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I am looking for a new bike and narrowed it down to an Epic or a new Pivot Mach 4 SL . (I can get a very good deal on the Pivot, not considering Blur or others.) I don't need a long travel bike as I ride mostly in Ventura County and do long races like the Epic series of races. No jumps or enduro stuff. I like the 120 on the Pivot but don't really need it. I have long wanted an Epic but I'm concerned about the horror stories I hear about the Brain failing. I'd put a dropper post on the Epic; the Pivot comes with one. Your feedback would be appreciated.
 

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I vote Pivot Mach 4 SL, go for the live valve if you have the budget.
The reviews are out there from different sources so test ride if possible but I doubt they are all wrong.

I too am looking at the Pivot, Scott, or something else new.
Similar riding and racing, no desire for some of the heavier, all mountain big travel trail bikes. I don't think they would provide much more fun and enjoyment for me unless they were a second bike.

If you can get me a deal let me know.

Good luck and get the bike that motivates you most for the riding you will do most.
 

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I'd go with the Pivot. I have been on the 429SL for the past few years and love that frame. Having a full suspension bike that doesn't rely on rear lockouts (scott, specialized, etc.) as a crutch for a poor suspension design is key. Having a full suspension bike is great on descents but equally as great while climbing, assuming it is an efficient yet active suspension. Why pay for a nice full suspension bike when you are only going to receive half of the benefits? I used to race endurance races on a hardtail and it was great because it was lighter and certain sections of climbing I could really fly up, but when you are 6 hours deep grunting over a short tech section and your rear tire spins out and you have to hop off and push for a second it really zaps your energy. It's been my experience that having a great pedaling rear suspension will keep your rear tire planted when climbing resulting in better traction without the negative effects of losing energy from pedal bob.
 

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I absolutely love my Epic. It climbs exceptionally well and I haven't had any reliability issues with the 3 different generations of Epics I've owned over the years. It's hard to imagine a Mach4 being as fast on the type of race courses you're describing, but it would be a more versatile trail bike than the Epic. If you're on the fence between a 100mm and 120mm bike, the Epic Evo could be a good option w/ 120 up front and 100 in the rear. It would have the efficiency of the Epic w/ a little more versatility and plushness.
 

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Epic would be a great bike and no doubt a slightly lighter build (Pivot is not known for building super light frames). I have ridden various versions of it and can attest that it is a great marathon race bike. I do, however find it incredibly hard to pay that much for a frame that relies on a somewhat gimmicky lockout feature rather than actually designing a suspension system that functions properly.

As far as the 120mm fork goes, no question that is the way to go. I had the same debate when building my race bike and am so happy that I went with the 120 fork. I am also seeing more and more people ditching the 100 for the 120 for marathon/xc races. Very little weight penalty and more confidence in the inevitable chunky sections.

Both are great bikes and you will be happy with either one, that is just my 2 cents.
 

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Pivot gets my vote. I don’t like the brain device. They’ve never got it working properly and the clunking is annoying.
The pivot also just feels better out in the trail.
 

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I've thought about the same thing - Epic or Pivot. If I do get the Epic again, I would definitely get the EVO or custom build with a Fox SC fork, so that I have to send only the rear shock to Spesh for servicing. The new current gen Brain 2.0 was announced with some information about being user or LBS serviceable, but so far, I haven't been able to find info on the internet about this actually being the case. You probably know this already.
 

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I recently went through a similar analysis looking for an XC race bike. I’m a Specialized fanboy, currently 3 in the garage, so I really, really wanted the Epic to be the right choice. Ultimately, I ruled it out because I simply don’t trust the Brain system. Proprietary system AND a terrible reputation for reliability. It gave me real concern for having years of trouble free use.

I did look at the Pivot but the price was too rich for my blood. Plus, if I got one, I would want to get the Livewire shock because I’ve heard it works well. And, although this is completely illogical, I have the Fox Livewire shocks on my Ford Raptor truck. Something cool about having the same type of system on my truck and bike.

I ended up with a Blur X01. Traditional rear suspension design, a US brand that I trust, and a great bike. Plenty of good choice out there though.
 

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I own a 2018 epic expert, very fast bike, great handling and 100mm up front is enough, but not as light as it should be, hubs aren't great and carbon rim's are heavyish. Had the brain repaired twice, spec support is excellent. The clunk of the shock is a great reminder to be smoother, and I haven't had a flat yet. Should have a stepcast fork, I've replaced grips (esi), bars (mt zoom), seatpost (masterpiece), saddle (chinese) and wheels (roval sl) to get the bike I want, the s-works is too expensive in my opinion.
 

