Marin’s Nail Trail sits near the top of the company’s Hydro-Light hardtail range. With extensive use of hydroforming and a frame featuring tubes with distinctively sharp-looking edges, Marin claim to have created a bike that delivers “an incredibly stiff and responsive ride”.
Neither race-winningly svelte nor all-mountain burly, the Nail Trail is proof that fun doesn’t have to be pigeonholed. But we’d like a better fork for the money and a more mud-friendly design at the rear.
Ride & handling: Rigid chassis and aggressive ride position translate into huge fun in the rough
Marin’s claims to have built a truly rigid chassis are borne out by the Nail Trail’s fidgety feel in the rough. It’s the mountain bike equivalent of a hyperactive teenager who’s forgotten to take his medication, fussing around over the slightest undulation at low speeds and shouting unnecessarily loudly as the pace picks up.
It’s a good thing that the WTB saddle is well padded – the upright ride position and taut rear end mean all that plushness is put to good use. With a frame this rigid and a ride position that’s so much fun, the Nail Trail needs a firm hand to show it who’s boss. It’s not a bike for pootling around on, but if you put the effort in it’ll reward you with lots of big grin moments.
It’s a shame, then, that the frame’s potential is let down by the lacklustre Marzocchi 33 TST2 fork. The basic coil setup never really manages to take the sting out of front-end impacts enough to let rip on rocky descents and adds insult to injury by being almost completely ineffective on steep technical climbs.
And, while we’re grumbling, mud clearance at the rear is clearly designed to sunny southern Californian standards. You could run a 2.3in tyre in there, but it would likely stop turning at the slightest hint of UK trail dampness.
Frame & equipment: Off-road performance let down by miserly mud clearance and indifferent fork
Simultaneously pointy and curvaceous, there’s no denying that the Nail Trail’s unusual tube profiles give it a unique look. The kit that’s hung on it, though, places it firmly in mid-range territory.
There’s a Shimano XT rear derailleur to keep the spec-watchers happy and a full complement of sensibly reliable transmission, brake and finishing components. There’s nothing here to get excited about, but nothing that needs imminent upgrading either.
The wide bar and upright front end make for a confidence-inspiring ride position, but also endow the Nail Trail rider with all the aerodynamics of a brick. It’s a stark contrast to the cross-country race-inspired ride positions of many hardtails at this price and, while it’s no good at all for drafting buses on the bypass on the way to work, it’s a great setup for playing out in the woods. Or, indeed, anywhere you damn well please.