- Marin Quake AL-7
- Marin’s first freeride foray
- 6.6in travel
- Repackaged Quad-Link suspension
It’s no exaggeration to say that Marin is at least partly responsible for popularising full suspension bikes, certainly in the UK. It seems like most people have owned, or at least ridden, a Marin susser at some point. The 6in travel, white and red B17 flooded the DH race scene in the mid-nineties – it wasn’t intended as a DH bike, but it had the travel and it was very reasonably priced. Despite that, it’s in the XC/enduro arena that Marin has really built its reputation.
A trip by Marin designer Jon Whyte to Whistler, BC heralded the start of a new direction, though. For a very long time, even Marin’s long-travel bikes have been essentially long-legged XC bikes, designed to be pedalled pretty much all the time – they’ve been fairly steep and fairly tall. The all-new Quake, though, is low-slung, relaxed and aimed squarely at the predominantly-downhill ride. We took one to the Alps to find out how close to the target it is.
Marin designer Jon Whyte wanted two things from the Quake: awesome suspension action and great pedalling ability. The existing Quad-Link platform has been repackaged and beefed up to form the Quad-XL. The shock is tucked away inside the linkages, out of the way of mud and rocks. The layout is essentially the same as that of the Whyte E-5, but in a longer-travel configuration.
The twin short linkages are designed to make the suspension supple and responsive over the smaller stuff, wjile taking square-edged lumps in its stride and becoming progressive in the later stages of the travel. The axle path follows a rearward direction in the first part of the travel before beginning to arc forwards for the rest, minimising chain growth at the furthest extremes of the stroke.
Visually, the frame packs quite a punch and clearly signals its intentions for some aggressive riding. The most striking feature is the massively long triangulated swingarm which extends to the centre of the frame. The aft end of the swingarm carries a pair of bolt-on dropouts – there’s scope for replacing them with ones for 12mm through-axles if you so wish. Up front, two short stout links join the swingarm to the front triangle, with the Fox DHX 5.0 air shock sandwiched in between. All the pivot bearings are well tucked away and carry a 10-year guarantee. The shock has more adjustments than you could shake even a special shock-adjusting stick at – you ought to be able to get it feeling exactly how you want, if you’ve got the patience. A minor niggle is that the location of the shock makes a couple of the adjustments a little trick – the “Boost” valve is particularly awkward.
The front triangle is fronted by a reinforced 1.5″ head tube. The down tube is heavily gusseted at this junction, and continues this theme to the bottom bracket. The two shock links attach to large extruded mounting sections, and the down tube is triangulated for increased rigidity. The top tube is fairly conventional, with a short bridging link to the down tube with a large gusset down to the top shock mount. There’s another short section of tubing welded between the bottom shock mount and the seat tube, while another short bit of tubing does the same trick between the top tube and extended seat tube.
It’s all very impressively put together, and looks like it should take a hammering. The other interesting feature is the ability to adjust the geometry. Two holes in the lower shock mount allow either a ‘Pedal’ or ‘Alpine’ setting. We rode mostly in the lower Alpine mode, which places the BB 15mm lower and slackens the head angle to 65°.
We tested a medium. There’s also a small, although the only difference is an inch in the top tube.
You can buy a Quake in two ways. The Quake AL-7 is the complete bike as seen here, for a fiver under three grand. Or if you have your own ideas on componentry, you can buy a frame for £1,290.
You’d be expecting a pretty solid spec on a £2,995 freeride bike, and the Quake shows early promise, stepping to the plate with Fox 36 TALAS RC2 forks gracing the front end. These are the top-line air-sprung 36s, with adjustable travel from 120 to 150mm and separate adjustments for rebound and low and high-speed compression damping. The latter adjustments help you to dial out the brake dive and general “plunginess” that some riders find objectionable on lesser 36s, although of course the more dials you’ve got the more scope there is for making a pig’s ear of it all…
The Fox fork has a 1-1/8in steerer, so the cunning FSA Orbit DL headset is used – it fits the 1.5in head tube on the outside and the 1-1/8in steerer on the inside. Obviously if you want to go to a 1.5in fork, you’ll need a new headset too. FSA also supplies the fashionably-short stem, which grips an oversize Truvativ Holzfeller riser bar. Avid Juicy 7 brakes with 200mm rotors bring things to a controlled stop, while a SRAM X-9 transmission (save for the XT front mech) make it all go. Truvativ Holzfeller DH cranks feature 22 and 32t rings plus an e.thirteen chain device.
Wheels are clearly an important part of a bike intended to be ridden hard, and the Quake serves up a mostly-WTB package – Dual Duty rims, Laser Disc 20mm front hub and 2.3in Timberwolf tyres. Only the Shimano XT rear hub breaks up the WTBness, and we’re certainly not going to complain about that.
It’s all sensible stuff, and brings the complete bike weight in at 36lb – not unreasonable for this kind of thing. There’s scope to go either way with upgrades – there are plenty of places you could save weight if you want to go lighter, or go the other way with bigger forks and tyres for a more overtly DH setup. It’s a pretty decent spec for the money, although bikes like Specialized’s Enduro Pro look a little better on paper – same fork and shock, but outboard-bearing cranks and DT wheel components.
Marin’s Quad-Link bikes have always been fantastic performers as far as suspension goes, and the Quake is out of this world. It simply soaks everything up, from the little bumps to boulder gardens. It does so in an extremely controlled manner, and feels limitless – there’s a lot of “depth” to the travel. It’s all very stable too, and the DHX shock allows a lot of adjustment to get things just how you want them. We thought that the long swingarm might flex a little, but in practise it’s so reinforced that you have to be absolutely hooning to get the frame twisting, and by that point you’ve probably got other things on your mind.
We mostly tested the Quake around Corchevel, a great riding spot. It’s not as popular a destination as the likes of Morzine, but the valley offers a ton of trails, with plenty of long, flowing singletrack littered with rock gardens and sprawling roots. None of it requires an all-out DH bike, and the Quake excelled. The slack angles made negotiating steep twisty trails a joy, and jumps were despatched in a graceful manner. The short, but with long chainstays, layout of the Quake manages to be stable at speed yet agile at reduced velocities. It’s like riding a magic carpet, it makes riding at speed across extremely rocky trails a breeze. There’s enough feedback that you don’t feel that the bike is doing all the work, though, allowing you to work the bike hard to get the most out of it.
But the best bit is that despite all the travel, despite the weight and despite the slack head angle, the seatpost can be raised and the Quake ridden back to the top of the hill. Taller riders might need to fit a longer post and the resulting cockpit length isn’t exactly XC-efficient stretched-out, but if works and it’s a lot less of a slog than you might expect.
Open Gallery4 Images
Positives: Amazing suspension action, stable, handles well, light for what it is, solid spec
Negatives: Seatpost a bit short for proper pedalling, shock location hinders adjustments
The Quake is right at home in the Alps. It offers long travel and lightish weight, and the performance is enough that you have to want to make a considerable speed step to justify a full-on DH bike. The pedalling ability opens up lots of new riding areas, and the fact it’s easily rideable back to the top of the hill is a real bonus.
It’s plenty strong too, and mega stiff. The frame is versatile enough that it could be built either leaner, or burlier. For extended Alpine DH riding a bigger fork would transform the bike and better match the awesome rear suspension performance. Or keep it a bit tighter for North Shore trickery. It’s not trying do be a bike to do everything on, but instead for having fun on. For sessioning the DHs, working the local North Shore trickery, and for trips to more extreme trails, it’s a real joy to ride. Hats off to Marin for moving beyond its “comfort zone”…