Words: Wil Barrett. Photos: Pivot Cycles & Wil Barrett
Back in 2007, Chris Cocalis unveiled his brand new bike company called Pivot Cycles. After cutting ties with his previous company Titus, Chris made the move to Phoenix in Arizona and began working on an all-new dual suspension mountain bike that would later be known as the Mach 4. The original Mach 4 was based around a high-end aluminum frameset that employed a dw-link suspension design to provide 100mm of travel in a super stiff, and super efficient XC package. Thanks in part to Jason English’ dominance of the 24 hour solo race circuit, the Mach 4 very quickly became a riders favourite in Australia. The Mach 4 went through two revisions (both just as popular as the original) before the platform began to drop off the radar about 2 years ago as 29″ wheels began to take hold around the world. While 29″ wheels will likely continue to dominate the XC scene well into the future, we were bummed to see Pivot’s little black pocket rocket fall by the wayside. We last reviewed the Mach 4 in Issue #23 of Enduro Magazine, where it’s flickable nature and super stable suspension made it an absolute hoot to ride through tight and twisty singletrack. As good as the newer Mach 429 and Mach 429 Carbon bikes are, we’d be lying if we said that we hadn’t been missing that flickability of the original Mach 4.
No need to mourn anymore though, as Pivot Cycles made the announcement at PressCamp that the Mach 4 is back! Coming back from the dead in 2014, the new Mach 4 is a little different to the old bike, but it’s spirit remains the same. Now with a carbon fibre frame, 27.5″ wheels, lots of high-tech frame features, and a bump up to 115mm of rear travel, the new Mach 4 Carbon looks to be more capable than ever. I had the opportunity to check out the new bike in the flesh at PressCamp, and also had the chance to take one out for a spin with Mr Cocalis himself in order to put the new machine to the test. Is the Mach 4 Carbon worthy of its names reputation? Read on to find out!
“The Pivot Mach 4 is the bike that started it all. From the racetrack to the trail, there has never been anything that has performed like the new Mach 4 Carbon. Now in its 4th generation, the Mach 4 Carbon rolls on 27.5” wheels, features 115mm of travel, and introduces the next generation of race/trail geometry—all paired with the lightest full-suspension frame we have ever made. Whether you are a pure XC racer looking for something nimble, with the acceleration of 26” wheels and the rolling speed of a 29er, or a trail rider that wants something fast and responsive yet stable, the Mach 4 has you covered.” – Pivot Cycles
The Pivot Mach 4 Carbon features:
- 115mm dw-link suspension with race and trail tuning
- Full carbon frame featuring Pivot exclusive hollow box internal molding technology
- 27.5” wheels
- XS, S, M, & L sizing, with the X-small featuring the lowest stand-over clearance of any 27.5” suspension bike made
- Full length internal cable routing, and Shimano Di2 compatible with Pivot’s exclusive cable port system
- Dropper post compatible with internal routing
- Enduro Max cartridge bearings
- Custom tuned Fox Float CTD Kashima rear shock
- Frame weight from 5.1lbs (2.3kg)
- Complete bike weights from 22lbs (10kg)
- 2 sets of bottle cage mounts
- Rubberized leather downtube and swingarm protection
- Expected RRP: $3599 (frame w/shock)
- Due to arrive in Australia September ’14
The new Mach 4 Carbon will be available in 3 different colourways: Anthracite Grey/Neon Green in a gloss finish, Stealth Black/Red in a matte finish with gloss black accents, and in a Matte Black/Blue with blue in metallic gloss. We’re pretty partial to the Stealth Black/Red colour, which gives the flowy carbon tubing an industrial look that is more reminiscent of the anodised alloy frames on the original Mach 4 and 5 bikes. As with the new Mach 429 and the LES 27.5, the new Mach 4 Carbon makes use of some sleek internal cable routing as well as a zero-stack tapered headtube that sees the headset cups sit flush inside the frames headtube.
There has been a lot of development time that has gone into the new Mach 4 C, which has involved numerous prototypes of different travel and geometries in order to find the right balance that they wanted to achieve. Pivot Cycles have access to a pretty serious workshop in their Phoenix warehouse that enables them to design and build prototypes with relative ease and speed. Cocalis is a proficient frame builder himself, and so in the warehouse you’ll find all the welding tools and CNC machines necessary to build frames to his hearts content. Enduro Magazine actually toured the Pivot facility last year, and you can check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of our tour to get a little more background on the company itself.
