Marin Bikes Alpine Trail 8 2019 Mountain Bike Review

Marin Bikes Alpine Trail 8 2019

Reviews / Enduro Bikes

Marin Bikes 49,206

It's with great sadness that my Alpine Trail is returning to Marin, having provided me with a fantastic bike for the year and a sturdy testbed for numerous parts. The Alpine Trail 8 sits one above the 7 and is the top model but still relatively amenable on the wallet. Although it was tested initially as spec, it has been through multiple iterations over the past 9 months and taken it all in its stride.

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Geometry

I'm now firmly a 500mm and above reach guy. Anyone who tells me that their latest XXL is under 500mm has not got their sizing right. The Alpine comes in just shy of that, but that's as big as they go, unfortunately. However, a brief look at the 2020 Rift Zone shows Marin moving in the right direction and the new sizing should hopefully make it's way into future versions on the Alpine Trail as it needs a proper XL in the size range. IF you're not super tall, the sizing is simple, with short seat tubes and plenty of scope to measure up on reach and go longer or shorter depending on your preference.

The other key numbers are all solid, though again I'd lengthen the head tube to maintain the reach at a higher bar height. I lost some reach by needing to up the bars by 20mm of spacers. Head angle is good to go, and sliding in a 170mm fork rather than the stock 160mm had no drawbacks and helped to open up the capabilities further.

The back end is short throughout the range, and while swapping from longer bikes back to this one it was clear that the compact rear livens things up, but at the expense of all-out stability at speed. This is something Marin is happy about and 'Made for Fun' moto is clearly displayed both literally on the bike, and in the way it handles.

The Kit

The stock kit gives a great base for the bike, but the first thing that had to go were the brakes, with the stock brakes I just couldn't rein in the speeds of the Alpine Trail. In defence of TRP however there latest G-Spec Trail SL brakes I am currently testing are proving promising.

For some fun, I swapped out the shock for the Marzocchi Bomber Coil CR shock, which proved entertaining and combined with X-Fusions Trace 36 170mm fork made the Alpine trail into a monster truck of epic proportions.

Wheels are where the transformation truly occurred with the Alpine as the suspension and frame are well sorted. The wheels are a bit heavy and sluggish, and a sharper set of wheels just adds an extra spark to the ride and keep things lively when on the pedals and accurate in the turns.

If I owned this bike on a budget, I'd also be looking for some sharper brakes pretty quick, and plan for a wheel upgrade as and when I could afford. Other than that, the ride is sorted, even down to the Deity cockpit.

I also swapped in a 170mm drop Crank Bros post. The KS was perfectly serviceable, but with a short seat tube it opens up the possibility of running a long dropper post. The Crank Bros post, as usual, has been super reliable and is always recommended for consistency.

The Stock Vee Tire Flow Snaps is a tyre I've enjoyed in the past, and I was reluctant to swap, but the Hutchinson Griffus tyres have been a worthy successor and helped keep me upright despite my best efforts.

The Ride

I've alluded to this already but the Alpine Trail hits a sweet spot of rugged confidence, and sprightly manoeuvrability. Depending on a rider's style it could turn its hand at anything from full-on enduro to a hard-hitting trail bike.

Climbing and descending are well-balanced abilities on the Alpine Trail, and although not a mountain goat, it ascends as well as any good enduro bike should. A steeper seat angle would help but it's not a deal-breaker.

I had great fun experimenting with a longer fork and a coil shock, which all felt highly appropriate on the Alpine Trail, and surprisingly it kept its lively and fun character while sticking to the ground a little more tenaciously.

Essentially with the Alpine Trail, you can get your hands on a long travel 29er, which doesn't put enduro racing as its number one concern. As such, the bike is perhaps easier to ride, and more versatile than an out and out race rig. This will certainly appeal to those who need a bit more travel for their riding without wanting to numb the riding experience and keep things fun.

Durability

There is little to complain about in this realm. The linkage bearings at the trunnion mount got crunchy and needed a swap, but the other bearings have run smooth. The headset bearings got crunchy too but I do live and ride in the wettest part of England. These swaps are quick, easy and more importantly, easy to source and find in a local shop.

The paint job on the frame isn't the most robust, and I've had a few chips here and there, so I would recommend taping the frame if you get concerned about such things.

The Conclusion

I love a good value bike that can be rolled off the shop floor and onto some proper mountain bike terrain without issue. The Alpine Trail is certainly one of those bikes, from the tyres to the handlebars to the suspension, it is well throughout and ready to show a rider a good time.

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This review was in Issue 61 of IMB.

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By Ewen Turner
Ewen Turner is a self-confessed bike geek from Kendal in the Lake District of England. He runs a coaching and guiding business up there and has a plethora of knowledge about bikes with an analytical approach to testing. His passion for bicycles is infectious, and he’s a ripper on the trails who prefers to fit his working life around his time on the bike.

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