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Marin Bobcat Trail 5 review

Can updated geometry see the Bobcat Trail 5 raise its game and improve upon its previously impressive performance?

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £985.00 RRP | USD $999.00 | EUR €1,149.00 | AUD $1,499.00
Marin Bobcat Trail 5

Our review

A well-made and balanced hardtail that’ll inspire your playful side and progress your trail riding
Pros: Well-proportioned geometry; comfortable ride; decent-spec fork; efficient brakes and drivetrain
Cons: 27.5in wheels (on the small frame) not as smooth-rolling as 29in equivalents; coil-sprung fork harder to tune than air-sprung alternative
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Marin promises a lot from its updated Bobcat Trail range of bikes, including capable, modern geometry and excellent value for money.

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The Bobcat Trail 5 sits at the top of the range, with the Trail 4 and 3 below it. For the extra £160 to £260, Marin has equipped the Trail 5 with a sound, reliable package.

Coming in just below £1,000/$1,000, the Trail 5 is a contender for our 2023 Budget Mountain Bike of the Year award.

It sports a 120mm-travel fork up front and the size small (as tested here), rolls on 27.5in wheels.

Taller riders have the option of 29in wheels if they can fit onto the medium, large or extra-large frames (though there is a second medium size designed around 27.5in wheels if that’s your preference).

Marin Bobcat 5 frame and specifications

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
Internally routed cables are a premium feature on this budget bike.
Ian Linton / Our Media

The Bobcat is constructed using ‘Series 2’ double- and triple-butted 6061 aluminium. Series 4 is reserved for Marin’s top-tier frames.

Marin offers the Bobcat Trail with either 27.5in or 29in wheels, depending on frame size.

The size small, as tested here, only comes with 27.5in wheels, though.

Up front, the Bobcat Trail has a 120mm-travel coil-sprung SR Suntour XCR LOR-DS fork.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
The Suntour XCR 32 fork lacks performance compared to RockShox equivalents.
Ian Linton / Our Media

This uses a thru-axle to clamp the wheel in place for a stiffer connection and includes a lockout and some damping adjustment (with rebound adjustment and spring pre-load).

The headset is an FSA No.10 P semi-integrated number, which accepts the fork’s straight steerer tube.

This means for future fork upgrades, you’ll need to budget for an alternate headset if you’re keen on fitting a fork with a tapered steerer tube.

The Shimano Deore 11-speed drivetrain includes an 11-51t SunRace cassette and 32T chainring.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
An 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain offers great performance.
Ian Linton / Our Media

A set of Shimano MT201 brakes use 180mm (front) and 160mm (rear) rotors, and two finger levers. You can alter the reach to suit your hands and fine-tune feel.

Thanks to a shortage of mountain bike tyres in the industry, the advertised WTB Trail Boss had to be replaced on my test bike with unbranded tan-wall alternatives.

Cables are neatly internally routed inside the down tube, with a spare port for a dropper post should you want to upgrade.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
The Shimano MT201 brakes are reliable and perform well, but lack power compared to the MT401s found on other bikes in the same price category.
Ian Linton / Our Media

The 27.5in frame gets one pair of bottle bosses on the down tube, while the 29ers have an additional set on the seat tube – a thoughtful touch to avoid the issue of bosses limiting seatpost insertion for shorter riders.

The bike is topped off with Marin-branded components. These include tubeless-ready rims, 170mm cranks, riser handlebar (780mm wide with 12-degree rise and 31.8mm diameter), plus a short 45mm stem, grips and saddle.

Marin Bobcat 5 geometry

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
The Bobcat Trail 5 would be a solid purchase, and some upgrades would unlock more performance.
Ian Linton / Our Media
Wheel size (inch)27.527.5292929
Seat angle (degrees)74.574.574.574.574.5
Head angle (degrees)67.567.5676767
Chainstay (mm)427427440440440
Seat tube (mm)381431431482520
Top tube (mm)601612.5619.5640.8657
Head tube (mm)105110110115120
Fork offset (mm)4444515151
Bottom bracket drop (mm)4848616161
Bottom bracket height (mm)307307311.5311.5311.5
Wheelbase (mm)1,133.31,145.21,177.41,199.31,216.3
Standover (mm)659.07705.48714.04744.93774.59
Stack (mm)599.3604629.3634638.5
Reach (mm)435445445465480

Marin Bobcat 5 ride impressions

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
The tyres lacked grip on more technical terrain.
Ian Linton / Our Media

I tested the Bobcat 5 across the range of green to black trail centre trails and flowy natural singletrack that Glentress forest in Scotland has to offer. I included the jump park and paved cycle paths to test efficiency and speed.

My size-small Bobcat 5 was one of two 27.5in-wheeled bikes in the Budget Bike of the Year test.

The smaller wheels enable Marin to build a small frame with more reasonable proportions, rather than stretching things out here and there to fit bigger 29in hoops. This is something I really appreciated.

That said, it does put the Marin at something of a disadvantage when trying to maintain speed uphill.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
Nipping around switchbacks or hammering the pedals was great fun.
Ian Linton / Our Media

While the smaller wheels might not smooth the trail in quite the same way the larger-frame equivalent with 29in wheels might, the Bobcat Trail’s steep seat tube angle helps position you in a great place to attack the climbs.

The seat angle is 74.5 degrees, which puts the rider in a reasonably efficient pedalling position with the seat pushed forwards on the rails.

The effective top tube is 601mm, meaning it’s decently stretched out when seated compared to its competitors.

