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  1. #1
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    Intense Primer vs. Pivot 429 Trail - Hard riding observations (long)

    Thanks to everyone who takes the time to write down their thoughts on bikes and equipment. It has helped enormously in narrowing the field of options. After all the articles and forum opinions on a great xc/trail 29er, I narrowed down the options to my final two - Intense Primer and Pivot 429 Trail. I've been road biking the last few years and have wanted to get back into Mountain biking. I currently ride a Giant Trance X 26 and wanted a 29er for the diverse terrain I ride.

    Both bikes are awesome and all have subtle differences that appeal to one person more than another. Pivot has DW Link, Intense has VPP, which has been JS tuned. I thought I'd share my findings, as others have done on this forum, which best determined the bike for me.

    Pivot 429 Trail

    Great bike! I think for the money, they have the best deal going compared to all the other makes (SC, Spesh, Trek, etc.) If you look at their spec sheet and what they offer, it's the best value for the money in $5,000+ bikes. Move the pedal and the bike snaps forward in response. Very tight, instant take up. The steering on this bike is surgical. I ride in one area that is littered with football size rocks and this bike just darts in and out of all the nooks and crannies to hit that perfect line. I was very impressed. I had read about the 110mm rear travel feeling much bigger. My observations were a little mixed. When the rocks got aggressive, I felt a lot of chatter and I was taking a lot more of the abuse than I was used to. The bike came outfitted with carbon rims, so perhaps that could have been a factor in the stiffness.

    Intense Primer

    This bike was not on my radar and probably wound not have been in the mix had it not been for some of the recent articles I've read and a LBS. I rode the expert version, which had lower level shocks compared the the Pivot's Fox Factory setup.

    Wow! This bike hit buttons I did not know needed to be checked off. Downhill in rocky terrain, this thing just swallowed all of the chunk. It was buttery. This bike is not as precise when steering as the Pivot, because it doesn't care. It just mows down whatever is in front of it.

    I had read a lot of positive feedback on the Pivot's DW Link suspension for technical difficult climbing. However, I found I was able to clear technical, hilly rock gardens on the Intense, that I could not on the Pivot. It might have something to do with the degree of the seat stay. On the Pivot, you sit further back, as it's a slacker angle. However, the nose on the Pivot rises quite a bit when it gets steep. Whereas on the Intense, you're seated further up and that weight distribution keeps better traction in this type of terrain.

    I went into this bike comparison with an initial bias for the Pivot, as it was the best priced and it's a local company I'd like to support here in AZ. However, after an hour of hard rocky riding, the Intense set itself apart when my final test was an 11 mile loop through really fast rolling down hills with a long steady climb up back the mountain. This area is really smooth terrain, as it's very hard packed dirt with fine granite gavel on top which can get loose. I gave the Pivot any advantages I could by starting to ride it first. I rode at my typical pace and finished in 45 minutes. I was pretty spent and the AZ temperatures were climbing. I gave myself a 10 minute rest and then repeated the loop on the Intense. I was expecting to come close to the time of the Pivot but knew I'd be a few minutes behind because this was the third hour of riding and I was really beat due to the heat and exertion. However, during the climb, I just felt good. All of the energy I was putting into the pedals just seemed to transfer.

    When I finished and looked at my watch - the Intense beat the Pivot time by 7 minutes! I was not expecting that at all. I was blown away.

    In thinking about the differences, here is what I've come up with. The seat angle on the Intense is much closer to the geometry I have on my road bike then the Pivot. The muscle groups I use while road biking were fully engaged while riding the Intense. Whereas, because you sit further back on the Pivot, you're not engaging the same muscles or the same way. As it turns out, this seat angle works for me on hard technical climbing and on the hilly rolling terrain. However, I did feel slightly more comfortable sitting on the Pivot on really fast smooth descents, as you sit further back and feel a little more secure.

    There you have it. Both great bikes and I'd be happy to own either one. The way that I want to spec out the Intense is $1,000 more. Is it worth $1,000 more? That's up to all of you. However, when spending this kind of money, you have to select the one that fits you best.

  2. #2
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    Very interesting. The 429 Trail is on my short list and I have done several 20 minute demos on it. I rented a Primer for a long demo
    and while it handled well, it was very sluggish to pedal. It was a Foundation build and weighed about 31 lbs! It was sluggish even on
    a level parking lot. Technical climbing was excellent, but still tough due to the weight. I would like to try one with a lighter build to see
    how much difference it makes.

