Marin has been making and selling bikes for more than 30 years. And while it’s recently been an under-the-radar brand, a slew of exciting new bike launches have lifted the company’s profile. And across its line, from road to city to mountain bikes, you’ll find some exciting, cool, and attractive options.
Here’s quick info on five of the best Marin bikes from our testing. Keep scrolling for more in-depth reviews and a primer on the brand.
A Brand Rooted in Mountain Biking’s History
The genesis of Marin is entwined with the early history of mountain biking. The company is named after, and headquartered near, Marin County, California, the beautiful piece of earth that’s home to Mount Tamalpais, where competitive mountain biking was born. In 1986, Bob Buckley founded the Marin bicycle company in response to the growing off-road-cycling interest in Northern California. By 1988, Marin was staking its claim as an industry leader with mass production of its Marin Team Titanium, a revolutionary bike at the time that offered an affordable titanium frame that was widely available.
Marin’s product development continued during the early 90s when it produced its first hybrid and road bikes, plus its first successful full-suspension mountain bikes. The most well known of the latter was the 1993 Marin Titanium FRS (an acronym for Front/Rear Suspension) that used a Manitou suspension fork as the bike’s seatstays.
As is often the case in competitive cycling, the gear professionals use influences what and how regular cyclists ride. This model worked in favor of Marin in 1993 when Jürgen Beneke, a then-unknown German who had only been mountain biking for one year, rode a Marin Titanium FRS to win the inaugural UCI Downhill World Cup. This race-day success secured Marin in the minds of many as a serious contributor to the development of mountain bike technology and culture.
Indeed, Marin bikes continue to be unabashedly authentic and rooted in the Northern California culture that’s been so long a part of its brand identity. Whether you ride to shred or chill, Marin has a bike that is ready to handle your needs.
What’s New For 2020
Marin’s latest mountain bike innovation started in 2017 with the launch of the Wolf Ridge, a 160mm 29er that featured a very unique suspension design and equally unique performance. For 2020 the Rift Zone got some tweaks, bumping up rear travel to 125mm and adding a 130mm fork. And, as with almost all bike brands, you’ll find a growing range of e-bikes from Marin.
But Marin’s products have expanded way beyond mountain biking. It produces some of our favorite city bikes, gravel, adventure, and hybrid bikes, including new city and mountain e-bike options, as well as a growing line of adventure, touring, and “beyond road” bikes like the Gestalt X11. All of these new offerings fit comfortably within the brand’s lengthy heritage of riding on dirt roads and trails.
Why It May Be Harder to Find a Bike Right Now
Ever since terms like “shelter in place,” “stay at home,” and “social distancing” took root in our daily lexicon, we’ve had to find alternative forms of entertainment that don’t involve large crowds, group indoor activities, or risky situations (such as travel). More people have caught on to the idea that activities like hiking, running, and bike riding (both indoor and out) are safe, sanity-saving ways to stay active and healthy—and away from others. This has led to a surge in indoor bike sales and, thus, a depletion of stock. That’s a good thing, because it means more people have discovered bikes. But it’s also frustrating if your goal today is to place an online order for a shiny new exercise bike only to find out that you may have to wait weeks or even months to get it. If you see something on this list that catches your eye, and you hit the out-of-stock roadblock, patience (waiting until inventory is fulfilled again), perseverance (it may be available somewhere else online or even somewhere locally), or just being proactive (pre-order is available for many out-of-stock models) might be the way to go. We’ll keep our eye on inventory and update links as often as we can.
―BEST VALUE TRAIL BIKE―
Rift Zone 2
The Rift Zone 2 is the 29er version of the Bicycling Editors’ Choice-winning Marin Hawk Hill. It gets larger wheels, which roll over rocks and other features more easily and add some stability as you pick up speed. With 125mm of travel, it’s great for trail rides, especially on technical terrain, and can even work for some light-duty racing. A 1x drivetrain, dropper post, hydraulic disc brakes, and tubeless-ready wheels make the Rift Zone 2 stand out—few bikes at this price include all these features. But those are only some of the reasons why we fell for it. Marin also got the geometry just right; it simply took the winning dimensions of the Hawk Hill and adapted them for bigger wheels.
―BEST GRAVEL BIKE―
If you seek simplicity and adventure, the Gestalt X11 could be your ticket to two-wheeled bliss. Spec’d with a 1x drivetrain, this aluminum drop bar bike with a ride smoothing carbon fork is equally at home carving turns on tarmac or rumbling down rough dirt roads. Generous frame clearance means you can run tires as wide as 700×42 or 650×47 for extra traction. Hydraulic disc brakes offer control even on the steepest descents. And there’s even a 105mm dropper post for when things get rowdy.