The Mach 4 C still employs the dw-link suspension design, but rear travel has been bumped up 15mm from the original bikes 100mm. Two small alloy links join the solid front and rear triangles together, providing a specific axle path and leverage ratio to achieve the desired pedalling and absorption characteristics that Pivot were chasing. The hardware has changed slightly with the Mach 4 C though, with Pivot having worked with Enduro to create a Max-level bearing that features a much higher tolerance than the standard Enduro Max bearings. This is only possible if the bearing seats inside the frame are in perfect tolerance though, as any inconsistency in the outer diameter could see binding and accelerated bearing wear. The end result is less bearing play to make for a stiffer frame and improved bearing life. Moving further down the oversized downtube, you’ll find a press-fit BB92 bottom bracket, which has been featured on every Mach-series frame since the original 2007 Mach 4. This was a standard that Pivot developed in conjunction with Shimano, in order to create a wider BB junction to build a stiffer and stronger frame. While many mechanics may squirm at the sight of a press-fit bottom bracket these days, it must be said that the systems durability rests entirely on the frame manufacturers ability to produce a BB shell to a very high tolerance level. The sloppier the diameter, the more chance those BB cups have of shifting in the frame and creating noise. Every Pivot bike we’ve ridden has remained dead quiet all throughout testing, so we’d tend to agree with their claims about press-fit bottom brackets.
Although many consumers will likely be stimulated by the use of 27.5″ wheels on the new Mach 4 Carbon, it’s really the geometry that has got us excited. Rather than the new bike simply being a re-hash of the original model but with bigger wheels squeezed in, the new Mach 4 C makes use of a much more modernised geometry set that is largely responsible for the bikes handling – or at least is a much bigger contributor than the slightly bigger diameter wheels. Compared to the original bike, the new Mach 4 C employs a longer top tube length that is built to be paired with a shorter stem and wider bars. The head angle has been slackened out by a whole degree, and the bottom bracket has been dropped a little lower between the hub axles to bring down the riders centre of gravity. Chainstay length stays within 10mm of the old 26″ model though, keeping the back end short and playful. Like the original bike, you can fit a 100-120mm fork up front, though Cocalis informed us that you can go as much as 130mm before the geometry starts to kick back too much. Interestingly, the Mach 4 Carbon tests just as strong as the long travel Mach 6 Carbon, so aggressive trail riders need not worry about the Mach 4 being too light for hard and heavy riding.
That right there is a Shimano Di2 battery. Built to slot straight into the underside of the seat tube, the Mach 4 Carbon is the first mountain bike frame that we know of that has a specific port for a Di2 battery. Everything bolts in neatly and flush against the frame, and there are specific plugs that come with the bike if you’re using conventional drivetrains.
In developing the Mach 4 Carbon, Cocalis wanted to future-proof the bike as much as he possibly could. That involved creating multiple cable routing options that would allow for 1/2/3x drivetrains, dropper post cables, electronic shifter cables, as well as routing for electronically controlled suspension. Cocalis joked that just coming up with all the tiny plugs and wiring ports for the frame was harder than making the bike itself! We do love the attention to detail though, and it appears that Pivot have been able to offer up a clean solution for what could potentially be a very messy setup.
After going over the details of the new Mach 4 C, Chris and I decided to skip the afternoons meeting schedule at PressCamp, and headed straight for the chairlift with two demo bikes in tow. Of course, one must never miss the opportunity to take a chairlift-selfie!
On a side note, we will have a feature interview with Chris Cocalis and the Pivot crew appearing in an upcoming issue of Enduro Magazine. Aside from being an engineering brain and an incredible bike designer, Chris also happens to be a really nice dude and a shredder on the trails too. The story behind Chris’ departure from Titus and the ensuing drama is an intriguing one, and it really helps to lay the foundation for the Pivot Cycles company today.
