Marin Gestalt X custom build long-term review

Alex is hoping he's built the ultimate hassle-free commuter bike to get him to and from work that’s comfortable, practical, light and durable

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
Marin Gestalt gravel bike

Our review

This is an initial score and could change as I spend more time on the bike
Pros: Amazing versatility; striking looks; a review-proven frame
Cons: Can be a pain building a bike from scratch
Skip to view product specifications

Everyone’s got an idea about what a bike should do for them, and I’d happily bet my bottom dollar that no other brief will be identical because a person’s needs are entirely individual.

Advertisement

The observant among you will notice that this Marin Gestalt has quite a special spec, not because it’s dripping in exotica, but because I’ve blended components and parts that you don’t normally see together.

That’s because my brief is rather specific, quite niche in fact. After commuting to and from work on my 40-mile round trip for the last four years, I’ve developed a list of things that I think a bike should do.

In no particular order, I want my bike to: be comfortable; be virtually maintenance-free but easy to maintain when it does go wrong; protect me from mud and water; carry my luggage; have on-board tools; never get punctures, and finally, be light.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Yes, those are flat pedals.
Alex Evans

Now, that’s quite a challenging list and, after browsing the web, it became apparent that most stock bikes offered by manufacturers don’t quite tick all of the boxes.

This realisation has led me down the path to creating a bike that’s totally bespoke – paint job included – with a frame that’s fitted out with parts that I know can stand up to the abuse of my daily commute.

Marin Gestalt custom build specification and details

So what parts did I choose to put on the Gestalt and for what reasons?

Marin Gestalt frameset

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Fully loaded there’s quite a bit of weight behind the rider.
Alex Evans

One of my biggest surprises of 2019 was when Marin’s John Oldale asked me what my favourite colours are and I reeled off my preferred swatches: Volkswagen’s ‘Stone Blue’ and RockShox’ ‘Cherry Red’ – last seen on Boxxer Pro forks in 2001 and 2002.

At the time, I didn’t know why he was asking, buts it turns out, these were going to be the colours of my new bike.

Thankfully, when mated together, the red and blue fade looks absolutely fantastic on my custom-painted 2020 Marin Gestalt frame.

The Gestalt frameset is a preferred choice of mine, having clocked up just under 18,000km on my 2017 Gestalt 3, so I didn’t hesitate to use this special, one-off frame as a base for my mega commuter.

While the frame’s colour is special, the geometry and construction is shared with the Marin Gestalt X11 that Warren Rossiter reviewed back in 2019, awarding it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

SRAM Force 1 groupset

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The brakes have reach adjust.
Alex Evans

The bike this one is replacing is kitted out with a SRAM Rival groupset and has impressed me with its reliability. So, when it came to choosing a group for this bike, SRAM was my first thought, and I chose the Force 1 11-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset.

After almost 18,000km, that original SRAM Rival groupset still has its original derailleur, chainring and brakes, and I haven’t had to bleed them yet – apologies to SRAM’s official maintenance schedule!

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
SRAM’s Force 1 mech is a true performer.
Alex Evans

At around 10,000km I had to replace the cassette, chain and bottom bracket, but the parts have been faultless and have worked through sun, wind, rain, hail, snow and ice without a single problem.

It’s this reliability I’m after on my 2020 bike and SRAM’s Force 1 11-speed groupset should provide it and save a few crucial grams too compared to the lower-specced Rival.

  • €1,099.15

Zipp 30 Course disc brake clincher wheels

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The Zipp hubs make a delightful tick when you’re freewheeling.
Alex Evans

The wheels were also an obvious choice for me because I didn’t want to compromise the bike’s comfort with harsh, rigid carbon wheels, nor choose anything too heavy.

The alloy construction and tubeless-ready rims on Zipp’s 30 Course wheels meant they were high on my list of potentials. But what sealed the deal was being able to run them with tubes if there’s a puncture; the wide rim bed that spreads the tyre’s profile and can mean lower pressures; improved comfort; and relatively low weight at 1,652g.

The price for a pair is £800.

Schwalbe Marathon 35C tyres

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The Marathon tyres are weighty but feel virtually impenetrable.
Alex Evans

As a person who thoroughly despises stripping off knuckle skin, getting ingrained dirt on their hands, ripping nails off and developing a sweaty brow from mechanic-based frustration, I wanted a set of tyres that made the chances of ever getting a puncture virtually zero.

