The range-topping Pivot Trail 429 Pro XT/XTR offers a polished, comfortable ride with impressive climbing ability.
Boasting low weight and impressive climbing efficiency, the Pivot Trail 429 Pro XT/XTR is a 110/130mm 29er built for trail riding. This is the top-spec model, which features Fox Live Valve system and carbon handlebars.
Need to know:
- 110mm frame travel, 130mm front
- 29er wheels
- Asymmetric inserts give ‘Low’ and ‘Lower’ ride height adjustments
- 157mm Superboost axle spacing
- Pivot signature grips and carbon bar
- Fox Live Valve system
Even though the Pivot Trail 429 was launched just over two years ago, features like the SuperBoost 157mm rear axle spacing and battery mounts for Fox’s Live Valve automatic suspension feel like they’re from a different era.
The 157mm hub spacing allows for a 29×2.6in or 27.5×2.8in tyre compatibility, while keeping the chainstay length short and you can also use the Live Valve mounts for Pivot’s range of Topeak collaboration tools when running regular suspension, which helps offsets the lack of internal storage. Features from the future then? Only time will tell.
Pivot’s Hollow Core carbon fibre frame has an impressively low claimed weight of 2.7kg for a medium with shock, and the layups are size specific, so everyone gets the same ride vibe. Lots of rubber protection and individual cable/hose inserts keep the ride very quiet, apart from the standard Shimano XT brake pads rattle.
So overall the Trail 429 is a really clean, meticulously engineered bike. Unlike Yeti and Santa Cruz the warranty only covers manufacturing defects though and while there’s a rubber flap to stop crap getting crunched between the lower link and the frame, it’s a serious mud collection point. That – like the press fit bottom bracket – matters on a bike that’s likely to see a lot of miles.
Pivot has employed Dave Weagle’s DW-link suspension for years, and the Trail 429 squeezes an extra volume Fox Float DPS shock between the two signature short links. To make set up easier, the shock comes with a neat clip on sag metre. Handy, given how much time we’d end up fettling with the rear suspension.
The problem? With the correct sag the bike bottomed too easily so maybe a smaller volume air-can would be the easiest fix.
Cue spending a lot of time with a bag of spacers and all sorts of pressure setting. A long winded process that revealed the best end stroke performance came from running zero spacers and 7.5% sag.
Now, that’s a long way from the blue and red ‘optimal zone’ of the sag metre, and unsurprisingly kills most of the suppleness and comfort. It also lifts the bike up in its travel, which activates the precarious cornering feel of the high bottom bracket which is normally hidden in the sag. The high BB is further compounded by the fact that while Pivot claims 120mm of travel, we only achieved 110mm of vertical wheel travel when measured.
On the plus side, the shock is trunnion mounted and all of the pivot bearings are in the linkages for simple replacement. But again, that’s not covered under warranty, like the Santa Cruz or Yeti.
We had no such concerns up front though, where the 130mm travel Fox 34 GRIP 2 fork proved once again that it’s the best controlled, most consistent lightweight trail fork around.
Pivot gets extra points for matching the Kashima coated Factory spec suspension with a similarly gilded 200mm Fox Transfer post. An XTR derailleur combined with the XT shifter and cassette is equally slick, even if noticeably slower to shift than SRAM AXS wireless. The DT Swiss wheels are very durable with a great ride feel too, while the Maxxis Dissector tyres are a suitably ‘fast but just grippy enough’ balance for a 120mm travel bike.
Clock the alloy RaceFace Aeffect crank however, and it’s clear that when compared to the specification on the Yeti and Santa Cruz, you’re getting poorer value for money with the Pivot.
It should be clear that we spent more time trying to dial in the suspension performance on the Pivot than the other two bikes combined. Not because it’s lacking in any significant way, but because we couldn’t find the same ‘superpower’ vibe that we got from the Yeti and the Santa Cruz, which is what we expect from a short-travel trail bike that’s this expensive.
The closest we got to the rocket ship feel is that the Trail 429 is an exceptional technical climber. Thanks to immaculate frame alignments, big bearings in the linkages and a generous shock stroke, the rear suspension is super supple. Combine that with a very neutral pedalling feel that lets the back wheel track brilliantly over ruts, roots, and step ups without sucking up power or getting hooked up and the Pivot flys up anything, if you have the legs and lungs to keep the pedals moving. It’s also where you could argue that the sky high BB is an advantage.
Flip the geometry chips into the ‘low’ position and pedal strikes aren’t an issue as 343mm bb height it’s still tall. As a result, whenever we needed to go up the nadgery way, or just fancied attacking a rocky section on a climb, the Pivot finessed its way up with minimum drama. The 66º head angle, 76º seat angle and the fluid Fox fork all help with that too. At 13.26kg (29.23lb) the Pivot Trail 429 is the heaviest bike on test, but with the lightest claimed frame weight you have the potential to build a proper summit hunter with lighter wheels and faster tyres.
The fluidity of the rear suspension meant the only time the Pivot felt really peppy on smoother climbs was when we flicked the compression lever across on the shock, or were running minimal amounts of sag. We were doing that because while Pivot claim that the new suspension set up has increased progression the opposite seemed true on the trail. With the shock O-ring regularly nudged right to the end of the gold Fox shock, even on minor drops and compressions.
As such, we presumed the large volume air can would have no spacers inside, so we cracked it open to add some. Turns out the Trail 429 comes with the largest possible 0.95in spacer as standard, so we screwed it back up and tried running less sag. Even at 18% it still blew through its travel with ease, and lacked the mid-stroke support needed to pop and push out of corners.
That meant we actually returned to the original set up to get the best aspects of what the 110mm back end could give us. And to be fair, it’s a good holistic match because the front end of the Pivot frame has a similarly forgiving feel.
This is great from a comfort point of view, but doesn’t add confidence when you start pushing hard. Switching bars and adding compression to the fork made it clear that the cause was primarily frame flex, not the components.
So while Pivot offers a version of the 429 with a 36 fork and burlier build, it doesn’t seem best placed to capitalise on that. If you wanted to make the most of that rear tyre clearance with big fat low pressure rubber it would be a good way to honour Pivot’s Arizona roots and tweak the geometry.
- Best mountain bikes: the ultimate trail, enduro and XC bikes
- Best bodyweight exercises for mountain bikers
- Best mountain bike full face and convertible helmets
Pivot’s Trail 429 is a very polished, ultra comfortable ride that will suit less aggressive riders or technical climb fanatics well. But the overly plush rear suspension and tall ride height really undermine its ability to ride fast and aggressively. Depending on your perspective, frame features like 157 Boost hub spacing and Live Valve compatibility seem dated or maybe Pivot was first to the party? Either way, the components are well matched to its mission, and while the Fox Factory kit is a definite highlight, overall the Pivot Trail 429 has got the lowest value spec when compared to the Yeti SB120 T-Series T1 or Santa Cruz Tallboy CC X01 AXS RSV it was tested against.