’s first frame compatible with both 29″ and 27.5+ wheels, the two wheel sizes have inherently very different ride attributes, so effectively two different bikes can be built from one frame. Two wheel sizes in one model of bike is not a new concept (like the Trek Fuel, Specialzed Stumpjumper, Scott Genius and more) but two wheel sizes with one frame is. What’s most interesting is how two Switchblades can built with the different wheels resulting in nearly identical geometry, leaving the different ride characterise to be determined by the wheels only.

The two wheel sizes have inherently very different ride attributes, so effectively two different bikes can be built from one frame.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5149
Not ridden a plus bike yet? Oh that’s a real shame…
LOW4493
27.5 x 2.8″ on the left and 29 x 2.35″ on the right.

For an in-depth discussion of where we see the wheel size trend possibly going, read our opinion piece ‘The Middle Power’ here.

For our review of the Switchblade we were fortunate to secure two bikes with the same build to ride at the same time, a rare opportunity to garner a crystal clear impression of the two bikes’ different attitudes.


The frame

There’s no hiding we are big fans of Pivot’s superbly built frames, over the years we’ve witnessed this relatively young brand go from strength to strength. From their unique approach to geometry and suspension, to the pioneering and immediate adoption of the latest technological trends and standards, Pivot are up there with the best of them. But it’s the suspension performance that receives most adoration from us, the way the DW Link suspension is executed into the frame is brilliant. The distinguished DW Link suspension is instantly noticeable on the trail with ultra-smooth and supple action matched with stable pedalling, any bike using DW Link suspension deserves instant credit. For an explanation of the whole DW Link biz, click here.

There’s 150mm of travel up front and 135mm out the back of this thing, quite a variance in travel amounts but not uncommon amongst modern long travel 29ers and plus bikes where a bigger wheel/tyre seems to make up for less rear wheel travel on the trail.

Pivot Switchblade FLOW3914
Attractive from a distance, and curious upon closer inspection, there is a lot to know about the Switchblade.

The Switchblade is a damn fine piece of expensive stuff, the type of bike that you can stare at for some time, we sure did. The carbon shapes are robust and the compact and stout aluminium linkage is shaped much like the Phoenix downhill bike and Pivot’s enduro racer, the Mach 6. Cables are all housed internally, with very effective cable ports that clamp in place as well as holding the cables tightly to reduce creeping or rattling inside the frame.

Nicest looking Pivot yet?
Nicest looking Pivot yet?
Pivot Switchblade_LOW5186
Clamped internal cable ports are a very nice touch.

Shimano Di2 integration: Pivot have always been pretty tight with Shimano, Pivot Cycles founder, Chris Cocalis worked at Shimano for many years. So you’ll certainly notice the way a few of their systems neatly integrate into the frame like the side swing front derailleur (co-developed with Shimano and Pivot) and ultimate integration of Shimano’s Di2 electronic shifting components with a specific set of port fittings for wires and a specific cradle for the Di2 battery in the down tube.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5170

Thinking of Di2 in a Pivot? Check out our Shimano XTR Di2 build of a Pivot Mach 4 we did recently: Pivot and Shimano Di2 integration. And our review of the fantastic Mach 4 here: Pivot Mach 4 Carbon review.

Front derailleur compatible: There is provisions for a front derailleur (new side swing style), which in our opinion is both a blessing and a curse. Fans of the Shimano double chainring gear range will be happy with the option, but we also can’t help but wonder how the frame would look and hot it could benefit without the restrictions of the space required for a front mech in the region around the main linkage. Either way, more options is a good thing and the frame certainly doesn’t lack in lateral rigidity or strength at all, so we’ll live with it for now.

The 17mm stack headset cup: The only difference between the two frames is in the headset, included with every frameset is two lower cups; a zero stack and a 17mm stack. The 27.5+ wheels with the supplied Maxxis Recon 2.8″ tyres have a slightly smaller diameter than the 29er wheels with Maxxis High Roller 2.35″  which will give the 27.5+ bike a lower bottom bracket height. Fitting the 17mm headset cup lifts the 27.5+ bike in the bottom bracket and also corrects the head angle at the same time.Pivot Switchblade_LOW5184

Pivot are quite open to the fact that the 17mm cup is not mandatory, if you prefer a lower bottom bracket height just run the zero stack cup in either wheel size.

Super Boost 157mm rear hub: None of what the Switchblade achieves in regards to geometry would have been possible without pushing a few things outwards, starting with the rear hub and the chain line associated with it. As Pivot put it; “Super Boost Plus 157 uses the existing chain line developed for DH bikes but uses standard trail bike BB widths and crank combinations to take 29” and plus bike performance to the next level.”

While we’re still getting our heads around the new-ish Boost 148mm rear hub spacing which pushes chain lines outboard by 3mm, this Super Boost takes it further with a 157mm spacing that pushes out chain line 6mm. That extra chain line width has allowed the Switchblade to go shorter in the chain stays (428mm), provide generous tyre clearance, front derailleur compatibility, and still maintain a stiff and strong wheel and frame. The wider hub flanges reduce the dish on the rear wheel, which is a bonus for wheel strength too.

Super Boost 157mm rear hub spacing, not necessarily a new standard (used in DH bikes) but Pivot and DT have brought it to 29er and 27.5+ use.
Regular 142, Boost 148 and Super Boost 157.
Regular 142, Boost 148 and Super Boost 157.

 

Water Bottle ready: Two water bottle mounts are at the ready, the usual place inside the main triangle and the second mount underneath the down tube. We found clearance pretty tight with our setup, so a smaller size water bottle was the best fit. The shock can also be rotated to move the adjustment dials on top to allow more room for a larger bottle.


The parts

Pivot bikes are available as a frame only or frame and build kit, with the same frame available in a variation of configurations dressed in hand-picked components by Pivot themselves. Their build kits have a unique flavour, a real mixture of brands. Take a look at the build kits on offer here: Switchblade build kits. The frame alone will set you back $4609.95 and build kits range from $4824.95 to $10689.95 for the ultimate Shimano XTR Di2 build.

Shimano: The two bikes we have on review use the base model (yeah, hardly entry level we know) spec with a 1×11 Shimano XT/XTR drivetrain, RaceFace cranks and Shimano XT brakes. The cassette is modified with a One Up 45 tooth sprocket upgrade for a 12.5% larger gear range, a small but impressive detail as standard.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5190
Hey, that’s not a Shimano sprocket! Pivot spec One Up’s 45T sprocket on the Shimano XT cassette.

Wheels and tyres: DT Swiss make the custom hub for the 157mm spacing, and also supply the rims. The plus set uses 40mm internal width rims, and the 29er uses 25mm rims. We’re seeing a lot more Maxxis plus size tyres creeping into the market now, the early adopters of plus tyres like Specialized, Schwalbe and WTB are now joined by the big players in tyres, Maxxis and we’re glad for it. Of all the plus tyres we’ve ridden so far these would have to be our pick of the bunch, the tyre profile and tread shape strikes a nice balance of rolling speed and bite in a reasonable weight of 780 grams. While we did slice one small hole in the rear tyre (launching off massive granite boulders in Beechworth) it sealed up with Stan’s No Tubes sealant and didn’t interrupt our day.

