-120mm travel rear, 130 or 140 mm front (Enduro builds)
-Extremely versatile with 20 build kits
-Expensive entry point
Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
“Pivot, please don’t ever change.”
That was a note jotted down by one tester after finishing a lap on the latest Pivot Trail 429. It speaks to Pivot’s longtime presence in the Trail/XC crossover category—the Trail 429 was one of the first bikes to dabble here—as well as to its commitment to keep the 429 firmly planted in that space. That makes sense considering the Trail 429 is Pivot’s best-selling bike. But even a best-seller needs a refresh now and again, and Pivot gave the 429 a big overhaul this year. It kept the bike’s rear travel at 120 millimeters, but added flip-chip geometry adjustment, changed the configuration of the shock to trunnion-mounted, shaved 300 grams off its frame weight and fully committed to 29-inch wheels (the previous version also supported 27+).
The updated geometry is modern, but moderate, keeping the 429 on the lighter-duty end of the trail-bike spectrum. But, with a mind-boggling 20 build kits available that allow the 429 to be anything from a rocketship XC race bike with Fox Live Valve suspension and an XX1 AXS electronic wireless drivetrain, to an ‘Enduro’ build with a 140mm Fox 36 fork and piggyback shock, its versatility remains one of its primary calling cards.
Climbing is another. The Pivot Trail 429 is an ambitious ascender—its tried-and-true application of DW-link smooths out initial impacts on climbs, but doesn’t give up all its travel and hover, like the Ibis Ripley, which has the same travel and also uses DW-link. It also feels laterally stiffer than the Ripley, yet not as tame and XC-oriented as a Trek Top Fuel. Its lightness and efficiency, yet overall capability closely matches that of Yeti’s SB115. The Trail 429 is fast, firm and efficient on climbs, although one tester felt the need for extra pedaling support when seated, especially on the few punchy, steep sections on our test course when he didn’t necessarily want to pump a ton of gas into the pedals. To that end, the Trail 429 definitely responds well to inputs—the more you put in, the more you get back.
The geometry is also at play here with the occasional need for the Climb switch—in the ‘low’ setting, the seat angle is a fairly slack 75.5 degrees and slackens a half-degree more in the ‘lower’ bb setting. With a 66-degree head angle (low setting), moderate 470mm reach (size large) and 432mm chainstays, it doesn’t reach into the aggressive short-travel 29er territory, a category led by the Evil Following. Instead it sits planted in the middle of the trail category, and represents what a modern XC bike should be—fast, but not a super-harsh ride made only for masochists, and relaxed enough for the occasional party on the descents. When pointed down, the Trail 429 offers a plush ride, but not necessarily one that feels like it has more travel than advertised—it’s not quite as stiff and racey as an SB115, but you still have to be on top of line choice and not expect to mindlessly mach through the chop.
Pivot made a fabulous bike here in the Trail 429, and one of the best parts about it is they didn’t only make it for riders who fall between 5-foot-2 and 6-foot-2—the Trail 429 comes in XS-XL frame sizes, and all five sizes have 29-inch wheels. Often, if a brand offers a 29er in XS, that version is built around 27.5-inch wheels. For Pivot to create a 29er for riders as short as 4-foot-10 (and as tall as 6-foot-7) is pretty remarkable. But where they didn’t widen the spectrum is on price. Pivot has gone all-in on lightweight carbon frames and fairly high-end builds. At $8,550, our Pro XT/XTR test bike fell in the middle of the road, with the most expensive build topping out at $13,100 and the ‘entry-level’ at $5,900.
It certainly would be nice to see more riders be able to access such a stellar, all-around bike, with a more affordable entry price. But Pivot is also a brand with a reputation for never cutting corners, or sacrificing quality, and its decision to not offer any builds below Shimano XT/SLX or SRAM X01/GX was likely calculated. And if you can afford to get into the Trail 429, there’s nothing you’ll need to change out-of-the-box.
There’s no mincing words—the 429 is an expensive bike. Unlike some of its competitors, Pivot has not added aluminum frames or slightly heavier, but lower-cost carbon frames into its product mix to bring its prices down. That said, the entry point for the 429, though high at $5,900, gets you a Shimano XT/SLX drivetrain, Fox Performance level Float DPS shock and Grip fork, DT Swiss 1900 aluminum rim, all bolted onto the same carbon frame you get with the top-end $13,100 build (gasp). This is a solid build that doesn’t need any swaps—honestly, you’re mostly buying weight savings for any build beyond this Race XT option.
Photos: Anthony Smith