Flowing, hydro-formed tubes cascade out of the head tube and curve across the length of the frame. As one tester pointed out, the only straight tubes are the head and seat tubes; the rest having weird and wonderful profiles. In production, round tubes are ‘blown’ into a shaped mould, theoretically allowing them to include strength, spring, stiffness or flex on the appropriate parts and allowing weight to be shed where it isn’t needed.
It certainly made for a great looking chassis, the multi-sided tubes giving a real aggressive look, complemented by the steely finish. Straight seatstays plugged into wavy chainstays give improved tyre and heel clearance.
No brake bosses means clean lines. Cable routing is under the bottom bracket, out of the way for bike shouldering sessions and light battery attachment.
We were big fans of the air charged Fox F series forks on some of the test bikes, and despite the Marin’s R being bottom of the range, it was right up there in performance. At 3.28lb claimed weight it is very light, stiff, plush and only lacking in a lockout for those long road or smooth track interludes. Adjustable rebound damping proved more than enough to get a sweet action. Definitely a good choice for budget allocation in our eyes.
Bog standard Deore hubs plug into Mavic’s entry level XM-117 (non eyeleted) rims via stainless DT spokes: not an exciting combination but one that worked without bother and that should give decent service. Something to upgrade when they do finally give up though. The WTB Prowler tyres (earning the nickname ‘Growlers’ from some seedier testers) seemed to give a good hold on the wet and muddy terrain, giving predictable grip and slip both climbing and descending.
With a mixture of XT, LX and Deore you know things are going to be reliable and secure, and they were. A Truvativ Firex chainset gave nice shifting too, but it was in the braking department that the Marin shone. Carbon levered Hayes Strokers performed flawlessly, had a really nice lever shape that just fell into the fingers, and looked the part. Specifying the carbon option was overkill maybe, with the money being better spent elsewhere (seatpost or saddle for example).
A cheap looking and heavy seatpost together with a chunky WTB saddle gave a poor introduction as you first sat on the Marin, and would be a fast upgrade in our opinion. Material down the sides of the wide saddle nose felt like it was dragging on our shorts and thighs, giving a bit too much resistance for our liking. Apart from that the bars were very wide at near on 27in, but of course that gives you the option of hacking them down once you get a feel for the bike. Some complained they also had too shallow a rise and sweep though, so they might be something to consider changing once you get a seat on the machine.
Initially the bike was delivered with a 20mm spacer under the stem, but this made the whole machine ride too high and upright, so we dropped the spacer, threw the saddle back on the rail slightly and transformed the bike in one easy move. The whole package became more purposeful and we could get our teeth into the riding.
Neutral angles and a middle-of-the-road top tube length meant it was equally at home climbing or descending while being perfect for neither, but that just gave it a good all-round feel — a great trail bike.
So did the custom-shaped and butted tubes make any difference to the ride? We think it did — every test rider that threw a leg over the Marin commented on the climbing ‘spring’ and speed, a positive boost to acceleration relative to some of the other machines on test. While not the lightest bike in the line-up, it definitely had the fastest feel when accelerating, so it was in demand when heading out the garage.
The Hayes Stroker brakes felt superb throughout the test, and combined with some crisp shifting on the Truvativ chainset and an XT mech bringing up the rear everything just felt tight and functional.
With the Fox forks, Stroker brakes and LX/XT gear shifting, there was little we could fault on the Marin. It has a bunch of components that just functioned well together and should continue to do so for some time. Combining that with a springy and aggressive looking frame added up to a package we felt was hard to beat as an all-round bike great for fast trail riding or all-day hacking through mountain singletrack.
MBR RATING: 9/10