Marin Muirwoods 29er £599

Urban big-wheeler

BikeRadar score 4.5/5

This is an unusual looking bike, and not only because of its huge 29in wheels and enormous handlebar. The Muirwoods 29er has a massive fork with sufficient clearance for any fat badgers that might get stuck in your treads.

The super-long fork is actually to make up the length in a frame originally designed for suspension. At least mudguards won’t be an issue.

  • Frame: Attractive steel frame and fork give an impressive ride despite extra weight (8/10)
  • Handling: Huge fun in town if you like to add some adrenaline to your commute (9/10)
  • Equipment: The 24-speed transmission and mechanical disc brakes represent good, if not revolutionary, value (8/10)
  • Wheels: Robust pothole crashing is their strength, not traffic light sprints, but this suits the bike’s character (8/10)

The satin finish is classy on a bike of this price and the graphics are stealthy by day and 3M reflective to catch the light by night. The double-butted chromoly tubes are interesting shapes – Edge II, Marin call it – and produce a frame worthy of prolonged close inspection.

The question is, will it have a true steel ride? By that we mean ‘is it a bit heavy?’ And, yes, it is. The extra kilos are always felt, especially when climbing, but the very wide spread of gearing will save you from the ignominy of walking. The lowest ratio barely requires you to rest your foot on the pedal and walking might actually be faster.

There are some big gaps in the 11-32 8-speed cassette, which fall around the gearing you tend to use most, riding at the steady pace the bike’s upright position limits you to. Once you’re familiar with it, though, you can surf the chainrings to good effect through the slick Acera Rapidfire Plus levers to optimise your cadence.

Clearly, with such big wheels and chunky tyres, acceleration is unlikely to tear up any tarmac. The Marin doesn’t feel leaden though, so you’re always happy to put the effort in.

Once in town the 29er comes alive. The mountain bike riding position encourages a belligerent approach to your commute that your mum wouldn’t like. It brings out the inner hooligan (less of a feat in some of us admittedly) as you look for every opportunity to carve a corner or dive through a gap.

It’s huge fun. But there are practical benefits to its bullishness too. The 29in wheels and fat tyres beat the road flat and the frame takes away any remaining sting. You could ride it blindfold and believe it had some sort of short-travel elastomer suspension.

Knowing it’s tough enough to take any hit means you don’t have to be constantly scanning for potholes, freeing up more of your attention for the traffic. The massive bar might not bisect the columns of wing mirrors as readily as narrower alternatives but it offers outstanding control whether slingshotting a roundabout or trackstanding at a red light.

The mechanical Hayes disc brakes aren’t the last word in power and the first touch suggests there’s more to come than is the case. They’re more than adequate though, and their simplicity is a bonus. You won’t wear out a pair of rims each year either.

Marin didn’t overlook the details. There are rack bosses, protective bar end plugs, BMX-style flat pedals and secure quick-releases with removable levers. There’s a practical bike inside this combative commuter. No wonder it looks odd.

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