Most of the bikes we can buy for this price are cut from the same cloth, or at the very least welded from similar grades of butted aluminium, bringing you to a halt with rim brakes. Not this Marin. Named after a town in California, its Nicasio is made from skinny butted chromoly steel, paired with a straight, skinny steel fork.
Braking comes courtesy of Promax Render R mechanical discs, and the components are predominantly Shimano Claris.
The Nicasio is part of Marin’s ‘Beyond Road’ range, the company describing it as an "endurance and all-weather pavement" bike for "adventure road riding" and "long-distance commuting", which is quite a broad sweep, but Marin has set the Nicasio up well for these ambitions.
A steel bike at this price isn’t going to be super-light. Want a whippy, fast bike with snappy acceleration for shooting through traffic? Look elsewhere. The handling is road bike-familiar, though, and the head tube isn’t as extreme as the Fuji Sportif’s, for example. But the wheelbase is long, and the high stack, shortish reach and short stem create an upright riding position.
The Nicasio’s kit is quite basic but well chosen to complement the geometry. The handlebar has a 12-degree flare for greater stability, control and very good comfort, the 11-32 cassette helps on the hills, where you will feel the Nicasio’s weight most.
There’s even an argument for an 11-34 cassette or a 48/32 chainset on bikes with adventurous aspirations. The days of a universal 52/42 chainset and narrow cassette combo are long gone — and not missed — while the 48x11 is easily big enough.
You won’t find hydraulic discs on a road bike at this price yet, but the budget Promax Render R mechanical discs did a good enough job, and will work in all weathers without destroying your rims.
In spite of the lack of thru-axles, the connection felt accurate and there was no squealing. A secondary advantage of disc brakes is that they don’t limit you to one wheel size, so this bike can accommodate 700cx30–40mm tyres or 650bx47mm rubber, and even with 47mm tyres you can squeeze in mudguards.
The Nicasio’s near-slick 30mm Schwalbe Spicer tyres have the company’s K-guard protection belt and performed well on pitted road surfaces. They were great at hopping up and down kerbs and fine on moderate gravel, though you’d want something knobblier and more gravel-specific for venturing away from the black top.
Most importantly for me, while 30mm rubber may rob you of a little speed, it makes up for this with increased comfort, especially as you can run wider tyres at lower pressures.
Its kit might be basic but the Nicasio’s svelte steel frame is good, with its dropped seatstays and plenty of exposed 27.2mm seatpost keeping things very comfortable.
I’d be more than happy to use the rack mounts to kit it up for weekends away. My long-distance commutes were handled without murmur or complaint, and longer rides with panache — if not speed. This means you can tackle sportives, century rides, training rides and more on the Nicasio.