Marin Indian Fire Trail
Price: £1250 plus £200 for optional Hope Mini upgrade
Spec: Hardtail M6 aluminium frame, Answer Manitou Mars Elite forks (80mm fully adjustable), Shimano LX-XTR running gear, Hope Mini brakes, WTB headset, pedals and seat
From: Atb Sales 01424 753566
Two months of woodland singletracking – one big and one small crash, one 25-mile commute, and a couple of trips to Tesco 🙂
A small company, Marin have consistantly made a name for technical innovation – bet you didn’t know that they were the first bike company to T-6 heat-treat an aluminium bike frame. But they really rose to prominence when they employed ex-Formula One suspension engineer John Whyte who designed and brought to market, a single pivot full suspension bike. To counter a then cynical buying-public, Marin offered a lifetime guarantee on the pivot of their now ubiquitous full suspension bikes. The rest, as the saying goes, is history. Albeit with a significant chapter missing: their capable hardtails like the one we’ve got on test here, the Indian Fire Trail. Finished in a very understated grey, the bike is specced with dependable rather than flashy equipment throughout.
Constructed from Marin’s Tobelerone-esque, M-6 Ovation aluminium tubing the Indian gets ‘anti-flex’ Tri-burner seat and chain stays. Marin engineers claim to have settled on the triangular profile as the best compromise of lateral rigidity and vertical compliance: in other words a hardtail that doesn’t burst your spinal-discs. While it’s impossible to pass meaningful comment on vertical complience, despite what some people claim, we can say that the frame has a spring in its step. Not quite the sort of spring people associate with expensive steel frames, but certainly more than off-the-shelf alu frames.
Geometry and ride
The geometry is *slightly* unconventional with a 71 degree head and 74 degree seat angle. Combined with a low centre of gravity the Indian is very quick in and out of the trees. On longer slogs we found found ourselves grounding the pedals from time to time, particularly cornering under power. Marin’s frames are on the large side – a great reason for making sure you take a test ride – ours is a 17.5in and is ever so slightly on the large side for a 5ft 9in test pilot. The steep seat angle means that you have to run the seat further back on the rails than you might normally to get a stretched out riding position. On the other hand your weight is slightly forward which makes for great front wheel traction. Which brings us neatly onto…
Bump gobbling is dutifully handled by Manitou’s Mars Elite fork. There’s 80mm of travel which, while 20mm short of what seems to be fashionable at the moment, was easily man-enough for our lumpy, twisty trails. The diminuitive Elites feel a bit flighty when you first use them. But over time we came to trust that they’d get us over / round anything even if they flexed a bit in the process. They were plush from the off. Fully adjustable air spring and oil compression/rebound damping allowed a plenty of set-up flexibility without the need to break them open. It’s definitely too early to make any remarks about durability except to say that they haven’t needed any air top ups in two months.
If you’ve got a bombproof, function orientated equipment check list the Marin serves up just what you’re looking for. If, however, you’re looking for exotic eye candy then this is probably the wrong bike for you. But you’ll know that anyway.
Shimano feature heavily with a: spline drive Hollowtech LX chainset, nice; XTR rear mech, very nice and very durable; CN7700 chain, broke once; LX shifters, very positive; WTB Momentum headset; WTB saddle, probably the comfiest saddle specced on any high-end XC bike; IRC etc.
For an extra £200 you can upgrade your Indian Fire Trail brakes from the perfectly servicable Avid Speed Dial 7 / Digit 7 brake combination to a set of Hope Minis. The upgrade is designed to be carried out on the shop floor so the standard bike comes with disc-ready DT Swiss Onyx hubs and Mavic X-221 rims, complete with a braking surface. The seat stay has hydraulic hose mounts whereas the top tube makes use of natty little adaptors. The hose on our test bike was a bit loose over the top tube, if we owned it we’d tape the hose down so it didn’t clank against the tube.
There’s been plenty of debate about the Hope Minis on the Kit forum. In the relatively short time we used these ones they: performed brilliantly; gave the best trail-rider feedback of any brake we’ve used; squealed quietly everytime they were applied. There’s definitely some tweaking needed to stop the squealing but if we’re honest it didn’t make the slightest difference to our enjoyment of riding the bike.
A lively XC racer with bags of personality. Understated looks and solid equipment spec make the Indian a Marin through and through. Whle the handling feels flighty at first but after a while you come to love its instant responsiveness.
Should I upgrade to discs?
It depends where you’ll ride the bike really. We found them completely reliable and they’re good pose value if nothing else. If, however, you live in the Peak District, North Wales, or anywhere equally as abrasive then you’d be mad not to – you’ll save the extra cost against V brake pads in no time.
If you’re even vaguely thinking of buying one of these then go and get a test ride. Marin encourage all their dealers to stock demo bikes. Check the Marin.co.uk website for details.