Just feels right from the first run
Just feels right from the first run
The new Marin Alpine Trail 150mm travel 29er might look generic from the side, but jump on board and it’s anything but run of the mill
2019 Marin Alpine Trail need to know
- Long travel 29er with aggressive, modern geometry
- Multi-track suspension design uses a single-pivot layout with a rocker link actuated shock
- Alloy frame available in four sizes
- Emphasis on functional, durable parts spec
- Lower price version available at £2,200
Take a look back through the archives and you’ll see that Marin Bikes has launched a colossal arsenal of suspension designs over the years. There have been single-pivot layouts, twin-link arrangements, flex-stay models and, if you really dig deep into the history books, a bike that replaced the seatstays with a pair of suspension forks in the quest for comfort and control. Most recently, the American brand wheeled out its eye-catching Marin Wolf Ridge with its Naild R3act – 2 Play system; something quite unlike everything else on the market… apart from Polygon’s Square One that licences the same design. We haven’t ridden that bike, so we can’t pass judgement on its performance, but it’s fair to say that the aesthetics are an acquired taste.
Now, though Marin has launched its latest model; the Alpine Trail. And taking into account all that has gone before, what’s most striking about this long travel 29er is just how, well, normal it is. Just a single-pivot design with a rocker link compressing a shock that’s mounted vertically in front of the seat tube. It’s dubbed MultiTrac, and it’s a recipe that’s as tried and tested as strawberries and cream. So has Marin lost its wacky, free-thinking, Northern Californian attitude and gone all square in its mature years? Has it ditched the tie-die for a suit and tie? Seeing as the radical Wolf Ridge is still in the range, and Marin is committed to the design, the answer is almost certainly no, but this new 29er definitely hits a much more inclusive price point with a less divisive aesthetic.
The Alpine Trail uses Marin’s Series 4 aluminium, which is a 6061 alloy fabricated with a decent level of manipulation to create a reasonably shapely profile. It’s not as heavily sculpted as one of Trek or Giant’s premium alloy frames, but it certainly doesn’t look dated. More significantly to the performance there are clevis pivots, with locking collet hardware, and the one-piece forged rocker link gets a bearing at the upper shock trunnion mount to help minimise friction. There is internal cable routing to keep the lines clean, a threaded bottom bracket and the bridgeless seatstays helps with tyre clearance at full travel. Talking of which, while the Alpine Trail comes with 2.3in Vee Tires, it will accept genuine 2.6in tyres and comes specced with 29mm internal width rims.
With 150mm of travel out back the new Alpine Trail should straddle the line between trail bike and enduro bike, but the 160mm travel suspension fork and relaxed geometry gives it a more capable slant and pitches it against some serious machinery. The fact that it can also accept a coil shock, and that the suspension kinematics are designed to play nicely with one, underlines the point that this is a serious piece of kit.
The stance is certainly confident. The fork slopes away aggressively from the short head tube, putting plenty of weight over the front wheel despite the axle being well out in front. Extend the seatpost and the steep seat angle puts you over the BB and compensates for the relatively short 430mm chainstays on steep climbs. And the BB itself feels lower than the quoted 342mm without delivering a constant percussion of pedal strikes.
Although the reach doesn’t feel as generous to my 5ft10in frame as the quoted 465mm, some of that is probably down to the dinky 35mm stem. That was on the large frame size, but Marin has kept standover heights low across the board, leaving me with the potential to upsize to an XL frame without having to compromise on dropper post length. Keep this in mind if you like a longer bike, as the XL runs a rangy 490mm reach and gets a 10mm longer head tube.
Marin has struck a nice balance with the sizing and geometry of the Alpine Trail. It’s a versatile bike that doesn’t feel lethargic and cumbersome on slower trails, where you have to try and carry speed and generate momentum, yet it manages to provide a real sense of confidence and stability when the scenery starts to blur. It’s no featherweight – heck, it’s not even welterweight – but it pedals well and climbs effectively so that you can get to the goods without draining too much gas.
And for all its simplicity and familiarity, the suspension on the Alpine Trail works brilliantly. The shock tuning has been finely-honed in development and the result is a wonderfully active response at the top of the stroke, soaking up rapidfire braking bumps and awkward latticework of roots to deliver more grip where you need it most. Then push through high-speed berms or load the bike up into a jump and it gives all the support you need. Credit here must go to Marin’s product manager, Matt Cipes, who spent three years at Specialized in the suspension department before joining Marin.
By keeping it simple and focussing on the things that ultimately matter – ride quality and handling – Marin has produced a bike that’s more than the sum of its parts. Occasionally you sling a leg over a new bike and it just feels right from the first run; the Alpine Trail is one of those bikes.