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I recently went through a similar analysis looking for an XC race bike. I'm a Specialized fanboy, currently 3 in the garage, so I really, really wanted the Epic to be the right choice. Ultimately, I ruled it out because I simply don't trust the Brain system. Proprietary system AND a terrible reputation for reliability. It gave me real concern for having years of trouble free use.

I did look at the Pivot but the price was too rich for my blood. Plus, if I got one, I would want to get the Livewire shock because I've heard it works well. And, although this is completely illogical, I have the Fox Livewire shocks on my Ford Raptor truck. Something cool about having the same type of system on my truck and bike.

I ended up with a Blur X01. Traditional rear suspension design, a US brand that I trust, and a great bike. Plenty of good choice out there though.
Of the suspension designs that can best utilize a lockout, the DW link is near the bottom because of the anti-squat. Seems like a traditional lockout would get you 90% of the way there and not cost an arm and a leg. Some people want it, and Pivot does like to be on the bleeding edge, but it's a bit much.

That said, the M4 is a little short in the reach measurement.
 

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Of the suspension designs that can best utilize a lockout, the DW link is near the bottom because of the anti-squat. Seems like a traditional lockout would get you 90% of the way there and not cost an arm and a leg. Some people want it, and Pivot does like to be on the bleeding edge, but it's a bit much.

That said, the M4 is a little short in the reach measurement.
I don't agree, sure, the suspension is pretty efficient, but in XC racing you are throwing the bike around so hard, thrashing with pedal strokes, pumping and yanking the bike all over the place and lockouts are huge helpful in going as fast as possible. Lockouts are a big equalizer in XC racing, but it becomes somewhat about how much you want to keep it on, like on level and non-smooth uphill. Most of these bikes pedal pretty well just because they don't have much travel and are light. I find the efficiency to be a much bigger deal with longer-travel stuff, because those can just feel like a wet-mattress and having to use the lockout for all the climbs gets annoying as you get pounded by all the rocks and trail variations.

If you are XC racing, I see the lockout as a necessity, it doesn't matter what kind of bike, except for a hardtail. For most racers it won't make a huge difference, but when you are in top 10 or 5 and your placement between you and the next guy is down to a few seconds or less...it matters. Read up on that new trek XC race bike and why they went that route. I'm not saying anyone should get that bike, that's probably way to XC-race for most people, even lots of racers, but the concept makes a lot of sense and is the same reason lockouts are prevalent even on "efficient" XC bikes.

And yeah, an epic with the "brain" is about the last thing I'd recommend in this category. Just too many good-performing suspension designs that don't suffer from the reliability and proprietary equipment issues.
 

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I don't agree, sure, the suspension is pretty efficient, but in XC racing you are throwing the bike around so hard, thrashing with pedal strokes, pumping and yanking the bike all over the place and lockouts are huge helpful in going as fast as possible. Lockouts are a big equalizer in XC racing, but it becomes somewhat about how much you want to keep it on, like on level and non-smooth uphill. Most of these bikes pedal pretty well just because they don't have much travel and are light. I find the efficiency to be a much bigger deal with longer-travel stuff, because those can just feel like a wet-mattress and having to use the lockout for all the climbs gets annoying as you get pounded by all the rocks and trail variations.

If you are XC racing, I see the lockout as a necessity, it doesn't matter what kind of bike, except for a hardtail. For most racers it won't make a huge difference, but when you are in top 10 or 5 and your placement between you and the next guy is down to a few seconds or less...it matters. Read up on that new trek XC race bike and why they went that route. I'm not saying anyone should get that bike, that's probably way to XC-race for most people, even lots of racers, but the concept makes a lot of sense and is the same reason lockouts are prevalent even on "efficient" XC bikes.

And yeah, an epic with the "brain" is about the last thing I'd recommend in this category. Just too many good-performing suspension designs that don't suffer from the reliability and proprietary equipment issues.
You're reading too much into what I said.

A DW-Link bike is going to extend the suspension under chain torque anyways, and a traditional lockout would ensure that it stays extended...so the line valve is overkill, and maybe even not what people actually want, since it would allow the suspension to compress, which the chain torque would then extend, meaning that torque is turned into heat in the shock instead of power to the rear wheel.

I do use my dual lockout a few times during a ride, does it really feel like it makes a difference? Hard to tell, but I get that any flex, any chain torque influence on the suspension is the bike absorbing force, which means that force isn't turned into power. That really matters at the highest levels of sport where the competitors are more evenly matched...but with amateurs, when it comes down to it, luck matters much, much, more than the truly marginal difference provided by a $1,000 electronic lockout.

That's why I think it's a bit much.

(like AXS, I'm sure it shifts better, but not necessarily $800 derailleur better...if I hit the lottery, my opinion might change)
 

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You're reading too much into what I said.

