Life behind bars has never seemed more appealing
Billed squarely as a hardcore trail hardtail and launched just a couple of months ago, the San Quentin 2 is the middle model in a three strong range; flanked by the San Quentin 1 at £650 and the top of the range San Quentin 3 at £1,450. Somehow, all three models manage to miss most of the key price points of our usual hardtail shootouts, making the San Quentin 2 the perfect candidate for out outliers test.
Marin San Quentin 2 review
Regardless of the ticked price, all models share the same 6061-T6 alloy frame. A cursory glance at the geometry reveals numbers that wouldn’t look out of place on a modern enduro bike. Numbers that include a generous 464mm reach measurement on the size L, combined with a super slack 63.5 degree head angle. Like we said, progressive. It’s also got an ultra short 421mm rear end, but even on steeper climbs the front end didn’t wander too much as the steep seat angle helps keep your weight forward and the front tyre planted.
In fact, the strangest thing about the geometry on the new Marin is just how normal it feels. Yes, the BB height could be a hair lower, especially given that tyre sizes are only trending in one direction, but it’s right in the ball part and the extra pedal clearance comes on handy on rocky trails.
The 130mm travel RockShox Recon RL is the go to fork at this price point for several reasons. It’s relatively stiff so steer precision is on point. The Solo Air spring and Turn Key damping also offer a smooth predictable suspension action and make it an absolute breeze to set up or adjust. Okay, the chrome steel upper tubes aren’t as cool as black ones, but they are incredibly hardwearing and low in friction, making the Recon RL a dependable, low maintenance performer. Also, if for any reason you need to get this fork serviced, spare parts are readily available and most bike shops will be happy to help, with lesser-known alternatives often resulting in an expensive upgrade.
There’s nothing diminutive about the Marin Mini-Riser handlebar on the San Quentin 2. With 28mm of rise, a 35mm clamp diameter and generous 780mm width, it’s got good dimensions, even if the extra sweep puts a little too much pressure on the outer edges of your hands. Still, with a stubby 45mm stem in place the cockpit on the Marin perfectly matches the frame proportions.
One anomaly with the build kit was that the tyres on our test bike didn’t match the listed specification, even if they matched the image of the bike on Marin’s website. Our test bike came equipped with 2.35in Schwalbe Hans Dampfs instead of Vee Tyre Crown Gems. Not that we’re complaining, but due to the extra transition knobs on the Hans Damph they don’t really have a defined shoulder tread, which is fine for drifting the rear end around switch backs but a little sketchy up front on falter corners.
Jump on the San Quentin 2 and everything is in the correct place for shredding. In fact, the cockpit layout, geometry and sizing make it a very easy bike to ride, and very easy to ride fast. So it’s doubly frustrating then that it doesn’t come with higher volume tyres to soften the sting in its tail. Also, at £1,150, it really should come with a dropper post as standard, especially given that the stock seat post is pretty tight in the frame making it a total pain to adjust your saddle height.
We’re nit picking though as the Marin is a really fun bike. It’s more engaging than a Trek Roscoe 8 when the trails get steep and technical, and it feels right at home blasting jumps and railing berms. With its 2.35in tyres it’s also less likely to come unstuck when the weather finally takes a turns for the worse, so once the heavens open we’ll definitely be breaking out the Marin.
With the new Marin San Quentin 2, life behind bars has never seemed more appealing. The slack 63.5deg head angle gives you the confidence to blast down every descent, while the genuinely steep seat angle means spinning your way back to the top for another run couldn’t be easier. But, just like doing time in California’s state penitentiary, you have to forgo some creature comforts, like a dropper post. It’s the 2.35in tyres that really make longer rides seem like you in a chain gang though, as you feel every rock in the trail with the relatively narrow 2.35in tyres.