Marin’s resurgence is a welcome one. The US brand was at the forefront of XC full-suspension development in the late ’90s and early ’00s, as well as making some excellent hardtails, but lost its way a bit after that.
It’s now dabbling with leftfield suspension concepts once again (see the Wolf Ridge and Mount Vision), as well as producing bikes such as the Rift Zone that strike a great balance between price and performance.
Marin Rift Zone 1 frame
Foregoing fancy details such as intricate tube shapes, the no-fuss frame still has internal cable routing (with provision to add a dropper post), ISCG tabs and a Boost QR rear end (upgradable to 142 x 12mm if you want to fit a thru-axle wheel).
It uses Marin’s MultiTrac suspension platform, which is a single-pivot design with a seatstay pivot and rocker link to actuate the shock and allow some tuning of the leverage curve. The suspension feel is as good as on some bikes costing double the price, thanks in part to the frame’s kinematics, but also the shock tune.
While the geometry isn’t extreme, it works well with the big 29in wheels, even when you’re riding beyond the bike’s designed capabilities. The large size has a 460mm reach, 67.5-degree head angle and 1,178mm wheelbase, combined with a 337.5mm bottom bracket height.
While the geometry isn’t extreme, it works well with the big 29in wheels. Steve Behr
Marin Rift Zone 1 kit
The Marin has few branded components, but a big name isn’t always a solid indicator of performance, and the finishing kit is all top notch.
There’s a good, compliant feel to the 780mm bar, the 29mm (internal) rims give the Vee tyres a solid profile, and the wheels are neither too soft and twangy nor too stiff.
While the Rift Zone gets a 1x Shimano drivetrain, it’s only a 10-speed set-up, and unless you’re on your A-game or avoid steep climbs, you can find yourself running out of gears at times.
Beyond that, I had no complaints with the transmission, and it never dropped a chain. The most obvious omission here is a dropper post.
Marin Rift Zone 1 ride impressions
Whether you’re climbing, cruising along a fireroad or descending, the Rift Zone has a composed and natural feel, both when seated and standing on the pedals.
On the climbs, the rear end is firm enough under pedalling that you don’t need a lockout – which is lucky, because the shock doesn’t have one. If you’re a choppy pedaller, the back end will bob, but the inherent support the bike has is bang on.
My one complaint is that the 74.8-degree seat angle meant I had to push the saddle as far forward as possible to keep the front wheel weighted on climbs. The firm pedalling feel also comes at the sacrifice of some comfort, but as soon as you point the Marin downhill, you’ll forgive its less compliant ride right away.
Marin’s own-brand kit is sorted, so don’t let the lack of big-name parts put you off. Steve Behr
It provides exceptional control on a wide variety of terrain and even holds its own on tracks more suited to bikes with 160mm of travel or more.
The composure of the suspension combined with the bike’s Goldilocks geometry (neither too short nor too long, too steep nor too slack, but just right) makes it easy to pick lines into turns and jump over roots and holes, while focusing on having fun or going as fast as you can.
The firm-feeling suspension doesn’t translate to a rattly ride, either. In fact, the suspension isn’t reluctant to compress or absorb bumps, it just isn’t crazily supple – this is no bad thing, and I’d trade off-the-top plushness for mid- and end-stroke support any day of the week.
I did find that the Shimano M315 brakes sometimes lacked bite on prolonged descents, and I occasionally got carried away and found myself riding beyond the tyres’ limits too.
These items aren’t too much of a stretch to replace though, and the frame and shock are fantastic points to upgrade from.
Whether you’re climbing, cruising along a fireroad or descending, the Rift Zone has a composed and natural feel. Steve Behr
Marin Rift Zone 1 geometry (L)
Seat angle: 74.8 degrees
Head angle: 67.5 degrees
Chainstay: 17.13 / 43.5cm
Seat tube: 17.72in / 45cm
Top tube: 25in / 63.5cm
Head tube: 4.33in / 11cm
Fork offset: 2.01in / 5.1cm
Bottom bracket drop: 1.52in / 3.85cm
Bottom bracket height: 13.11in / 33.3cm
Wheelbase: 46.38in / 1,178mm
Stack: 24.37in / 61.9cm
Reach: 18.11in / 46cm