At A Glance
Marin are gradually re-vamping their range of bikes, and this year we see the new Hawkhill, the Pine Mountain, and this, the Nail Trail. Available in 2 models, this is the Nail Trail 7 and sees a few key upgrades over the lower spec 6 including a dropper post, SLX shifting, but most notably a Yari fork to dish out 120mm of RockShox travel.Buy Hard Tails on
Both models in the range use Marin's Right Size philosophy, which increases wheel size as the frame size grows. Small sizes get 27.5 wheels, big sizes (up to XXL!) get 29 wheels, and if you're lucky enough to be medium, you get the difficult choice of either size.
As mentioned the most notable component on the Nail Trail is the powerful and reliable Yari Fork, and although the bike only has 120mm, it's great to see a stiff and solid fork to keep the big wheels pointing forwards. The use of SLX for shifting is great, and now with 11speed it gives plenty of gears, but interestingly Marin uses their chainset to push it all around. Another cost cutting measure is the brakes, which are Shimano's Deore brakes, and although they lack the bling factor of more expensive versions they are a tried and tested system that works very well.
The wheels are Marin's own rims on Formula hubs and have a 29mm inner width and are tubeless ready keeping them bang up to date. The only downside to the rolling stock is perhaps the rather ambitious Racing Ralph tyre on the rear, but up front is a Nobby Nic, which helps but is still the poorly named 'Performance' rubber compound.
Finishing it all off is a suitably wide set of bars to hang onto and a stem which although not long is neither short. The seat post is the now commonplace TranzX dropper post with 120mm of cable-operated drop.
On The Trail
Let's talk looks, as this is a bike, which divides opinion, and beauty is firmly in the eye of the beholder. With a fade paint job and a very classic set of lines, the frame looks pretty plain, maybe retro, perhaps old-fashioned, I don't know, but it doesn't scream modern trail bike. Look a little closer, and the bridgeless seat stays and tidy internal rear brake mount shows some real attention to detail, with good mud clearance and cable routeing.
Moving beyond the aesthetic, swinging a leg over the Nail Trail is a familiar and comfortable affair, especially if you learnt to mountain bike on a hardtail back in the day. This is especially true of the frame shape as the high top tube gives it a feel of a classic bike.
All this talk of looks and old bikes belies the trail riding abilities of this shredder in disguise. With some modern numbers, a 68 head angle and a 446mm reach in large, things are looking pretty capable, and with a 60mm BB drop it all starts to come together. Wide bars and a shortish stem make it feel roomy and ready to pick up some speed.
Climbing on the Nail Trail is rapid and efficient, it was always going to be on a stiff hardtail with an XC tyre on the back, knocking out the miles was simple and enjoyable. This, however, is not where the real character of the bike shone through, rather it was when things pointed downhill that it came alive.
A fairly conservative looking 29er hardtail should not be able to get the pulse racing like this. The low bottom bracket and the fairly generous reach allow for the front to be pushed into some pretty serious terrain. Cornering is a low slung and balanced process, with the stiff Yari allowing for any wonky lines or rough ground. The ride feeling is one of confidence, nothing too alarming or radical, just a bike that says; 'I'll have a go if you do' which led to some moments perhaps best described as 'interesting'.
Riding through the winter in the UK provides some great (awful) conditions for testing, and I wasn't going to escape the mud for long. I thought about changing the tyres, but I took one for the team and plunged into the steepest muddiest tracks I could find. Like I said, the Nail Trail will happily follow you into any trail. Now, for winter conditions the rear tyre is rather awful, and the front not much better, but I'll spare you the rant. More importantly, was that if you have the skills, then the Nail Trail will pay the bills, and although I ended up on my arse plenty, the bike is a genuinely capable performer.
I was surprised to find that it can also fly, and in the air, it felt predictable and fun. It may look like a flightless bird but I discovered that it sports a good set of wings and launching from trail features is firmly in the repertoire of the Nail Trail.
The main drawback for me in performance was the high top tube, which feels like it restricts body movement in corners and technical ground. It would be great to see a shorter seat tube and a longer dropper post, which would have the added benefit of smoothing out the lines and giving a more modern look to the frame.
As mentioned, the brakes were excellent and I regularly wonder why I need more than a set of Deores. The TranzX dropper post is becoming commonplace and is ok, but 120mm on an XL is not enough drop. The lever and its action are good, but the rear of the stanchion is prone to wear, and the anodising has begun to strip from the metal, although it is still working fine mechanically and I have confidence it will continue to do so.
It's a reasonable chunk of money, and with the full suspension Hawkhill putting grins on faces for less money, it'll be a hard choice for buyers. The Nail Trail does give a much higher quality of component and would be the discerning rider's choice.
Despite the subtle looks, the Nail Trail is far more exciting than a casual glance would suggest. Get to know it, and you find it is a closet hooligan, having a split personality between efficient mild-mannered pedaling and rowdy, sideways descending. This is not a skill compensator but a skill encourager and will take you as far and as fast as you dare.
This review was in Issue 47 of IMB.For more information visit Marin Bikes
By Ewen TurnerEwen 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.