It might not look much different from previous long travel Marins, but detailing has sharpened up the ride superbly. Add enough uncompromised kit to get you going and this is a classic bike for the long run.
LOW AND LEAN
Changes over last year are immediately noticeable, with less tip toeing needed to get into the lower saddle. Dropping the bottom bracket forward and down also removes the precarious 'teetering' feel of last year's bikes.
As soon as you hit the trail, the difference is revolutionary. This is a bike that feels totally confident at all speeds, with sharper steering angles and spot-on weight distribution nailing traction for aggressive carving. The new frame is also much sharper in tracking terms, with clearer, cleaner feedback for proper cut and thrust trail work.
The supple Quad Link suspension keeps you floating straight and level over the rattley stuff too, but also digs in hard for a leap of acceleration or climbing grunt as soon as you press the pedals. It can spit traction on gravelly climbs though, and the suddenly progressive end to the 6in stroke makes it less of a big hitter than you might expect.
It's really a superbly smooth XC bike for typical UK trails though, even if the bike's overall weight clips its wings on climbs and sudden snap accelerations.
Apart from a cheaper QR lever on the Tara travel change slot, a simpler - but still excellent - Fox Float shock and painted not anodised finish, the Alpine Trail frame is exactly the same as the top line Attack Trail. This immediately adds serious upgrade and weight loss potential.
Besides the '06 geometry changes, the dents now pressed into the sides of the main tubes and swingarm also add stiffness for a sharper ride. All the old Marin advantages of massive mud clearance, instant 4-6in travel/ spring rate adjustment and lifetime warrantied bearings still apply, too. The top tube bottle mount is still awkwardly positioned, though.
Marin has managed to get the TARA frame down to this price without any performance compromises, either. As we've said before, the Fox shock is a proven, aftermarket tuneable unit and the RockShox Tora fork is way better than it has any right to be for the money.
Hayes Sole brakes only betray their singlesided character with more awkward wheel refitting and a need for occasional pad adjustment, but otherwise they're as powerful and weatherproof as twin pot systems.
Shimano hubs add long rolling life, the Kenda tyres are decent enough and the mixed finishing kit is all sized and shaped right, too. It is the only bike to come with cheap pedals rather than either decent flatties or SPDs though, and hefty overall weight affects sprightliness. Mind you, we've ridden 27/28lb Attack Trails, so there's massive scope for upgrading it into a real flier.
The Alpine is a bit heavy to really show its true potential, but the frame at the centre is an absolute classic UK trail bike. It's ready to ride hard wherever you want right now, but the real value in this bike will come when you've shed a few pounds and released the lightweight long travel potential within.