Hardtails with 140mm of travel and extra-slack head angles are mostly the preserve of niche brands. Marin’s Trail HT range – of which the Rocky Ridge is the most expensive – is one of the few such bikes from a mainstream maker.
It’s bikes like the Rocky Ridge that will ensure that 26in wheels will be around for a long time yet. The kind of riding that the Rocky revels in is still the preserve of smaller, stiffer, stronger wheels, and if you’re going for kicked-out geometry then your bike’s going to end up long enough without adding another 3in of wheel at each end. This kind of bike isn’t for everyone, but you’ll know if it’s for you, and Marin deserves plaudits for doing something a little out of the ordinary.
Ride & handling: Grin-a-minute, gung-ho handling
Get on board the Rocky Ridge and you immediately notice that the front wheel is substantially kicked out. It’s mightily slack up front, and fairly relaxed in the back too. Combined with a stout fork, short stem and big bars, you end up with a bike that demands to be hammered down steep, sketchy trails. The downside of the Rocky Ridge’s layout is that it’s not entirely comfortable on climbs.
It needs some weight over the front end to stop wandering on the way up, but the relaxed seat angle tends to park you towards the back. You can move the seat forward, but the Marin’s not a long bike and by moving forward you cut into the cockpit room. It’s possible to strike a balance between weight distribution and room to stretch, helped by slightly longer than usual chainstays that limit front-end lift, but you’re never going to achieve XC racer levels of climbing prowess.
Tight, twisty trails at lower speeds aren’t the Marin’s natural habitat either – a decent pace can be had, but you have to work at it. That’s not really a criticism, for ‘working at it’ is what the Rocky Ridge both demands and rewards. It's head tube clocks in at a very relaxed 67 degrees - unsurprisingly, it’s most comfortable at speed. It’s at its best on steep, demanding trails at a decent clip, and the fun that comes out is directly proportional to the effort you put in.
Frame: Good-looking and suitably stiff and strong, without too much heft
In profile the Rocky Ridge has fairly subtle tube shaping, with a bit of a curve on the down tube and slight flare at the front of the top tube being the most obvious elements. Most of the tubes have an interesting cross-section, though, from the multi-faceted down tube to the triangular stays. A small open-ended gusset beefs up the joint between the top tube and integrated-headset head tube. Marin’s hydroformed tubing makes for a good-looking and suitably stiff and strong frame without too much heft.
A front-facing clamping slot keeps mud and water out, while Marin has gone for traditional under-bottom bracket (BB) cable routing. It’s also included just one set of bottle bosses, with none on the seat tube. That’s a sensible decision for this kind of bike, ensuring no obstacles prevent dropping the seat right down. Also, the frame’s compact enough to hinder access to a seat tube-mounted bottle anyway.
Equipment: Good kit where it matters
On paper the Marin’s component spec doesn’t stand out for value, but it’s strong where it counts. The key element is the 140mm RockShox Sektor fork. With a QR15 thru-axle making for a stout front end, it's ready to battle its way through all sorts of nastiness. Internals are simple but do the job. It doesn’t have the Motion Control damping found on more expensive RockShox, but the Sektor runs significantly lower pressures than a shorter-travel Recon or Reba, which contributes to a plusher feel.
As well as the fork, the transmission comes from the SRAM empire, with an X5/X7 nine-speed mix and Truvativ cranks. Hayes Stroker Ryde brakes are effective but rather wooden in feel. Saddle comfort is notoriously subjective, but the extra-shiny WTB Rocket V is undisputably rather on the slippery side – good for slipping off the back of, but a bit skaty when you actually want to sit on it.