Marin Alpine Trail 7 first ride review£2,000.00

A new big travel 29er emerges from the San Fran hills

Longer travel big wheelers are all the rage in the MTB world right now. Latest to join the party is Marin with its 160mm front/150mm rear, 29er Alpine Trail. In the Californian brand’s line-up, this versatile all-rounder sits between the Wolf Ridge and 27.5in Attack Trail. In Marin’s own words, it’s been designed for “big all-mountain days, gravity-fuelled downhill and for when short travel just won’t cut it”.

Marin Alpine Trail 7 specification

  • Frame: Aluminum — Hydroformed tubing
  • Fork: Rock Shox Yari RC
  • Rear shock: X-Fusion 02 PRO RXC
  • Drivetrain: Shimano
  • Brakes: Tektro 4 piston Slate T4

Marin Alpine Trail frame

The Alpine Trail’s appearance follows the same basic arrangement as the B-17 or Rift Zone. It’s a Series 4, rather than 3, aluminum frame though, which in Marin’s vocabulary means hydroformed tubes, forged dropouts, internal routing and generally more refinement than its more affordable Series 3 offerings.

At the heart of the bike is Marin’s MultiTrac suspension system, which promises to deliver 150mm of supple, yet supportive travel, with minimal sacrifices to pedal efficiency.

The better spec'd model in the range, the Alpine Trail 8 is sprung with Fox Performance kit and driven forward by Sram's GX Eagle
The better spec'd model in the range, the Alpine Trail 8 is sprung with Fox Performance kit and driven forward by Sram's GX Eagle

There are two bikes in the Alpine Trail range and both come spec’d with metric-sized, trunnion-mounted air shocks, but apparently the frame’s leverage rate works equally well with a coil. In fact, while I was out in Les Gets, France, testing the bike, I rode with Marin Product Manager Matthew Cipes, who raved about the performance of the Cane Creek DB coil on his personal ride.

Marin says it's taken a hard look at geometry trends and the result is a machine that is slack and long, but not to crazy degrees, and still retains a poppy, fun feel.

Reach measurements of 465mm on the Large and 490mm on the XL, feel like they’re in the right ballpark for me, but very tall riders might disagree. The headangle is slack at 65 degrees and the seat tube leans on the steeper side at 76 degrees, to aid climbing.

Hydroformed tubing, forged sections and internal routing are three characteristics of Marin's Series 4 aluminium frames
Hydroformed tubing, forged sections and internal routing are three characteristics of Marin's Series 4 aluminium frames

The bottom bracket is low slung with 35mm of drop and the chainstays are short at 430mm. Standover height and dropper-post compatibility have been key criteria for Marin and I see low seat-tube heights across the size range, but deep seat-tube bores, allowing riders to run long travel dropper posts (a 160mm KS Lev Integra post is spec’d on all but the smallest size of Alpine Trail 8).

To increase stiffness and keep the suspension tracking straight, the rocker link is a forged-and-welded two-piece construction and further stiffness is added by using oversized bearings in the dropout pivot. These features negate the need for a seatstay bridge, allowing for a shorter rear end and clearance for 29x2.6in tyres.

Marin Alpine Trail models

Marin is offering the Alpine Trail in two options — the competitively priced 7, which retails for £2,000/ $2749/ €2,699 and the more luxurious 8, which will set you back £3,000/ $3,699/ €3,599. Both are expected to be available in late summer this year.

Key components of the 8 are a Fox 36 Float Performance fork, a Fox Float DPX2 Performance shock, SRAM’s new NX Eagle drivetrain and four piston Tektro Slate T4 brakes. An 800mm wide Deity Blacklabel bar and 35mm Copperhead stem finish off the build.

Reliable shifting with a decent gear range, thanks to a combo of Shimano SLX and e-thirteen parts
Reliable shifting with a decent gear range, thanks to a combo of Shimano SLX and e-thirteen parts

The 7 saves on cost with a Rock Shox Yari RC fork, an X-Fusion 02 PRO RXC shock and matching Manic dropper post. Drivetrain is Shimano’s SLX line-up, but use of an e-thirteen cassette with XD driver still facilities a wide gear range. The Deity kit is replaced with Marin’s own brand bar and stem, but in use, I couldn’t find fault with this combo.

Alpine Trail 7 first ride impressions

Jumping on the Alpine Trail 7 and diving into the rough chatter of Les Gets Bike Park, I was instantly impressed by how capable this bike felt. Its proportions make it easy to ride and there are no bizarre quirks to get your head around.

I ran 19mm of sag in the X-Fusion rear shock and 18% sag in the fork, which gave a balanced, supple feel and only on a couple of bigger hits did I fully blow through the travel. Saying this, some further testing on more familiar trails is definitely required to pinpoint the positives and negatives of the suspension.

Surprisingly, given that this bike costs just over two grand and I was taking on some pretty aggressive trails, I didn’t really encounter any scenarios where I felt held back by the more affordable kit list. 

The Alpine Trail's geometry makes it easy to corner aggresively
The Alpine Trail's geometry makes it easy to corner aggresively

The Tektro brakes, while not quite on a level, in terms of feel, with SRAM’s Guide or Shimano’s XT, delivered good power, even on prolonged runs (something that was definitely helped by the 203mm rotor out front).

First impression of the Vee Tire Flow Snap rubber seemed good, but it’s difficult to make a full judgment, having only ridden them in optimal conditions. Later in the day, after the chairlifts shut, I took the Alpine Trail on a big haul up into the environment it’s named after. I was particularly impressed by the minimal pedal bob, which allowed me to run the shock in the open setting and reap the benefits of more traction.

Marin Alpine Trail 7 early verdict

From only a short time on the bike, it seems to me that Marin has created a pretty adept big wheeler that ticks all the boxes. It’s a good sign when you can rip bike park turns in the morning and head off on a high-altitude epic in the afternoon, all without changing a setting.

I'm looking forward to spending some more time on this bike on my home trail, so look out for a more in-depth review coming soon…

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