Interbike 2011: Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon first ride review

Erasing the line between cross-country and trail bike

Pivot's new Mach 5.7 Carbon doesn't just muddy the line between cross-country and trail bike. It erases it altogether, offering up a remarkably perky feel - better than some dedicated race bikes we've ridden - while still delivering a healthy 144mm of rear wheel travel and a rewardingly progressive frame geometry.

Far and away, the bike's defining feature is its dw-link rear suspension design, which pedals worlds better than one would normally expect of a bike with this much travel.  Whether hammering out of the saddle up a gentle grade, cruising in the saddle on a long climb, or ripping along rolling singletrack, there's simply no hint whatsoever of any unwanted motion, regardless of which chainring you're in. 

That impressive degree of responsiveness is especially noticeable on tricky uphill sections that require one or two big pedal strokes to clear an obstacle – simply push harder and the Mach 5.7 obediently shoots forward instead of compressing the suspension, even if you're grossly overgeared.

The dw-link suspension design is taut and reactive while pedaling but still ably sucks up bumps without having to rely on heavy compression damping

As we've come to expect from Pivot, the carbon chassis is very stiff, particularly through the middle of the frame.  Pedaling efficiency naturally benefits as a result but there's also an innate sense of handling security that goes along with that, too. The Mach 5.7 Carbon is pretty light, too – actual weight of our medium tester as pictured was 12.21kg (26.9lb) with Shimano Deore XT pedals fitted.

Overall feel is decidedly taut, athletic, and communicative instead of buttery, bottomless, and isolating – something some longer-travel riders might find a bit unsettling as compared to some competing designs.  That said, there's no sacrifice in drive or cornering traction as a result, either, and we still got full travel with the recommended amount of sag with no harsh bottom-out. 

Big tubes throughout the front triangle lend a stiff and predictable feel to the pivot mach 5.7 carbon:
Big tubes throughout the front triangle lend a stiff and predictable feel to the pivot mach 5.7 carbon:

Big tubes throughout the front triangle lend a stiff and predictable feel to the Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon

Spring rate is very consistent with no discernable saddle in the midstroke nor is it sensitive to body position.  While that makes it a littler harder – but not impossible – to sink your weight into the bike and lower your center of gravity on berms, the upside is a more predictable feel through a wider variety of terrain and fewer pedal strikes than the bottom bracket height might suggest on paper. 

The Mach 5.7 Carbon's handling traits honestly surprised us a bit.  On paper, the numbers are virtually identical to the Santa Cruz Blur TRc, with a cross country-like rider position and progressive geometry, but in reality the Pivot isn't quite as low and slack since it tends to sit a little higher in the travel.  As a result, it doesn't feel quite as incredibly stable on fast corners nor is it quite as eager to two-wheel-drift through anything and everything. Then again, it isn't as polarizing, either, with a satisfying and versatile geometry that's well suited to all-day big mountain rides on a wide variety of terrain.

Currently, there's only one major downside that we can see on Mach 5.7 Carbon: the lack of any chain guide provision with the tab-free press-fit carbon shell.  While we didn't have any issues on our Bootleg Canyon testing grounds, bumpier and more demanding downhills will invariably reveal some drivetrain issues.  Thankfully, Pivot principal Chris Cocalis says the company is already developing a bolt-on solution similar to what it eventually made for its shorter-travel aluminum bikes.  It won't be a proprietary setup, either, instead allowing users to choose from a wide range of available offerings but Cocalis admits its probably still about six months away.

As it sits currently there is no provision for a chain guide on the Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon but a bolt-on solution is apparently coming in about six months

We hope to have a long-term tester in our hands within the next couple of weeks for a proper shaking-out on more familiar trails but initial impressions of the Mach 5.7 Carbon are very good indeed.

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And a second opinion from Guy Kesteven...

We’re already big fans of Pivot’s versatile Mach 5.7 bike; it manages to handle everyday trail riding and mile covering as well as Mega Avalanche race duty with equal enthusiasm, as long as you dress it up right. News of the new carbon 5.7 being on site at Bootleg put it onto our must try list straight away.

Even with the shock crushed under a Camelbak bursting with water and extra camera gear the Pivot pedals remarkably well. Granny gear, big ring, stand up charge or churning through soft, deep gravel there was no obvious bounce or power loss. Just enough predictable, traction enhancing pedal lift to claw us up the steeps or charge out of corners. With a complete bike weight in XT trail trim of 26.3lbs, there’s little for gravity to grab hold of either.

Pivot mach 5.7 carbon:
Pivot mach 5.7 carbon:

Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon

With packs stripped to riding weight the Kashima shock still stayed super plush to keep the ride neutrally communicative without ever feeling dead or dull. There’s pretty much every potential suspension shaming situation on the Bootleg trails from stutter to square bump to jagged edge or loose scree - often within the same 100 metres. While every other bike failed in at least one area, the Mach didn’t just cope with them all but created ego boosting, skill flattering speed out of every challenge.

Compact sizing (think Santa Cruz/Specialized) means it’s a great bike to get mobile on and make the most of your body weight. Safe in the knowledge that nothing strange is going to happen wherever you move your mass. Top the whole carbon 5.2lb carbon chassis cake with an icing of incisively accurate, twist free tapered front and screw thru axle rear and the new Mach 5.7 is an absolute blast, whether you’re after a lightweight trail bike or a longer travel skill stretcher that doesn’t drag your giblets out getting to the summit.

For tons more on our Interbike 2011 coverage, click here.

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