Marin Point Reyes 29er £849

Tough urban steed

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Marin's Point Reyes 29er could have been a supremely versatile bike that crushed its rivals under its mighty wheels, but its too-short fork condemns it to being 'just' a decent town bike. With a proper-height fork it could be a town bike, rough-stuff tourer and rigid mountain bike rolled into one. If that kind of thing appeals, check out Marin's cheaper Muirwoods 29er, which doesn't fork up its potential.

  • Frame: Sturdy and well made, with excellent provision for accessories, but literally let down by short, 26in-wheel-height fork (5/10)
  • Handling: Comfortable town and country lane cruiser that could be so much more. The wide bar is cumbersome in traffic, while the geometry isn’t nearly laid back enough for off-road riding (6/10)
  • Equipment: Alivio trekking gears work well and provide an excellent range, and the hydraulic discs will pull even Clydesdale-class riders to a halt (8/10)
  • Wheels: Wide bombproof rims that will take 29er offroad tyres or fat 700C road ones. Even with 42mm tyres, these wheels make light work of winter-ruined roads. Security skewers are a bonus (9/10)

The last time we tested Marin’s Point Reyes it was an urban mountain bike with 26in wheels. Now it’s an urban mountain bike with 29in wheels – 700C rims with fatter tyres. Maybe it’s the influence of wagon-wheeled bikes off-road. Or perhaps buyers today just want a faster hybrid, which any flavour of 700C wheel will provide thanks to reduced rolling resistance.

The 29er part of the Point Reyes name isn’t mere branding. The bike has genuine 29in wheels, with near Deore-quality disc hubs and sturdy, eyeleted WTB Trail 29 LaserDisc rims. These are wide enough for 50mm Schwalbe Big Apples without risking cornering squirm or rolling off the rim. Potentially then, you’ve got a bike that could handle weekend singletrack trails and then become a pothole-scorning monster truck during the week.

There’s room for proper off-road rubber in the rear triangle, or for a Big Apple plus mudguard. The restriction is the limited clearance at the fork, which means you’ll need to stick with the 42mm tyres provided if you want a mudguard or a skinny 47mm off-road front tyre for dirt. This fork seems an odd choice, and odder yet when we checked the geometry.

Frame angles are significantly steeper than listed and the bottom bracket is lower. The Point Reyes has the wrong fork. It’s too short. With an axle-to-crown measurement of about 400mm it’s on the short side for a 26in wheel bike. For a 29er it’s really short. We’d run a 460-470mm fork on this bike, which would relax the frame angles, increase steering trail and increase tyre clearance.

Curiously, both of the Point Reyes’ cheaper stablemates, the Muirwoods 29er and the Novato, come with taller forks. What is nice about this aluminium fork, though, is that there are low-rider eyelets on it, so you can fit a full set of panniers to the Point Reyes and use it as an expedition bike or a rough-stuff tourer. The rear triangle has eyelets too, and the chainstays are long enough to accommodate larger panniers, while a rear rack should just clear the rear disc calliper.

The hydraulic disc brakes are entry-level and have a fairly wooden feel through the lever. Outright stopping power is excellent though, and is unaffected by rain, snow or mud on the rims. Disc brakes can make a bike more attractive to thieves when it’s parked in town. Marin are wise to this and have fitted the wheels with pentagonal-headed security skewers. It’s a great idea that we wish more town bikes emulated.

In town, or at least on tarmac, is where the Point Reyes is most at home. While its wide riser handlebar is a core off-road component, usefully boosting control on rough surfaces at the cost of a wing mirror-clipping, wind-catching, wide-shouldered stance in traffic, the short fork really isn’t suitable for any off-road drama. You’re denied the shock-absorbing airspace of a really fat tyre and the nose-down frame geometry is too nervous. It rides fine on the road even so.

The chunky-for-tarmac tyres, big wheels and generous wheelbase provide comfort and round off the sharp edges of the frame angle issues. The gears are a good fit for a commuter/tourer/mountain bike. A 48/36/26 trekking triple is a halfway house between a road and mountain bike triple, and with an 11-32 cassette gives you enough gears for any occasion. A 12-36 would be better yet, particularly with luggage or if you’ll be heading off-road often. As it stands though, you probably won’t be.

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