Marin Cortina T3 CX review

Legendary MTB marque takes a cyclocross detour

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
GBP £2,500.00 RRP | USD $2,549.00

Our review

A taut and engaging ride, but the Cortina is light on spec and true off-road performance
Buy if, You’re looking for an all-weather carbon-framed machine to combine tarmac and off-road routes
Pros: Responsive frame, brakes, gearing
Cons: Weight, price, rough-stuff performance
Skip to view product specifications

Marin County, California holds a special place in the mind of anyone either old enough to remember the birth of mountain biking, or who knows their history.

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Drop-barred rarity

The eponymous brand has long been respected among the off-road fraternity, though forays into skinnier rubber and drop bars have been surprisingly few. But Marin’s Italian-monikered cyclocross machines might just go some way to reversing the trend.

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The chainstays start off horizontally before kicking up at the dropouts, keeping the driveside stay clear of the chain: the chainstays start off horizontally before kicking up at the dropouts, keeping the driveside stay clear of the chain

The chainstays start off horizontally before kicking up at the dropouts

At first glance, the Cortina has a straightforward design, the bare unidirectional (UD) carbon and glossy finish masking the tube’s subtle shape shifts.

Related: The best cyclocross bikes (US / Aus) / The best cyclocross bikes (UK)

There’s a tapered head tube, beefy carbon fork with tapered alloy steerer, triangulations in the top and down tube, bandy-legged seatstays that are flattened and become a split monostay, and chainstays that remain horizontal and flip up to meet the dropouts, maximising chain clearance. All cable routing aside from the front brake hose is internal for clean lines, and there are mudguard mounts.

Brisk but a little hefty

After some road rides to bed in the brake pads, the Cortina began to show its character. The intermediate tread pattern of Conti’s rubber allowed us to roll quickly with minimal buzz, and rising from the saddle to lean on the pedals was rewarded with brisk acceleration and a good, solid feeling from the cockpit.

Off road, we appreciated the little extra volume of the 35mm tyres as we threaded a line between rocks and mud. Handling was quick thanks to the short stem and rigid front end, and there was good traction on everything short of deep mud.

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The standard cyclocross gearing should cover all on- and off-road needs: the standard cyclocross gearing should cover all on- and off-road needs

The standard cyclocross gearing should cover all on- and off-road needs

The 46/36, 11-28 gearing covers most off-road needs, and won’t short-change you on the road, and Shimano’s hydraulic discs have ample power and great control.

Fun as the Cortina is, it carries a bit more weight than we’d like for the price. Whether partly due to heft or layup, we found the bike better on the road or on relatively consistent gravel, as constant bumps were quite jarring.

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An alloy steerer, non-series crankset and bombproof tubeless-compatible, but weighty wheels join the own brand finishing kit in adding mass. Of itself this doesn’t spoil the ride, but with some serious competition around, you’ll need to be a big Marin fan who isn’t going racing to fire up this particular Cortina.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Cortina T3 CX
Brand Marin

Available Sizes 49cm 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Rims WTB Frequency Race i19 TCS
Wheelbase (cm) 101.4
Standover Height (cm) 79.1
Seat Tube (cm) 54
Chainstays (cm) 43.2
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 27.8
Stem Marin alloy
Shifters Shimano RS685
Seatpost Marin alloy
Seat Angle 73.5
Saddle Concept
Rear Tyre Continental Cyclocross Race 35mm
Brakes Shimano BR785 hydraulic disc, 160mm Shimano disc rotors
Rear Hub Marin DiscLite
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
Head Angle 72
Handlebar Marin alloy
Front Tyre Continental Cyclocross Race 35mm
Front Hub Marin DiscLite
Front Derailleur Shimano 105
Frame Material T3 Unidirectional Carbon
Fork Marin CX carbon disc with alloy steerer
Cranks Shimano RS500, 46/36T
Frame size tested 54cm