Marin Gestalt X custom build long-term review

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

Our rating 
4.5 out of 5 star rating 4.5
Alex Evans standing next to his long-term test bike the Marin Gestalt X custom build commuter

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.

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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 X custom build long-term review update three

Marin Gestalt X custom build road bike
The Gestalt has been sidelined for riding mountain bikes. Sorry!
Alex Evans

The last update on my Marin was written during mid-lockdown in the UK, when I was trying my hardest to avoid unnecessary contact with other folks by heading out the door on early morning rides. Since then quite a bit has changed, and not just from a lockdown perspective.

A shift in personal circumstances meant my partner and I moved to the Tweed Valley in Scotland, and we’re now lucky enough to have world-class mountain bike trails on our doorstep, rather than Somerset’s wiggly lane network.

This has meant a hefty reduction in road miles – but a corresponding increase in time on the mountain bike – and because BikeRadar’s Bristol office has been closed since March (and remains closed for a little while yet) I’ve been working from home permanently, replacing early morning road rides with early morning mountain bike rides.

The Gestalt X has, unfortunately, been collecting a different kind of dust. Previously it was from hard-baked bridleways and country lanes during early-morning missions, now it’s from sitting in the shed without moving for months at a time.

Marin Gestalt X custom build road bike
Zipp’s 30 Course wheels had been reliable until I snapped a spoke riding too aggressively on fire tracks.
Alex Evans

The few rides I have done on the Marin resulted in a snapped spoke on the rear Zipp Course 30 wheel, after getting a little over-exuberant on a forest track.

Zipp was keen to replace the rear wheel, and considering the unidentifiable creaking noise coming from the hub under power, I agreed this would be a good idea.

Swapping the rear hoop out has solved the creaking issue for the time being, but once the office reopens I’m going to be clocking up the miles on the Gestalt X again during my regular visits, so I’m intrigued to see if it returns.
Marin Gestalt X custom build road bike
Replacing the hub fixed the creaking issue, although that shouldn’t be a huge surprise!
Alex Evans

I will report back with more news soon…

Older updates continue below.

Marin Gestalt X custom build long-term review update two

Marin Gestalt X gravel bike
Dust is the sign of a good ride regardless of discipline.
Alex Evans

I consider myself to be particularly lucky because since the lockdown started in the UK, I’ve still been able to get my early morning fix of exercise on my commute.

Okay, so the commute has changed from travelling from A to B and back to A again in the evening to doing a circular loop from my front door.

Early morning starts

And in a bid to maintain my mental health by exercising, but still do my part in the fight against coronavirus, I brought forward my morning wake-up alarm to 5am so that I can get out on the bike and easily maintain the correct distance between me and strangers because there are fewer people about.

Marin Gestalt X gravel bike
The Gestalt’s been getting some serious use during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Alex Evans

I will admit to being a bit of a deviant when it comes to early mornings; the pre-breakfast and pre-dawn (until recently thanks to our longer days) rides are a complete treat.

The roads are empty and the cycle paths are deserted; my only company the birds tweeting, deer bounding across the road and little bunnies running around haphazardly, no doubt startled by my presence.

Marin Gestalt X gravel bike
The drivetrain is holding up well to punishment.
Alex Evans

Although my Gestalt X is still technically a commuter machine – because I’ve been using it to go from home to my place of work, despite that place of work being my home – I’ve temporarily removed the pannier rack to shave a bit of extra weight while I’m doing ‘proper’ rides.

The diverse commuter

Luckily, the Marin’s taken pretty much everything I can throw at it in its stride.

I’ve ridden the local lanes, bike paths, farm tracks and bridleways so much I’ve left a permanent tyre-shaped imprint on my well-trodden routes. Thank goodness for the practically puncture-proof Schwalbe Marathon tyres.

Marin Gestalt X gravel bike
Schwalbe’s Marathon tyres resist punctures like no other and are as happy on tarmac as they are on gravel tracks.
Alex Evans

What is there to report reliability-wise on the Gestalt? Well, not a great deal.

Although I have been chasing a creaking noise around the back-end of the bike that only materialises under power when climbing.

I’ve stripped, cleaned and re-greased the rear hub, bottom bracket (BB) and pedals, none of which has solved the problem. My next step is to try out another back wheel to see if the Zipp hub is creaking or whether it’s coming from the pedals or BB.

Marin Gestalt X gravel bike
Is the rear hub creaking or is the annoying noise coming from elsewhere?
Alex Evans

The process of elimination is currently held up by access to spare parts, but I’m hoping that’ll change as the lockdown restrictions begin to ease.

