Marin’s B17 is one of the few remaining plus-tyred trail bikes out there it seems, perhaps a sign that the plus ‘thing’ didn’t quite take off as was expected — especially in the highly competitive mid-range trail bike market (arguably it still has its place in the hardtail world, and on e-MTBs). And, it’s fair to say that it is the tyres on the B17 that hold the bike back, as otherwise, it’s a truly sorted package.
- The Marin B17 3 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2018. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women's bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
The 120mm suspension frame’s shape is pretty much average in terms of tube lengths and angles, with a centred, well-balanced alloy frame that sits you nicely between the wheels, relatively low down for a confident, stable bike.
The reach for a size large is 456mm, while the chainstays are 435mm. The head angle is 67 degrees and the effective seat angle 73.4. While none of these figures push any boundaries, they’re in the ball-park with the rest of the bikes tested in Bike of the Year 2018. However, it’s the bottom bracket height of 323mm (35mm drop) where the Marin stands out, being pretty much the lowest of the 2018 BOTY cohort.
This is combined with a suspension linkage that’s just what I look for from a trail bike. At the start of its stroke, the suspension is soft and supple, but it ramps up nicely through its mid-stroke in to a nicely progressive finish.
The supple start of the stroke gives traction and control on less lumpy terrain, tracking the ground nicely boosting grip and control. The progressivity through its stroke confidently deals with bigger hits deep into the travel, but adds stability through the mid, allowing you to pump the bike through terrain and keeping the bike propped up in high-compression corners.
The suspension is controlled by a top-level RockShox Super Deluxe RCT3 shock — its piggyback design meaning consistent feel even on longer descents as there’s more oil to circulate around. On longer descents this means the oil temperature remains more stable, so the damping characteristics of the shock stay the same.
Marin has generally nailed the component package — a RockShox Pike RC with 130mm of travel controls the front, while SRAM’s GX Eagle is as good as you could wish for on a bike at this price point.
It comes with the slightly heavier duty Descendant alloy crank with a speed-friendly 34t chainring — the 34:50 smallest gear ratio should be low enough to winch up most hills, but if you live in a particularly steep area, swapping to a 30t or 32t is a relatively quick and easy job.
Shimano’s Deore brakes might be a touch wooden, but they’re reliable stoppers, so give little to complain about. Popping the 180mm rotor from the front wheel on to the back wheel and adding a new 200mm rotor to the front wouldn’t go amiss for faster or heavier riders, just to make the most of the power on offer from the Deore calipers.
The Deity cockpit looks good, though the Skyline 787mm bar has a slightly odd-feeling sweep and the boxy stem makes the front end feel a touch harsh on rockier trails. The bike rolls on Stans’ Major S1 rims with a wide 38mm internal width, built around Formula hubs.
My test bike came with VeeTire Crown Gem tyres, which I wasn’t overly sold on — they’re noisy, reasonably fast rolling, but didn’t offer the grip I was quite looking for.
Marin spec WTB Ranger 2.8in tyres, with the Tough/Fast compound. This is a tougher tyre, though with a harder compound that doesn’t have the same level of grip that the softer version has. While I didn’t get to test the bike with these tyres, I’d probably budget for a pair of Maxxis Minion plus tyres to make the most out of the plus-package, or sling in a pair of 29er wheels, as I did as an experiment during testing.
The result of that was a bike that benefited from the roll-over potential of the bigger wheels, without the sluggish feel of the chunky rubber. If it came like this out of the box, it would be challenging for a higher score, and would in effect be a higher-spec Rift Zone.
If you're looking for alternative options, have a look at the following list. Each bike has been thoroughly tested and robustly reviewed. Click on the links for the full review.
- YT Jeffsy 29 CF
- Norco Sight A2 29
- Trek Fuel EX 8 29
- Canyon Spectral CF 9.0
- Orbea Occam TR H10
- Transition Scout NX
- Commencal Meda TR V4.2 Essential
- Santa Cruz Tallboy Alloy R
- Juliana Joplin R
- Specialized Rhyme Carbon Comp 6Fattie
- Canyon Spectral WMN CF 9.0 SL
- Yeti Beti SB5 C-Series XT
- Scott Contessa Spark 910