Marin’s Bobcat Trail is based around a well-designed, lightweight frame that makes it easy to overlook its OK rather than amazing spec, once you’ve switched to a wider bar.
The Marin has a 44mm head tube fitted with an internal lower bearing, but you can swap this for an external bearing if you want to upgrade the fork.
The large-diameter tubes are extensively pressure shaped, with a curved head on the D-section down tube and an early taper on the triangular top tube.
Long (445mm) and relatively slim A-frame chainstays snake subtly to give good tyre and crank clearance before ending at old-fashioned 135mm QR dropouts and an IS brake mount.
The seatstays are snaked and cross-braced too, and join the seat tube lower than the top tube. They also have rack mount points, which match with those on the dropouts for secure cargo-carrying duties.
There are cable guides for a front mech if you want to go twin-ring, and you also get two sets of bottle cage bosses. The seat tube bottle mounts limit how far you can drop the rigid seatpost, though.
There’s no internal dropper post routing, but there are cable guides for an external post. The 27.2mm seat tube limits dropper upgrade options (most are 30.9 or 31.6mm in diameter) but is designed to improve comfort by allowing use of a skinnier, flexier seatpost.
Overall weight is good considering some of the kit fitted, suggesting an impressively low frame weight.
Marin Bobcat Trail 5 kit
Marin got on the 1x bandwagon early so it’s no surprise to see an unbranded but functional single crankset powering a mixed Shimano/SunRace/KMC 10-speed transmission.
Shimano also supplies the basic M365/315 brakes, which get an upsized 180mm front rotor for 20 percent more bite.
The 720mm bar is narrow for a trail bike, the 60mm stem is fairly long and the push-fit grips are less secure than lock-ons in the wet.
Mid-width 27mm rims provide decent support for the Schwalbe Tough Tom tyres.
The RockShox Recon fork is a basic TK model with simple damping circuitry, and a coil rather than air spring and a heavy steel, not alloy, steerer tube. It also has a QR axle, which has stiffness and upgrade implications.
Marin Bobcat Trail 5 ride
It’s not the fork or basic tyres that impact most on the Bobcat’s ride, it’s the bar width. There’s just not enough leverage to muscle the reasonably long reach and relaxed handling around in a suitably aggro manner.
The stem could also do with being shorter, to speed up the steering. When I swapped a 760mm bar and 35mm stem onto the Marin, it suddenly came alive. Buying a new bar and stem won’t cost a fortune, and otherwise it’s an enjoyable all-rounder.
The 29in wheels are light enough to spin up to speed without too much effort, and while they thunk around over stuff rather than flowing effortlessly, they carry speed well enough over rough sections.
A tubeless tyre upgrade would unlock a lot more flow at a relatively reasonable price, but don’t expect feather-bed miracles, as the Bobcat is fundamentally quite a firm and unforgiving ride when you start ploughing through bigger stuff.
The upside is plenty of precision and authority, which helps you pilot the gaggle of compromised componentry through trouble.
The spring rate of the Marin's RockShox Recon is acceptable for medium-sized riders riding medium-sized terrain. The 100mm-travel stroke does get overwhelmed relatively easily in more challenging situations, but the Bobcat Trail’s seat angle is steep enough that the geometry will be okay if you stick a 120mm fork in instead.
In short, it needs a bit of work to get the best from it, but the Marin 29er is still fun on the trails.