Marin touts the Hawk Hill as its most playful trail bike and it’s easy to see why.
The short-travel rig feels reactive and nimble, and on one of my testing days at a berm-packed spot with jumps, it absolutely bossed it.
Being a 650b-wheeler partially explains this, but there’s way more to the US brand’s bike than just smaller hoops.
Marin Hawk Hill 1 frame
The butted 6061 aluminium frame is relatively up to date, with mostly internal cable routing, a low-slung top tube and a small rocker link driving a vertically-orientated shock.
RockShox’ latest Recon fork offers 10mm more bounce than the 120mm rear end. Boost spacing out back potentially adds wheel stiffness and security (although a skinny hybrid quick-release axle arrangement doesn’t maximise this).
It uses an X-Fusion 02 Pro shock, with a custom damper tune that plays nicely with Marin’s single-pivot MultiTrac suspension, giving a really smooth and supportive feel.
RockShox’ Recon fork is super-sensitive over bumps. Mick Kirkman
The Hawk floats over minor bumps while handling heavy loads in corners and compressions with a tactile feel, especially considering the low price.
The geometry is fairly modern, although not super-long. A stubby 35mm stem brings the handlebar closer to your lap and increases steering reactiveness.
The large size tested here has a 465mm reach and 66.5-degree head angle, but with a sub-1,200mm wheelbase it was the smallest-feeling bike on test – up against the Norco Fluid FS 3, Vitus Mythique 29 VRS and Calibre Triple B – when you’re out on the trails.
Marin Hawk Hill 1 kit
One glaring omission on the Hawk Hill is a dropper seatpost. The rigid alloy post harks back to darker times of stopping at the top and bottom of descents to adjust saddle height. On undulating terrain, this’ll get old fast, so factor in another hundred-odd quid to upgrade it.
The mostly-Shimano Deore drivetrain is lacking too, in terms of gears (just 10, spanning a SunRace cassette) and stiffness (due to the lower-tier, own-brand crankset with a hollow axle).
The Vee Crown Gem tyres flex when pushed hard and don’t have masses of edge hold. Mick Kirkman
Marin has had an issue with the rear hub coming a bit loose on some of its budget wheels, but the set on the Hawk Hill rolled fast enough on the low-profile Vee rubber and the spokes didn’t unwind or get damaged during testing.
The tyres turn over well and corner okay, but don’t have a very deep tread and can get sketchy in loose or wet conditions, or when leaning aggressively.
Marin Hawk Hill 1 ride impressions
This feisty 120mm rig goes exactly where you point it, with attitude and enthusiasm. The ride quality will suit a young (or young-at-heart) rider who likes to mess about on every little feature.
Since it turns on a penny, you can jump, flick and manual down even the mellowest trails – a huge asset when riding gentler terrain or smoother trails.
If you really open the throttle or point it down steep, hand-cut sections, the suspension remains smooth and balanced between hands and feet, but it isn’t the stiffest or most assured bike on test.
The tyres let go if you push hard, which can bite you on the backside. The same is (almost literally) true of the own-brand perch, because even after sawing the seatpost to get the saddle low enough, it’s still in the way while hanging off the back.
The Marin is definitely twitchier and nimbler than a super-long ‘plough’ bike, so it feels a bit less stable at high speeds, which is either a positive or a negative, depending on rider preference.
Slam it in and out of deep pocket corners and heavier riders will notice the frame flexes a bit too, so on top of the suspension popping you out of the apex of turns, the chassis’ springiness adds to the effect, properly firing you out.
This could be seen by some as a negative, but bouncing and wriggling around twisty trails on the Hawk Hill is actually a huge amount of fun.
Marin’s bike has zippiness when climbing or sprinting, which makes every ride fun and means there’s little of that energy-sapping feel that many budget bikes suffer from.
Marin Hawk Hill 1 geometry
Sizes (* tested): XS, S, M, L*, XL
Seat angle: 74.3 degrees
Head angle: 66.5 degrees
Chainstay: 43cm / 16.93in
Seat tube: 47cm / 18.5in
Top tube: 64.8cm / 25.51in
Head tube: 12.5cm / 4.92in
Fork offset: 4.2cm / 1.65in
Bottom bracket drop: 1.8cm / 0.71in
Bottom bracket height: 33.85cm / 13.33in
Wheelbase: 1,192mm / 46.93in
Stack: 59.73cm / 23.52in
Reach:46.5cm / 18.31
How we tested
This bike was tested as part of a four bike wallet-friendly full suspension grouptest.
With a £1,500 price point, these full-suspension bikes were tested to see which one packs the most punch for the cash.
Bikes also on test: