Marin Bobcat Trail 3 review

It may be a stand out in the looks department but what about on the trail?

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Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £525.00 RRP | USD $630.00 | AUD $899.00
A blue Marin Bobcat Trail 3 hardtail mountain bike

Our review

A fun-to-ride, versatile bike with a good, if not exceptional, parts spec for the money
Pros: Well-built and versatile frame; brakes and drivetrain work efficiently; tyres are fast-rolling and efficient, helping on climbs
Cons: On technical or loose terrain, a burlier front tyre wouldn’t go amiss; fork feels flexy in extended 29er form without a thru-axle
Skip to view product specifications

Marin bills the Bobcat Trail as a bike ideal for exploring singletrack trails. It has a modern frame design but doesn’t feel quite as aggressive as the similarly-shaped Vitus Nucleus 29 VR, also on test, partly due to its component package.

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The ‘medium 29’, large and XL bikes get smoother-rolling 29in wheels, while the ‘medium 27.5’ and small sizes come with 650b wheels to suit shorter riders – a nice touch.

Marin Bobcat Trail 3 frame

The Bobcat Trail garnered a lot of attention thanks to its throwback looks, which are in vogue at the moment.

Its frame is neatly finished, with internal cable routing, a low standover height, a tidy chainstay-mounted rear brake and two sets of bottle bosses.

The geometry is bang on, including a decent reach (465mm on the large), 67-degree head angle, 440mm chainstays and 311mm bottom bracket height, all packaged around those bigger wheels.

On the 650b bikes, you get a steeper 67.5-degree head angle, 425mm stays and correspondingly shorter reaches.

A blue Marin Bobcat Trail 3 hardtail mountain bike
While not a performance benefit in any way, the tan-wall tyres set the Marin apart from other bikes.
Russell Burton

Marin Bobcat Trail 3 kit

It’s the unbranded tan-wall tyres that really stand out and complement the look of the bike (which is also available in black, with matching tyres). They’re reasonable performers too, with the fairly low tread pattern rolling fast on smoother surfaces and the rounded profile helping you tip the bike into corners.

Up front is the familiar Suntour XCM32 HLO coil fork, with lockout and 120mm of travel. Shimano’s Altus groupset provides most of the 2×8 drivetrain, including a 36/22t crankset, paired with an 11-34 SunRace cassette, while Tektro M275 brakes supply the stopping power.

The Marin-branded finishing kit includes a well-proportioned cockpit, made up of a short 45mm stem and 780mm-wide bar. The kit isn’t exemplary for the money, however.

Marin Bobcat Trail 3 ride impressions

With a shape very similar to the Vitus mentioned above, I expected a similar ride, but the Marin’s skinnier tyres and less sturdy fork (due to its lack of a thru-axle) make a noticeable difference. Not necessarily in a bad way, but they’re two very different bikes.

The Bobcat Trail’s fast-rolling tyres and flexy fork mean it’s better suited to longer rides, where getting the miles in is the focus, rather than aggressive trail riding in the woods. With stickier tyres and a superior fork, I feel it’d bridge the gap nicely.

Marin Bobcat Trail 3
You only get a 2×8 drivetrain, which means bigger steps between gears, but the range is reasonably broad (506 per cent) and the Shimano Altus mechs shift smoothly.
Russell Burton

It does have a well-balanced, nippy feel, giving crisp handling from turn to turn. The confidence afforded by the effective brakes boosts control when the trail gets more technical. It’s the best on test on the climbs too, both on and off-road, thanks to its roomy reach, steep 74.5-degree effective seat angle and those fast tyres.

The wide bar gives plenty of steering leverage, and the frame geometry stops the front wheel wandering on steeper pitches.

Despite its more noodly chassis, the fork worked better than the nominally-the-same units on the Voodoo and Saracen, with a much more active stroke over smaller bumps. (Although, as with all the coil forks on test, it suffered in the cold and stiffened up a touch.)

It helps give the Marin noticeably more control on rougher, looser trails – assisted by the big 29in wheels, which have more grip than 650b hoops, due to the larger contact patch of the tyres, and roll over bumps better too.

The 2x Altus drivetrain represents a step up in performance over the Saracen’s 3x version, with a smooth feel and dependable shifting, although I did drop the chain occasionally. With the seatpost at stock length, the seat tube bottle bosses prevented me dropping it as far as I wanted for descents.

Overall, the Bobcat Trail is a bike that’s well-suited to riders looking to cover plenty of ground while still having fun along the way. With a swap to slightly burlier tyres and a trimmed seatpost (which could be an issue for taller riders), it’d have plenty of trail-shredding ability, so long as you avoided overloading the fork.

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Marin Bobcat Trail 3 geometry

  • Seat angle: 74.5 degrees
  • Head angle: 67 degrees
  • Chainstay: 44cm / 17.32in
  • Seat tube: 48.2cm / 18.98in
  • Top tube: 64.1cm / 25.24in
  • Head tube: 11.5cm / 4.52in
  • Fork offset: 5.1cm / 2in
  • Bottom bracket drop: 6.1cm / 2.4in
  • Bottom bracket height: 31.15cm / 12.26in
  • Wheelbase: 1,199mm / 47.2in
  • Stack: 63.4cm / 24.96in
  • Reach: 46.5cm / 18.31in

How we tested

This bike was tested as part of a grouptest of entry-level hardtails costing around £500.

The bikes were tested on a range of loops, including fast woodland tracks with plenty of turns and jumps, and at our local trail centre.

As well as testing for comfort and looking for confidence inspiring and competent performance across the board, the bike should suit riders new to the sport but also those looking to develop their trail-shredding skills.

Bikes also on test:

Product Specifications

Product

Price AUD $899.00GBP £525.00USD $630.00
Weight 14.83kg (L)
Brand Marin

Features

Available sizes S, M 27.5, M29, L, XL
Headset FSA straight
Tyres Unbranded tan-wall, 29x2.25in
Stem Marin, 45mm
Shifter Shimano M315
Seatpost Marin
Saddle Marin MTB
Rear derailleur Shimano Altus (2x8)
Handlebar Marin, 780mm
Bottom bracket Square taper
Grips/Tape Marin
Frame 6061 aluminium alloy
Fork SR Suntour XCM32 HLO, 120mm (4.7in) travel
Cranks Shimano M315, 22/36t
Chain KMC Z51
Cassette SunRace, 11-34t
Brakes Tektro M275, 180/160mm rotors
Wheels Marin double-wall rims, Forged alloy hubs