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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
|Price||AUD $899.00GBP £525.00USD $630.00|
|Available sizes||S, M 27.5, M29, L, XL|
|Tyres||Unbranded tan-wall, 29x2.25in|
|Rear derailleur||Shimano Altus (2x8)|
|Bottom bracket||Square taper|
|Frame||6061 aluminium alloy|
|Fork||SR Suntour XCM32 HLO, 120mm (4.7in) travel|
|Cranks||Shimano M315, 22/36t|
|Brakes||Tektro M275, 180/160mm rotors|
|Wheels||Marin double-wall rims, Forged alloy hubs|