Suspension: Like there is a lot of Shimano in the range from Pivot, the same goes for FOX, with the forks and rear shocks all coming from the high-end brand. Interesting to note though, is that in all the build kits the fork and shock remains the same, with the FOX 36 Factory 150 Kashima Boost 110QR fork, and out the back is the superb FOX Float Factory DPS EVOL Kashima. Both fork and shock have all the adjustments you could wish for, including the incredibly effective low speed compression adjustment which we use a lot.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5171
135mm of absolute gold.
Pivot Switchblade FLOW3920
FOX 36 Factory 150mm forks up front, seriously good stuff.
FOX Float DPS EVOL rear shock with the classic Pivot sag meter zip tied on for simple sag setup.

Riding both Switchblades

Setup: Setting up the suspension on two identical Pivots in two wheel sizes was quite a unique experience especially when it came to tuning rebound speed and compression adjustment, on the plus bike particularly. With such a large volume of air in your tyres it can act like an undamped spring at times, we found running slightly lower rebound speed in the fork and shock would help the bike from bouncing or oscillating on the undulating surfaces of the trail.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5068
The plus bike requires a very different suspension and tyre pressure setup than the 29er, take the time to get it sorted or the benefits will go to waste.
Pivot Switchblade_LOW5201
Big air volume requires a slightly different approach to suspension setup.

Tyre pressure: The key to making the most of the plus tyres is to nail the right tyre pressure, too much and the tyre won’t conform to the terrain like it should, wasting the benefits of the plus size, and too little and the tyre will squirm around and bottom out on the rim and you’ll risk a deflating pinch. We ran between 13-16 PSI in the front tyre, and 15-18 PSI out the back, we’d suggest experimenting to find the right pressure to suit your riding weight, and make sure the pressure gauge is accurate.

29 x 2.3" tyres on 25mm wide rims are more familiar to setup than the 2.8" plus tyres.
29 x 2.3″ tyres on 25mm wide rims are more familiar to setup than the 2.8″ plus tyres.

Cockpit: The cockpit took some getting used to, our first impressions were that it felt quite high up the front on our medium size test bike, the 29er especially. Flipping the stem did help provide a lower position when climbing out of the saddle and helped us weight the front tyre through the corners.

Pivot Switchblade FLOW3958
High up front, the Switchblade with 29″ wheels feels high with the tall wheels and 150mm travel fork.

DW Link: The DW Link suspension is known for its smooth and active action and when you’re mashing down on the cranks, the stability of the system is great. The Switchblade is one of the rare types of bike that you can run the FOX ProPedal lever all the way open, even during the climbs where you really benefit from the insane grip this bike has on the dirt.


Riding both Switchblades

Riding both bikes back to back it was clear to feel the differences, the general consensus going around the mountain bike community is that a regular 27.5″ bike will feel agile and fun, a plus bike will have loads of confidence and control and the big wheels of a 29er will be fast. That’s certainly the case here, the plus bike was eager to clamber up and down anything and take creative lines through tricky corners, while the 29er would get up to speed and want to stay there with fantastic rolling momentum and corner speed.

Climbing: Both bikes are fantastically grippy climbers, though the front end feels quite tall and the bottom bracket very low, there is gobs of traction letting you care less about finding the best line up the trail, leaving you to focus on putting good pedal strokes down. The Plus bike is especially unstoppable on technical climbs, once you get comfortable on the thing you begin seeing the trail differently, impossible climbs become a reality.

The Switchblade is seriously low in the bottom bracket, noticeable most when you’re climbing. We bashed the pedals into the ground quite often prompting us to experiment with increasing the rear shock pressure, in the hope it might ride a little higher when spinning up a climb. Some testers found it off-putting that the pedals would constantly bash the rocks, but of course the tradeoff is that a low bottom bracket is a good thing when you want to lean the bike over into a turn. Of course with the low bottom bracket, it was in the corners that the bike (especially the Plus version) scores top marks for, railing turns aggressively and confidently.

Unstoppable traction, the Switchblade in plus mode climbs anything.
Unstoppable traction, the Switchblade in plus mode climbs anything.

Descending: The powerful Shimano XT brakes, grippy rubber, burly 36mm leg forks and great suspension had us quite excited at the top of each descent. There were moments where the trail would get so nasty we’d expect to bottom out and feel the shockwaves through our body but instead the Switchblade remained composed and maintained speed very well.

We may have not gotten 100% comfortable at race pace like we would on a 160mm travel enduro bike but at slower speed and on technical trails the agility of the Switchblade out-shone the bigger and longer race bikes.

The confident ride will bring out the hooligan within you.
The confident ride will bring out the hooligan within you.

Like we mentioned before we found the front end quite tall in comparison to many 150mm travel bikes we’ve ridden recently, which made for a less aggressive cornering bike. We’d love to try out the new Pivot Mach 6 to see how they handle fast descents, but we do get the feeling the Switchblade is more suited to riding everything capably and confidently than setting personal best times on your enduro trail descents.

The 27.5+ Switchblade is almost un-crashable in a corner, seriously.

Pivot Switchblade_LOW5026
Throwing the 27.5+ configured Switchblade into a corner, so much fun!

Cornering: Definitely a strong point, on loose and sketchy turns the Switchblade holds on tight, tyres aside the supple suspension, low bottom bracket and sturdy frame instills the confidence you need when tipping the bike into a loose turn. The 27.5+ Switchblade is almost un-crashable in a corner, seriously.

It doesn’t feel like a big bike at all when you’re flicking your way through the singletrack, while the 29er will naturally feel a little taller than the plus version, this is one very agile bike considering all the others in the category. Tight turns don’t feel awkward, and in fast turns you feel confidently glued to the dirt, a real winner here.

We rode the Pivots on a wide variety of trails and it always seemed to get along with the trail surface, it’s the type of bike that would be happy travelling and exploring new and unfamiliar trails confidently and safely.

Itching to get rowdy.
Itching to get rowdy.
Technical trails, no worries.
Technical trails, no worries.

Verdict

The Switchblade’s one frame two wheel size concept is an interesting one, we’re still not 100% sure if there will be people out there who would buy this bike and swap the between 29″ and 27.5″ wheels (and lower headset cup) to suit the trail or task, but if you were keen you’d have two bikes with enough distinction that it’d be worth it. Either way Pivot have produced one impressive bike than can be configured in two very different ways rather than making two bikes – sounds like a sensible way to do things to us!

While the price may seem a real turnoff it does compare to the likes of other American fancy brans like Yeti, Intense and Santa Cruz. Yes, we know, big dollars indeed!

Who’s it for then? Well, we are admittedly getting pretty tired about talking about wheel size so often, but here goes a bit more for you. The Switchblade configured to 29″ wheels would make a great all-mountain bike for powering through trails at speed, while the 27.5+ configuration makes for a seriously grippy and confident bike that will make light work of the slipperiest surfaces.

Sell your car, choose your poison.

Fresh Product: The New Pivot Phoenix DH Carbon

All new for 2016, the Phoenix DH Carbon is the direct result of Pivot’s collaboration with world-class riders on the Pivot Factory Racing Team.

