Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon first ride review

First impressions of this outstanding trail bike

The new Mach 5.5 Carbon is Pivot’s solution for riders fed up with fads and finely diced market segments. It’s not cheap, but it’s nearly everything one could want in a trail bike.

Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon Highlights

  • Designed around 27.5in wheels
  • 140mm rear, 160mm front travel
  • Equipped with 27.5x2.6in Maxxis Wide Trail tires
  • Claimed frame weight of 5.2lb / 2.35kg (with Float DPS shock)
  • Frame pricing: $3,099 with shock
  • Complete bikes: $4,899 to $10,199
  • Available now

Reinventing a classic

Pivot has cleaned up its lines from past models. The 5.5 cuts a sharp silhouette
Pivot has cleaned up its lines from past models. The 5.5 cuts a sharp silhouette

Chris Cocalis launched Pivot Cycles in 2007 with two models: the racy Mach 4 and the trail-oriented Mach 5. In 2011, the Mach 5 evolved into the Mach 5.7, Pivot’s first carbon model.

“We set out to design the quintessential trail bike”

While long-travel 29ers and enduro rigs may be the current sweethearts of the cycling industry, the bread and butter of the market is still the well-rounded trail bike.

The Mach 5.5 Carbon is certainly up to the challenge of enduro racing, but that’s not what drove its development.

“We set out to design the quintessential trail bike,” said Cocalis.

Pivot’s new trail bike has 140mm of rear suspension travel supplied by Dave Weagle’s dw-link suspension design. Pivot intended to develop the 5.5 around a 150mm suspension fork, but after testing it with a 160mm Fox 36, Cocalis opted to go with the longer stroke fork.

Dave Weagle's dw-link supplies 140mm of travel
Dave Weagle's dw-link supplies 140mm of travel

In keeping with current trends, the reach across the five frame sizes is longer than previous versions, and the head angle sits at 66.5 degrees. Unlike many competitors, the seat tube isn't drastically hiked forward. The 73.5-degree seat tube angle still feels spot-on while climbing — the fact the rear suspension doesn’t squat under power allows Pivot to keep this traditional seat tube angle.

It feels like we’re on the cusp of a settling on a new tire size that will become the norm for most trail bikes — 2.5 to 2.6in tires paired with rims that range from 30 to 35mm are poised to become the new normal.  

If 2.6in is the new normal for mountain bike tires, count me in
If 2.6in is the new normal for mountain bike tires, count me in

“This isn’t a 27.5 plus bike; it’s not a 29 minus bike. It’s a 27.5 bike,” the Pivot founder mused about the current tire-sizing fracas. 

According to Cocalis, the Mach 5.5 will ride well with tires ranging from 2.25 to 2.6 inches in width.

All build levels of the Mach 5.5 roll on 27.5x2.6in Maxxis Wide Trail tires with a DHF up front and a Rekon in the rear.

There's still plenty of mud clearance with a 27.5x2.6 Maxxis Rekon installed in the back
There's still plenty of mud clearance with a 27.5x2.6 Maxxis Rekon installed in the back

Pivot has a reputation for integrating forward-looking features into its frames. It was one of the first companies to integrate Di2 routing for Shimano’s electronic drivetrains. The company was willing to go out on a limb to create the 157x12mm Super Boost Plus axle system to reach the tire clearance and stiffness numbers the company sought for the Switchblade.

In addition to the down tube protection, there are ports for cables as well as a Di2 battery on the underbelly of the Mach 5.5 Carbon
In addition to the down tube protection, there are ports for cables as well as a Di2 battery on the underbelly of the Mach 5.5 Carbon

The Mach 5.5 Carbon makes due with the 148x12mm thru axle standard but includes a new frame feature that hints at a more wired future. There’s a port above the forward shock mount and another hidden on the inside of the non-drive chainstay that will allow the Mach 5.5 Carbon to be compatible with the Fox Live Valve system.

The black cover on the inside of this chainstay is where an accelerometer for the Fox Live valve system could live in the future
The black cover on the inside of this chainstay is where an accelerometer for the Fox Live valve system could live in the future

According to Mark Jordan, Fox’s marketing manager, there’s no exact launch date for this terrain-sensing suspension system. “As we develop it, we keep finding and integrating new functions,” Jordan said of the system’s lengthy development process.

Not all of the Mach 5.5’s frame features are aimed at future advancements. Pivot also included a removable front derailleur mount for riders still clutching onto front derailleurs.  

Build details

Pivot's 760mm-wide carbon handlebar is the most comfortable oversized bar I've ridden
Pivot's 760mm-wide carbon handlebar is the most comfortable oversized bar I've ridden

Before delving into the bike itself, let's take a quick look at some of the key components.

The Mach 5.5 Carbon I tested was equipped with a 1x11 Shimano XT group with XT brakes with 180mm rotors.

Fox supplies the suspension with a 36 Factory fork and Float Factory DPS EVOL shock. The medium 5.5 Carbon I tested also comes with a 125mm Fox Transfer dropper seatpost. 

