First ride: Marin Quake XLT180 7.9 £3999.99

Slick gravity demon

BikeRadar score 4/5

Marin’s big-travel freeride frame – the Quake XLT – has been revised for 2010, and it’s a slick-looking machine. With travel increased to 180mm (7.1in), a relaxed 64.5-degree head angle and half a pound dropped off the frame weight, it could be a capable downhill bike, but is equally happy as a freerider.

Ride & handling: Descends like a demon and climbs well too

Setting up the suspension on the Quake was a bit of a pain – the beginning stroke rebound adjuster on the RockShox Vivid shock was barely useable due to its position inside the linkages. But the new slimmer rear end is a much better design and we didn’t foul our knees half as much as the previous setup.

With 33 percent sag dialled in, we liked the feel of the linear suspension with slightly rearward axle path – it helps the bike lurch forward on smaller square bumps. The Quake wants to pull away – it doesn’t feel sluggish like its freeride tag may suggest.

This Marin doesn’t just descend like a demon, it climbs well too. The roomy top tube and steep seat tube angle, combined with an uninterrupted seat tube, allow for a decent saddle position. And although very active, the rear end doesn’t bob when you put the hammer down.

We’ve always thought the Quake’s rear end looked a little long, but the proof is always in the pudding. The Quake carves along happily, letting you pick the front end up at will, and makes the most of a stable wheelbase.

Frame: Lighter and improved design for 2010

Up front, the 2010 Quake frame has a far more organic appearance and weight has been lost through the hydroformed tubes. The crude strut between the top and down tubes is a smoother shape, and the formed tubes are neat with large contact areas for welding. The 1.5in head tube can house 1.5in internal, tapered and 1.125in headsets, and offers scope for a super-low front end.

Out back, replaceable dropouts take a 150mm Maxle through-axle, and the whole rear end has been slimmed down to improve knee clearance. The Quad Link 2.0 linkages are also narrower and use flush-fit bearing caps to avoid catching your shorts and legs.

Equipment: Solid Saint groupset and plush RockShox suspension

We tested the flagship model, which comes with a Shimano Saint drivetrain and RockShox suspension front and rear. Up front is the Totem coil fork, with a 1.5in steerer tube and 180mm (7.1in) of travel. Out back is a Vivid shock, which offers compression plus beginning and end stroke rebound adjustment, so you can get the ride just right.

Rolling it along are trusty Kenda Nevegal tyres on strong but light Mavic EX-325 rims, and the Saint hubs also proved reliable. Syncros bars, stem, seatpost and pedals serve well, and the WTB saddle is a welcome comfort. Obscenely powerful Shimano Saint brakes feel like having a stick rammed through the spokes and a trusty e.thirteen DRS chainguide does the job.

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