The sub-£600 price bracket seems to be where the best value bikes are hiding at the moment and Marin’s Bear Valley WFG certainly fits the bill. It’s more dependable hack than racehorse in its stock state but with a few well-directed upgrades as the terrain takes its toll, it has excellent long-term potential.
Ride & handling: Steady and stable, but sized-down cockpit kit limits control
It’s rare that any component can detract enough from the ride of a bike that we find ourselves wanting to remove it but this is what happened with the unusually skinny grip and undersized bar combination on the Bear Valley.
It’s not a bad idea in principle to have a smaller diameter bar on a woman’s bike. But in this case, though the grip compound is soft enough, there’s very little of it wrapped around the proprietary 19.1mm diameter bar (mountain bike bars are normally 25.4 or 31.8mm) and this inhibited our control of the bike.
This is a shame as the BearValley is a good value option that manages to be more than the sum of its undazzling spec sheet. While it wins no prizes in the weight stakes, it’s steady, stable and simply nice to hit the trails on.
The performance of the money-saving Spinner fork isn’t detrimental despite it not being as smooth as it could be, and the geometry is such that the bike failed to scare us on rides where the 80mm of suspension travel should have been well out of its depth. Scrubbing off speed and letting the well-shod wheels keep rolling got us out of a few tight corners without drama.
Frame: Eye-catching looks and a more comfy ride than you might expect
Love or hate the Bear Valley’s loud pink paintjob, it’s certainly eye-catching, though we found ourselves reluctant to take it out if we were having a less than sparkling day as it attracted so much attention. Appearances aside, the 6061 alloy tubing is unmistakeably Marin.
There are plenty of hydroformed curves, a substantial rear end and an elegantly turned dropout. Double butting means the hefty stays don’t transmit trail shock too brutally, and the women’s fit geometry of the bike’s WFG suffix is welcoming to female riders without being overly patronising.
Equipment: Basic kit that functions well enough but will wear out if you ride hard
A quick glance at the BearValley will verify that everything you’d expect from a more expensive bike is present and correct – disc brakes, front suspension, comfortably burly tyres. Closer examination reveals that some of these have been pulled from the cheaper end of the spec sheet in order to balance the budget.
That’s not an automatic fail, as they all function just fine, but it’s worth being aware that the basic drivechain components and wheels will not stand up to as much abuse as more expensive bits. Hayes HX-4 cable discs will need regular upkeep to make the most of their stopping power too, but substantial Continental Mountain King tyres are a welcome boost.