07 April 2009

bikefix Q+A: Pivot Mach 5 vs. Maverick Durance

Today, Bertrand writes us with an enviable dilemma: Should he replace his Cannondale Prophet with a Pivot Mach 5 or Maverick Durance?

I have just read both of your reviews of the Maverick Durance and of the Pivot Mach 5 and they showed a fairly unbiased view of both bikes, even though you seem to own a Durance.

I currently ride a C'dale Prophet, that I really like, but some of the downside of the Prophet are starting to really annoy me, hence why I am looking at changing bikes. I live in Southern Alberta, in Canada and my playground is the Canadian Rockies. That means that a ride can include everything: a rooty section, a rocky section, a rock garden, some switchbacks, screaming downhill, some fireroad and all of that with potentially 2000ft of climbing. I can't afford to have multiple bikes, so the bike would be my do-it-all bike.

At 5' 7", I think I am a fairly light rider at 150lbs without gear and I am not a strong rider, in the sense that I can't mash the pedals. I climb seated in granny gear. I am a fairly competent climber, but my downhill skills are still lacking a bit, which means that I am not one to pick the best smoothest line, so I need the bike to be able to bail me out. The Prophet is decent at doing that, but the fact that the rear end stiffens when I brake is not a nice feeling when going down a rocky section or a rock garden, as I feel like the rear wheel is bouncing on the rocks rather than absorbing them.

To make matters worse, neither the Durance nor the Mach 5 are available in my geography, which means that if I go this way, which I really want, I won't be able to test ride either bike. The one thing I am trying to understand is the weaknesses of each bikes and the compromises that they dictate. For instance, I hate bad shifting: when I am on a flat section and come to a steep uphill and I need to drop into granny, I _need_ the bike to drop into granny, not think about it for a couple of seconds before shifting. Going from middle ring to big ring and back is not so important as our trails are mostly middle ring trails. The big ring doesn't get used that often, so it mostly acts as a bash guard.... ;-)

So here I am, doing research, trying to get as many different view points as possible.

Thanks a lot in advance for your help,
Bertrand.

Bertrand,

Thanks for the e-mail. If you're headed in that direction, you might want to think about flying to Moab for a long weekend and demoing both bikes (I believe that both are available there). Competitivecyclist have a demo program but don't sell either and Wrenchscience sell Maverick but don't have a clear demo program- you might want to give them a call. The lack of a local dealer is a shame, but if your local guys are willing to get set up with either company (territory wouldn't seem to be an issue), it may be worth the hassle when it comes to spares. If you have some local guys who are willing to work with you. I know that our advertisers Bikeworks Albuquerque have sold to folks from out of town- maybe a trip (or phone call) to the desert is in order- they certainly know the brand, and both they and Fat Tire (Pivot dealer) have demos.

As much as I like the Pivot, I think that it may be a bit of a shock to your system. The only Prophet that I've ridden was far too small for me, which kept the ride pretty short (though I was pleasantly surprised by the Lefty Max). Its a simple design, which is both a strength and a weakness. The brake jack will be an issue, as is a fair bit of bob. A long-ish travel bike, the Prophet is more on the plush side of things. In contrast, the Mach 5 is what I imagine a racer would want in a 5in bike- stiff and snappy at the (slight) expense of plushness. Its a 5.4in travel bike that feels more like a 4in travel bike. Until I rode Giant's Maestro, it was the best virtual pivot suspension bike I'd ridden. The handling was a bit odd, though, especially when climbing. It could have been the short cockpit, but (during an admittedly short test period) I never figured out how to make it climb gracefully. It was fun in the swoopy stuff, but the two shouldn't be mutually exclusive.

As an all-day bike, its still hard to beat the Maverick. As much as I've enjoyed other bikes I've ridden, whenever I come back to the Durance, I'm impressed. Its not the fastest descender out there, but is certainly plusher on the descents than the Pivot. Its also the best technical climber I've ever ridden. The somewhat slack (though increasingly common) 69 degree head angle and rearward weight bias don't make it the best bike I've ridden in switchbacks, but with an adjustment in riding style (pop the front wheel up and yank the bars toward the corner exit), all but the tightest are pretty manageable. The front shifting takes some patience to set up, but I don't know that its as bad as some claim- stick with Shimano rings and ease off the chain tension when dropping to the granny and it'll happen every time. Make sure you use a bit of housing liner in the bottom noodle (see my review) and you'll have a fighting chance there. The Maverick is a great bike for technical and lightweight riders and still has plenty of plushness for the descents. The 140mm (2008 and newer) models should be a bit comfier still (and closer to your Prophet).

Both bikes will be better than the Prophet when it comes to brake jack. Both have a small amount of pedal feedback under odd conditions (which happen rarely enough that I can't really pinpoint the cause) and will again be better than the Prophet. While the Maverick does have a fair few proprietary parts, the bikes are largely reliable (though I've learned to keep a spare pivot axle on hand) and the 6001 bearings are available at any industrial bearing house. The Pivot is a very, very good bike, but at the end of the day, I prefer the Maverick and think that you will as well. Order it with an Air U-Turn RockShox Revelation (not a TALAS- Charlie likes his '09 15QR 150mm travel version, but does outweigh us by 40lb or so). Take some time with the front derailleur, invest in good cables, change the fork & shock oil once a year and you'll be a happy boy.

Got a question for the bikefix crew? Drop us a line at the address at the top of the page! If we can come up with a decent answer, we'll let you (and the rest of the world) know.

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