    On the Pivot, I have noticed how light the front end becomes on steep technical climbs. Not sure I can live with that or not. It sure pedals outstanding and is
    very nimble.

  3. #3
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    I have ridden my 429 Trail for a year now and your write up is on, the 429 is quicker steering,faster acc. but the balance point when climbing can be difficult to find. I will make climbs and then later when I try the front wheelies or the back spits rocks. With good traction the 429 is fast though.

  4. #4
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    As far as either one of those bikes not pedaling well I think it has to do with the shock set-up more than anything.

    Just like the OP the Primer wasn't on my radar. I was sold on the SC Hightower, Ibis Ripley, Pivot Switchblade or 429 trail. My bias was DW bikes for their climbing. There is always a tradeoff no matter what some of the lemmings spew.

    Ended up with the Primer Pro build because it was exactly what I wanted. A trail bike (not XC and not enduro) that climbs great. The JS tuned suspension / Fox shock is far better than the previous VPP bikes I have ridden and owned (just came off a SC Tallboy).

    Hard to find a bad bike these daysÖÖ.just need to pick one that matches what you are looking for.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raja View Post
    Very interesting. The 429 Trail is on my short list and I have done several 20 minute demos on it. I rented a Primer for a long demo
    and while it handled well, it was very sluggish to pedal. It was a Foundation build and weighed about 31 lbs! It was sluggish even on
    a level parking lot. Technical climbing was excellent, but still tough due to the weight. I would like to try one with a lighter build to see
    how much difference it makes.

    On the Pivot, I have noticed how light the front end becomes on steep technical climbs. Not sure I can live with that or not. It sure pedals outstanding and is
    very nimble.
    Yeah, I'm guessing you need to demo a Primer with a better build. I demo'd the 2nd best model (not sure what it's called in their line-up) and that thing was a rocket ship on the climbs. As soon as I pushed down on the crank, that thing was moving forward.
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  6. #6
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    K2 as you know I ride a 429Trail and just recently added a Hightower. The Pivot with full carbon and X01 build is 26 1/2 lbs. with pedals. On smoother trails the bike hauls, very fast but it does lift on steep tech climbs. For me its hard to find the perfect balance point when climbing. In checking my HT on the same tech climbs it stays planted and the climb is easier even weighing 2 lbs. more. I agree the Primer looks interesting.

  7. #7
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    Very interested in this thread. I'm also in AZ and looking at these two bikes as well as the SC HT. Looking for a bike that can handle Sedona /Moab type trails yet still let me dabble in endurance races (whiskey 50/ Barn burner/ 24 hours of old Pueblo). Not looking to podium just have fun.

    OP. What was your 11 mile test loop?

  8. #8
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    I started at Tom's Thumb trailhead down rockknob down to pemberton back up Boulder trail. I ride the windgate loop quite a bit and through the west side of McDowell's, which is very rocky and similar to Sedona other than no slick rock. The primer is so plush and snappy at the same time. The pivot could not take the punishment without me feeling all of it. Airpark bikes in north Scottsdale is having an intense demo tour today and tomorrow. You have to ride it to understand its abilities.

  9. #9
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    Any have any thoughts on either of these bikes as an endurance rig? I know neither would be the first choice. But I'm looking to get into racing. But can't afford a trail bike and a race bike. Right now I have an older Reign and a older Niner Air9. Looking at going to just one nice bike

  10. #10
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    If you look through the various threads, people have used both bikes for endurance races. I think either bike will be suitable. Might help to have an extra wheelset and put on skinnier race tires if you want to be ultra competitive. I'm looking forward to a few long distance races too, as I'm doing less century road races these days. The one thing that is appealing is that the primer allows you to adjust the rear travel with a bolt from 130mm to 115mm. I have not done it yet, but I think the primer gives me a wider range of riding scenarios.

  11. #11
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    i'm honestly not surprised. intense has made a stellar level of bike since they began in the 90s. they just work

  12. #12
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    After the last year, has there been any model updates of note on the two bikes?

    Several weeks ago, I attended a Phoenix Pivot demo. I am looking to add a mid-travel, full-suspension bike as a stablemate to my 2015 Specialized StumpJumper Carbon World Cup Hardtail (with e-Thirteen 9-46 cassette and 28t Wolftooth oval for my legs and joints and ThudBusterST seat post for my backside).

