Tested: Pivot Trail 429 mountain bike

One of my regular mountain bike partners is my friend Bryan. Recently someone asked him: “What kind of mountain biker are you?” He replied: “I am a trail rider.” Another person replied, “Aren’t all mountain bikers trail riders?”

Sure, in the truest sense of the word we ride all of the trails. But I knew what Bryan meant. He’s a strong and experienced driver, but he doesn’t race. He doesn’t mind pedaling, but for him it’s all about the descents. He rides for training, but more than that, he rides for fun: He loves taking every side hit and bunny hopping roots and rocks. Bryan appreciates the easy flow of XC-style trails, but he’s not an XC rider; he likes gnarled and technical descents, but he is no enduro brother. He enjoys the bike park, but is not a park rat. He’s a versatile mountain biker – a trail rider. (He’s also a talented photographer who captured the pictures for this piece.)

I am explaining this so that you can understand what I mean when I say the Pivot Trail 429 is a mountain bike for trail riders; for drivers like Bryan. With 120 millimeters of travel on the rear wheel, a 130 to 140 millimeter suspension fork, 29-inch wheels and a modern, progressive geometry, the Trail 429 falls directly into the versatile category of trail 29ers with short travel, which this type of rider caters to as good and includes models like the Santa Cruz Tallboy, Yeti SB115, and Ibis Ripley. But the Trail 429 also fits the fun-loving soul rider particularly well among its peers.

A flip chip enables the rider to switch the bike between “Low” and “Lower”. (Photo: Bryan Rowe)

The Trail 429 is Pivot’s most popular model and one of the OGs in its class. a bike that shaped the short-travel 29er category as we know it today. A few years ago, the then Mach 429 Trail was one of the first 29ers to combine the low weight, nimble handling and lively suspension of a short-distance bike with a loose geometry that enabled it to beat its weight on descents. In recent years, advances in geometry have made these bikes even more powerful on the descent, earning this category the nickname “downcountry” (a combination of downhill and cross-country).

Pivot launched this latest version of the Trail 429 in February, the first update to the bike in four years. The geometry changes are more standard on modern mountain bikes: a longer reach and a slightly flatter head tube enable more aggressive descents, and a steeper seat angle improves pedaling efficiency. A new flip chip enables you to switch between two geometry configurations: from the “low” (for classy and faster handling) to the “lower” (more relaxed) position, the bottom bracket height is reduced by 0.7 centimeters and the head angle from 66.5 to 66 degrees and loosens the seat tube angle from 75.5 to 75 degrees.

Pivot has also improved the suspension, making it more active in the first part of the stroke for better compliance on small bumps (resulting in a generally smoother ride feel) and a more progressive ramp that makes it harder for the bike to hit the ground on big bumps to reach. In other words, Pivot President Chris Cocalis put it: “It takes more force to move the shocker further into its journey.” A new, pivot-mounted damper helps keep the weight on the frame low for better handling, and the bike is also compatible with Fox’s new electronically controlled live valve suspension system (which you can read more about in our latest review of Giant’s Trance X-Trail bike). The Trail 429 comes in several styles, including Live versions, but my test bike came with the XO1 Pro build with a traditional Fox Factory Float DPS2 damper and a Fox 34 fork with 130 millimeters of travel. The Enduro models have a stronger Fox 136 fork with 140 millimeters of travel.

Integrated frame protectionIntegrated frame protection (Photo: Bryan Rowe)

The new Trail 429 has also lost a lot of weight. The chassis (frame and rear end) is around 300 grams lighter in this version, thanks to the use of more high-modulus carbon (carbon with a high stiffness-to-weight ratio) in the frame and a more compact frame overall. Size-specific carbon layups – that is, an extra small one has a different “carbon recipe”, as Cocalis puts it than an extra large one – also reduce unnecessary weight for smaller frame sizes, but more importantly, aim for a similar stiffness and handling the size run. My little tester, a size XO1 Pro with Reynolds carbon wheels ($ 9,049), weighed just under 28 pounds. But Pivot says his lightest physique can reach up to 26.5 pounds at a medium height. As for size, Pivot also wins major points for making this 29er an extra-small rider, up to 4’11 inches tall.

How it went

For three months, I rode Trail 429 as the main rider on a variety of terrains, from smooth, polished XC-style single trails to easy, fast, and rough enduro-style trails. I drove it down the slower, long, desert trails in Fruita, Colorado (including the big, dripping rollers of the Horsetooth Bench); on tech and flow trails in Sedona, Arizona; on fast, chunky runs on Colorado’s Front Range; and on long, alpine straights on the Colorado Trail. The verdict: It’s one of the greatest fun I’ve ever had on a trail bike.

The trendy and lively Dw-Link suspension of the Trail 429, paired with its loose but compact frame, combined to a bike that is wonderfully agile and rewards a playful riding style – another tester aptly described this bike as a “jibby”. The front section is light and easy to loft, the rear section is a joy to snap around and the bike floats on bumps and jumps. The Trail 429 encourages the rider to do small hip jumps off the trail, manual rollover, gap roots and small rock gardens. As my other tester put it: “This bike turns every trail into a pump track.”

As with all dw-link bikes I’ve ridden, the Trail 429 performs exceptionally well throughout its travel. Riders who value efficiency uphill will be delighted with the solid pedal platform. The bike responds to the power supply with a direct feeling, with no noticeable bobbing, and I stepped out of the saddle more to experience its sharp acceleration. Together with the low weight, the Trail 429 is the bike that I would use all summer long for all-day high alpine adventures with big climbs. When going downhill, I rarely felt held back: even when rolling two-foot ledges or a bad landing from tabletop jumps and hucks to flat, this 120-millimeter touring bike never got through or felt like it was reaching its limits . When riding through rough, fast, and chunky terrain, I chose smoother lines than the 130mm travel 29ers I normally ride, but it didn’t feel any slower – the Trail 429 was so well composed in these hectic situations that I hit a PR on an enduro-style trail that I usually ride on my longer travel bike. (I mostly rode the bike in the lower geometry configuration.) Where I had to place the wheel in place of the plow, it felt like I made up for it with faster handling: in Bermed corners as well as flat corners Trail 429 Maneuverability was demonstrated by how easily and precisely the bike responded to subtle shifts in weight and steering from the hip. All of this made this bike an unbridled joy to ride. Whether I was actually faster than my bigger bike or not, I had more fun.

When I think back to the varied terrain I’ve ridden Trail 429 over the past three months, I would probably say that I’m a trail rider too. I enjoy everything from flowing XC rides to fast-paced descents with edgy technical sections, and this bike shone in all of those situations. The only exception: In summer I often do lift-assisted days in the bike park, and no lighter 120-millimeter touring bike is the ideal tool for this. But if I didn’t, this would easily be my choice for a one bike quiver. (If you like the features described above but want an all-round bike that honestly allows you to steer down the gnarled descents a little more carefree, consider the 135mm-travel Switchblade from Pivot instead.)

There are better bikes for everyone who rides a certain discipline or wants to spend many days in the bike park. However, if your goal is all-round trail riding, fun, and adventure, the Trail 429 is a bike that will get you straight into a flow state on almost every ride.

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Main photo: Bryan Rowe

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