Even when coupled with the 45mm stem, this feels quite long for a size-small bike.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
A lower stack height (599mmm, size small) made it easier to get over the front.
Ian Linton / Our Media

The Bobcat also impressed at the trail centre thanks to the choice of tyres (despite not being the anticipated WTBs) which, when set at low pressures, soaked up the chatter well.

This certainly helps make up for some of the trail-smoothing increased rollover you’d get from 29in wheels, but you do have to be more mindful when it comes to avoiding punctures should you do this.

I flatted after landing a small drop, though this particular section of trail was included to really push the Marin outside of its comfort zone.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
Fitted with unbranded tyres, their performance couldn’t match the likes of Schwalbe and Maxxis.
Ian Linton / Our Media

Converting the tyres to tubeless or swapping them for slightly heavier, tougher casings would help solve this if you’re really looking to push the bike further and harder.

Turning and maintaining speed through steep switchbacks on the climbs felt instinctive and precise.

Equally, the Bobcat inspired confidence when riding banked turns on descents. I was able to ride aggressively, weighting the front wheel and navigating the trail with precision thanks to the wide bars and short stem.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
A relatively long reach (435mm, size small) makes it easy to move around on the bike when trails get tight and twisty.
Ian Linton / Our Media

The 67.5-degree head angle never felt too unwieldy on the climbs and offered the right balance of stability and playfulness on the descents. It really came into its own with quick changes of direction and when nipping through tight, twisty turns.

Tackling steps and drops highlights the lack of adjustability with the 120mm Suntour fork, though.

Swapping springs isn’t as simple as adding or removing air from an air-sprung fork, so fine tuning isn’t anywhere near as easy.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
Balanced geometry made the Bobcat Trail 5 a blast to ride.
Ian Linton / Our Media

As a result, I was regularly only able to access around 60 per cent of the fork travel, resulting in arm and hand fatigue on longer downhill runs. Heavier riders are unlikely to suffer from this issue.

There is plenty of support through the fork, however, which helps when carving a corner. Plus it has a lockout, which is a nice addition for flat tarmac climbs or the commute to work.

While the internally routed cabling remained quiet and rattle-free, this bike isn’t totally silent on the downhills, thanks to the lack of a chainstay protector. However, this should be a very quick and cheap fix.

Marin Bobcat 5 bottom line

Marin Bobcat Trail 5 hardtail mountain bike
With a playful feel, the Marin is fun on almost any trail.
Ian Linton / Our Media

Although the suspension fork spec doesn’t rival the best hardtails in this category, thanks to its good geometry and handling across the board, the Marin Bobcat Trail 5 snuck into third place in our Budget Bike of the Year test.

It’s a seriously fun bike to ride, with the stability and manoeuvrability of a cross-country bike, even if it is a touch on the heavy side.

The long reach, which is comparable to the medium sizes of its closest competitors, gives the rider space to move around on the bike, along with providing plenty of stability when the pace picks up.

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While the fork is harder to tune than some and the parts list isn’t quite as fancy as its closest rivals, the Bobcat Trail 5 offers a great foundation for upgrading.

Budget Mountain Bike of the Year | How we tested

More affordable mountain bikes are the best they’ve ever been.

In an ideal world, the frames will enable you to upgrade to even more capable parts when you inevitably get hooked on the sport.

With that in mind, we selected a wide variety of trails in Scotland’s Glentress Forest, where we could put the bikes through their paces, before reporting back to you on the wisest purchase when it comes to quality, performance and value for money.

Our Budget Bike of the Year contenders

With thanks to…

Product Specifications


Price br_price, 5, 3, Price, AUD $1499.00EUR €1149.00GBP £985.00USD $999.00
Weight br_weight, 5, 6, Weight, 13.8kg (S(27.5)) – without pedals, Array, kg


Available sizes br_availableSizes, 11, 0, Available sizes, S(27.5), M(27.5), M, L, XL
Bottom bracket br_bottomBracket, 11, 0, Bottom bracket, External Sealed Cartridge Bearings
Brakes br_brakes, 11, 0, Brakes, Shimano BR-MT201 disc, 180 front/160 rear rotors
Cassette br_cassette, 11, 0, Cassette, SunRace 11-Speed, 11-51T
Chain br_chain, 11, 0, Chain, KMC X11
Cranks br_cranks, 11, 0, Cranks, Marin Forged Alloy 1x11, Hollow Spindle, Steel Narrow Wide 32T Chainring
Fork br_fork, 11, 0, Fork, SR/Suntour XCR32 Coil LOR-DR thru-axle
Frame br_frame, 11, 0, Frame, Series 2 6061 Aluminum
Grips/Tape br_gripsTape, 11, 0, Grips/Tape, Marin MTB, Closed End
Handlebar br_handlebar, 11, 0, Handlebar, Marin 31.8 Riser, 12mm Rise, 780mm Width
Rear derailleur br_rearDerailleur, 11, 0, Rear derailleur, Shimano Deore 11-Speed w/Clutch
Saddle br_saddle, 11, 0, Saddle, Marin MTB
Seatpost br_seatpost, 11, 0, Seatpost, Marin Alloy, 30.9
Shifter br_shifter, 11, 0, Shifter, Shimano Deore 11-Speed
Stem br_stem, 11, 0, Stem, Marin Alloy, 31.8mm Clamp, 45mm
Tyres br_tyres, 11, 0, Tyres, WTB Trailboss Comp, 27.5/29x2.25”, Wire Bead
Wheels br_wheels, 11, 0, Wheels, Marin Aluminum Double Wall, Tubeless Compatible