Trail

First Ride: The New Pivot Trail 429

Pivot Cycles' best seller gets a facelift

Pivot’s most popular bike went under the knife again, and this time, instead of a minor nip/tuck of the geometry, it emerged with an entirely new silhouette. The new Trail 429, now in its third version, carries forward the same lines as its predecessor but now sports a trunnion-mount shock, flip-chip geometry adjustment and a substantially longer reach, slacker head angle, longer wheelbase and longer chainstays, as Pivot pushes the 429 further into ‘Trail’ territory. 

Its rear travel remains unchanged at 120 millimeters, and the 429 is now fully committed to 29-inch-wheels (its predecessor also supported 27.5+ hoops). But the new 429 isn’t just about the exterior; its biggest changes are those you can’t see. Chiefly, Pivot shaved 300 grams from the frame weight by advancing its proprietary Hollow Core molding technology and developing a new carbon layup process, putting the frame weight nearly in line with Pivot’s super-lean Mach 4 SL XC bike. In opting for vertical shock placement, Pivot also refined its DW-link kinematics in line with changes made last year to its Switchblade model, resulting in a more progressive shock rate with a suspension feel that’s plusher off the top for improved small-bump compliance. Like the Switchblade, the new Trail 429 implements a geometry flip-chip to add to the bike’s versatility. Pivot named the high setting ‘low’ and the low setting ‘lower.’ The ‘low’ setting is optimized for endurance, offering a more high-in-the-bike ride, with a 347mm bottom-bracket height, 75.5-degree seat angle, 66.5-degree head angle and a 430mm chainstay length. The reach, on my size-medium test bike, is a rangey 460mm with a 1,187mm wheelbase. Also like the Switchblade, the rear triangle is built around 157mm rear axle spacing. 

2021 Trail 429_Geo Chart_V5_02_18_21

The flip chip’s lowest setting, aimed at the more aggressive trail rider, drops the BB height to 340mm, slackens the head angle to 66 and the seat angle to 75, shortens the reach by 5mm and lengthens chainstays by 2mm. The angles are most certainly modernized, and are actually almost identical to the 142-mm-travel Switchblade, which was updated last year. But, on the trail, it doesn’t feel like Pivot lost sight of the original intention of the 429 in a quest to push it farther toward enduro territory. With its ultra-stiff frame, off-the-line acceleration and quick cornering, the 429 still feels like it has endurance-race tendencies over enduro-smashing ones. If my plans included multi-day bikepacking trips or, say, signing up for the BC Bike Race, this is the bike I would choose, while the Switchblade would better suit those who dabble in park riding, or enduro racing. 

Pivot Trail 429
The new Pivot Trail 429 incorporates a flip chip to adjust geometry in the low or lowest setting.

But therein lies the caveat—the 429’s calling card has always been its ability to be many things to many people, and in this new version, it maintains that versatility. It is, afterall, offered in an impressive 14 different kits across seven build styles, with aggressively tuned Fox Live Valve suspension and XX1 AXS at the high end ($12,500) for those with Lycra on the legs and racing on the mind, and a smattering of enduro builds for folks who want to handle rowdier descents without fully buying into the need for maximum travel on a trail bike. 

I rode the Team XTR build in the ‘lower’ flip-chip setting, with a Fox Factory DPS inline shock, 130mm Fox 34 fork, Reynolds Blacklabel 309/289 carbon wheels wrapped in 2.4-inch Maxxis Dissector tires and a Pivot Phoenix 780mm carbon bar (28 pounds, with pedals), on trails that are a mix of steep and smooth-for-SoCal and all-rollable tech. None of it with much traction. While much of the west is dealing with gobs of snow and rain from a persistent Pineapple Express, southern California is wearing its usual wintertime banana belt, and many of the trails have June feel to them versus a February one. Braking bumps and holes that might be smoothed over with some moisture are out in all their momentum-sapping glory, and while the Trail 429’s suspension didn’t make them fully disappear in a magic carpet ride sort of way, it confidently soaked up the rapid succession of small hits, allowing me to keep speed as intact as I wanted. 

I say ‘as I wanted,’ because this bike picks up speed crazy fast when pointed downhill; in fact, its quickness in both directions was the first thing I noticed and an attribute that rose to the top on every ride. I really had to stay on top of it in some of the looser, ruttier sections of trail where a rear wheel could easily get sucked into the dirt abyss if I was careless with line choice. On a wide-open, fast or undulating trail with long sight lines where you can really let off the brakes, very few bikes will offer the speed, composure and sheer fun afforded by the Trail 429. 

Pivot Trail 429
The Pivot Trail 429 in the exact opposite conditions I rode it in, at play on Orcas Island.

It may not have the instant downhill predilection of say, the Evil Following, the high watermark of aggressive short-travel descenders, which encourages its rider to mob down anything with pretty loose abandon, obstacles be damned. But opt for one of the Trail 429 enduro builds with a 140mm-travel Fox 36 fork and DPX2 piggyback shock and well, it’s going to be right at home in that category alongside brands like Evil or Transition. The Trail 429 pedaled pleasantly and efficiently, with quick acceleration and instant responsiveness to power inputs. On doubletrack connectors, I flipped the shock’s switch into the middle setting for a bit more support and to ride slightly higher in the shock’s travel when I was grinding out meaningless miles, but benefited most of the time from the added traction of keeping the shock open, without feeling like I was sacrificing efficiency. Its overall demeanor is very similar to Yeti’s SB115, fast up, fast down, fast all-around, and both deserve a look if you’re looking to buy in this popular category. 

Pivot Trail 429.
Fox Factory suspension and Maxxis rubber—a match made in spec heaven.
Pivot Trail 429
The nifty Pivot/Topeak tool kit—a fine integration on a fine bike.

In keeping in line with its trail-bike-for-all ethos, the Trail 429 comes in five frame sizes designed to fit riders between 4-foot-11 and 6-foot-7, each undergoing independent strength-to-weight analysis to ensure consistent performance. This is not surprising from a brand like Pivot that pays extra close attention to detail on all its bikes. This bike feels well thought out, and well-executed. The 429’s internal cable routing is tidy, the ride is oh-so-quiet—no rattling cables or squeaking pivots or mysterious clicking noises coming from within—, the frame offers clean integration of its tool dock system, tucked in neatly under the toptube and Pivot specs four-piston brakes across the board with 180mm rotors and 180-specific caliper mounts, no adapters necessary. It also has a nifty indicator on the rear shock for ‘endurance’ or ‘trail’ to help the rider set up sag accordingly.

But perhaps the biggest thing the Trail 429 has going for it in these unprecedented times of crazy bike demand? It’s available now. For full specs, prices and dealer locations, head over to https://store.pivotcycles.com/en/bike-trail-429-v3-1

Photos: Matthew DeLorme