Marin’s early Nineties Eldridge Grade was an iconic bike with mass appeal. Light enough and well enough specced to take on most challenges, it soon became a popular favourite. The classic silhouette and geometry of the ’09 version proves this is still a bike that wants to be all things to all riders.
Neither lithe enough to lure red-blooded racers nor burly enough to tempt the all-mountain rabble, the Eldridge Grade remains true to its roots in offering a package that’ll do most things you ask of it reasonably well.
Ride & handling: Stable and predictable, but with a hint of understeer
The Eldridge Grade of old was a textbook example of industry-standard geometry and neutral handling. And, despite nearly two decades of advances in technology, the same is true of the current incarnation.
A roomy rider cockpit, on-the-money angles and wide bars make for a stable, predictable feel that most riders will love. Big-volume tyres and an excellent Fox fork help ﬁlter the worst of the small to medium hits, while slick components make last-second gear shifts and braking a breeze.
However, aggressive singletrack riders may detect a hint of understeer at high speed, and although the front end responds well to being stuffed hard into corners to compensate, it’s this characteristic that prevents the Eldridge Grade from truly shining. It’s eminently adaptable and fun to ride but not quite the razor-sharp trail-eating monster we hoped for.
Frame: Classic looks with a modern twist, but not great for mud pluggers
Fashionably multi-faceted and subtly curved tubes are a prominent feature on this bike, with virtually no tube left untouched.
Snaky chainstays give fair mud clearance down below, but the straightish seatstays restrict tyre clearance up top to the point that it’s distinctly miserly. Mud-pluggers be warned.
Equipment: Benchmark Shimano kit, Reliable Hayes stoppers and smooth Fox fork
Shimano SLX kit with an XT rear mech garnish is the ’09 standard-setter for performance and value, ﬁtting in perfectly with the Eldridge’s everyman ethos and delivering slick shifting no matter what the trail throws your way.
Hayes Stroker hydraulic discs are reliable stoppers after initial bedding-in, and carbon levers add a touch of bling. Finishing kit is reliable rather than exciting, with grippy tyres and a comfy saddle – both from WTB – providing the highlights.
The evergreen Fox 32 F100R fork delivers up to 100mm (4in) of smooth, predictable air-sprung travel up front.