Our newest video pairs the incredible riding skills of Bernard Kerr with the story of how Bernard, Eliot Jackson and Emilie Siegenthaler drove our engineering team to create the strongest, lightest Pivot DH bike yet for their 2016 season on the World Cup and at Crankworx. phoenix-gallery-detail-shot-8 phoenix-gallery-detail-shot-9 phoenix-gallery-detail-shot-2 phoenix-gallery-detail-shot-15

Get all the details, build kits, technical information and geometry here. –

See more at: http://www.pivotcycles.com/newphoenixvideo/#sthash.osEkHiHs.dpuf

Tested: Pivot Mach 6 Carbon

The best laid plans of mice and men. Our original plan for this gorgeous Pivot Mach 6 was to race it at the first round of this year’s EWS  series in Rotorua; we had the frame kitted out with Shimano’s finest, we’d done the training, we’d colour matched our gloves and helmet… but it wasn’t to be.

Some rather ordinary riding during the very first day of practice led to a free trip in an ambulance to Rotorua ER, a busted wrist, wounded pride and the world’s cheapest paracetamol.


Pivot Mach 6 48
Hubba hubba, a carbon Pivot!
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With our original plan out the window, the test had to wait. Long weeks passed as the curvaceous beauty sat immaculately at Flow HQ, begging to be ridden, but when the time came, the Pivot didn’t disappoint.

We make no apologies for our ongoing love affair with Pivot bikes. Ever since the original release of the Mach 4, we’ve been impressed by the brand’s singleminded commitment to excellent engineering. Chris Cocalis, the brand’s founder, is an uncompromising kind of guy, and it shows in the bikes.

Pivot Mach 6 33
Fast and rocky terrain, for days.

[divider]Who is it for?[/divider]

The Mach 6 is a true all-mountain bike, big on travel, but equally big on efficiency. There are some stellar XC/trail bikes in the Pivot range, so if you’re looking for a cross-country bike then the extraordinary Mach 4 Carbon or Mach 429SL are going to be a better all-round option. That said, the Mach 6 must be one of the most easy-to-live-with long-travel bikes out there. Yes all that travel is a bit isolating on smoother trails, but the bike’s ability to turn your efforts into forward motion are near unparalleled in this category, which gives it excellent versatility.

Given the bike’s price, it’s fair to say that it’s aimed at a rider who knows what they’re after and appreciates the finer points of its construction and performance. And it takes a rider who knows a thing or two about setup to get the most out of the bike.

Pivot Mach 6 45
155mm of DW-Link travel, about as smooth and efficient as they come.

[divider]The Frame[/divider]

When you look at the Pivot lineup, there’s a real mix of bikes that have recently been overhauled and are totally up to speed with modern trends (such as the 429SL, 429 Trail and Phoenix Carbon) and others that are definitely due for a refresh (like the 26″ Mach 5.7 and the Firebird).

The Mach 6 kind of sits in the middle – it’s been in its current format for a couple of years, and is up-t0-date in terms of it 27.5″ wheel size and other frame features, but we’re sure a refresh is in the pipeline to give it the same flawless cable routing and other improvements we’ve recently seen on other Pivot bikes.

Pivot make a lot of noise about their high compression carbon construction techniques, which they say delivers class leading strength to weight ratios and a flawless internal finish to their frames. We can’t really comment on this as we didn’t think hacksawing the bike into pieces would do down well, but we can tell you that it’s a beautifully presented bike. The logos are a little overdone, but the paintwork is splendid.

The semi-internal cables are the only blight on the bike’s otherwise luscious appearance; given the level of thought that has gone into the rest of the bike, they seem poorly executed. Where the cables exit above the shock, they bow considerably when the suspension compresses. The Mach 6 did comes with a fastener to secure the cables to the linkage and away from the frame, but it proved fragile and when this broke off mid-ride there was no way to stop the cable rubbing the seat tube leaving a nasty gouge in just one ride.

Riders will need to be careful to ensure cables and carbon do not meet.

Riders will be divided about water bottle mount placement under the downtube. You can run a bottle, but expect a mouth full of grit, otherwise use a pack, which is what most riders will do.

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Geometry:

Pivot have taken an approach to the Mach 6’s geometry that is not common in mountain biking – the head angle of their frame actually varies across the frame sizes, getting steeper in the bigger sizes. Our large test bike has a 66.25 degree head angle, while the seat tube is a very relaxed 72.3 degrees, a couple of degrees slacker than many bikes in this category. We needed to shunt the seat rails right forward in the post clamp to get a comfy climbing position.

At 607mm, the top tube length is shorter than the most recent crop of bikes in this category. By way of comparison the Giant Reign measures up a full 33mm longer, the Norco Range 13mm longer.

All these figures paint the picture of a bike that is much more of an all-round trail machine than an hell for leather Enduro descending machine.

Suspension:

This is an area where Pivots have always shone, and the Mach 6 doesn’t so much react to the terrain as float above it.

The DW Link system found on the Mach 6 is used on all Pivot dual suspension bikes, and its hallmark pedalling efficiency really shines in a longer travel application like this.

Suspension setup is aided by a sag indicator that comes zip-tied to the shock air can, and as with all Pivots the bike is highly sensitive to getting the sag just right – they stipulate a strict 30% sag for the Mach 6. Get it right and you’re rewarded with a remarkably stable, buttery, predictable suspension feel.

If you’re coming from a cross-country background this might seem a little soft, but with the excellent pedalling traits the Pivot possesses, it’s perfect. We did play with firming the suspension up, but we think that Pivot have it spot on with their recommendation.

Pivot Mach 6 8
Two short linkages join the front and rear ends of the frame. The DW-Link is superb in all areas.
Pivot Mach 6 19
The short and stout aluminium lower link.

The shock is a custom tuned FOX Float X and it delivers 155mm of travel. As we’ve noted in the past, getting at the rebound dial on this shock requires fingers like a 3 year old or the use of an Allen key / stick, but it’s an insane performer.

Using the shock’s CTD lever was more a matter of habit that necessity, as the bike pedals beautifully. Few bikes with this supple, forgiving, magic-cloud kind of a ride can give you efficiency like this. Pivot have nailed the ‘bottomless’ suspension feel that so many brands preach about too, and you get all of it 155mm without feeling like it’s falling towards a nasty bottom out.

Pivot Mach 6 23
Flow favourite, the FOX Float X rear shock.

[divider]Build Kit[/divider]

Our bike was assembled with a custom build kit provided by Shimano Australia, so it’s a little different to what you’d get off the shelf.

Slick, crisp drivetrain:

The all-new, mechanical, 11 speed XTR, with an 11-40 cassette proved to be an excellent setup for aggressive trail riding. Paired with the RaceFace cranks and 30 tooth narrow/wide chainring we were geared up for just about anything.

With the bike’s very low travel to weight ratio and efficient suspension, the low gear range made even the biggest of fire road drags manageable, whilst the slightly smaller gaps between 11-40 as opposed to SRAM’s 10-42 cassette meant shifting up or down a gear didn’t affect cadence quite as much. We found this particularly useful when out of the saddle, reacting to slight ups and downs out on the trail, as we were able to maintain the required power at the right cadence, with less of that clunky feeling you can get when you shift into a gear that’s either marginally too low or too high.

Balanced suspension:

The 150mm RockShox Pike up front worked an absolute treat. It’s become the norm here at Flow (for the chubbier riders among us anyway) to slip in an extra volume spacer and then drop the air pressure a smidge. This benefits the fork’s (and in turn, the bike’s) performance enormously, as the fork is incredibly supple off the top and into mid-stroke, before ramping up dramatically. After we’d set up the rear end, and applied our usual settings to the Pike, the bike felt well balanced despite the rear end having slightly more travel.