Ok, so back to the bike. The demo bike that I spent a few days on at PressCamp was built with a high-zoot build kit that included a SRAM X0-1 drivetrain, RaceFace Turbine cranks, and carbon Reynolds 27.5 XC Black Label wheels (more on those in an upcoming post). Coming in very close to 10kg, it goes without saying that the Mach 4 Carbon rocketed away along the trail, with the familiar efficiency of the dw-link suspension design keeping the back end firm under pedalling inputs. The Mach 4 Carbon will be available in Australia in a variety of build kits from an SLX/XT entry level groupset, all the way up to a full-noise XTR Di2 build kit. Most of the complete bikes will come with DT Swiss wheelsets as stock, though Pivot Cycles have been working with Reynolds to offer their Black Label Carbon XC wheels as an optional upgrade.
Whether you like the aesthetics or not, the huge slope to the top tube provides masses of standover clearance for the Mach 4 C, giving a low-slung and compact feel to the bike. Pivot have shortened the seat tubes across the sizing range so that the Medium size now uses a 17.5″ seat tube length rather than the 18.5″ length of old. This is purely to allow for better compatibility with dropper posts. The side bonus of this seat tube shrinkage means it is also easier for riders to ‘upsize’ on the frame if they’re looking for more stability. By upsize we mean that a Medium sized rider could potentially choose to ride a Large Mach 4 frame and fit it with a shorter stem to achieve the same overall reach. This means you can still get a comfortable fit, whilst getting a longer wheelbase for more stability on the descents. Would we recommend it? Well it likely comes down to your riding style; if you’re between sizes, you could go smaller for a ‘whippier’ XC feel, or larger for a stable DH feel. At 175cm tall, I really dug the fit of the Medium sized Mach 4 with a 70mm stem but didn’t have the chance to ride the larger size, so will have to reserve judgement until we get some bikes in for longer term testing.
Pivot Cycles have always employed a neat sag indicator with their dual suspension bikes, which allows for a super easy visual reference for how much the rear shock should compress under the riders weight in a static position. With the new Mach 4 Carbon, the sag indicator has now been updated with both ‘Race’ and ‘Trail’ positions, which allows the rider to increase or reduce the sag figure to provide a smoother or firmer feel before having to reach for the shocks CTD adjuster. For the entire test period, I setup the shock sag in the Trail sag position, which provided a super smooth and bottomless feel throughout the entire 115mm of travel. When using the CTD adjuster on the FLOAT shock, running it in Trail was ideal for any kind of climbing, where the increased compression damping would allow the shock to sit a little higher in its stroke, keeping the rider more upright and in a better climbing position. As soon as the trail points downwards however, flicking the lever into Descend opened up the shock to allow the rear tyre to drive into every ripple and rock along the trail surface.
As with the carbon frames before it, the Mach 4 C runs a 142x12mm thru-axle courtesy of DT Swiss. The RWS skewer is super easy to use, and it threads directly into the captured derailleur hanger on the driveside. Also note above the internal cable routing port for the rear derailleur cable. Minimising the amount of external cables means there’s less overall noise on the trail, and less chance of cable rub too.
A small detail, but a detail nonetheless. Pivot have developed a brand new lock-on grip that comes stock on the Mach 4 C complete bikes. Using a single inbound locking collar, the new grips feature a multi-level design that provides heaps of cushion and heaps of traction when getting your death-grip on. Thanks to the omission of an outboard locking collar, the grips are hella comfortable when running your hands at the outermost edge of the handlebars.
It goes without saying that the new Mach 4 Carbon has some pretty big shoes to fill. Thankfully, Pivot Cycles have stuck true to the original bikes design ethos and have produced a cracking XC bike. With the carbon fibre frame and the modernised cockpit setup, the Carbon bike is more playful and more capable than any Mach 4 that precedes it, and setup with a 120/130mm fork and a dropper post, it manages to harness the feel of a bigger travel All Mountain bike in a smaller, lighter, and more nimble package. For much of the trail riding on offer in Australia, the Mach 4 Carbon is easily more than enough bike. However, it also comes with the added bonus of being super efficient and super light, so it could easily double as a marathon race bike for those that way inclined. We’re looking forward to getting more saddle time on the new Mach 4 Carbon, but initial impressions are very good. In fact, we think Pivot have created an instant-classic.
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