    For you Arizona riders, the Pivot team set up on the north side of the Sonoran Preserve. The trails there tend to be hardback and smooth with only a few percent of the trail able to give a worthy suspension test.

    None of the Pivots I saw were specced at a high level (I would probably go for the "Pro" level). I saw no Eagle-12 components for example (what I want). And no carbon wheels (also what I want). I would have to make due with the standard equipment and ratios.

    I came to the event ready and willing to fall in love with the Pivot Mach429SL thinking it would be just different enough from the Stumpy Hardtail to make it useful to me (I'm not a big fan of riding super technical trails so I don't need a lot of travel, or a third bike).

    What I found was that the back end of the 429SL didn't behave different enough through the chunk to make me want to ditch the Stumpy hardtail. It climbed okay and turned okay in comparison to 70-ish degree head angle of the Stumpy (which I prefer). One problem during the testing was the particular demo unit feeling a little long-in-the-tooth, so I don't know that I got the best representation of what the SL has to offer.

    Next, after a long wait, I jumped on the 429 Trail that had the suspension aired up to the stiffer end of the spectrum (what I *think* I prefer). I didn't want to like it. I suspected it would feel like all the other flexy full-squish bikes I had learned to not like over the last few years. But it felt pretty dang good.

    There was not a single thing that stuck out that sad, "BAD !!" The brakes were good, the shifter was flawless, the climbing (Strava says good), and the steering, while slower than i am used to, was not such that I couldn't adapt, or even take advantage of. And, it absorbed the bumps in the rock-strewn trail so much to make them all but disappear. Quite a bit different from both the Stumpy HT and the Mach429SL.

    Next, I rode my Stumpy on the same 6-plus-mile sections for Strava times. The times were very comparable, given my 58-year old fatigue of riding nearly 20-miles (which is about my preferred day ride).

    Next up a few weeks later were a pair of short demo rides on my riding buddy's brand new Intense Primer Pros. Nearly identical. Specced as I would have like them to be. They were totally different (!) The first Primer was still being tuned by the lighter-than-me owner. The back end squatted low and it felt like I was turning a chopper. The second bike felt nice an tight, as the owner wanted his Primer suspension to be aired up firmer. I re-rode the first Primer after the owner had re-thought what he wanted. More air in the shock made all the difference in the world. Both rides were too short (and on groomed trails sections) to give me a good comparison. I'll have to borrow them again in the coming weeks.

  13. #13
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    Intense Primer vs. Pivot 429 Trail - Hard riding observations (long)

    Good read! Well hereís a fly in my ointment! Never considered the Primer. In all honesty didnít even look and wrote them off as a DH only kinda brand. ( till the chatter about the Sniper)

    Can anyone with Primer and 429T experience tell me how they compare specifically in regards to rocky, rooty, bumpy steep climbs that have them in the lower end of their gear range?( for me 30/ 28-42+)
    For me on my trails at these speeds in particular, if the rear isnít settled and very supple, itís gonna suck for me. Might be doable, but still sucky.

    So basically this is a request to compare the Pivots DW linkage to that of the Intenseís in these type trails.

    Tried to decipher the translated Linkage Design guys analysis , but often donít come away with a good handle on what the numbers mean on paper, let alone the real world.


    Sent from my iFern using Tapatalk while not riding, dammit!
    Last edited by Noclutch; 03-11-2018 at 07:57 PM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclutch View Post
    Good read! Well hereís a fly in my ointment! Never considered the Primer. In all honesty didnít even look and wrote them off as a DH only kinda brand. ( till the chatter about the Sniper)

    Can anyone with Primer and 429T experience tell me how they compare specifically in regards to rocky, rooty, bumpy steep climbs that have them in the lower end of their gear range?( for me 30/ 28-42+)
    For me on my trails at these speeds in particular, if the rear isnít settled and very supple, itís gonna suck for me. Might be doable, but still sucky.

    So basically this is a request to compare the Pivots DW linkage to that of the Intenseís in these type trails.

    Tried to decipher the translated Linkage Design guys analysis , but often donít come away with a good handle on what the numbers mean on paper, let alone the real world.


    Sent from my iFern using Tapatalk while not riding, dammit!
    I ride a 429T on East Coast trails (lots of roots and short, steep climbs) and find its climbing performance to be excellent. I feel that the 429T is faster on nearly every climb then my previous hardtail. Even when clawing up a root-cover hill, the rear tire stays planted; the only time it ever loses traction is if the ground is too slippery to grip.

