Marin Bikes Alpine Trail 7 2019 Mountain Bike Review

Marin Bikes Alpine Trail 7 2019

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Marin Bikes 38,999

At A Glance

We all know that Marin is back in the game with some great bikes, and are certainly not afraid to try new things. They've pushed hard into the lower end of the price spectrum while simultaneously releasing the Wolf Ridge, their head-turning, top-end trail bike. Their bikes are coming fast from all angles.

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Building on the success of the Rift Zone, Hawk Hill and B-17, the Alpine Trail takes the MultiTrack suspension system and turns it up to eleven. 150mm of travel matched with a 160mm fork suggests a hard hitting bike, and coupled with a 65-degree head angle it's getting serious. So hang on, what about that Wolf Ridge? Isn't that their long travel 29er? Well, yes, and er, no. Yes, it is a 160mm 29er, but as far as Marin and Naild (the suspension design) are concerned, it's really just a trail bike with long legs. If you really want to go full enduro, then the Alpine Trail is the bike to do it with, not the Wolfy.

So with that cleared up, we can get into the detail of the beast. Long travel, big wheels and contemporary geometry all packaged into an affordable bike. The angles are alpine in scope, with 65 degrees on the head and a steep 75.5 on the seat angle in XL. Reach numbers on the XL are 490mm which is pretty much on trend, but I still feel the 500mm barrier is there to be smashed for a true XL! Chainstays are short, and standover is very low allowing riders to size on length rather than be limited to seat tube length. Overall, The Alpine Trail is ready for steep, technical trails but also set up to pedal back up again.

The Alpine Trail 7 hits the UK at £2200 and comes with a great spec which has been achieved by putting preconceptions aside and looking for great products regardless of brand. Rockshox handles the front end with a Yari, and this is paired with an X-Fusion O2 PRO RXC shock which has a Trunnion mount, rebound adjustment and a lockout/compression lever.

Other less common parts include TRP's Orion brakes, which are a four-pot system and certainly look like they should be powerful enough. The wheels are Marin's own brand, but they have a 29mm internal width and are tubeless ready so look suitably capable. Tyres are the excellent Vee Tire Flow Snaps in the voluminous 2.6 formats, which fit easily in the frame and are a great choice for this type of bike. Shimano takes the shifting duties but a 9-46t E13 cassette is novel and an FSA crankset no doubt help to keep that cost down. Marins own brand bar (780mm) and stem (35mm) are appropriately sized and are correct for a big bike like this. As a package, it's hard to find fault, certainly if you keep in mind the price tag. Could this be one of the most affordable 'Alps ready' bike out there?

On The Trail

The fit of the Alpine Trail is excellent, as a tall rider it's great to be able to run a short stem and not have my knees get in the way. Immediately the Alpine Trail is comfortable, and the steep seat angle puts you in a great position to pedal and matches up nicely with the long reach. The most notable feeling from pedalling is the calm, composed X-Fusion shock, which doesn't collapse under pedalling or wallow around. I was expecting more bob, but the platform for putting power down is excellent.

This pedalling experience is further improved with the steep seat angle, which helps keep the front down and make the Alpine Trail feel like it actually wants to climb. Rather than a reluctant, truculent enduro bike, its keen to get involved in the ups, and although not hugely lively in ascent, it works hard for you. The tyres give plenty of grip, but also plenty of drag, the Vee Tire compound is great but steep, technical off-road climbs are more rewarding than gravel roads. The grip, big wheels and deep suspension combine to make a good technical climber, and when I tried a faster rolling rear tyre, it felt reasonably efficient (for a big bike).

Getting stuck into the trails, it's apparent that the designers haven't 'enduroed' all the fun out of this bike. There is a playful, energetic feel even at moderate speeds, but this just improves as the speeds increase. Rather than purely a straight-line-hero, the Alpine enjoys its corners, and those Vee Tires come into play again with buckets of grip. It combines a great mix of stability with manoeuvrability and really feels at home on steep, fast technical terrain that requires more than a hold on and hope approach.

In the real steep terrain, the slack head angle really comes into play, and the long reach allows riders to get low, rather than move reward, and this further increases the stability. I would prefer a slightly longer chainstay on the extra large to further add stability and balance the bike out better, but the upshot is that the front can easily be lifted and played with.

On moderate trails, the Alpine feels slightly bored, but if you've got the energy to charge at speed, then things come back to life. Alpine is the correct name for this bike, as big mountains and enduro style terrain is the perfect environment.

The component collection is really very interesting and brings together a good mix of parts from far and wide. The X-Fusion shock is certainly the star of the show and has been excellent despite my reservations. It's not all perfect though as the TRP brakes just aren't powerful enough for a bike of this capability (plus a large rider), and more power would be very welcome! The Vee Tires are great, and 2.6 feels pretty normal now, none of the unpredictability of full 'plus' tyres but huge amounts of grip. Hold the bike on an off-camber line, and the tyres do their work, a great all-around tyre.

There is much to be said for such a capable and affordable bike, but there are some downsides. Cable routing and rattling from this are not ideal, and the paint finish and protection is lacking the finesse of a more expensive model. For the price, however, I would happily wrap some tape around the chainstay and ignore the odd noise.

Overall

A fine example of how modern trends, geometry and equipment can be combined into an affordable package. A bike capable of being ridden out of the shop and onto a chairlift with no problems.

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This review was in Issue 56 of IMB.

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