We can't help but feel that it would make a much better 140mm bike
Geometry and sizing is consistent across the Marin Rift Zone range, so the fit is going to be identical, right down to the stubby 35mm stem.
On a size Large we’re looking at a generous 482mm reach combined with a slack 65.3° head angle, which is progressive for a 125mm trail bike.
Marin Rift Zone Carbon 2 review
In recent years Marin has become best known for its flagship bikes that sport the brand’s complex R3ACT 2-Play suspension system. But it’s actually been Marin’s workhorse bikes that have most impressed us recently. Bikes like the Alpine Trail and the entry-level Rift Zone, both operating Marin’s MultiTrac linkage-actuated suspension, supported by a good shock tune and dialled geometry.
So does the top-end Rift Zone Carbon 2 share the same work ethic? Yes and no. Let’s break it down. Yes, it’s based around the same MultiTrac suspension layout and gets 125mm travel, just like the entry-level bike, but the carbon front end adds stiffness while reducing weight.
It’s also got a really short rear end for a 29er. Very few bikes can boast a 424mm chainstay length, or brag about the agility it affords. In fact, the only dimension that stood out as odd was the relatively high 332mm BB, but at least Marin makes use of the extra ground clearance to fit 175mm cranks for improved leverage.
Up front, the Fox 34 delivers 130mm travel, so 5mm more than the rear. The Performance-level suspension fork has external rebound and compression adjustment, so once you set the sag it’s pretty easy to dial in the damping. It helps that the Fox DPX2 shock is also Performance-level and, as such, shares the same degree of adjustability. We found it more tricky to get the shock set to our liking however, as the rebound would feel too slow in one setting, then one click less on the adjuster and it would return too quickly. Also the shock sounded like a wheezing asthmatic, but rather than sucking air, we could hear the oil moving around after every impact. On the plus side, you could argue that at least you know it’s working.
We’ve covered at length the problems with Shimano’s latest disc brakes exhibiting bite-point migration on some bikes, but another issue is that the pads glaze over when you don’t ride the bike for over a week, and howl like a horny fox when you get back on.
Thankfully, the 12-speed Shimano drivetrain that uses a mix of SLX and XT components is much more reliable. That said, it’s not quite as smooth or as quiet as the SRAM Eagle kit on the Giant Trance Advanced when the chain gets dirty or dry. Still, there’s no faulting shifting under load, and the 51t cog is a real boon for big days in the saddle. Not that you’ll find much comfort or solace in the Marin Trail Speed Concept Pro seat.
With the stock Maxxis 3C MaxxTerra Exo+ casing tyres, pedalling the Marin Rift Zone felt like a sluggish enduro bike, albeit one without copious amounts of travel. So swapping to our lighter, faster Maxxis control tyres was the shot in the arm the Rift Zone needed to inject some pace. It also helped highlight that the rear suspension on the Marin wasn’t as effective at ironing out trail chatter as the Giant. So while the piggy-back shock looks cool, in this instance it didn’t add anything other than weight. Which is a real shame, as the shape and geometry of the Marin are much better suited to attacking steep terrain. In fact, on anything flat or mellow, the super short rear end creates a more rearward weight bias, so we ended up rolling the Deity handlebar forward a touch to better load the front end on flat turns. Thanks to the steep effective seat angle, the short rear end didn’t negatively impact the Marin’s ability to summit the steepest ascents. We just wish the pay off had been higher on the return leg of the journey.
Every time we rode the Marin Rift Zone Carbon 2, we couldn't help but feel that it would make a much better 140mm bike. At 14.49kg, in stock trim, it's just a little too heavy and the tyres too slow, so you don't gain the increases in efficiency often associated with a short-travel trail bike. An while increasing the travel would probably drive the chainstay length up, that wouldn't be a bad thing, as it would help balance weight distribution especially on the larger frame sizes. But hold on a minute. Marin already makes the bike we’re describing... the Alpine Trail.