Skinny wheels:

As circumstances had it, the only wheels on hand for the Pivot build were Shimano XT in their slimmer cross country guise. Given the walloping this bike can take, that wasn’t the best choice. The narrow and light rims aren’t the best choice for a bike like this and the rear wheel did come away looking a little worse for wear with a wobble like sailor a port.

You can read more about the bike’s build in our preview article, which you can find here: http://flowmountainbike.com/post-all/flows-rotorua-ews-dreambike-pivot-mach-6/

[divider]Ride[/divider]

Corners, skids and singletrack:

The way the Pivot plays with the trail makes it a real standout in this category. Short chain stays and suspension that doesn’t suck your pedalling efforts away make it a responsive ride, easy to flick the front end about, something that was aided on our bike by the light wheels.

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Giving the rocky trails of Sydney a good nudge.

Because of the DW Link’s supple, active ride under power, the Pivot encourages you to get on the gas more, pedalling through terrain that would have other bikes skipping about. In these instances we really appreciated the 1×11 drivetrain, as we were less worried about the chain jumping off than we’d have been with twin rings.

Descending:

The Pivot is smooth, pacy, but not rowdy descender, more float like a butterfly than sting like a bee.

The way the suspension is configured, it stays lively and light, not simply steamrolling the trail.

Super aggressive riders will notice the shorter reach and wheelbase of the Mach 6, and it has less high-speed ploughing confidence than a pure Enduro bike, but you can put it where you want to – you’re the pilot, not a passenger on this bike.

You could opt to run a 160mm fork instead of the stock 150mm, for a slacker head angle, but we think that wouldn’t be playing to this bike’s strengths.

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Getting on the gas during descents is a real highlight.

The rear suspension is really a standout, carrying momentum like crazy. If anything, its performance encourages you to ride the rear wheel harder than normal, which could have been a factor in our wobbly rim! Speaking of the rear end, the Mach 6 definitely exhibits a bit more flex out back than we’re accustomed to seeing from Pivot. It’s not enough to make the bike nervous, but giving it a shunt into a corner produces a bit of twang.

Climbing: 

The Pivot loves the descents, but pedalling is where the bike really shines. Even with 30% sag, unless we were climbing on the tarmac or a prolonged fire road, we didn’t change the shock settings at all. Mashing away out of the saddle the Pivot would bob to a small degree, but for regular seated climbing the suspension was incredibly efficient.

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No sacrifices, the Mach 6’s climbing ability is too good.

The climbing traction is pretty sensational too. On loose, technical climbs, it’ll just keep gripping and powering up – the High Roller II tyres didn’t hurt in this regard either, they’ll find grip just about anywhere.

[divider]Alternatives[/divider]

While the Pivot is a bit of a unique proposition in many regards, the Norco Range offers a pretty similar kind of ride quality. Both bikes are big on travel and suspension performance, but don’t go to the same extremes of geometry and descending focus as some others in this category. Compared to the Norco, the Pivot does have the edge in terms of efficiency and suspension performance. On the other hand, the Norco is considerably cheaper and it’s a seriously polished machine for the money.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

The Pivot is an absolute animal of an all-mountain bike. For a bike that is so light, and can be ridden all day no problems, it does a good job if you’re going out to do some shuttles or hammer through a technical Enduro. Despite this, as the test went on we felt more and more like the Pivot was a long travel trail bike, rather than an out and out Enduro race bike.

Bikes like the YT Capra or the Giant Reign are going to be better if serious Enduro is your bag, whereas The Pivot feels more like it embraces all situations on the trail, with no favouring of any particular riding style.

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All-mountain, anywhere you want. The Mach 6 will efficiently take you there.

For the type of terrain we see a lot of in Australia, and particularly our local Sydney trails, the Pivot is absolutely perfect. It’s a bike that you can take out on almost any type of trail and have a good time. It’s a bike that you could race cross country on one day, and enter an Enduro on the next.

For these reasons, we see the Pivot as one of the premier all-mountain bikes available on the market today. Yes, we have some quibbles (like the cable routing) but it’s a bike that could potentially replace multiple other bikes in the garage, and still give you just as much enjoyment out on the trail.

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Hot.

Fresh Product: Pivot Mach 429 Trail

Pivot have taken their 29er dually and given it a touch of new-school trail radness, and it looks pretty damn fine. It boasts a whole new frame, and could unite big wheel fans and fun-loving trail shredders.

The greatest trail bikes do everything well, no matter what or where you ride, and Pivot’s new Mach 429 Trail raises the bar for amazing bikes even higher. Our goal when designing the Mach 429 Trail was to create a new category of trail bike – one that takes advantage of the best features of 29 and yet maintains the performance characteristics that make you forget about wheel size and, instead, translate to the “best-ride-ever,” every time you ride. – Pivot.

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The 429 Trail uses a 116mm travel DW-Link suspension design, and is aimed to accompany a 130mm fork. A whole new mid-travel linkage design has been developed for this bike. 

The 429 Trail marks the introduction of Pivot’s new mid-travel trail linkage design, specifically for trail bikes. With major influences from the clevis design of the Phoenix DH Carbon and Mach 6 Carbon, the 429 Trail utilises an entirely new upper linkage to provide the same ultra-precise control and bottomless feel of our longer travel dw-link™ designs in a more compact, lighter package for trail applications. – Pivot

We’re over the moon to see an updated cable routing system. The external rear brake and gear cables now travel down the underside of the downtube for cost saving and ease of access, not past the rear shock as seen on current Pivots (tricky to prevent nasty cable rub). A new front derailleur mounting system that if removed is hardly visible at all, very tidy!

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The new wider Boost hubs front and back gave the designers to bring the rear end length to a tight 440mm, retain good tyre clearance, and add stiffness to the 29″ wheels.

Additionally, we’ve designed this full carbon frame with value in mind – building on our years of composite layup and construction experience – we’ve maintained the highest levels of stiffness and strength to weight, while making focused changes to keep the costs down and the technical advantages high, such as strategic, easy-to-service external routing combined with key features of the Pivot Cable Port System – including ports for use with an internal dropper post and clean cable/housing routing through the chainstays. – Pivot

Pivot 429 Trail a 3

The xc race focussed Pivot 429 SL remains (100mm travel rear, 100/120 fork) as their leanest and sharpest dually, but the 429 Trail takes a small but considered step in the direction of the trail rider that appreciates the speed and confidence of a 29″ wheel, but still likes to chuck it about all in the name of a good time.

Frame prices will start at around $3599, and complete bikes from $5500.

We’ll be on the case to score a test ride as soon as possible, sit tight.

Visit www.jetblackproducts.com for how you can get your hands on one.


Jeff Herbertson – Final Sessions at Post Office

Jeff Herbertson, Pivot’s resident dirt jump genius, worked with Alex Reveles and Ian Collins to produce some amazing photos and video from the last days of a dirt jump legend:

“Post Office has been a very special place to a lot of people. In 2008 I visited Aptos, and rode Post Office for the first time. I was very timid, sketchy, and amazed. Within a year, I had packed up my truck and moved to Santa Cruz, where I’ve lived on and off since. I can confidently say that most of my bike control was learned in those few acres. I’ve met lifelong friends and picked up most of my digging techniques from watching the loc boys throw the best dirt that jumps have ever been made of. I’ve broken bones, bikes, and bread there. Those jumps will always have a very special spot in my memory.”