―BEST URBAN COMMUTER―
The least expensive offering among Marin’s new line of utilitarian commuter bikes, the Presidio 1 features a smooth operating Shimano Nexus 3-speed internal-gear hub that’s easier to maintain than similarly priced external drivetrains. Other impressive highlights include Vee Tire Co. Baldy tires that are puncture-resistant and have reflective sidewalls for enhanced visibility in low light conditions, and reliable Shimano hydraulic disc brakes that will help keep you safe during hectic morning commutes.
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―BEST STEEL COMMUTER―
Like a good friend, just one with hydraulic disc brakes and 29-inch wheels, this steel-framed bike is ready to go through anything with you. A triple ring crank (48/36/26) and a 9-speed, 12-36t cassette gives riders options and helps make almost any climb manageable. Designed for city riding, the Muirwoods comes with slick tires (with reflective accents) and a flat bar for more aggressive handling. The steel frame helps take the edge off potholes or when you come up short bunny-hopping a curb.
―BEST FOR DOWNHILL SHREDDING―
Alpine Trail 8
The Alpine Trail is a new 29-inch model made for big downhill days. Featuring a Series 4 aluminum frame and SRAM NX Eagle 12-Speed drivetrain, this bike is ready for some cross country riding, but it’s built for bigger, enduro-style descending. Marin’s MultiTrac rear suspension delivers 150mm of rear wheel travel and it comes with a capable 160mm Fox 36 Performance fork up front. The Alpine Trail is a good option for someone looking to get into enduro riding with a well-rounded bike at an attainable price.
―BEST ENTRY–LEVEL FULL SUSPENSION―
Hawk Hill 2
The Hawk Hill 2 is, simply, the best budget full-suspension bike we’ve ridden. Even at this relatively low price, it has everything you need to take on the mountains. The bike comes with 27.5-inch wheels, 120mm of travel with Marin’s MultiTrac rear suspension, disc brakes (with 180mm/160mm rotors), and a dropper post. The quality suspension and solid parts will make you feel like you’re riding a bike that costs hundreds more.
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―BEST FOR LITTLE RIPPERS―
Hawk Hill Jr.
As the name suggests, the Hawk Hill Jr. is a kids’ version of the above-mentioned Hawk Hill. It comes with 24-inch wheels, but it will also accept 26-inchers, so you can upsize when your kid hits a growth spurt (or two). You get the same suspension and a lot of the same quality parts as on the Hawk Hill. Don’t be surprised if your little ripper can keep up with (and probably pass) you on on the trail.
―BEST CHEAP GRAVEL BIKE―
The Gestalt is a fun-riding, affordable, aluminum drop-bar bike that can handle dirt, gravel, or broken asphalt and has the ability to ride smoothly on the road. Its stock 32mm tires allow for comfortable on-road riding and most off-road riding. However, if you’d like to travel less beaten paths, the Gestalt 2 has mechanical disc brakes and clearance for 35mm tires. Shimano Tiagra 10-speed components, along with a 50/34 FSA Gossamer crankset and an 11-34t cassette, offer plenty of range for fast or casual riding.
―BEST FOR SHREDDING DOWNHILLS AND PEDALING BACK UP―
Wolf Ridge Pro
There’s no mistaking the Marin Wolf Ridge Pro for any other bike. Its Naild R3ACT suspension is unlike anything else you’ll see on the trail. The performance stands out, too. This is one of the best-pedaling 160mm-travel bikes we’ve tested. The Pro model comes equipped with top-shelf parts, such as a Fox Float 36 fork, Float X2 factory shock, Shimano XTR 1×12 drivetrain, XTR brakes, e*thirteen TRS Race carbon wheels, and a 150mm Fox Transfer Performance Elite dropper seatpost.
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―BEST FOR BIKEPACKING―
The Four Corners is a bikepacker’s dream. It comes with a burly steel frame designed for comfortable long rides, 42mm puncture-resistant tires, up to six bottle cage mounts, fender and rack mounts on the frame and fork, mechanical disc brakes, and a reliable Shimano Sora 3×9 crankset (50/39/30) working with an 11-34t cassette. This bike has all of the necessary features to be your next camping mule. But when you aren’t able to be off in the woods, it’s equally well-suited for general fitness riding and commuting.
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