Pivot Mach 6 Carbon Reviewed
Boxer shorts; I find it useful to have a simile for the character of a bike to help me frame my thoughts. For the Pivot Mach 6 Carbon a comfortable pair of boxer shorts kept coming to mind. At the start of the day you rifle around your undies drawer and pick your favourite pair. As you pull them on you notice the fit, the fabric and how good your arse looks in the mirror in them. Then you hide them under another layer and don’t think about them until the end of the day, when you disrobe and realize how you haven’t had an issue with their comfort all day and admire how they look on you in the mirror. Again.
Note – to see more photos of the bike as well as pricing and other details, check out our first look here…
The Pivot M6C is that kind of bike. At the start of the ride you admire the looks, the finish and details in the frame, the stance that looks ready for whatever today’s ride may contain. Then you throw your leg over it, feel the rear suspension sit into its sag with a reassuringly progressive smoothness. The controls all feel to be in a comfortable position and the first pedal strokes give the impression of a bike that is willing, lively and reactive to your inputs. Then you ride the wheels off of the thing without thinking about what’s beneath. And then you finish the ride with a massive grin on your face and dirt between your teeth and throw an admiring glance back at the bike that just delivered.
Shouldn’t it be this way, especially for a bike that is going on 9 grand? Bad bikes are becoming more rare all the time, but what defines the M6C is that it never feels out of place. That is likely why Chris Cocalis, President and CEO of Pivot, continues to be pleasantly surprised by the broad range of riders he sees on this bike. From Arizonian trail riders to huck-hungry shredders in Utah, the M6C seems to have a bit of a cult following as a bike that can take it all on.
If you judge a bike by the looks alone, this bike has every reason to be Pivot’s best seller. In the Stealth Black finish this is a fine looking machine, possessing good lines and a stance that speaks to its ability on the trail. Chris Cocalis has been building mountain bikes for a long time and he’s known to be detail-oriented and meticulous about how he builds bikes. Pour over the M6C frame and you’ll pick up on some of the evidence of Chris’s approach. For instance to ensure that the chain stays on this 6” travel and 27.5” wheeled machine don’t stretch to far beyond the bottom bracket, the DW Link suspension has a top link and yoke assembly with overlapping pivots. Another detail is the asymmetric rear swing arm and lower link is designed to give enough room to run a front derailleur if you wish.
The front and rear triangles are full carbon, connected with short stiff links. When Chris was starting Pivot he chose to build the range around the DW Link rear suspension just with that as a consideration, it offered the ability to build the stiffest chassis front to rear. For those that like subtly logo’d bikes, the M6C won’t score many points. The Pivot logo is prominent all over the bike, from the bars, to wheels too. It is at least subdued on this colour option, but the other colours available are more in your face.
As seen in our first look, the build that we received is just dripping with top if the line components. A 1×11 Shimano XTR drivetrain isn’t easy to get your hands on right now, no matter who you know, so we were really lucky to have some time on it. The Reynolds Black Label 27.5 AM wheels are $2400 to buy alone, so we had high expectations of their performance. Holding the bike up were a Fox 36 RLC and a Float-X with the new EVOL canister. A KS LEV dropper post topped with a butt-friendly WTB saddle, Maxxis HR2 tires front and rear and a Pivot-branded 60mm stem and 800mm wide carbon bar rounded out the build. I swapped in a Raceface Turbine stem with a negative rise to get the bar height where I wanted it and I added the 45t OneUp rear cog to give me a better climbing gear when matched to the 32t front ring (more on that soon).
The new Shimano XTR impressed as you might expect with smooth reliable shifting with a lever feel that is slightly heavier than that of SRAM, feeling smooth and well engineered like a German car. The single chain ring never relinquished its grip on the chain once during my time with the bike using a tall tooth profile rather than the more prominent narrow-wide tooth profiles. I did notice that the cranks were picking up some scuffs and wear quite easily which surprised me as I’m not known to be a crank wearer. Not sure what was causing this but if you are lucky enough to end up with some XTR cranks and want to keep them pristine a clear plastic sticker when new, especially as they are quite gorgeous in person.
The brakes maintain the Shimano legacy, being reliable, powerful and consistent. The brake levers are an ergonomic pleasure with the perfect shape and pronounced hook at the end. Even with the smaller disc sizes fitted to my bike (160mm rear and 180mm front) they never felt under gunned even on the longest brake burning epic descents. Riders that are heavier than my 180lbs may want to up the rotor sizes just for peace of mind.
The Reynolds wheels are impressive to behold with their incredibly stealthy finish and details like the ultra-light DT Swiss 240 hubs, straight pull bladed spokes and carbon rims. In use they are a stiff, responsive wheel and only the front wheel has a slight waver from being absolutely true due to a high speed spill which would have probably totalled a lesser wheel. As far as the build goes the only fly in the ointment was the KS post, having the habit of falling asleep when left in the garage in the dropped position, needing to be yanked back to life at the start of a ride. Otherwise it worked as advertised.