Fresh Bikes: Pivot Unveil a Lighter Di2 Compatible Mach 429 SL

Racing is a new game and the half pound lighter Pivot Mach 429 SL Carbon is the bike riders need when the course tests both engine size and handling skills.

Pivot has dropped over 226g via the use of leading-edge carbon fiber and their proprietary hollow-core, internal-molding process with optimized composite materials and lay-up structure – making this the lightest, stiffest 29er with the best power transfer available.

The Pivot Mach 429SL Carbon is only the second fully Di2 integrated mountain bike (the first is Pivot’s Mach 4 Carbon). Featuring our innovative Pivot Cable Port System, internal routing is easy to install and maintain with large, easy to access ports and interchangeable covers for the cleanest installation of wires, batteries and cables.

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Riders benefit from the latest in dw-link® suspension design with a Fox Float Kashima Factory shock, performance-tuned specifically for the Mach 429SL Carbon. World Cup level efficiency is provided by dw-link®’s anti-squat characteristics, instant acceleration and unparalleled climbing traction. Downhill, the 100mm of dw-link® suspension performs like a longer travel bike, for an incredibly capable ride in technical terrain and ready for record-setting descents.

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226g weight savings: Frame weight from 2.4kg

100mm of dw-link® suspension

Full carbon frame featuring proprietary hollow core internal molding technology

29 inch wheels for the fastest laps and best rollover

Full length internal cable routing and Shimano Di2 integration via Pivot’s exclusive, easy-to-maintain Cable Port System

Internal dropper post compatible

Cold forged alloy linkages with Enduro Max Cartridge Bearings

Fox Float Kashima Factory shock, performance tuned for the Mach 429SL

Highly durable rubberized leather downtube and swingarm protection

The Mach 429SL Carbon frame will retail for AUD $3999 with approximate complete bike kit pricing as follows:

SRAM X1 – $6,999
Shimano XT – $6,999
Shimano Xt/XTR Pro SRAM 1X – $8,299
SRAM XO1 – $8,299
http://www.pivotcycles.com

Tested: Pivot Mach 6 Carbon

With a week on the trails of Rotorua on the horizon, Flow handpicked four of the new breed of 27.5″ trail/all-mountain bikes to put to the test. One of these was Pivot’s mouth watering Mach 6 Carbon, a bike we previewed a couple of weeks ago on our home trails.

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Design:

All carbon and all glorious, the Mach 6 is only a small step up in the travel stakes from the legendary Mach 5.7, but it’s quite a different beast. First of all, the wheels are a little bigger – it’s one of three new 27.5″ bikes in the Pivot lineup. Secondly, it shuffles towards the descending end of the spectrum a bit, with slacker angles, a lower bottom bracket and FOX’s premium Float X shock. Pivot built this bike with Gravity Enduro racing in mind, you know.

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Internal cable routing through the sturdy and shapely top tube.
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In case can’t make up your mind, the Mach 6 can run 650B or 27.5″ wheels…. (that’s a joke, people). The chain stay and seat stay have rubberised chain slap protection, but we found it began to come unstuck in the wet conditions.

Even with 155mm rear travel and 160mm front, the Mach 6 avoids being all Missy Piggy on the climbs, thanks to a low overall weight of just under 13kg, and perhaps the best suspension system on the planet – the DW link. Combine the DW link’s spritely responsiveness under pedalling with the on-the-fly compression adjustment of the CTD shock and you’ll spin your way up just about anything. The riding position is very upright for long climbs, but who’s racing the ups?

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Behold, the DW link. This system is the key to the Pivot’s remarkably active rear suspension and excellent responsiveness under power.

Small bump response and durability are both given a boost with the new linkage configuration employed on the Mach 6; the shock itself is driven by a separate strut that rotates on cartridge bearings and this eliminates the need for a DU bush. Winning.

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The new Float X CTD shock is driven by a refined upper link/strut for outstanding small bump response. We had problems with the cables rubbing against the top of the seat stays, right where the upper link joins.

Keeping the rear end tight with a bigger wheel and this much travel needed some smart thinking; to fit it all in (and still facilitate a front derailleur) Pivot gave the rear triangle a single spar on the non-driveside. Big bearings in the lower linkage and a 142x12mm DT-made axle ensure the rear end is kept sufficiently stiff.

An uninterrupted seat tube lets you lower the seat post all the way, but this bike really needs a dropper post (there are cable routing provisions for an internally routed ‘stealth’ post). One casualty of the compact frame and whopper shock is water bottle mounts, but in this arena of riding, most riders will be using hydration packs anyhow.

We mentioned it before in our First Bite, but the cables created all kinds of headaches for us. With the muddy conditions we rode in, cable rub was a big problem and we had some serious paint and carbon damage around the upper linkage. Use cable rub stickers aplenty.

The Build:

Add a dropper post and change the rubber and you’ve got a pretty much flawless build kit. We like the soft compound of the Kenda tyres, but some sturdier rubber wouldn’t go astray here, especially on the rear, given how hard you can hammer the rear wheel into holes and bumps.

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An XTR Shadow+ derailleur is paired with crisp XT shifters.

The Shimano XT brakes and XT/XTR drivetrain will keep at it forever, and if you’d prefer to run a single ring instead of the supplied 24/38 double chain ring arrangement, then there as ISCG tabs to do so.

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A dual-ring crankset broadens the capabilities of the Mach 6 – it has the gears and the abilities to climb just about anything.

Stan’s No Tubes Flow EX rims are a great choice for this bike, with a 23mm-wide rim bed to support big tyres, plus they’re tubeless ready.

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Good rim choice! The Flow EX rims are broad and light, plus they use standard spokes that you can grab from any shop.

Ride:

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Yay for roots! We found the Mach 6 to be incredibly confident and comfortable, even when sliding sideways round the slipperiest of corners.

For a bike with burly intentions, the Mach 6 felt a little bit ‘small’ at first – the medium frame doesn’t have the stretched out top tube of some all-mountain bikes, and the stem is a bit longer than you’d normally see on a bike with a 160mm fork. But any worries we had in the carpark about this making the Pivot nervous on the descents disappeared once we aimed it downhill.

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It’s very easy to get the front wheel of the Pivot off the ground and to plough through the rough. The rear end carries great momentum through big hits.

This bike eats it up, the rougher and rootier the better. With the short rear end (430mm stays) and slack head angle, the Mach 6 lives on its rear wheel; open your stance up, move your body weight rearward a touch and this bike smashes it! You can pop the front wheel up, letting it skim across the rough, while the rear suspension gobbles everything up. There’s never a worry that rear end is overworked, it’s superb, like a downhill bike in the way it handles repeated hits. It’s absurd how much momentum you can carry.

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A wide bar and compact frame makes it easy to let the bike move around underneath you – you don’t feel locked in.

The combination of a wide handlebar and compact overall bike size makes it easy let the bike move underneath you, something we really appreciated on the slippery, rooty trails. Even when the bike breaks traction or you find yourself off line, it’s very easy to keep that body and bike separation – on some bikes you feel like you’re going down with the ship as soon as wheels begin sliding, but on the Mach 6 it’s easy to let the bike sort itself out and you just worry about what’s coming up next.

