Marin have been producing bikes with confident, skill-flattering handling for a long time.
New backing, new frames and bargain pricing now give them the performance and parts inventory to make the most of it.
- HIGHS: Seriously stiff, smooth and surefooted frame with superbike spec at a great price.
- LOWS: Flex stay suspension can get bouncy under power.
- BUY IF... You want a seriously entertaining aggro trail bike with wish-list spec for bargain money.
Ride and handling: ready to carve
While the sub-£5,000 price will undoubtedly attract a lot of interest, it was the performance that really impressed us in the desert. Like most flex stay systems the IsoTrac rear end needs extra damping to stop pedal bounce, but leaving the CTD shock in Trail fixes it.
The extra support this gives the shock showcases the outstanding stiffness of the new frame and, combined with 650b wheels running quality Schwalbe tyres on stiff carbon rims, the Marin tracks outstandingly well. The 67.5-degree head angle, long front end, low centre of gravity and short stem make it clear it's ready to carve straight away, and we wasted no time drifting it through the desert in a cloud of dust.
It's supple enough to keep washboard chatter at bay, and the linear stroke lets the piggyback shock move easily on rocky, rolling trails to keep the tyres in constant contact. There's none of the obvious tidal kickback through the pedals of older Marin bikes either, although careful pressure setting is needed to give it enough spring force to avoid an abrupt bottom out.
The 32 fork can start to feel out of its depth as the back end encourages you to plough straight through stuff. Its structural flex is balanced by phenomenally smooth glued-to-the-ground traction though, and it still punches much harder than you'd expect for its weight. The bike's overall weight makes it super responsive out of corners, and it's quick to put the hurt on others when pointed skywards.
The 650b wheels add a noticeable 'tailwind' effect on rough trails, smoothing out the lumps and ledges 26in wheels tend to stumble on and tilting the odds in your favour when it comes to tricky climbing moves or maintaining cruising speed.
We're always slightly wary of 'flex stay' bikes, and the Marin does bounce a bit under power. But outstanding frame stiffness, smooth suspension response and a killer spec make the most of the sorted geometry that Marin have been pushing for years, and makes the new Mount Vision an awesome choice for hard trail use - whether up, down or along.
Frame and equipment: XX1 and carbon wheels
There's no doubting that this is an all-new bike. Whether you opt for the full carbon frame of the top models or the alloy frames of the more affordable Mount Vision models – there are six, including a women's bike – you're getting a stoutly-tubed frame with a whole new suspension system.
Despite the costs of all this fresh engineering, Marin's new (Indonesian) owners have enough buying power to roll out this top-spec bike for a penny under five grand – that's with SRAM XX1, Kashima-coated Fox suspension and carbon wheels.
And even with a Stealth Reverb dropper post and e*thirteen chainguide it comes in under 26lb, putting it on par with some direct buy bikes – but with the advantages of shop support.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.