A DW-Link bike is going to extend the suspension under chain torque anyways, and a traditional lockout would ensure that it stays extended...so the line valve is overkill, and maybe even not what people actually want, since it would allow the suspension to compress, which the chain torque would then extend, meaning that torque is turned into heat in the shock instead of power to the rear wheel.

I do use my dual lockout a few times during a ride, does it really feel like it makes a difference? Hard to tell, but I get that any flex, any chain torque influence on the suspension is the bike absorbing force, which means that force isn't turned into power. That really matters at the highest levels of sport where the competitors are more evenly matched...but with amateurs, when it comes down to it, luck matters much, much, more than the truly marginal difference provided by a $1,000 electronic lockout.

That's why I think it's a bit much.

(like AXS, I'm sure it shifts better, but not necessarily $800 derailleur better...if I hit the lottery, my opinion might change)
DW doesn't extend the suspension under chain torque, the anti-squat keeps it from compressing under chain torque. That's different because if it was making it extend, it would be opposing the bumps at the same time. Fighting the bumps and extending during pedaling is what you get when you are significantly above 100% anti-squat, like old high-pivot designs (orange, santa cruz, mtn cycle, etc.). The other feature of DW is that this effect is the same at the sag point as it is significantly deeper in the travel, accounting for weight shifts, more sag, the suspension working through bumps, etc.-meaning it pedals consistent in a wide variety of situations.

The blur, mentioned above, pedals very similar, has a very similar AS profile.

For racing XC, it doesn't matter if it's already an efficient design. You are literally throwing the bike, mashing the pedals, making explosive bursts of power, pushing down and pulling up so hard that the suspension activates. You don't want it to activate, you want all of your power to go towards moving you forward. Even on the most efficient bikes, it's not like riding a hardtail uphill of you are running the lockout open. A lockout makes it much closer to like a hardtail uphill or on smooth ground. Don't take my word for it, look at what all the pros are running. And don't look just at the pros, look at what 1-10 of the expert class is running. If by "amateur", you mean sport and beginner...well there it starts to matter much less what kind of bike, travel, etc., you have. Many people will be just as competitive in those classes on a wide variety of bikes and setups, because their fitness is more of the limiting factor. When you are XC racing, the higher the level, the more advantages you are looking for. Each advantage adds contributes to the bigger picture.

I would agree that you don't need an electronic lockout, no doubt that would be a nice luxury, but for XC racing, what this bike is designed for, not just pro levels, it's an absolute necessity to have some kind of lockout IME.
 

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Of the suspension designs that can best utilize a lockout, the DW link is near the bottom because of the anti-squat. Seems like a traditional lockout would get you 90% of the way there and not cost an arm and a leg. Some people want it, and Pivot does like to be on the bleeding edge, but it's a bit much.

That said, the M4 is a little short in the reach measurement.
A little short in the reach measurement.... LoL...
Why is that so important? Oh wait let me guess, a xc race bike should have a 35mm stem right...?

Its a race bike. It needs to have the front weighted and more balanced weight distribution
As it stands the medium is 15mm longer in reach than the cannondale scalpel and it seems to do just fine
 

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A little short in the reach measurement.... LoL...
Why is that so important? Oh wait let me guess, a xc race bike should have a 35mm stem right...?

Its a race bike. It needs to have the front weighted and more balanced weight distribution
As it stands the medium is 15mm longer in reach than the cannondale scalpel and it seems to do just fine
I run a 120 34 in the off-season and for longer endurance-races, but it's noticeable on steep climbs how it lifts the front end up and it makes climbing just a little harder. In shorter races, the added travel is not a benefit. I bought one of those synchros hixon bars, but fretted over the exact stem length for days, ultimately happy of the length I chose. Distributing the weight forward IS an important thing in XC racing, I totally agree. We also want to keep these bikes quick and nimble, be able to yank it in an instant from one line to another, as we fight for pole position. With 29er wheels, endoing isn't significant concern, but keeping it quick and in a good climbing position is always.
 

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A little short in the reach measurement.... LoL...
Why is that so important? Oh wait let me guess, a xc race bike should have a 35mm stem right...?

Its a race bike. It needs to have the front weighted and more balanced weight distribution
As it stands the medium is 15mm longer in reach than the cannondale scalpel and it seems to do just fine
Yeah, that's crazy that the bikes that are meant to handle well and rail high speed corners have longer reaches, isn't it? Are those bikes not meant to have a properly balanced weight distribution? Does the choice of baggies or lycra change the handling dynamics of a bicycle?

Bikes from the 90's were "just fine," too. But that doesn't mean those bikes were as capable as those that came later...and that trend continues. It's pretty simple, you maintain the same seat to bar distance, but simply move the front wheel forward with a longer reach and shorter stem, and by "shorter" I mean something like a 60mm for a medium-ish size (assuming 750ish mm bars). Not your "35mm" hyperbole.