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Is a very good fork, yes? The FOX Float 34 CTD has very supportive damping and a spring curve that holds some travel in reserve for the big hits.

The FOX 34 CTD fork is classy too. FOX have addressed the concerns that their 2013 forks were too linear in their action and have given the new range a far more progressive spring curve. We ended up running the pressure quite low to get the correct sag and found ourselves relishing the confidence and traction provided by the supportive damping and stiff construction.

Overall:

Of the four bikes we took to Rotorua, this is the one that put the biggest grins on our faces when it counted. It’s fast, it’s eager to get wild, it’s light and beautifully made (except for those cables!) and it has that classic Pivot ability to get you into, and back out of, situations that would see you crashing on a lesser bike. Keep the sizing in mind, as some riders will want to go up a frame size and run a shorter stem, and negotiate to have a dropper post fitted too before you leave the shop. As an all-mountain / gravity-enduro steed, this is a hard effort to top.

Interview: Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles, Part 2

Chris Cocalis is the brains behind one of the most successful young brands in mountain biking, Pivot Cycles. But successful bike companies don’t sprung up like mushrooms in your fridge veggie cooler – to ride the road to the top takes decades of dedication and experience.

In our two-part interview, we chat with Chris Cocalis about his history, the birth of Pivot, mistakes, patents, the future of bikes and what he hates and loves about the industry. Read on for part 2, and for a refresher, part 1 is here.


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Was it a big call to release a carbon bike?

Yes and no. When we launched, Ibis already had a carbon trail bike. It was reaching a point where you almost needed a carbon bike to be cool. But at that time, I still knew you could build a better, lighter aluminium bike than you could a carbon. At that time, we did a lot of benchmarking – back in 2007, everybody’s claims about their carbon bikes being lighter and stiffer were complete bullshit. There just wasn’t a good carbon bike at the time – they were all heavier, flexier and less durable than a comparable aluminium bike. The bike companies would just spec them up with nicer components and lighter wheels to prop up the performance. It’s not really a secret now, but back at the time, Giant had their Anthem in carbon and aluminium – none of the World Cup guys wanted to race the carbon bike, it was too flexy, it was heavy, it was considerably worse than the aluminium version. Even those original Ibis bikes, you kind of flexed them around the corner. It reminded me of early titanium bikes – yes you can build a bike out of it, but it sucked. And carbon back then was at that level. With all our benchmarking, I could see that the aluminium bikes were better, and I was going to continue with aluminium until I knew we could actually make a product that was better in carbon.

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So what changed?

There were some technologies that were beginning to take things in the right direction; Easton were using it in their bars and some components, but it was a big stretch to take it to bike frames. One of the partners I’d been working with back at Titus, who had been in Taiwan for 16 years, set up a composites factory. He had just a few customers; there was Zipp, Enve (or Edge Composites as it was called back then) and Syntace. If you look at those brands, those are names that are known for immense quality and amazing testing. And so he began working on ways of taking those technologies that these brands implemented across to a bicycle frame.

But even with those technologies now available, it still took two years, not just of design, but of actual carbon development, to get to that level were we hit all three of those targets – lighter, stiffer more durable. And if you look at the 5.7 Carbon, the benefits are there, but even still they’re not massive. It’s 0.3 of a pound lighter, 5-7% stiffer, but when you look at the durability, that’s the big difference. I mean, we don’t have warranty problems with our aluminium bikes, but the tests we put the carbon bikes through, there’s no way an aluminium bike would survive them! When it comes to fatigue life and impact, carbon is a different league.

You’ve just unveiled the Mach 6 and Firebird 27.5″ – do you regard the wheelsize debate as fundamental, or not, to the development of mountain bikes?

I wouldn’t say it’s fundamental. I’m actually pretty bummed that almost overnight, people regard the 26” wheel as being somehow dead – like you can’t effectively mountain bike on a 26” wheel or something. The opposite is true. The 26” wheel is at the pinnacle of its evolution. I mean, 29ers still aren’t as good as they could be or will be some day, and 650B is still very much at its beginnings. But then you’ve got 26” trail bikes, like the 5.7 Carbon, that are just frickin magic! And not just ours, there are other people’s bikes that are fantastic, but suddenly they’re yesterday’s news.

We can fit 650B wheels into a 5.7, and it’s a little faster, but it also loses something. A little liveliness and its fun factor. But the Firebird, when you but 27.5″ wheels into it, man it just gets so good – I’d say easily 20% better. It is so kick-ass as a 27.5″ it’s kind of mind bending. One of our enduro pros rode his local loop on the 27.5″ Firebird – my personal bike, with my setup – and he knocked nine minutes off his best time round an hour and a half loop! The only difference was the wheel size, and the bike wasn’t even properly set up for him. Somehow the bike just got that much better with a 27.5″.

But still, I feel that once we all go away from 26-inch wheels, we’ll have given something up that we can never quite get back. But sometimes that happens.

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Getting back to Dave Weagle’s ‘I can’t fit the front derailleur’ problem – how do you feel about single-ring drivetrains and the possibilities and challenges it opens up to you as a frame designer?

I don’t think it’s likely or possible in the near future that we should be going to a one-by drivetrain on every bike. For a certain segment of riders or for certain type of trail, XX1 or XO1 are super kick ass. But I won’t go to Colorado with my XX1 bike. I did an endurance race up in Flagstaff that had a tonne of climbing on it, so I took my 429 Carbon XX1 bike with a 28 tooth up front. And man, I paid the price on every climb – I needed two gears lower – and then I’d spin it out on every descent. I spent the whole race wishing I had a double chain ring up it, like a 22/36.

So that’s where I’m at on that issue. And I joke with Shimano, let’s just go to a 14-speed and you can give me a 9-56 tooth cassette out back… and then I’ll go to a one-by drivetrain.

So, is there a component that you feel is holding back bike design fundamentally?

Yes. We’ve been talking to manufacturers about front derailleurs for a long time. They’re one of the most restrictive things in terms of suspension design, clearance and weight. There’s always a compromise for the front derailleur. So I don’t see the front derailleur going away soon, but I do see it evolving into something that doesn’t take up so much room or function in the same way as it does today.

And what form do you think that could be?

Ha, I will not comment on that at this point in time!

On a similar note, what then do you think will be the next frontier of mountain bike design and engineering?

I kind of feel like we’re one of the people leading the charge when it comes to a bike that can do it all, or least do a lot more. This balance of a bike that can do so much, that’s where the industry focus is going to continue to go. Of course there’ll still be development for the pointy end of World Cup racing, but hell we’ve got people out there cross country racing on Mach 5.7s and they’re competitive.

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Finally, just two more questions; first, what is one thing you’d change about the bike industry, and second, what’s one thing you’d never change?

If there was one thing I’d change, it would be the whole ‘year model’ cycle of the industry. The bigger companies just constantly trying to trump each other, it’s horrible for everybody, right down to the rider. Companies like FOX and SRAM are showing things at Sea Otter in April for the next year! I mean, it’s just the start of the new season, it’s not even summer yet for most of the country – the cold parts are getting battered by their biggest snow storms. The cycling business isn’t even cranking for the year yet, but the brands are already showing off new product that’s ‘vapourware’, it doesn’t even exist yet. Customers are going into the shop to look at 2013 bikes and already they’ve seen all the details about the 2014 stuff. Sure it doesn’t even exist yet, they can’t get it, but all the cool stuff they’re looking at is suddenly somehow old. And it devalues everything. And for the consumer it sucks too, because all this stuff that should be so new and cool is somehow not anymore – their excitement gets taken down a notch.

And sometimes stuff gets shown and it never even comes out! Look at the Fox Float fork with the titanium crown/steerer from a few years ago; it never made it into production, but their were ad campaigns and marketing dollars spent everywhere.

It’s getting a lot worse right now. Everyone is pulling in development and lead times so much. When I go to Taiwan now, Mavic and DT Swiss won’t just be showing me things that they’re thinking about, or stuff that’s on the drawing board. They present me with finished product. It’s almost like we’ve just missed a year! We’re in 2013, why is all this stuff called 2014? It’s not fair on the bike shops either – they need to have time to sell through their stock, without people already demanding the next year’s ‘new’ gear.

We’re shooting ourselves in the foot as an industry, and it’s doing a lot of damage. So for us, something like the Mach 5.7 doesn’t have model years. It’s not going to get three new colours because it’s a new year. It sees a natural life cycle – and I think our customers and dealers appreciate it.

And on the flipside, what’s something you’d never want to see changed?

The family nature. It’s small but it’s big. It is big business, billions of dollars, but I can sit down with the president of Shimano, I can go on a four hour bike ride with Mike Sinyard. And that’s cool, and maybe a customer could be on that same ride too. Or a customer can call up and I can speak to them directly if they’ve got questions about their bike. And I enjoy that part of it; we’re a business, and we feed a lot of mouths, but we sell happiness and we love what we do. And that’s what I love about this business and that’s what I wouldn’t want to change.

 

 

 

Interview: Chris Cocalis of Pivot Cycles Part 1

Chris Cocalis is the brains behind one of the most successful young brands in mountain biking, Pivot Cycles. But successful bike companies don’t sprung up like mushrooms in your fridge veggie cooler – to ride the road to the top takes decades of dedication and experience.

In our two-part interview, we chat with Chris Cocalis about his history, the birth of Pivot, mistakes, patents, the future of bikes and what he hates and loves about the industry. Read on for part 1.


Hello Chris, I assume you’re chatting to us from Pivot HQ in Phoenix, Arizona. For those of us who’ve never been, what’s it like there?

It’s a desert, highly technical terrain, rocky. This time of year we’re in monsoon, so it’s not quite as hot, but by most people’s standards still melting. It can run to 45, 46 degrees.  We get three months of semi-miserable weather but we can still ride every day, and the rest of the year it’s paradise, the perfect place to put bikes to the test.

Pivot as a brand is comparatively young, but you’ve been in the industry for a very long time. Tell us about it.

I grew up in the Chicago area and I was a total bike kid from when I was about nine years old, just hanging out in the bike store. They couldn’t get rid of me until I turned 14 and was old enough to start getting a pay cheque there.

I started racing BMX when I was 12. I grew up in the Chicago area and left in 1987 to go to university here in Arizona. In the early days of BMX we were breaking everything and as I got bigger there weren’t any pro level, pro length BMX frames, so I designed one and had a company make it for me. I added like 50mm to the top tube length which is like three frame sizes! It was a horrendous mess; you couldn’t wheelie it out of the gate. There was one behemoth on the team who loved it! But that was my first introduction to how small changes can make big differences. That was when I was in high school – so that was kind of the start of bike design for me.

All the stuff happening in mountain bikes – cranks breaking, forks folding, axles snapping – it was like 1983 in BMX all over again!

I really was a hard core BMX guy, I didn’t know much about mountain bikes at all – I came out to Arizona, got my pro license and that was my whole impetus for moving here, there were enough race tracks that I could race seven nights a week if I wanted to.

When I started working in a bike store, everybody there was a mountain biker and I immediately got into mountain biking. It was interesting; all the stuff happening in mountain bikes – cranks breaking, forks folding, axles snapping – it was like 1983 in BMX all over again! So one of the first things I did was design a bottom bracket out of titanium; used double row bearings, and moved the cups outside so there was as little spindle sticking out as possible. Anything to get it stiffer and stronger. I was converting BMX hubs to make them mountain bike hubs, because the bearings were bigger and would hold up better.

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Finding some flow in the desert. Phoenix Arizona is home to classic western USA terrain – lots of red rock, technical ascents and descents that will punish a stray wheel. Perfect for testing out new bikes.

Then in 1988 a guy stopped into a bike shop I was managing with a frame he had brazed. It was a horrible excuse for a mountain bike frame. The angles were all bad. But he knew how to braze and I got pretty interested in that and I told him I would teach him about frame geometry if he taught me how to braze.

We formed a very informal partnership, which basically meant I’d go over to his house in the evening and build bikes with him. They were an elevated chain stay bike, called the Sun Eagle Bicycle Works Talon. I still have my original one, and Dirt Rag in the US did a piece recently and found one in some bicycle museum back east – we only built like 10 of these things. But one of the ones we built we took over to Mountain Bike Action in 1988 and it ended up in a piece called Bikes of the Future; I still have a copy of it at my house. It was pretty cool, because we were in some elite company. Mantis had a couple of bikes in there and the Nishiki Alien was launched at that time too. It was neat to be in college and have an article in Mountain Bike Action.

 But one of the ones we built we took over to Mountain Bike Action in 1988 and it ended up in a piece called Bikes of the Future; I still have a copy of it at my house.

But we couldn’t get the steel elevated chainstay bike stiff enough for my liking. I wanted to change things, my friend/partner didn’t want to, so I stopped going over to his house. That was the extent of that!

In 1989 I met a guy who was a titanium welder. His wife was shopping at the grocery store next door and he stopped into thee bike store. He knew nothing about bikes but said he could make anything our of titanium; I thought he was crazy. Merlin had just launched their first titanium bikes in 1987 and my friend had one. It was cool looking bike, but it was a horrible riding, super flexy and had alignment problems – his was like frame number 12. But the idea was cool and the bike was light. So I took this guy up on his claim and we started getting together and TIG welding some stuff; titanium bar ends and titanium bar/stem combos, and eventually a titanium frame. And that was how Titus was born.

Not long after I met a guy called John Raider at a bike race; he was the guy who invented the Aheadset. He was a big deal in the industry. He had some ideas for a suspension bike design and he asked if I’d be willing to help him. I was, and so we started building some prototypes and he showed them to Univega and GT. Univega ended up buying the design and they wanted this high-end bike. So they came to me with an order for 175 titanium shock blocks! At this time we were building bikes in a garage and I was in my senior year at school and interviewing with accounting firms.

So suddenly there’s a fork in the road!

Yes. But my thesis director at school, he was a cyclist and my thesis project was a business plan for a bike company. And he basically encouraged me to follow my dreams, and on top of that he wanted to invest too. So he gave me $30,000. My welder friend, Mark’s, boss invested $15,000 and we rented a building up the street and before I was even out of school we were building bikes.
I wanted to build a bike that rode as well as my Fat Chance Yo Eddy. I loved the way that bike rode. It was interesting; when I’d look at all the bikes of the time, whether it be a Ritchey or a Bontrager or a Yeti, they had radically different geometry. But when you looked at the wheelbases in a medium frame, they were all hovering around 41.5 inches. That seemed to be this magic number. Our first titanium bikes, I copied the exact geometry of my Yo Eddy, but shortened the chain stays by a quarter inch and lengthened the top tube by a quarter inch. And I think it really took that bike to the next level.