    One thing to note, depending on how plush you like your suspension, the 429T might feel a bit harsh. I find that it keeps the rear tire planted and gripping through even the thickest root patches, but it may not provide too much additional comfort.

    The 429T can also get light in the front during climbs if you let your weight get too far back. While this does not bother me, some may find it more annoying. I have unfortunately not had an opportunity to test ride a Primer.

    Hope this helps.

    Slightly off topic: One thing that confused me in the opening post was the mention of the Primer's seat tube angle. While they felt that the Primer had the steeper seat tube, the 429T actually has a slightly steeper seat tube then the Primer. This discrepancy probably came from the suspension's setup on both bikes, demonstrating that a properly set up rear shock can make a large difference.
    Last edited by Phoenix864; 03-12-2018 at 07:25 AM.

  15. #15
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    I've only ridden the 429T one time on one rocky trail (Guacamole in Hurricane, UT) and it was definitely on the bubble side but it had 27.5 2.8 tires as well and I'm definitely NOT a fan of them. Compared to the Mach 6 I had at the time, the 429T felt flexy to me but the 429T had aluminum wheels while my Mach 6 has NOX carbon wheels.

    I've owned the Primer 13 months after demo'ing it back to back with the Yeti SB4.5. I would have been happy with either bike though I thought the 4.5 climbed a little better. However the Primer was just more comfortable all around and it was a no brainer when I found a slightly used one from an Intense employee. All I can say is that it's been the most versatile bike I've ever owned. I can throw some beefy tires on it and ride it where everybody else in on 6" travel bikes and never feel undergunned. Even though I prefer 27.5 bikes in many places (Sedona for example), if I could only have one bike right now, I'd choose the Primer.
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  16. #16
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    Thanks guys- just the kind of perspectives I need to hear!

    K2- funny you mention the 4.5 as well. These three are pretty much my short list right now. Tough decision, but probably no wrong one.

    Phoenix- I hear ya on the light front end when going up on the Pivot T (as well as the SL I demoed- which was actually much more prone to it) Once I was aware I was able to manage it ok.

  17. #17
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    Also very interested in this thread and further comments from owners of both bikes (or people that have ridden them). I currently ride a hardtail (Cannondale Trail SL1 29er), and have worked up an itch for a full suspension bike. I want something a little more "capable" and fun on rougher parts of the trail, going down, etc. Now, I'm in SE Michigan, so most of our trails are relatively tame and more XC-ish, but I still want something more than a race XC bike.

    The first bike that got me down this path was the Trek Fuel EX. My LBS has a 2017 9.8, in stock, and they are willing to make a deal on it, but I don't really care for the color. Then I was at another LBS that sells Pivot, and really liked the 429SL. However, they quickly talked me out of it since it would be too "racey" (more so than my current hardtail) and not as much fun, and steered me towards 429 Trail instead. On paper, that bike looks good, but I just don't feel the "click" with it. Then, a couple of days ago, I found this thread and read about the Intense Primer. Having never seen one before, I went to their website and immediately fell in love with that bike (well, with its picture to be exact). But here's my biggest problem... I'm 6.2" (188cm), 33" inseam, around 210 lbs riding weight. With all 3 manufacturers, I'm right on the edge of their L and XL models (or 19.5 and 21.5 in case of Trek). Local Trek dealer will let me test ride the EX on my local trail (I can find both 19.5 and 21.5 versions), which is great, and I intend to do that as soon as the trails are clear of all the snow. Pivot dealer will not let me test ride anything (other than in their parking lot), but at least I can look at their bikes and throw my leg over it. The nearest Intense dealer is almost 5 hours away, so no chance of even seeing one in person, much less riding one. And naturally, Primer is the bike I want the most, and it's the most expensive of the 3. Pivot is in second place (in price, too). Trek is third, and is least expensive (but also "worst" build level with NX groupset and aluminum rear triangle). I'm not at all comfortable spending $5000 on a bike I've never seen and not even sure of the size, but the damn thing just keeps calling my name... I don't know what to do... almost to the point of saying "screw it" and just continue riding my hardtail for another season, and then revisiting this topic next year.