That's exactly what's been happening, in case you haven't been paying attention. The Pivot is just a half step behind and the Cannondale is a older model that WILL have a longer reach when updated. The new bikes are just as quick and nimble, as soon as you figure out how to ride them (as in "not like a road bike"), and they're more stable when doing so.

More stability means more speed, which means less time for the distance in question.
 

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Yeah, that's crazy that the bikes that are meant to handle well and rail high speed corners have longer reaches, isn't it? Are those bikes not meant to have a properly balanced weight distribution? Does the choice of baggies or lycra change the handling dynamics of a bicycle?

Bikes from the 90's were "just fine," too. But that doesn't mean those bikes were as capable as those that came later...and that trend continues. It's pretty simple, you maintain the same seat to bar distance, but simply move the front wheel forward with a longer reach and shorter stem, and by "shorter" I mean something like a 60mm for a medium-ish size (assuming 750ish mm bars). Not your "35mm" hyperbole.

That's exactly what's been happening, in case you haven't been paying attention. The Pivot is just a half step behind and the Cannondale is a older model that WILL have a longer reach when updated. The new bikes are just as quick and nimble, as soon as you figure out how to ride them (as in "not like a road bike"), and they're more stable when doing so.

More stability means more speed, which means less time for the distance in question.
I highly doubt that the 2021 model Scalpel will be much longer in the reach.
Bikes have gotten faster because they position the rider between the wheels better than older bikes did. This does not imply that a longer reach is necessary. Longer reach means more material in the frame; longer top and downtubes. Since the purpose of an XC race bike is to go up and down hills as fast as possible and not just down, there is a compromise how much reach you want to add before the bike becomes difficult to manoeuvre in tight single track.
Trail and Enduro bikes are designed and built to go as fast as possible down the mountain so the longer reach allows the rider to remain close to the seat for longer whilst keeping their weight behind the front tyre contact patch. In an XC race we're not descending for 5-10min. This requires different considerations.

re the Pivot, I found that by sizing down to the Small it was a better race bike for me. This created a big problem in that I would need a long seat post. The smaller bike was considerably more flickable and quicker (no loss of stability) than the medium. The 2cm shorter wheelbase resulted in a much better overall race bike. If races are won purely on the descent I would have sized to the medium. As it stand my Scalpel is a nice halfway house, best of both worlds
 

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I highly doubt that the 2021 model Scalpel will be much longer in the reach.
Bikes have gotten faster because they position the rider between the wheels better than older bikes did. This does not imply that a longer reach is necessary. Longer reach means more material in the frame; longer top and downtubes. Since the purpose of an XC race bike is to go up and down hills as fast as possible and not just down, there is a compromise how much reach you want to add before the bike becomes difficult to manoeuvre in tight single track.
Trail and Enduro bikes are designed and built to go as fast as possible down the mountain so the longer reach allows the rider to remain close to the seat for longer whilst keeping their weight behind the front tyre contact patch. In an XC race we're not descending for 5-10min. This requires different considerations.

re the Pivot, I found that by sizing down to the Small it was a better race bike for me. This created a big problem in that I would need a long seat post. The smaller bike was considerably more flickable and quicker (no loss of stability) than the medium. The 2cm shorter wheelbase resulted in a much better overall race bike. If races are won purely on the descent I would have sized to the medium. As it stand my Scalpel is a nice halfway house, best of both worlds
I guess we'll see when the new Scalpel comes out and it gains 20mm of reach, since that's been the trend lately.

That "position between the wheels" is the reach measurement, btw. There's also, as I've already said and the newest generation of bikes have shown, no reason why we can't have the best of both worlds, a good climbing position, and better positioning of the rider within the wheelbase for more stability. Regardless of how long you're descending or cornering, you are still doing it and the faster you go through a section, the faster you're going when you exit it. That extra speed at the exit of a corner or the rollout of a descent can and will make a huge difference over the space of a race. People who don't carry that speed will have to make up for it by putting down more power, power they won't have later on, but you will. Or at least you could, or you can be the guy that gets gapped and has to hammer to try to catch up...your choice really.

I just got a new bike with an extra inch of wheelbase, didn't even notice it. An extra 10mm of reach and over 20mm of chainstay length. Rode it on fast and flowy stuff, slow and technical stuff, it just didn't make a difference. Stop overthinking everything, just ride the bike...and especially stop assuming that we've hit peak MTB and nothing can ever improve. One would think that over time people would get tired of resetting their expectations of what the perfect mountain bike design is, but they still keep doing it. Mountain bike designers aren't just doing stuff just to do it, they're improving the bikes. We just need to utilize them properly, and if people refuse to do that, that's their fault.
 
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