We rode Marin’s identical geometry carbon 29er at Interbike and really liked it. That means we have to attribute the dislocated, low-confidence feel of the alloy Nail Trail to twist in the frame. While it’s well equipped for fast dry conditions rolling, that equipment comes at a relatively high price too.
Ride & handling: Smooth, but not as confident or natural feeling as the best big-wheelers
We can see what Marin are trying to do with the Nail Trail, but it doesn’t really work for several reasons. The combination of fork, head tube and mainframe neck twist, plus a very steep head angle and long stem, makes the front end feel very remote from the low-slung ride position. It's also prone to tuck under suddenly on technical trails.
We never felt very confident on the Marin compared to most 29ers we’ve ridden. Even with a shorter stem than the 100mm unit fitted, the flexy front end still lacks authority and undercuts the increased high speed cornering confidence that the Nail Trail's low centre of gravity should deliver.
Slithery rubber further undermines aggressive intentions in the damp. The low bottom bracket means a lot of toe tapping and chainset catching on technical climbs, and the Marin is relatively soft through the pedals, too. The relatively light, fast rolling wheels are a definite bonus in terms of cruising speed though.
The sensitive non-FIT-cartridge Fox 32 fork, thin stays and fat tyres do cushion and cruise nicely, however, and if you get on with the flat-topped WTB saddle the Nail Trail will roll over less taxing trails with a smooth stride.
Frame & equipment: Good kit selection but frame flex means an awkward feeling ride
A short, bobbin-shaped head tube keeps the front end low over the big front wheel. It’s potentially upgradeable to tapered with the right headset, although the Fox fork fitted is a standard steerer, quick-release model rather than a screw-through axle version.
The neck of the bike is narrow, because the big trapezoidal down tube doesn’t start its downward curve until a long way back. This adds clearance for the 29in front wheel, but the more parallel the top and down tube, the less twist-fighting triangulation you’ll naturally get from the frame.
The chunky main tubes switch to skinnier profile, snaked and shaped rear stays, but you get an older style IS rather than post mount for the rear brake. There’s decent mud room around the 2.2in tyre though, and a forward facing seat collar slot to combat rear wheel spray.
The old-style Fox fork is a little heavier than more recent models but impressively smooth over small bumps. There’s plenty of float in the fat Continental tyres too, although traction is limited, especially in wet/rooty/off-camber conditions.
The Black Flag wheels are relatively light and tight though, and ready to go tubeless thanks to their licensed Stan's NoTubes rim profile. The Shimano 30-speed mix is slick shifting, and a big rotor up front gives the Avid brakes serious power.
The 658mm-wide low-riser bar gives plenty of leverage, but the 100mm stem and steep head angle feel weird together. The whole package is definitely at the upper end of the price spectrum for an alloy framed bike from a big manufacturer.