At the end of last year we rode the prototype of Marin's Quake AL7 freeride bike and we were mightily impressed. Now we've got the eagerly awaited production version to thrash.
The Quake AL7 is surprisingly light (18.1kg/39.9lb) for a bigtravel rig with so much metal on the frame. The front end features a 1.5in head tube, a roomy top tube and an uninterrupted seat tube - handy for keeping the long, climbing-friendly seatpost out of the way on the downs.
The AL7 uses the same Quad- Link suspension system as the other bikes in the Quad range but the design is slightly different to make the bike more freeride orientated. The pivots are inboard on the mainframe to keep them out of harm's way and, as on the prototype, there are removable pivot caps that can be filled with grease to protect the pivots from the elements. There's also plenty of mud clearance, so this is a great bike for UK conditions. The swingarm area has been slimmed down too.
The rear end features two shock mounting positions, which alter both the bottom bracket height and the head angle. Just like on the prototype, the action of the rear suspension is slick and, combined with the great spec, this makes for a fun bike.
The build is based around the air suspension platform of a Fox DHX Air 5.0 shock controlling 175mm (6.9in) travel and a 2007 Fox 36 TALAS fork with 120-150mm (4.7-5.9in) travel. The cranks and chain guide come courtesy of Truvativ and the brakes are awesome Avid Juicy 7 models. The gearing is no-nonsense Shimano XT kit while the Crank Brothers 5050 pedals and WTB finishing parts are also worthy of a mention.
The AL7 has a slack head angle so it's instantly capable of hitting the hardest terrain and tanking down hills. It's also good through turns thanks to its low centre of gravity and bottom bracket.
The AL7 isn't as much fun on the ups though - it will get you up the hills fine, but don't expect XC-level climbing from a bike with such slack and low angles; it's made for hard, fast riding.
There were problems with our Fox DHX Air shock though - we had a case of 'suck down', with all the air escaping, so it had to be stripped down and retuned. We also had a few scary moments where the rebound stopped working and turned the rear into a catapult. Running a coil shock instead transforms the bike so it corners and takes hits better and the damping stays consistent.
As an all-out freeriding tool the AL7 is great, although we'd be inclined to run a coil shock.