The New Pivot Mach 4SL Review: A Lighter and More Capable XC Bike

The latest Pivot Mach 4SL mountain bike gets considerably lighter, adds travel, and keeps its prized DW-Link suspension.
Photo courtesy of Pivot Cycles

After four years on the revamped Mach 4SL, Pivot Cycles has redesigned the full-suspension cross-country bike again, giving it refreshed geometry and suspension kinematics, a redesigned frame with lighter weight and the trusty DW-link suspension, and four different travel settings, including a 115mm option, which XC/trail riders should love.

We were able to spend two days on the bike down in Cortez, Colorado, hammering out miles and carving around the pinon and juniper trees. Here is what’s new on the bike and how we liked it.

What’s new on the new Mach 4SL?

Considering how light and capable the last version of the Mach 4SL was, Pivot packed some worthy updates into the new version.

Suspension kinematics: There are four total travel options offered on the new version, discussed below, whereas the previous bike was was only capable of 100mm of rear travel. Riders can expect the same snappy, composed pedaling characteristics from the DW-link but Pivot says the traction has been improved. The bike keeps the same vertical shock layout that the last Mach 4SL brought to the entire Pivot lineup.

There’s a pretty common theme around new XC bikes lately and that is that most are leaving link-ier designs for a link-driven single pivot with flex stays. The move is usually lighter since you get rid of some pivot hardware in the process.

Pivot Cycles wasn’t ready to do that yet, and is anyone really ready to see a Pivot full-suspension without DW-link? The brand made a meaningful weight reduction without leaving their prized linkage design.

Photo courtesy of Pivot Cycles

Flip-chip: The new Mach 4SL now has a flip-chip in its upper shock link. It changes only the travel and not the geometry. The World Cup build (one of two travel configurations) has a shorter stroke 190×40 shock that can bet set to either 95mm or 103mm of rear travel with the Fox Float shock, and the Team, Pro and Ride builds use a 190×45 shock to get either 106mm or 115mm of travel. The travel adjust can be done in under five minutes on the trail with a hex key and flipping the link on both sides.

Tubing and weight: Though the new generation XC bike and the previous share a similar look, the tubing is noticeably narrower on the new version, and so is the linkage.

Pivot is always chasing lighter weights on all of their bikes. That comes with a cost, but all of their models do a great job of blending both durability and weight. The previous Mach 4SL had a 4lb frame weight without a shock on the size small and the new generation slims down to 3.65lb. Complete size small World Cup builds weigh as little as 23lbs.

To keep that weight down, Pivot is still using a Pressfit bottom bracket. That might make a few folks groan, but Pivot is adamant that frame tolerances are tight enough that they don’t have issues and it is considerably lighter than using a threaded bottom bracket. Pivot founder Chris Cocalis also mentioned that inserting aluminum threads into a carbon shell hampers long-term durability since the two materials don’t always play nicely together under torsion.

Geometry: As expected, the geometry got a little slacker, a little longer, and the seat tube, a little steeper, but measurements grew more like a tree than a weed.

On the 120mm fork builds, the HTA slackened by .8° and the STA steepened by 1.2°. The reach grew by 5-15mm depending on the size. The stack heights dropped a little depending on size and the wheelbase grew by 8-19mm depending on the size.

Climbing on the Pivot Mach 4SL
Photo by Matt Jones

Climbing Cortez on the Mach 4SL

With its feathery carbon frame and Pivot’s proven DW-Link performance, one can safely assume that the Mach 4SL is going to help you get where you need to go quickly. As far as kinematics goes, it’s hard for me to draw a comparison from the previous version because it’s been four years now, but the new version feels great.

We rode the new Mach 4SL at the famed Phil’s World in Cortez, Colorado and the bike felt like a perfect match for the fast ribbons of buff dirt, sprinkled with blocky rocks. In the 115mm setting, the Mach 4SL felt efficient and eager to sprint with great anti-squat characteristics and held impressive traction up steppy rock shelves. A lot of shorter-travel bikes feel a little too progressive and firm up technical terrain, but the Mach 4SL in its 115mm setting kept enough plushness that made it quite comfortable climbing up chunk and didn’t require hammering.