Until then, keep safe, healthy and happy and please do try and exercise as regularly as you can while sticking to your local government’s guidelines.

Older updates continue below.

Marin Gestalt X custom build long-term review update one

Alex Evans standing next to his long-term test bike the Marin Gestalt X custom build commuter
I was exceedingly happy to get my hands on a custom-build commuter specced to my specific requirements.
Simon Bromley

After settling into changing bikes – albeit from one Marin Gestalt to another – I’ve now managed to hone my setup.

If something works I’ve always been averse to changing it, and my old Marin was a real trooper and mega comfortable to boot. I was worried that swapping bikes would be like throwing out my trusty pair of old boots for a pair of brand-new DMs that weren’t broken in.

Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. After a few initial tweaks, such as saddle angle and height, and bar roll and hood position, I’ve managed to recreate a familiar feeling on the new Gestalt without all of the creaks, rattles and wobbly bits of a well-ridden bike.

Anti-aero

On the Gestalt’s first outing it became apparent, much to my colleague’s amusement, that the Gestalt isn’t aero. Not even the slightest bit.

Now, I was well aware the setup I’d chosen was going to force a fairly relaxed, non-aggressive stance on the bike, but not quite so much as their sharp quips suggested.

Thanks to plenty of crashes in my days as a younger lad racing downhill mountain bikes, I’ve got a bit of a dodgy back and now need a standing up desk when I drive a computer during my day job in a bid to reduce sciatic nerve pain.

Alex Evans riding his long-term test bike the Marin Gestalt X custom build commuter
Alex’s Gestalt prioritises comfort, reliability and practicality.
Simon Bromley / Immediate Media

Instantly linking my riding position on the Gestalt to my standing up desk, my new commuter became affectionately known as the ‘standing up desk of bikes’.

To be fair to my work friends, they’re bang on the money. But if we’re dishing out fairness in equal measure, the bike’s not supposed to be a time-trial winner and neither do I aspire to be one.

Comfort is the aim of the game and anything that causes me to hunch over can bring on a debilitating bout of sciatica. If that means riding upright, then I’m all game. The Gestalt seems to be the perfect partner in crime, then.

Quirks and quibbles

The rest of the bike has proven to be as reliable as I could image, so far.

The gears were a little trickier to get set up than I was hoping, though. The sensitive B tension screw (that adjusts how far away from the cassette the top jockey wheel is) can really mess things up, and even when using the dedicated SRAM tool to get it in the correct position, I couldn’t get it quite right.

This caused the gears to constantly ‘sneeze’ when pedalling. But that sound wasn’t fed back through the pedals or dodgy shifting. This made the cause of the problem quite hard to trace.

To top it off, the mech hanger was ever-so-slightly bent which, until straightened, caused havoc with the high and low gear limiter screws and cable tension.

Once all of that was sorted, keeping the bike going has been easy riding. Just the way I like it.

Christmas treats

A Marin Gestalt X Custom build road bike next to a Cannondale Synapse on Weymouth beach at sunrise
Christmas Day 2019. Weymouth beach. Bloody freezing. Moments like this would have been savoured for longer had we known what 2020 had in store for us.
Harriet Allen

Rewind back to the end of 2019 before the Gestalt was on full-time commuter duty, I went out on a lovely early morning lap to the seaside and back with my partner, Harriet.

There’s not a great deal more to that story except that it was a great ride, and thinking back to those pre-coronavirus times makes me appreciate my personal freedoms considerably more.

Here’s to hoping that the recent changes we’ve all experienced aren’t long-lasting and we can all get back to our care-free bike riding days soon.

Stay tuned for more updates and more miles on the Gestalt X custom build over the coming months.

The original story continues below

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, asking for a set of Schwalbe’s Marathons from Ison Distribution was high up my priority list.

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.

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

BikeRadar‘s 2020 long-term test bikes

At the start of the year, every member of the BikeRadar team selects a long-term test bike to ride over the course of the following 12 months. Some choose a bike from their favoured discipline and ride it hard for a year, others opt for a bike that takes them outside of their comfort zone.

Our long-term test gives us the opportunity to truly get to grips with these machines, so we can tell you how they perform through different seasons and on ever-changing terrain.

We also use them as test beds for the latest kit, chopping and changing parts to see what really makes the difference – and help you decide which upgrades are worth spending your money on.

To see all of the BikeRadar team’s 2020 bikes – and stay up-to-date with the latest developments – visit our long-term review hub.

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