I wanted to build a bike that rode as well as my Fat Chance Yo Eddy. I loved the way that bike rode.

For the first five to seven years we did a lot of OEM work for other brands. I made the downhill team bikes for Diamond Back, we did Univega bikes, Slingshot… plus we did a lot of materials work and research for out of industry manufacturers. It took about five or seven years before we started to see Santa Cruz and Intense begin out-pacing our brand, because we really did no marketing for Titus itself. Eventually we got sick of doing things for other brands for half price and not getting paid on time, so we started to focus on Titus and things really took off.

I got involved, through my connections at Univega, in the development of four-bar and Horst Link full suspension designs which carried through all my years at Titus. I started discussing some things with Horst Leitner and we ended buying some rear ends from him and then licensing that design.

And how did it all end up with Titus?

Things were starting to really develop in terms of carbon fibre, we knew it wouldn’t be long till there were full carbon frames. So we merged Titus with Vio Tec, a composites company.… That partnership was interesting. I still say to this day that it was the most expensive composites education that anyone could get. It pretty much cost me my company. Things were not going well, but they didn’t want to be bought out, so they chose to buy me out. So I left the company and took a year off – that was in 2006 – and I immediately began working on the launch of Pivot, which I did in 2007. We launched the Mach 4 and the Mach 5 simultaneously in 2007.

We wouldn’t be where we are today without Richard Cunningham. Richard was the owner of Mantis Bikes – he invented the elevated chainstay, and the idea of bolting a chromoly rear end to an aluminium front end. He really set the path for dual suspension bike design.

Moving on from the history of the brand, in terms of designers – inside or out of the bike industry – who do you look up to?

That’s a good question. There are so many, I probably don’t know most of their names. There are some people in the bike industry who when they design something that think that everybody else’s stuff sucks – but I’m not that way, I’m a true bike geek. There’s a lot of great things going and I can appreciate them.

But if we go back to the get-go, I can say we wouldn’t be where we are today without Richard Cunningham. Richard was the owner of Mantis Bikes – he invented the elevated chainstay, and the idea of bolting a chromoly rear end to an aluminium front end. He really set the path for dual suspension bike design. Obviously, Horst Leitner – his whole concept of eliminating braking forces on the suspension, it has affected the bike industry till today. And then obviously Dave Weagle too, he’s got a lot going on.

In terms of Dave Weagle, his DW Link has been part of every Pivot dual suspension bike. Did you begin working with Dave from the very outset?

No, I was working on several different suspensions designs. I love the feel of four-bar bikes, Horst Link bikes, but the stiffeness was always a problem. We’d try bigger and bigger swing arms and bearings, but it’s very hard to match the stiffness of a one-piece rear triangle. And that was one thing I was hell bent on – it had to have a stiffer back end.

And another thing with a Horst Link bike is the way it kind of rotates forward into its travel – it doesn’t have pedal kick back like a single pivot bike, but basically the suspension does rotate forward into the bump, so you can have a loss of forward momentum. One bike I’d ridden – even though I hated a lot of other things about the bike – was the Maverick. And one thing that stuck with me was the incredible square-edged bump performance. That was its shining attribute. I wanted to have that.

Of course everything in suspension is a patent minefield nowadays. So I had this design I’d settled in on that ticked all the boxes. But it looked like I could be walking through Dave Weagle’s patent backyard…

So I was working on designs that had fully active braking, gave the square-edged bump performance and stiffness that I wanted. The dual link design also had the advantage of allowing a variable wheel path. If you think of an old high pivot bike, like the old Foes Mono or an Orange – they had a great rearward wheel path, which was one of the things that made them such a great World Cup downhill bike. But you couldn’t pedal them through the bumps and if you pedalled them through a g-out you could rip the whole rear derailleur off them, just from the chain growth.

So if you could achieve that kind of wheel path, but not have it continue the whole way through the travel, then you’d be onto something. And with a dual link, you can do that.

Of course everything in suspension is a patent minefield nowadays. So I had this design I’d settled in on that ticked all the boxes. But it looked like I could be walking through Dave Weagle’s patent backyard… Dave has a couple of patents – one is an anti-squat patent, and the other is an instant centre patent. With the instant centre patent, if the instant centre of your suspension design falls within a certain box then you risk being in violation of Dave’s patent. And there are a few lawsuits going on about that at the moment. Dave’s argument would be ‘you touch my box, you violate my patent’.

I believe if someone comes up with a good idea, you don’t walk on them. So we worked together. Anyhow, Dave was adamant about anti-squat as being the most important element, and when you applied his anti-squat calculations to the pivot locations I had mapped out to achieve the suspension characteristics I wanted, they had to move quite a bit.

It was a real tug and pull – I had my heels firmly dug in one corner, he in the other – I was yelling ‘fully active braking’ and he was yelling ‘anti-squat’ and we couldn’t work out the solution. Anyhow, one day he calls me up and says, ‘I have it! But there’s one problem… there’s no place for a front derailleur’.

But I thought we could make it work. You see, I’d been involved in the development of the 2008 Shimano XTR groupset, including the press-fit 92 bottom bracket. Along with the e-type front derailleur, this gave us the ability to free up the front derailleur area; we mounted the derailleur directly to the frame and put the pivots inboard. Back in 2007, this technology, along with some of our forging techniques, this was stuff that hadn’t been done before. Combine that with the DW Link and you had a really nice product to launch with.

You’ve talked a lot about frame stiffness. Why is that so important to you?

You can take a really great design, but if things aren’t stiff enough, it’ll never succeed. Take the AMP Research – it was a phenomenal bike. But it was so flexy that it was horrible! And if companies like Titus and Intense hadn’t started making the Horst Link design stiff and burly, that great suspension concept would’ve died on the vine. If the AMP Research had been the only bike with that design, it would never have continued.

You can take a really great design, but if things aren’t stiff enough, it’ll never succeed. Take the AMP Research – it was a phenomenal bike. But it was so flexy that it was horrible!

It goes beyond just stiffness though, it becomes about ride tuning too. A bike needs to ride correctly, and not just be an ass pounder. It needs balance. A good example; There was a time back in the Titus days when all the high-end wheels were radially spoked on the non-drive side and then two-cross on the drive side. And on one of our Racer X frames I’d beefed up the linkage so much, that it was fine if you were on a right hand turn, but if you were on a left hand turn and leaning on those radial spokes, if you hit a rock it would just pick the whole bike up and wallop it! We ended up spending a lot of time tuning that link to get the right ride balance. There is definitely a point of too stiff, but there’s a balance to find.

Of all the bikes you’ve released so far, what do you think has been the most important for the development of the brand?

When we first launched, the bulk of my development time went into the Mach 4, because at Titus, the Racer X had out sold everything else three-to-one. But the world was changing, the trail bike was taking over, and so we’ve sold far more Mach 5s than Mach 4s.

Everything builds on everything, and there are a lot of elements of the Firebird that really marked it as being the start of a second generation of design for Pivot. From a commercial success standpoint, it’s those ideas and how they fed into the Mach 5.7 that really took us to the next level. With the 5.7 I think the brand became something special; it wasn’t just one bike in the line up that was unique, but the whole package.

 

Read part 2 of our interview with Chris Cocalis here.