In a vast ocean of single-pivot race bikes, where conformity reigns supreme, there are only a handful of brands brave enough to forge a different path, daring to conquer the ever-evolving challenges of modern XC racecourses. Enter Pivot, who steadfastly embraces incremental improvements of the race-proven dw-link design, concocting a potent elixir of efficiency, traction, and braking performance. Their latest Mach 4SL epitomizes these advancements, boasting a completely reimagined frame, updated suspension kinematics, and tweaked frame geometry. Our time aboard the Mach 4SL may have been fleeting, but it showcased astonishing efficiency, leaving us wanting more and hinting at a companionship that extends far beyond the boundaries of the racecourse.
- Full carbon frame
- 29-inch wheels only
- Two rear travel options: 95 or 105mm (World Cup model) // 106 or 115mm (Team, Pro, Ride model)
- Rear travel flip-flip chip in rocker eyelet
- World Cup Builds: 100mm FOX 42 32 Stepcast forks
- Team, Pro, Ride Builds: 120mm FOX 34 Stepcast forks
- DW-Link suspension design
- 300-400g lighter than the previous generation
- Complete bike weight under 23 lbs (Size small, XX World Cup build)
- Remote suspension lockout on select builds
- Clearance for two water bottles on medium to X-large frames
- Boost 12x148 rear spacing
- Sizes: XS-XL
- 8 build kits
- MSRP: $6,199 – $11,599
The Third Generation Mach 4SL – More Lethal Than Ever
Pivot approached the Mach 4SL with the intention of creating the most efficient platform for their XC racing teams. Despite the bike's specific intentions, Pivot has created a platform that will excel outside a race environment. We had the opportunity to ride the Team XX SL model that pairs a 120mm fork with either 106 or 115mm of rear travel. The travel adjustment should make the bike more approachable to consumers outside those seeking every watt advantage over their competitors.
All frame sizes have received extensive shaping and layup analysis to provide the lowest weight possible. In addition to gram shaving, each size uses a specific carbon layup for optimized flex. However, these nuances are not at the expense of strength, as each frame passes the strength tests required by all Pivot bikes.
It should come as no surprise that Pivot has updated the Mach 4SL with longer-lower-slacker geometry than before. The head tube has slackened to 66.7° (67.5° prior), reach has increased by 15mm, and the seat tube angle has steepened by 1.2°. These aren't dramatic changes, but these subtle tweaks help boost confidence for today's ever-increasingly technical XC racecourses.
The Mach 4SL is available in two colorways (Seafoam Green and Blue Ice), eight build kits, and sizes from XS to XL. Builds start at $6,199 with the entry-level Mach 4SL Ride XT (Shimano SLX/XT components) and max out at $10,999 for the World Cup XX SL (SRAM Transmission/FOX Factory). Like all Pivot bikes, the Mach 4SL includes a 10-year frame warranty and 1-year paint, finish, and bearings warranty.
The Ride, Pro, and Team build kits differ from the World Cup, along with a few key differences. The World Cup build comes with a twist lock 3-position suspension lockout, a FOX Transfer SL dropper, a FOX DPS shock with 40mm stroke (95 or 105mm), and a 100mm FOX Stepcast 32 fork. The Ride, Pro, and Team build kits have FOX transfer posts (150mm M-L, 175 XL), Fox Float shock with 45mm stroke (106 or 115mm) and 2-position twist lockout, and FOX 34 Stepcast fork with 120mm travel.
dw-link suspension utilizes a virtual pivot point and a dual-link system to optimize a bike's performance. The beauty of the dw-link lies in its ability to effectively balance pedaling efficiency with active suspension characteristics. By carefully managing factors such as anti-squat, anti-rise, and the leverage ratio, the design minimizes unwanted suspension movement during pedaling, allowing riders to efficiently transfer power to the pedals while climbing or accelerating. Simultaneously, it provides excellent traction and control by remaining active and responsive to bumps and obstacles encountered on the trail. For the latest Mach 4SL, Pivot has refined these features to offer better pedaling efficiency while still allowing the shock to be fully open.
Cruising in Cortez
Our testing ground for the Mach 4SL included two days in Cortez, Colorado, on the Phil's World trail system. We enjoyed flowing single track interspersed with flat corners and occasional switchbacks to cross slick rock canyons. The descents weren't particularly long or steep, but it was a great testing ground to get a feel for the efficiency of the Mach 4SL.
We were pleased with how the bike felt right off the bat. The size Large for our 5'11" stature was comfortable and placed us in a neutral position. We did lower the stem after the first day of riding to weigh the front end further and to put us in a more aggressive climbing position. After that adjustment, the fit of the bike faded away from our consciousness, and we were able to focus on analyzing on-trail performance.
Our time in Cortez was highlighted by perfect post-rain trail conditions. The clay-laden hard pack flow trails allowed us to maintain momentum and pump through the many undulations baked into the swooping single-track. The few steep climbs were generally rocky and provided little traction. In these instances, it was immediately clear just how much traction the Mach 4SL possessed. Under power, the dw-link suspension was free to drive into impacts and maintained traction with ease.
Aside from maintaining traction, power transfer was shockingly good. For XC, we have little aversion to using a rear lockout. Throughout the test period, we never felt the need to twist the lockout for the rear. Even under hard accelerations, the shock was best left open to maintain traction and composure.
We started the test on the 115 mm rear shock setting and ended on 106mm by rotating the flip chip at the rocker link for comparison. The shorter shock setting does not affect geometry, so it was purely a test to experience less travel. We determined that the 106mm setting would be reserved for rare occasions, as the longer setting wasn't holding us back and was more comfortable to boot.
The testing grounds provided an ideal playground for the nimble and efficient nature of the Mach 4SL to shine. As we pushed the limits of its descending performance, we couldn't help but wonder where those limits truly resided. The trail presented a plethora of challenging features, including tricky chutes and rock rolls, yet at no point did we feel like we had reached the bike's threshold. The frame struck a delicate balance, offering a perfect blend of stiffness and responsiveness without tipping into excessive flex. The rear suspension gracefully reached the end of its travel without any unnecessary theatrics. While further exploration is warranted to fully determine the Mach 4SL's limits, our initial impressions have already surpassed the expectations one would have for an XC race platform. It's safe to say that this bike is poised to redefine what's possible in the realm of cross-country performance.
What's The Bottom Line?
Pivot has masterfully honed the Mach 4SL into an exceptional XC racing machine, surpassing our expectations in every aspect. The sheer efficiency of power transfer left us in awe as if we had stumbled upon a secret source of propulsion. And when it came to descending, the bike showcased a prowess beyond your average cross-country bike. With meticulous refinements to its geometry, kinematics, and layup, the Mach 4SL has emerged as an undeniable force that simply cannot be ignored. Overlook it at your own peril, for the Mach 4SL has solidified its place among the elite.
For more information, please visit pivotcycles.com
View key specs, compare bikes, and rate the new Pivot Mach 4 SL in the Vital MTB Product Guide.
About The Reviewer
Greg Montgomery - Age: 30 // Years Riding: 20 // Height: 5'11" (1.8m) // Weight: 150-pounds (68kg)
When he's not winning pro-level trail running races, Greg is hammering the trails of Idaho and the Rocky Mountain region on his mountain bike. Fit, fast and knowledgeable, he's also a mechanic for his friends, where he gets his hands on all kinds of different cycling products. For fun, he'll pedal his regular bike up moto trails, keeping up with his friends on e-bikes.
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