After a plague of punctures during the winter months on my previous bike, I ended up switching the lighter tyres to Schwalbe’s Marathons and haven’t suffered a single puncture since.

Thanks to their tough casing and a puncture-resistant strip, I know they’ll help me navigate the slop-, stone- and thorn-ridden Somerset country lanes without any drama.

  • £31.99 (each)

Enve bar, stem and seatpost

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The bars are wide and feel great!
Alex Evans

Once the bike was fully fitted with the weighty Schwalbe Marathon tyres, I thought it was time to reclaim a few grams. So the bar, stem and seatpost seemed like an obvious place to do that.

I went for an Enve G Series gravel handlebar and, being accustomed to wide mountain bike bars and having long arms, chose the 46cm wide version. The width should also help with controlling the bike on the often crazy, bumpy and potholed country lanes I travel on.

To top it off, the bars are claimed to be pretty compliant, which should help to improve the bike’s comfort. They weigh 250g on our scales.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Enve’s Road Stem can be run either way up, depending on whether you want a small drop or rise.
Alex Evans

While browsing Enve’s website, its Road Stem in 90mm (127g) and Seatpost in 400mm (204g, uncut) caught my eye. These lighter weight parts should offer similar performance to the bars, so I jumped at the opportunity to bolt them to my bike, topping off a full house of Enve parts.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
I had to cut down the Enve post but it was an easy process.
Alex Evans
  • Enve G Series handlebar: £340
  • Enve 400mm Seatpost: £270
  • Enve Road Stem: £260

Velo Orange 700c Facetted Fenders 45mm

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The Facetted Fenders have a classic look.
Alex Evans

Mudguards are a revelation, and for anyone who’s never used them you really don’t know what you’re missing.

This rather fancy-looking set of Velo Orange 700c Facetted Fenders hark back to an old French design and should help keep me from getting covered in mud, slop and water.

The two-bolt ‘stay to ‘guard fastening design should mean they’re mega secure when I’m steaming along bumpy lanes and I’m truly hopeful they’ll be quiet and not rattle at all.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The twin nut attachment helps to keep the ‘guards stable.
Alex Evans

The mudguards come supplied with everything you need to get them fitted to your bike, but you will need to drill one hole in the rear ‘guard to match up with the bolt at the bottom bracket/chainstay junction.

I chose the 45mm fender on Velo Orange’s recommendation to give enough space for the Schwalbe Marathon tyres.

  • $76 (pair)

Passport Sport Rack pannier rack

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The pannier rack’s suitable for two pannier bags with enough space for items on top.
Alex Evans

Having worn a backpack that’s been full to the brim with food, clothes and a laptop on those many, many kilometres of commuting, I can happily confirm it sucks.

A backpack gives you a sweaty back, can rock around when pedalling hard and destroys technical fabrics such as Gore’s Windstopper or Shakedry.

So, I decided I’d fit a pannier rack and panniers, but in a bid to save weight, I needed to find a light rack.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
There’s a mount for a rear light on the pannier rack for when you load the top of the pannier with bags or stuff that obscures your seatpost light.
Alex Evans

Passport’s Sport Rack is made from an aluminium alloy, weighs 534g and costs £39.99.

It’s got a light mount on the rear in case your luggage is high and obscures your seatpost-mounted light, and has plenty of adjustment for a wide range of frames.

Like the mudguards, it came supplied with all of the parts needed to get it bolted on to the bike and didn’t prove to be especially challenging to mount.

Ortlieb Back-Roller Urban Line

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The panniers are fully waterproof and the quick-release mechanism makes them easy to attach and remove.
Alex Evans

To go with my lovely pannier rack, I needed some panniers and looked to Ortlieb.

The bags are waterproof, voluminous, discrete-looking with a reflective patch and have a quick-release removal system However, they are quite weighty at 821g each.

A single bag is big enough to fit in my laptop, a lunchbox and clothing in, and a second one can be used when I’m lugging other items to and from the office.

  • £59.99 (each)

Accessories and finishing kit

Topping off the bike is Fizik’s Terra Microtex Bondcrush bar tape that’s designed for off-road applications such as gravel riding.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
SQlab’s Ergolux saddle certainly looks funky and I’ve found it to be exceptionally comfortable.
Alex Evans

I’ve fitted an SQlab 610 Ergolux Active 2.0 saddle after having great success with one on my mountain bike.

