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.
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: https://flowmountainbike.com/post-all/flows-rotorua-ews-dreambike-pivot-mach-6/
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.