Marin County, California holds a special place in the mind of anyone either old enough to remember the birth of mountain biking, or who knows their history.
The eponymous brand has long been respected among the off-road fraternity, though forays into skinnier rubber and drop bars have been surprisingly few. But Marin’s Italian-monikered cyclocross machines might just go some way to reversing the trend.
The chainstays start off horizontally before kicking up at the dropouts
At first glance, the Cortina has a straightforward design, the bare unidirectional (UD) carbon and glossy finish masking the tube’s subtle shape shifts.
There’s a tapered head tube, beefy carbon fork with tapered alloy steerer, triangulations in the top and down tube, bandy-legged seatstays that are flattened and become a split monostay, and chainstays that remain horizontal and flip up to meet the dropouts, maximising chain clearance. All cable routing aside from the front brake hose is internal for clean lines, and there are mudguard mounts.
Brisk but a little hefty
After some road rides to bed in the brake pads, the Cortina began to show its character. The intermediate tread pattern of Conti’s rubber allowed us to roll quickly with minimal buzz, and rising from the saddle to lean on the pedals was rewarded with brisk acceleration and a good, solid feeling from the cockpit.
Off road, we appreciated the little extra volume of the 35mm tyres as we threaded a line between rocks and mud. Handling was quick thanks to the short stem and rigid front end, and there was good traction on everything short of deep mud.
The standard cyclocross gearing should cover all on- and off-road needs
The 46/36, 11-28 gearing covers most off-road needs, and won’t short-change you on the road, and Shimano’s hydraulic discs have ample power and great control.
Fun as the Cortina is, it carries a bit more weight than we’d like for the price. Whether partly due to heft or layup, we found the bike better on the road or on relatively consistent gravel, as constant bumps were quite jarring.
An alloy steerer, non-series crankset and bombproof tubeless-compatible, but weighty wheels join the own brand finishing kit in adding mass. Of itself this doesn’t spoil the ride, but with some serious competition around, you’ll need to be a big Marin fan who isn’t going racing to fire up this particular Cortina.