The Marin story continues apace, with bikes coming through thick and fast. We saw glimpses of the direction they were heading last year with the Nail Trail and the Hawk Hill. Both may look innocuous compared to the recently released Wolf Ridge, but all these new bikes are part of the journey Marin are on at the moment.

The Wolf Ridge is an unashamedly top-end bike, with big ideas and a big price tag (although SRAM GX Eagle has helped reduce this). This week sees the launch of the rest of the range, and I have had the pleasure of razzing around on the new Rift Zone for the past two weeks, getting to know this new trail bike.

The New Rift Zone

This is the Rift Zone, a classic Marin model name reinvented. Based around their tried and tested Mulitrac suspension, the 120mm back end does its stuff in a remarkably ordinary way compared to getting my head round the Naild suspension system from earlier in the year.

It’s a linkage driven single pivot and, more importantly, it’s been tweaked from the previous platform, not just to run a metric shock, but the aesthetic has been tidied up to produce a very good looking collection of tubes.

The numbers are fresh, fully embracing the modern wave of progressive trail bikes. The Large has a 460mm reach putting up there in the mix of long front centred bikes. Head angle comes in at 67.5, chainstays are 435mm and the bottom bracket drop is a healthy 38.5mm. All these numbers represent the continuing progression of the Marin range.

Modern ‘standards’ are adhered to, and we get a boost back end, along with internal routing with simple and easy to thread openings. One of the most striking aspects is the style of the bike, and this I would argue is their best looking bike to date, with a good set of colours and smooth and purposeful lines.

Getting in the Zone

Trail bikes have to offer something special. If they don’t, they end up being enduro bikes with less travel, just feeling out of their depth too often without much benefit in other areas. Fortunately, the Rift Zone has got a lot of it right. First off is the feeling of urgency and energy on the pedals. Coming off a long travel 29er, it’s a very easy comparison, but the Rift Zone gets going quicker, as it should.

This is a bike that immediately feels like it would like to carry you a long way, efficiently and purposefully. With the seat up and a comfortable position it can munch the miles easily, and you could happy imagine you are on an XC bike, but the Rift Zone is way more than that. Open up the throttle and you have a lively and over-excited bike, eager to please and charge in any direction. Happy on the trail or in the air, the Rift Zone is happiest at speed, either pedal or gravity fed.

The steeper front end helps keep things fast at the steering end, and it takes very little speed or effort to make the bike come alive. The Cockpit is again a modern setup with a 45mm stem and 780mm bars, nothing to complain about at all. Although mine had a bit of a mix of kit, the final bikes will feature a 120mm Revelation fork, but I had a 130mm Pike fitted giving a touch slacker head angle.

The bottom bracket height is a winner too, low enough to be stable, but with a height that allows for near constant pedaling through rough ground. This, combined with the long front centre gives a very stable and confidence inspiring ride. The modern numbers open up the capability of a short travel bike.

The suspension platform is effective if not luxurious, and the 120mm is doled out in a predictable and supportive way rather than super plush. Getting the set up right is important to eek out everything you can get.

The limits of the Rift Zone can be found in the very steep, or the very rough. The head angle struggles and the lack of travel shows itself when you try and take it too far, but realistically, this bike will do nearly everything most riders desire. More importantly, it won’t steamroller and flatten out terrain, diminishing the challenge and enjoyment. This is a trail weapon for traveling at speed and taking the precise line rather than the straight line. A degree of finesse is required to really make this bike move at warp speed. You cannot just be a passenger, this is an engaging and exciting ride.

The Kit and The Price

Some clever kit choices give the Rift Zone 3 models to choose from ranging from £1350 to £2300, making these bikes great value. The use of Revelations and Recons in the fork make use of the new arrangement in the RockShox lineup. As Revelations grow into the Pike chassis, they are now fully relevant to trail bikes and fit perfectly into the models.

In other areas, we see some less common parts in the form of a personal favourite in Vee tires, which I have been consistently impressed with. In the drivetrain, we also see some own brand cranks at the lower end, but also Sunrace cassettes which give a good alternative to the main players and keep costs down.

Dropper posts feature on the 2 and 3 models but doesn’t quite stretch to one on the base model. As mentioned, the cockpits are short and wide, Matt Cipes, the designer was keen to keep stem lengths the same across the size range. Tall people don’t want 80mm stems!

Overall

Marin’s new range of aluminium full suspension bikes is strong and is hitting some tight price points to bring performance bikes to more riders. With the Rift Zone, Marin has made a fast, fun and efficient trail bike that will deliver on a huge range of trails. With prices that won’t break the bank, the range allows for off-the-peg bikes that can hit the trail hard, or provide a solid base for some strategic upgrades. The more generous sizing and low standover make a bike that can be sized on length and gives huge confidence to squeeze every last ounce of performance possible from that 120mm of travel.

Wed 28th Jun, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

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