Interbike 2011: Marin Rift Zone XC8 first ride review

More fun that the cross country tag suggests

Demo day two at Bootleg Canyon brought us a couple of surprises. The first was rain, which isn’t exactly normal in these parts. The second was the new Marin range.

It’s certainly been all change at Marin and their designers have clearly been beavering away in preparation for 2012. The new line up certainly looks a little more conventional when compared to their former, more complex design. Simplifying the design has allowed them to reduce manufacturing costs (which can then be spent on providing better quality componentry), reduce weight and noticeably stiffen up the rear end.

As with their new Mount Vision XM8 bike, the old Quad Link 2.0 suspension platform has been replaced by the Quad Link 3.0. The new design retains pretty much the same wheel path as its previous incarnation, initially moving in a rearward direction before arcing forwards about a third of the way into its travel. One downside to the new design is a little less mud clearance but it certainly didn’t cause us any issues in the desert.

The Rift Zone XC8 features version 3.0 of Marin's Quad Link suspension system

Now, onto the Rift Zone XC8. We rode the US spec bike which comes complete with a triple chainset rather than the double we’ll see back in the UK. It boasts 100mm (3.9in) of Fox controlled travel and angles that won’t leave you clawing for the brakes the minute things get remotely dangerous.

Initial impressions were pretty good and it certainly made for a fun afternoon’s riding. The rear end is controlled nicely thanks to the Fox RP23 rear shock which helps make the most of the supple initial stroke that keeps grip levels up, followed by the gentle progression towards the end of the stroke. Coupled with the Fox Float 32 Evolution RL up front, it feels like a really well balanced bike that’s far more fun than the cross country orientated tag suggests it should be. There’s no tapered steerer or bolt through axle here though and the lengthy stem could do with shrinking a bit to help coax out its more playful side.

We did come up against a slight issue due to the narrow asymmetrical lower linkage which sits over towards the non-drive side of the bike. The small linkage pivots slowly seemed to work their way loose in the short amount of time we rode the bike. Apparently Marin are looking into the issue right now so we’ll keep you posted on any further developments. We’ll have a full review on this little ripper when we return to the UK so stay tuned to Mountain Biking UK for more soon.

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