The women's range-topping Alpine Trail aims at trail riders who cruise through XC routes to get to their fun. It features the same frame (in two smaller sizes) and well-chosen quality spec of the equivalent men's Rift Zone with a few girly exceptions. Most notable is the tapered handlebar that goes from an oversized clamp to 19.1mm at the ends, to take special 24mm grips. This gives an extra narrow diameter for petite fi ngers to grasp fi rmly around, improving control - though you'll want to tweak in the reach adjustable brake levers too. Marin haven't changed the top tube length for the ladies, they've just added a slightly shorter stem and the bars aren't as wide.
The riding position felt comfortable, not too cramped or stretched and there's plenty of standover clearance. With almost 5in of travel front and rear, the Marin shines more as a trail bike than an XC/enduro racer. As a small rider myself, I found 30lb (a quarter of my body weight) a bit hefty for churning out the miles. More powerful gals may disagree and there's no denying it was great fun when blasting down descents. The instant I let off the brakes, the bike pelted forward gathering speed and momentum, while the extra weight gave it a planted, solid feel. Relaxed angles and a lowered bottom bracket height bolster confi dence too. What's more, the Quad Link II suspension works around the seat post so you can drop the saddle fully when things get woollymammoth hairy. Both links and the shock itself are mounted cleanly inside the main triangle, out of harm and mud's way too. On undulating terrain and corners, the suspension stuck the wheels to the earth and kept things steady when pedalling.
The bike's main weakness was on the climbs, not just because of the extra poundage, those brilliant-for-going-down frame angles made it harder work on steep inclines. I really had to lean my chin to stem to get up some typically sharp Quantocks hills. One other issue was the wide rear stays - they can rub against your heels or calves.