  18. #18
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    Do NOT buy a bike you have not ridden--it could work out or not but if not it is a big error--take the road trip and ride the intense----make it an adventure day---but do not forget if later you have issues you are driving 10 hours at least twice more

  19. #19
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    Primer vs 429 Trail: My experience was opposite of the OP. Coming from a large 2012 Giant Anthem X 29 100mm (which is actually a nice trail capable XC bike)and looking to upgrade. Last fall, I found the large 429 to be pushy climbing and descending through tight trails. Didn't climb as well as I was expecting based on all of the gushy reviews. Felt kind of "dead" overall to me. very stiff. Finding I don't like how high in the travel Pivot bikes ride. OTOH I bought a closeout 2017 Primer frame online (against my better judgement) and built a bike off of Ebay. Im 5"10 lanky, between recommended sizes and bought the medium vs large because no larges left. Still longer reach/higher stack than large Anthem. Put a 60mm stem and 740mm bars on it. Set the seat back slightly on a 0 setback post. Any more than 60mm stem and I feel you compromise the intended geometry of the bike, likewise setback seatpost. home area in Colorado with a lot of climbing and long descents. Tight flowy singletrack. Blown away at how quick , nimble and alive the bike feels. Quicker, way more stable than my Giant Anthem X 29. Long extended climbs very well. Short steep technical climbs very well. Feels playful. All types of descending handles with agility. Maiden rides were in Moab for a week on mix of trails. Didn't shine on LPS-Porcupine but much better than the Anthem. Every other ride( Ahab, Slickrock, Navajo Rocks areas) it was really satisfiying.

    Takeaways are:Primer New school geo with steeper sta and 67.5 hta plus short stem is a huge improvement in bikes. 429T is a mix of new school and old school with too short of reach and high of stack, short seat stays and longer stem was confused feel didn't work for me; Primer Medium turned out right as (counter intuitively) more room for bike to move under me. Longer top tube with wider bars would not work as well on Moab type rock drop terrain; Steeper sta takes some getting used to(for us "old schoolers") for extended climbing but im convinced it is actually better and more versatile over the long haul; 130mm/130mm adequate for bigger chunky descents not ideal. I would call this an ideal all around trail bike that isn't too big for smooth xc type terrain and handles adequately on big descents. Still need to pick your line but playful capable bike.

    EDIT: Total build cost was $3300 including frame. Ebay mix of new used parts. new 1X11 XT shifter r. derailleur, brakeset. Sram 10x42 cassette and chain. RF turbine crank(28t ring), stem, seatpost. renthal 740mm bar, fox 130 fork,. Mavic (i25) crossmax elite wheelset. ardent 2.25 front, michelin 2.1 wild rac'r rear. just over 28lbs with cheaper shimano pedals. would be better handler with wider wheels but 25mm inside works fine so far. Even with 2018 frame would still be far better value build than just about any other brand I looked at.
    Last edited by hughOkane; 3 Weeks Ago at 09:56 AM. Reason: add info

  20. #20
    My other bike is a GasGas
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    Interesting (review and your eBay build)

    Can you compare the Primer to other similar bikes (like the Ibis Ripley LS) ??

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    @AZRickD

    Quote Originally Posted by AZRickD View Post
    Interesting (review and your eBay build)

    Can you compare the Primer to other similar bikes (like the Ibis Ripley LS) ??
    Not really. CLosest comparable is probably the yeti sb4.5. I wasnít willing to pay$1000-$1500 more for it. Ibis seems to like the shorter reach for a given size like Pivot. I would worry about the Ibis lower BB. I think the key to the Primers handling qualities is that steep sta. with the longer reach for a given size and short chain stays. And I think the JS tuned suspension upends the VPP concept entirely.

  22. #22
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    I bought an Intense Spider 29 Comp without riding one...decent bike for sure. I am not sure how much better the Primer (with the JS-Tuned suspension) pedals. Then I bought a Yeti 4.5 without riding one. It turned out to be a good bike too. It pedals better than my Spider and feels a bit stiffer. I like it but now want to add a more playful and maybe slacker bike to the stable. I'm still researching. I was looking at the 429 Trail as well when I bought the Yeti. I figured it felt a bit firmer (I once owned the orig alloy 429) so I took it off the list. The Following is just too heavy for a short-travel 29er but the Calling looks interesting....not a 29er though. Never mind me...I'm just rambling...

  23. #23
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    Thanks for the insight.

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