Corners in Cortez are nearly as fast as the straightaways and every once in a while, you’d see a low branch or a sniper rock you’d have to dodge. The bike’s handling is quick and snappy with a slacker HTA and a reduced offset fork, keeping the Mach 4SL’s characteristics agile but not twitchy. On the World Cup builds, that handling gets even snappier with a 68° HTA, however the reach gets longer.

The Mach 4SL comes with a flip-chip for the shock, so it can be set to a total of four different travel lengths. The World Cup build comes with a shorter shock and can be run at either 95mm or 103mm of travel. The Team, Pro, and Ride builds, (we rode a Team version) with a longer shock can be run at either 106mm or 115mm. The shorter setting gives the bike noticeably snappier acceleration though it does feel more progressive and firm.

Photo by Matt Jones

Descending on Pivot’s XC machine

The last time I rode the previous version of the Mach 4SL was over a pretty rowdy 50-mile course for the Grand Junction Off-Road (RIP). The bike then had 100mm of travel. I remember it handling the West Slope’s ledgy rocks admirably, but if given a choice, I’ll gladly take the latest version’s 115mm of travel.

It goes a long way in blurring the lines between a cross-country bike and a trail bike. The Mach 4SL has the speed on the climbs and flats of the former, but on natural trails it’s not far from matching the capability of something like the Trail 429–the rear travel is now close, but the Trail still has another 10mm of fork travel and some added weight to keep it more stable.

The suspension feels fairly progressive in the 115mm setting but it floated over the technical terrain we rode. There are some steep and technical lines in and around Phil’s World too and the slacker HTA and slightly longer reach and wheelbase upped my confidence on those kinds of lines compared to the previous version.

Coming into kickers and launches, I couldn’t help but load the suspension up each time and send the bike up and over rollers and off bump jumps. With tighter 432mm chainstays the front end happily obliges.

The Mach 4SL was par for the course when it comes to frame stiffness too and the carbon chassis never noodled under hard, swoopy corners.

Photo courtesy of Pivot Cycles

Component check

I rode the very Gucci Team XX SL edition, priced at $11,599, with SRAM’s XX Eagle Transmission and Level Ultimate brakes, so I can’t complain about much. The XX Eagle Transmission is amazing–so is the XO version if you’re looking at a more affordable build, and it works crisply, cleanly, and reliably. And SRAM’s brakes are better than they have ever been. This is the second bike in a row I’ve ridden with the Level Stealths recently. They have not faded, like previous Levels, and the braking feels robust and stiff.

Pivot specced the Fox Factory Float shock and Stepcast 34 fork which felt great the entire time; sensitive and supportive. It’s pretty rare this happens, but I don’t think there’s a thing I’d change about this particular build. That should be a given at over $11,000. If you want to save a good chunk of money and get a very nice build with Shimano XTR instead of SRAM’s ET, you can opt for the Team XTR build for almost $2,000 less.

Pivot’s most affordable build is $6,200 for the Ride XT version, with Performance level Fox suspension and dropper post, aluminum bars, Shimano XT derailleur, SLX shifter, cassette, and brakes and alloy DT Swiss wheels. It’s actually a great selection of components and a proven Shimano drivetrain combination, however it’s not going to be as light as some of the pricier builds.

The bike gets 180mm/160mm brake rotor combos front and rear, a remote grip-shift lockout on Pro builds and above, and Maxxis Ardent Race, Rekon Race, or a combination of both tires on all builds.

Pivot has a handful of price points between their entry-level $6,199 build and top end $11,599 build.

Pivot Mach 4SL
Photo by Matt Jones

Closing thoughts

The last Mach 4SL was a big move for the brand, consolidating models and pushing into modern cross-country territory. While other brands are chasing lighter and lighter weights with new suspension designs, Pivot has found ways to lighten the Mach 4SL frame and keep the DW-Link, so the bike is absolutely competitive still.

What I like most about the bike though is that it blends XC and trail categories and you really get the best of both worlds. The Mach 4SL is a bike that is as comfortable slicing through descents as it is burning up a climb.