The rear suspension of the M6C is impeccable. DW Link bikes, for me, seem to have an ability to deliver a ride that is well balanced between pedalling response and big hit plushness. I used the supplied sag marker on the shock to set the rear air pressure and didn’t play with the shock from there on in. After the quick set up I was unable to get the new Fox Float-X flustered in any situation. The new larger air volume in the canister gifts the M6C with suppleness to isolate trail chatter giving awesome traction when climbing or charging flatter sections of single track. That is well balanced with compression damping that doesn’t wallow once into the travel giving you support to launch the M6C, while allowing the rear wheel move out of the way quickly on a big hit.
The three modes on the Float-X do change the attitude of the M6C as you might expect. Chris advised me that he designed the rear suspension to be ridden in the Trail mode the majority of the time with the Descend mode being for those times when the gradient is steeper and you’d like the rear of the bike to sit into its travel more. He wasn’t wrong. Obviously the climb mode is for just that, climbing, tightening up the compression damping on the shock and making the bike very responsive to pedal inputs. I didn’t feel the need to throw the shock into this mode much, just for the longer forest road climbs. Trail mode has a great balance for all round riding and is the go to mode for technical climbing. For smoother and more flowing trails, like a new school flow trail, the Trail setting has the M6C feeling more playful and willing to pop off the ground.
The Descend mode was where I found myself placing the lever for most of my gravity-aided riding though. It does allow the rear end to sit more into the travel and makes the bike dynamically a slacker and more aggressive machine. In this mode you couldn’t help but feel the DNA of the Phoenix DH bike in the bike. Already this summer I have been able to bag some amazing rides in the higher terrain that are usually off limits until the snow melts. Some of these lines combine very steep technical terrain with some high speed point and shoot and the M6C has been totally comfortable in every situation I have pitched it into.
The Fox 36 is a quality piece of kit. This fork is probably the benchmark in the 160mm travel market but it does take some time to dial in. I had some advice on where to start and it eased that process. Initially I set all the settings for low and high speed compression bang in the middle and tuned from there, dialling out a few clicks of high speed and in a few on low speed. I did eventually add a spacer in the air spring to give a touch more ramp up in spring rate for some of the harder compressions. Once I was there though the fork provided amazing small bump sensitivity which gave the front end of the bike awesome grip but avoided diving hard when on the brakes hard into corners or on steep sections.
A big compliment for any bike of this type is whether you can ride it at a mellow pace and still have fun. Not everyone pushes a bike to the limits on each ride and I was forced to have some mellow rides when coming back from a broken finger. The M6C is very happy to do mellow. The sensible geometry with a head angle that isn’t so slack that it feels floppy at low speeds makes it a bike that is not demanding of the rider. Mellow is all very good but when you want to turn the dial to 11 you need to be sure that the M6C doesn’t fall apart. It doesn’t at all. The M6C is a bike that melts underneath you and let’s you get on with the job of picking the fastest line down whichever trail you are riding. You don’t have to compromise on that line choice, be it the chunky straight line through a section or deciding to try and gap from one root to another.
The chassis is stiff in all the right spots meaning there is no vagueness when you decide to square off a turn or pick an inside off camber line littered with roots, aided no doubt by the stiffness of the Reynolds carbon hoops. The M6C will hold whichever line you decide to place it on and has the dexterity to reward a rider that likes to place the bike where they want.
It is easy to see why this bike appeals to such a broad range of riders. Built as the long legged trail bike the M6C would be very effective. Light weight combined with silver service worthy manners makes a very efficient machine to spend time on riding your favourite back country loop for a day. For those types of rides, knowing that you have a bike under that has a reserve of ability to deal with big terrain if you come across it is very reassuring. It is a bike that doesn’t ask much of a rider and yet can offer a lot to those that want it.
My niggles with the bike are few and are absolutely niggles. I would like to see the head tube lose some height. I rode with the 60mm stem slammed and with a negative rise of a few degrees which felt good for my height and riding preference at 6’2”on the XL frame, but with really no option of trying the stem any lower it could make fitting the M6C harder for some riders. The reach on the bike felt average and comfortable to me but after jumping back onto a bike with a longer top tube it made me realize that I wouldn’t mind a little extra length. Funny considering that I tend to go for Large frames over XL, so definitely consider your frame size carefully.
Finally, while I didn’t have an issue with the pressfit bottom bracket I am personally still a fan of thread in types. Maybe I need to get my head out of my arse and accept that a wider carbon bottom bracket shell may bring other benefits but I can’t help but desire something that I can trust, especially with some of the terrain that I would want to access with this bike.
The M6C offers a lot of options for a bike endowed with so much travel. While it is easy to be enamoured with a bike due to the components hung from it, the M6C is a worthy frame with balanced handling and very refined suspension. The quality of the ride would be hard to disguise under any build you choose. It is a boutique frame that has a quality finish worthy of a custom build from scratch with all of your favourite hand picked components, or start with one of the many build kit options off the shelf and upgrade over time.
As you can tell, I was quite enamoured with the Pivot M6C. It’s a bike that plays well with how I like to ride. It doesn’t shy away from a grunty technical climb or steep pointy descents. The rear suspension is one of the best that I’ve ridden and once you have spent the time to tune in the Fox 36 up front you have an amazing setup. The frame is light yet strong and stiff and has a quality finish that would see you well for a good number of years. It will be a sad day when Pivot asks for the bike back.
Jon is smitten with the Pivot M6C. Are you?