Marin describes this as its ‘workhorse privateer XC race bike’ – and if you look between those lines to read ‘traditional, conservative hardtail,’ you won’t be far wrong.
Highs: Long, light and lively, with a great drivetrain and fork
Lows: Flexy wheels and steep steering make it nervous on tricky trails
Buy if: You love steep, hard climbs and smooth descents
Frame and equipment:
Despite the big wheels it’s a handy 11.6kg (25.6lb) and acceleration over smooth ground is rapid and direct through its stiff, if slightly unforgiving seatstays.
It’s 6061 alloy throughout, with triple-butted top and downtubes and a double-butted rear triangle. Varying the tube wall-thicknesses like this is a good way to lose mass, but the Indian Fire Trail still feels plenty tough enough for daily use. It’s only subtly hydroformed and is otherwise a hard, serious, ‘give me triangles or give me death’ sort of old-school frame.
There’s a lot of flex in Mavic’s Crossrides, however, despite the extra strengthening in the 19mm rims of these 29in versions. And while that can help with traction and comfort on rougher ground, it doesn’t help with steering accuracy.
The 100mm Fox Float 32 up front is capable of more, thanks to a tapered steerer and 15mm axle, than the bendy, 2000g-plus Mavics can ask of it. A wheel upgrade could do wonders here. Fox’s Performance damping assembly is a useful upgrade over the basic Evolution design, too, but Schwalbe’s hard compound 2.25in Rocket Rons undermine cornering further, as they can break away very suddenly.
Ride and handling: quick reactions mandatory
When the front goes, the 71.5-degree head angle, 90mm stem and flexy front wheel mean you need lightning reactions to stop it tucking under. The 710mm bars don’t give much leverage for your efforts either.
The upside of the Marin is steering that remains effortlessly light and accurate no matter how steep the climb, and it’s a lively, ride wherever grip is consistent. Minimal standover from that lofty, straight top tube is no help for anything but preventing you reproducing, and it’s a tall, steep bike that can be nerve-wracking on sketchier trails.
If the fork is a highlight, the Shimano SLX drivetrain – with XT rear derailleur – is a less visible bonus, with its performance and weight being very close to an all-XT setup. It’s not much of a downgrade in the real world, and reliability is also excellent.
Ultimately though, this is a machine that’s all about the geometry. Push on and the Marin’s steep, narrow nature is something you’ve got to ride around: you help it, rather than it helping you.