The Four Corners pays homage to Marin’s mountain bike glory years. If you lusted after a Pine Mountain, Bear Valley or flagship Team bike back in the day, you’ll instantly recognise the Four Corners’ two-tone paint scheme.
This bike is part of Marin’s Utilitour range, which is akin to GT’s Grade, Cannondale’s Slate and Specialized Diverge lineups – drop-barred bikes with all-round aspirations. If you are looking for a sharp, sportive-friendly budget machine, this probably isn’t for you.
In practice, Utilitour translates to extremely relaxed geometry. It’s tall at the front with a slackened-off fork and a seriously long wheelbase – at 108.5cm it’s one of the most stretched we’ve come across.
There are rack mounts, and loads of clearance
The frame has mounts for three bottles, front and rear panniers and mudguards (yes, we mean fenders, US readers), and it has huge clearances, accommodating 45mm road rubber (with ’guards) or even a 2in-wide 29er mountain bike tyre. "Carry a laptop and change of clothes during the week, a tent and camp stove come Saturday morning," as Marin has it. And our experience suggests this really is a bike you could ride almost anywhere.
Once in the saddle and turning the pedals, this immediately reminded us of the old-school rigid mountain bikes it pays homage to. Take a time machine back to the early 90s, grab a Marin off-roader, stick on a drop bar and you’d end up with something very similar – which we think is a good thing.
Yes, you can feel its near-13kg weight, over 4kg of which is in the wheels. This makes road climbs ponderous, but head off the beaten track and the Four Corners springs into life. The 4130 chromoly steel frame and slack fork become cushioning and compliant, helped by the huge volume tyres. Their dart-shaped treads bite in the corners and at low pressures they offer suspension-like suppleness.
This makes it great on gravel, with its super-wide bar – and even wider flare – offering you great control for an off-road ride that’s up there with GT’s Grade. On long and bumpy gravel descents we hit around 45mph – and we think it’s capable of more.
It may be sluggish on the road, but take to the gravel and the Four Seasons comes into its own
Stopping this much mass with the Render-R disc brakes does require plenty of lever pull – they’re not on a par with Hayes or TRP cable discs. It certainly made us thankful for the big 160mm rotors. On trickier singletrack sections it also lacks the Grade’s more nimble feel, but we think the Four Corners would be better when loaded with a month’s worth of expedition gear, and the steel frame is tough as old boots.
We thought we’d seen the last of triple cranksets on the road, but it makes sense on the Four Corners. Shifts are consistent, if not that quick, but if you’re lugging this much bike up a steep hill – especially fully laden – you are going to need that 30-tooth chainring and all of the 11-32 cassette.
Marin’s Four Corners isn’t for everyone - it’s more of a Land Rover than a Ferrari. But if you’re looking for by a bike that’ll commute with ease over any surface and can take in a big tour or expedition, or you just want a bike that encourages you to ditch the blacktop for the backwoods, the Four Corners is a cool-looking, capable companion that won’t break the bank.