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Pivot Mach 5.5 and Race Face Ambush Pads Reviewed by Top Member Reviewer and Jenson USA Award Winner

You can earn $100 at Jenson USA for your Vital MTB member reviews. See the best reviews from last month's Top Reviewer and learn how you could earn the top spot in December.

Every month we award the Top User Reviewer with a little prize. This month Jenson USA pitched in another $100 gift card! Vital member missinglink took home top honors after writing a handful of in-depth reviews. Here are some highlights:


Pivot Mach 5.5 Carbon - "I’ve been on this version of the Mach 5.5 for over a year now. I tried a few 29er’s but for the fun factor I keep going back to 27.5 as my main ride.

First let me just say that I really love this bike. It’s super fun and a ripper. It’s light enough to take on long rides and has enough brawn that the only thing holding me back on DH type trails are my bravery and skills. So if you’re considering this bike, let’s dive into the details.

The Suspension: I really like Pivot’s execution of the DW Link. The 140mm feels like more that its numbers, and it’s not too firm. It doesn’t sit too high in the travel and settles in to feel really balanced between pedaling efficiency and traction. The stock DPS evol is pretty nice if you’re riding smooth flow trails and holds its own on tech as well. I like to ride a lot of tech in the PNW so I sent mine to Avalanche with fantastic results (but that’s for another review). If you’re wanting more of an enduro chunder blasting machine and don’t go the custom mod route, I’d opt for the X2. I just picked up one that I’ll try out just for kicks as I like to tinker with setups (I know, I know, the grass is greener…). The Fox 36 is a great match for this bike and doesn’t feel unbalanced at all. It’s a fantastic fork.

The Ride: This is a fun and versatile bike. It maintains a nice balance of maneuverability with the ability to handle bigger lines than its 140mm of travel would suggest. At my current setup it’s sitting at 30.4lbs. It could easily lose another 2lbs with lighter tires and cranks, but I’m happy where it’s at. It climbs as well as you would expect for a 30lb bike. It’s not going to beat a dedicated XC bike up, but it holds its own and in my experience is around the top of its class with regards to climbing. The Mach 5.5’s DW Link doesn’t sap your energy but it’s also not the firmest iteration of it. If you’re looking for maximum output, you can up the low speed compression or hit the climb switch. I prefer to keep my settings open. Descending is a ripping good time as you would expect. The suspension works very good in the chop and with a low bottom bracket is an amazing cornering bike." - Read more»


Race Face Ambush Elbow Pads - "Elbow protection is my white whale. I've looked endlessly for the "perfect" set of elbow pads only to be denied. I realize elbow pads are out of fashion, but I put them on the same level as knee pads if not more. Almost every crash has put my elbows in harms way so I want a level of protection that is more than what is currently offered with the sleeve/glorified arm warmer design but not full blown downhill protection. I would put the Ambushes in the middle with a slight bias towards DH protection.

With so many different brands and body types, finding the right fit is almost impossible unless you're able to try them in the store. I wasn't able to try these on before purchasing but fortunately the size guide worked (which is not always the case). The Ambush's offer a sleeve design with light mesh in the center and a velcro adjustment strap on the bicep. Raceface's D30 is surprisingly soft and there is a little bit of extra padding in the interior. This all makes for a comfortable feel against skin and not a hard feeling like I've experienced with IXS pads and even POC airs to some extent. I also like the length of these pads. Not too long and not too short. They are on the warm side if you live in a hot climate, but where I live in the PNW it's not an issue.

On the trail, they feel a bit restrictive at first but soon "warm" up and arm flexibility is pretty good. I don't feel them after a while. I've taken a few falls and they've held up fine and have stayed in place for the most part. The D30 works to keep the elbow protected. They sometimes migrate down the forearm every once in a while, but I'm yet to find an elbow pad that doesn't do that.  I've had them for about 3 years now and they've held up to the wash, the stitching is still holding strong, and there's no tears in the mesh." - Read more»

Shop mountain bikes and Race Face protective gear at Jenson USA


Want to be in the running for December's award? Review the components, apparel, or bikes you ride in the Vital MTB Product Guide and keep an eye on the Top Reviewer leaderboard. We'll announce the winner in early January.

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