Pivot’s house brand Phoenix components are used for the carbon handlebar and stem.

This 760mm handlebar is newsworthy for two reasons. First off, this was the most forgiving 35mm diameter bar I’ve ridden to date. The second feature of Pivot’s handlebar that makes it stand out is the use of WTB’s PadLoc system to keep the grips from slipping while adding a bit of cushion to the end of each grip. While there is a wide range of PadLoc compatible grips on the market, Pivot also makes a bar plug that will allow you to run standard grips with its mitered bars.

The PadLoc system promotes safety and comfort (The red portion of the grip is solid rubber)
The PadLoc system promotes safety and comfort (The red portion of the grip is solid rubber)

I'd be remiss if I didn't comment on the wheelset. Pivot worked with Reynolds to developing a carbon wheelset with an internal width of 36mm. For now, this wheelset is only available through Pivot. It's one of the upgrades Mach 5.5 Carbon buyers can select.

As previously mentioned, these wide rims mated to the new 2.6in Wide Trail tires from Maxxis.

It’s a solid build with no shortcuts that could undermine performance.

Moab proving grounds

We spent two days testing the Mach 5.5 Carbon on some of the finest trails in United States
We spent two days testing the Mach 5.5 Carbon on some of the finest trails in United States

I spent two days riding the Mach 5.5 Carbon on some of Moab’s best-known trails.

On day one, Cocalis and Pivot’s director of engineering, Kevin Tisue, lead our group of media hacks across the Mag 7 trail system, which ends with a white-knuckle plunge down the infamous Portal Trail. Day two included hot lap on the Hymasa and Captain Ahab trails.

It's hard to take in Moab's stunning views while dodging rocks...
It's hard to take in Moab's stunning views while dodging rocks...

Pivot’s bikes have a reputation for solid pedaling performance. The Mach 5.5 doesn’t break from tradition in this respect, though the suspension kinematics and shock tune have been refined over time to balance anti-squat with compression damping to allow the rear end to be more forgiving.

As a light rider, I left the Float DPS in the open position with the lightest compression setting (Open 1). Heavier riders will probably find the open position with and additional click of compression best suits their needs (Open 2).

The 2018 Float 36 is an impressive fork
The 2018 Float 36 is an impressive fork

The suspension tracks well on technical climbs without pushing through the midstroke when scrambling up rock ledges. The wide rubber doesn’t hurt, either.

The 2.6in tires were well suited to Moab’s rocky terrain. They’re wide yet still precise. It would have been a shame if this stiff frame was let down by whippy wheels or tires that fold when pushed hard into corners — a shortcoming of many plus tires.

The Wide Trail treads also give the Mach 5.5 a bit of a buffer zone when you attempt to ride it like a longer-travel rig.

The stock Fox Float DPS shock is good, but aggressive riders should invest in the Float X2 upgrade
The stock Fox Float DPS shock is good, but aggressive riders should invest in the Float X2 upgrade

One the second day of testing I swapped the stock Float DPS shock for the more tuneable Float X2 shock. The stock Float DPS is a good choice for riders who want a playful ride and spend most of their time on flowy terrain.

The Float X2 is an option for Mach 5.5 buyers. After a day of riding, it’s an upgrade I would strongly recommend for aggressive riders and those who frequently ride demanding terrain.

This piggyback air shock is a better match to the ultra supple 2016 Fox 36 fork. It allows the Mach 5.5 to come into its own as an aggressive trail bike on rough descents. With this shock installed the Mach 5.5 can go toe-to-toe with longer travel trail bikes.

The refined suspension and high volume tires allow the Mach 5.5 Carbon to ride beyond it's 140mm of rear travel
The refined suspension and high volume tires allow the Mach 5.5 Carbon to ride beyond it's 140mm of rear travel

Early verdict

The Mach 5.5 Carbon is an outstanding entrant into the trail bike market
The Mach 5.5 Carbon is an outstanding entrant into the trail bike market

Pivot has created an inspiring trail bike. The Mach 5.5 Carbon is everything a modern trail bike should be. It’s fun, fast and forgiving when it needs to be.

Josh Patterson

Tech Editor, US
Josh has been riding and racing mountain bikes since 1998. Being stubborn, endurance racing was a natural fit. Josh bankrolled his two-wheeled addiction by wrenching at various bike shops across the US for 10 years and even tried his hand at frame building. These days Josh spends most of his time riding the trails around his home in Fort Collins, Colorado.
  • Age: 35
  • Height: 170cm / 5'7"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 72cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Mountain, cyclocross, road
  • Preferred Terrain: Anywhere with rock- and root-infested technical singletrack. He also enjoys unnecessarily long gravel races.
  • Current Bikes: Trek Remedy 29 9.9, Yeti ASRc, Specialized CruX, Spot singlespeed, Trek District 9
  • Dream Bike: Evil The Following, a custom Moots 27.5+ for bikepacking adventures
  • Beer of Choice: PBR
  • Location: Fort Collins, CO, USA

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