New tyres and fork might not sound much, but on a hardcore hardtail getting those two elements right is crucial. Add a well proven frame and the upgraded Rocky Ridge gets Marin off to a superb start for 2009.
The Rocky Ridge guarantees big fun from its fast reacting compact frame and the screw-through-axle Fox Vanilla fork provides outstanding smoothness and steering accuracy.
At 28 inches the bars might not fit through every gap (woods riders might want to trim them) and lighter wheels would definitely inject some more acceleration.
Ride & handling: supple & muscular
An obvious comparison is with the Orange Crush. They have near identical overall weight and almost the same massive proportion (nearly 40 per cent) of it in the wheels. You’d therefore expect the Marin Rocky Ridge to feel very similar to the Crush. It’s never that simple though.
While it’s a lot shorter in the top tube, the slacker seat angle lengthens the cockpit the more you raise the saddle. Add the super wide bars for a bit more chest expansion and we never found breathing room to be a problem.
While it’s partly down to the tyres, the Marin is also noticeably more responsive and supple than the Crush on trail or tarmac. It still feels more ‘diesel’ than high revving ‘Type R’ racer but there’s definitely a muscular spring to its grunt.
This really helps when you’re one pedal turn away from cleaning a climb. In fact, for a near-30lb hardtail it astonished us with what it managed to wrestle its way up, considering the storm-ripped and flood-fecked state of our test trails.
The extra balance and power steering of the wide bar and increased accuracy and supple ground tracking of the Fox screw-through fork give it an edge on tricky singletrack too.
While the lighter bikes skipped and danced off down the trail when they could, they tended to skitter and slip in the slower speed sections.
In contrast, the Rocky Ridge came in slower and just ploughed its way over wet root sprawls or jumbles of fallen logs without faltering.
In fact, the pattern of the Marin chugging into a section the Cove and Cruz had stumbled on and wrestling its way straight through/over/up soon became the default test scenario.
A relatively short wheelbase means a fast turn in on tight singletrack, while a low bottom bracket keeps it grounded at speed.
The slack seat angle also makes it easy to lever the front wheel up and over obstacles for welcome 3D capability.
Basically The Rocky Ridge is just begging to be worked, shaped and thrown around the trails better than you thought you ever could. It’s got the smoothest and most forgiving ride feel here too, making it a perfectly viable day bike if you’re not in a hurry.
Frame: proven performer
The Rocky Ridge frame was one of the first mass-manufactured alternatives to classics like the Santa Cruz Chameleon and Cove Stiffee, and it’s been extensively evolved in the years since. The current frame is largely unchanged from last year, but then if it ain’t broke…
The double butted, hydroformed, gusseted kite section top tube and octagonal down tube certainly still look fresh, as do the triangular rear stays. Though there’s probably no structural advantage, the CNC-machined dropouts look prettier than the Orange’s too.
While there’s no frame-only option, the same frame appears on the £799 B-17. There are no extra small or extra large sizes though, which is a shame.
Equipment: forks, tyres, brakes & bars add up to total control
The new fork and tyres make a big difference to the 09 bike and we reckon they’re well worth the price hike over the 2008 model.
The 15mm screw-through axle version of the Fox Vanilla fork is noticeably keener to carve a tight or off-camber line than the quick-release version. We’d swear less lower leg deflection/ binding also makes it smoother.
While the WTB Prowler MX tyres are still heavy grip monsters, they roll a lot faster than last year’s Timberwolf rubber. They’re certainly not short of traction, even in the clartiest wet root infested situations either.
Like Orange, Marin have also underscored their bike with a beefy WTB rim to add even more supple float to the tyre.
While the massive 28in wide bars and short Gravity stem don’t do overall weight any favours, the control they add is outstanding.
Hayes Stroker brakes are rapidly establishing themselves as the deservedly dominant technical trail anchors too.