I’ve got a Fabric tool keg that houses a multi-tool, a puncture repair kit, tyre levers and a spare tube – just in case.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Fabric’s tool keg has become one of my road riding essentials, stashing away my tube, puncture repair kit, tyre levers and basic tools.
Alex Evans

There’s also a Lezyne Carbon Drive HP onboard pump that’s ultra-lightweight at 83g and should get me out of a spot of bother if the worst happens. Plus it looks awesome!

  • Fizik Terra Microtex Bondcrush bar tape: €37.90
  • SQlab 610 Ergolux Active 2.0 saddle: €129.95
  • Fabric Cageless Tool Keg: £17.99
  • Lezyne Carbon Drive HP pump: £90

Marin Gestalt custom build geometry

The Gestalt has fairly relaxed geometry, making it ideal for those looking to get wild or go fast on- and off-road. This means that I should be able to hammer down the lanes without the bike getting twitchy or nervous.

Warren found this to be true when he tested a Gestalt in 2019, so I’m hopeful that this is the right bike for my, at times, fraught commutes.

  • Head angle: 71 degrees
  • Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
  • Chainstay: 415mm / 16.33in
  • Seat tube: 490cm / 19.29in
  • Top tube: 545mm / 21.45in
  • Head tube: 150mm / 5.9in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 80mm / 3.14in
  • Wheelbase: 1,005.4mm / 39.58in
  • Stack: 578.8mm / 22.78in
  • Reach: 373.5cm / 14.7in

Why did I choose this bike?

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
I think the bike looks great, but then I am biased.
Alex Evans

The custom colour scheme, mish-mash of niche components rarely seen together, practical touches such as the tool keg, pump and panniers, and the mudguards make this my dream commuter.

The bike’s components have a proven track record from previous mega mile commutes in providing reliable performance, and that’s really one of my main requirements for this bike.

Marin Gestalt custom build initial setup

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Mudguard fitment can be tricky, but once you’ve got it right it sure looks good!
Alex Evans

I started by building the frame up from scratch with the variety of components I’d ordered in – being careful to triple check compatibility to avoid any unexpected surprises.

The eagle-eyed among you will notice that I’ve ignored the frame’s potential for internally-routing cables, which is a choice I make on most of my bikes, where possible.

It means replacing gear cables is child’s play; simply snipping zip-ties and re-fitting a single length outer is easy and gear cable change intervals are longer because the inner cable is covered its full length from shifter to mech.

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
The Force 1 calipers provide plenty of power.
Alex Evans

Likewise, if a hose gets slit or the brakes need replacing then they’re easy to fit and remove.

I’ll admit that it might not look the prettiest, but it’s certainly practical.

Marin Gestalt custom build ride impressions

Marin Gestalt gravel bike
Fully racked up! The pannier rack is easy to remove, you just need to undo four bolts.
Alex Evans

I’ve not got out for a proper spin on the bike yet, but first car park based impressions are positive.

The mudguards don’t rattle, the brakes feel awesome and everything was easy to get set up. I’ll report back with more impressions soon.

Marin Gestalt custom build upgrades

Upgrading the Gestalt is going to be tricky – especially as I’ve openly admitted this is almost my perfect build – so instead I’ll try and comment on the bike’s longevity and performance over time, airing any issues that need resolving with replacement parts.

Advertisement

That said, if a lighter pannier rack becomes available, I’ll happily bolt it on!

Product Specifications

Product

Weight 11.1kg (54) – 54cm size, without pedals, pannier bags and tool keg
What we tested Marin Gestalt custom build
Year 2020
Brand Marin

Features

Available sizes 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60
Headset Marin
Tyres Schwalbe Marathon 700X35C
Stem Enve Road Stem (90mm)
Shifter SRAM Force 1 11-speed
Seatpost Enve Seatpost (400mm)
Saddle SQlab 610 Ergolux Active 2.0
Rear derailleur SRAM Force 1 11-speed
Handlebar Enve G Series Gravel Bar (46cm)
Bottom bracket SRAM GXP
Grips/Tape Fizik Terra Microtex Bondcrush
Frame Marin Gestalt
Fork Marin full carbon with 12mm axle, flat disc mount
Cranks SRAM Force 1 42t (1×11)
Chain SRAM PC 1170
Cassette SRAM XG 1175 10-42t
Brakes SRAM Force 1 with 160/160mm rotors
Wheels Zipp Course 30 Disc clincher wheelset with SRAM XD driver