The hardcore hardtail is a tough nut to crack, but the Rocky Ridge looks pretty good on paper. It's designed to be the bike for hardtail fans who want to ride gnarly trails – and we couldn’t wait to get out for a spin.
Frame and equipment: comprehensively kitted
The 6061 alloy frame features everything you’d expect on a hardcore full-sus, minus the rear suspension. It’s been designed specifically for 650b wheels, has a tapered head tube to keep steering precise and a 142x12mm axle to boost rear end stiffness, plus internal cable routing for a ‘stealth’ dropper – though it comes with an externally routed KS post.
It’s good to see a dropper seatpost fitted as standard
The 7.6 has a tidy spec list that goes some way towards justifying the high price tag. A RockShox Revelation RL fork sits up front, and the KS post makes it easy to get the saddle out of the way in the rough. Avid Elixir 7 Trail brakes are powerful, reliable stoppers, and SRAM’s X9 Type 2 derailleur keeps the chain quiet. Performance compound Schwalbe Nobby Nic rubber wraps around 21mm Alex rims, laced to Formula hubs.
Ride and handling: can get sketchy at speed
At slower speeds on flatter trails the Rocky Ridge is a good laugh, with superfast handling. The 420mm chainstays are extremely short for a 650b frame, making it easy to pick up the front end and wheelie or manual for as long as you can hold it, and the rear end is super stiff, with no flex anywhere, ever. The RockShox Revelation is a decent fork too, with a sensitive start to its stroke and predictable damping throughout, though it can be caught out when pushing hard.
The problems start when the pace picks up. The Marin’s short top tube (585mm on the medium frame) and wheelbase (1,105mm) feel OK initially, but when you start pushing the Rocky Ridge harder they make it feel unstable and difficult to control at speed.
The stiff, short rear makes popping up the front end a cinch
The slack seat tube gives a long effective top tube length, which in theory should be good for climbing. But when the saddle is raised you’re sat almost over the rear axle, making it hard to keep the front end on terra firma up steep hills. That’s assuming you can sit down – the single-ring drivetrain and gear ratios mean you’ll probably be stood up if the incline is steep, cranking in first gear to make it up the hill.
Point the Rocky Ridge back down the hill and the Marin’s short wheelbase and steep 68-degree head angle mean you’ll quickly hit the speed limiter. Go too fast and the instability created by the frame geometry makes you feel more nervous on the bike, rather than having fun.
The bike has had a lot of good things said about it in the US, but Marin acknowledges the potential problems riders could experience on more technical trails such as those found in the UK. They’ve taken our feedback on board ready for a redesign for 2016, though the frame will stay the same for 2015.