Marin is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year with some interesting machines that evoke old colour schemes and classic materials – and one of these birthday bikes is the Four Corners Elite.
Contemporary steel chassis
The first point of interest is the tubing. While it can’t match carbon or alloy in terms of strength to weight, steel is still a great option for hardworking bikes where comfort rather than stiffness is a priority. That said, the Columbus Thron tubeset Marin has opted for is a bang-up-to-date set of pipes, with external shaping and varying wall thicknesses that depend on the stresses each segment has to handle.
SRAM’s hydraulic lever hoods provide a useful handhold
Marin has also added a full suite of modern features. These include not just internal control routing, but threaded holes for P-clips if you’d rather keep the cabling and brake hoses external for ease of servicing – the best of both worlds.
To maintain the stiffness of the steel frame, fixtures have been brazed on rather than welded, which means the gold-coloured filler is still visible on the unpainted frame. It’s not particularly neat, and the test team were divided on whether it looked good in a raw way or just untidy, though there was much more approval for the seatstay bridge and the custom-cast, thin-walled dropouts.
The distinctive tread pattern of Schwalbe’s gravel-friendly G-One tyre
These come with both rack and mudguard mounts and are particularly neat. The steel fork has lowrider and conventional rack and mudguard/fender mounts.
Both the frame and fork get very smart, quarter-turn Naild thru-axles. These have a locking catch and locating notch for foolproof security, and the system is fast to remove and install.
Clearances are huge at both ends. The Marin will take 45mm road tyres with mudguards, or even low tread 29x2.1in mountain bike rubber without ’guards. Three bottle cage bosses mean you’re not going to be thirsty in a hurry, either.
‘Hurry’ isn’t a word you’ll often associate with the stately Four Corners
In fact, ‘hurry’ isn’t a word you’ll often associate with this Marin, as even with a single chainring, a weight north of 11kg means you’ll need to be patient with the acceleration. It doesn’t soak up effort like some steel frames can, though, and once you have got it rolling you can top up speed and maintain momentum pretty well. There’s enough gear range from the 40-tooth ring and 10-42 SRAM cassette to mean you should be able to spin up most hills anyway.
We’re rapidly becoming big fans of Schwalbe’s G-One tyres, thanks to their fast-rolling, gravel-gripping tread and robust carcass; WTB’s i21 rims add width, stability and tubeless compatibility. And we think it’s a feature worth taking advantage of, as otherwise the ride is on the rather firm side of things. That means you’ll need to drop tyre pressure to avoid a punishing pogo experience on rougher trails.
The 72-degree head angle and tall head tube give the Four Corners light, responsive steering but the long wheelbase and stretched top tube keep it stable at speed. The taut frame, with its stiff thru-axle connection to the wheel, holds lines with authority and the big flare on the lower part of the drops gives loads of confidence on descents. Its sheer versatility also makes the fact it’s slightly pricier than some of its peers more forgivable.