The Rocky Ridge is top of Marin’s Trail Hardtail AXC (‘aggressive cross country’) range. It delivers in spades on the promise of being strong, stiff and durable, but light-footed enough to get up the climbs without coughing up a lung, and agile enough to handle the tightest singletrack.
Ride: a great all-rounder but no uphill rocket
As an all-round trail bike, the Rocky Ridge is right up there among the best. Although it’s over-built, it’s still very much a cross-country machine that loves to blast. Okay, it’s not especially light, but it’s nimble enough for a bike of this strength and it’s beautifully balanced.
Aim the Marin over slippery, angled roots or jagged rocks and it will stay on track without any misbehaviour. The Fox fork works effectively to smooth over the irregularities and the grippy, big volume treads making the most of whatever purchase they can find.
It’s not too fazed if you decide on a last-minute change of course, either. In fact, that’s a real strength; shifting your body weight around to fine-tune your line choice is a synch thanks to its fairly compact length, and the same is true when you hit the steep drops.
Head into the singletrack and the Marin is agile enough to handle the tight stuff at speed, while the confidence you get from the strong, progressive Hayes brakes means you lay off them until they’re really needed.
The only real downside is that the Rocky Ridge is never going to challenge a pure cross-country thoroughbred on the uphills – it’s a few pounds too heavy for that. But that’s not really a fair comparison; a pure cross-country thoroughbred can’t handle the same amount of heavyweight punishment that the Marin can.
Having to take things patiently on the climbs is the price you’re paying for that extra strength. More to the point is the fact that the Rocky Ridge is a decent climber compared to it direct rivals.
Frame - tougher than your average rig
The 6061 aluminium frame is certainly built to handle more than your average amount of trail abuse. The broad, coffin-profiled down tube and the oval-to-multifaceted top tube meet and pool their collective strengths before reaching the head tube junction, while a tidy, open-ended box gusset adds more front-end reinforcement.
That top tube slopes down sharply towards the seat tube junction, giving a low standover height that adds manoeuvrability and allows you to dab a foot down on the deck with the minimum of fuss. Out back, ‘Tri-Burner’ seatstays are, you guessed it, triangular in cross-section, and so are the chainstays that snake back towards the dropouts giving plenty of clearance for both chunky tyres and large Clydesdale hooves.
The Rocky Ridge might not shout about its strength in the same way as, say, an equivalent Identiti or Kona, but this is a sinewy frame that’s easily the lightest here thanks to some sensible butting of tube walls.
Add in high-quality workmanship and a stylish finish, and you’ve got one impressive chassis.
Equipment: specced to soak up long term punishment
The Fox Vanilla R fork offers 140mm (5.5in) of plush coil-sprung travel and changing to a heavier-weight spring is relatively straightforward should your size demand it. Even with big, powerful riders on board, we weren’t able to get too much flex out of them whether turning hard or landing heavily, while the performance is comfortable and consistent, and the new damping control helps keep things controlled. You’ll get plenty of long-term reliability too as long as you keep ’em clean and regularly serviced.
The Shimano Deore gears, with a Deore XT Shadow rear mech, shifted reliably while the Truvativ Firex 3.1 cranks, coupled with the Giga X Pipe external bottom bracket, stood up well to our best out-of-the-saddle stomping.
We were surprised at how quickly the Hayes Stroker Trail hydraulic disc brakes managed to bring our big boys’ brigade to a halt, even from full tilt. It’s well regulated power, too, rather than the on/off variety that’s no good to man nor beast.
The Deore/WTB LaserDisc wheels stayed true throughout testing with little unwanted flex when climbing out of the saddle, and we had no problems with either the seating or cockpit components.
Summary: a wizard, a true star
The Rocky Ridge is a star, based around a superb, hard-hitting frame that’ll stand up to a whole lot of abuse. Built up with a decent component mix, the Marin handles beautifully and, best of all, it’s a whole lot of fun.