Some press trips to exotic locations manage to involve a lot of travelling but disappointingly little riding. Not so Marin’s 2008 preview jaunt to – where else? – Marin County, California. A small group of riders, plenty of bikes to go round and stacks of riding meant that we got a good feel for the behaviour of Marin’s two key new bikes.
Marin Mount Vision
2007 saw the Mount Vision shift its focus from trail-capable XC race bike to raceable trail bike. Sounds like a rather fine distinction, but the new, longer-travel Quad-Link platform was a winner in our book. And for 2008 there’ve been a selection of improvements.
The main difference is that about half a pound has been dropped from the frame. 2007 was the first year for the new frame design, so Marin’s engineers erred on the side of caution when it came to wall thicknesses and butting profiles. This time around, they’ve been much more aggressive in hunting down those excess ounces. The new swingarm alone is 135g lighter, and now sports detachable dropouts both sides.
Up front the curvy tubes are still there, but the top tube is a little lower and the “stepped” head tube/top tube junction is no more. The 6066 aluminium main triangle now has thinner walls. The overall geometry, though, is the same as the 2007 model, and we certainly don’t have a problem with that.
Further weight savings have been made on the overall bike thanks to Fox’s F120 fork. The 120mm travel Fox on last year’s bike was a travel-reduced 130mm chassis, so it was carrying a bit of extra material around with it. For 2008, Fox has specific crown/steerer assemblies for different fork strokes, so the new F120 is significantly lighter. The rest of the bike is mainly Shimano XT, with Avid Juicy Carbon brakes and a Hope/Mavic wheel package.
We were big fans of the 2007 bike, and the new one is more of the same, only better. A higher-volume air can on the Fox shock reduces the ramp-up at the end of the stroke still further for a slightly more linear feel, but the magic-carpet small-bump performance remains intact.
The MV’s handling gave no cause for concern on Marin’s endless singletrack – this would certainly be a great bike for, say, Welsh trail centres. The 120mm category looks set to be a highly competitive one for 2008, but Marin’s offering is definitely going to be up there with the best.
The 2008 Mount Vision will cost £2,099. There’s also an XTR-equipped Mount Vision Pro at £2,999, while the Quad-Link XC frame is also found on the £1,299 East Peak and £1,699 Rift Zone.
Marin Attack Trail
If the Quad XC bikes don’t seem quite stout enough, but you’re not brave enough for a Quake, then Marin’s all-new Quad Trail 140 frame may well be just the ticket. With 140mm of travel out back and 67/71.5° angles, the Quad Trail bikes are Marin’s take on the all-mountain genre. We like where they’ve positioned the Attack Trail, Wolf Ridge and Rock Springs – it’s an amount of travel that lets them spec RockShox’s Pike up front, getting a stout, through-axle fork without too much of a weight penalty.
The family resemblance between the 140 and 120 bikes is clear, but the 140s get longer linkages for both more travel and an even more linear feel. They also feature substantial front-end gussets and, most interestingly, a rear Maxle through-axle setup with interchangeable dropouts. Marin is an early adopter of the rear Maxle for non-freeride applications, and we think it’s a great move. With the axles at both ends locked down, Marin has delivered a super-stiff mid-travel chassis.
There’s a little more pedal feedback on the 140 bikes than the 120s, but that’s deliberate – it regains a bit of the sprightliness that the extra travel and weight may otherwise have robbed, but more importantly it contributes to that all-important “pop”. Hit a root or a lip on one of these and you have a choice – let the suspension suck it up or use it as a launch pad. That sounds obvious, but as travel and heft goes up it’s easy to end up with a steamroller – a bike that’ll go through anything but doesn’t really reward your efforts to work the trail for the purposes of added fun.
But the 140 has pop. It’ll suck up whatever you throw at it if you like – this is perhaps the first Marin FS bike that actually feels like it has more than the stated travel – but if you’re in the right mood it’ll react to your efforts and skip along like a robotic trail-bunny. It’s a whole heap of fun.
This definitely represents a decisive shift in attitude at Marin, one that started with the introduction of the Quake. For many years, Marin FS bikes were all about efficiency and covering the ground quickly. The Quake introduced a bit more fun into the equation and the Quad Trail 140 bikes make it accessible to all.
They can still climb, too. The weights aren’t too offensive, and the bikes ate up an extensive (and pretty warm) fire-road climb to the top of an epic singletrack descent that threw roots, rocks, berms and chutes into the mix. This is a real do-it-all bike, and it doesn’t just do the job, it enjoys every minute of it.
We rode a pre-production Attack Trail, which will be £2,299 in the UK complete with Pike 454 air fork, XT transmission and brakes and FSA Gravity cranks. The bike in the photo was a bit of a testing platform, hence the slightly random spec. Cheaper options are the £1,899 Wolf Ridge and £1,549 Rock Springs.
Find out more at www.marin.co.uk.