For those of a certain age, the name ‘Marin B17’ will invoke fond memories of early full suspension mountain bike design, happy hardcore on the radio and probably more than a little luminous lycra. Halcyon days indeed!Buy Trail Bikes on
The original B17 was one of the first bikes designed for throwing about and having fun on; making use of a more progressive geometry and incorporating triple clamp forks in order to move mountain biking beyond the realms of XC and somewhat towards the playful designs of today.
Fast forward back to the future and the new B17 frame echoes the spirit of its forefathers, carrying nuances of the sturdy looking crisscrossed 90s tubing in its design, albeit reassuringly blended with more modern construction techniques, materials and angles.
Sitting as the entry level B17 in Marin’s new look range the '1' pulls together a frame and spec package that is quite unbelievable. At £1,800.00 this is a bike that can happily rival mail order bikes for the price with a kit list that mixes RockShox suspension front and rear with SunRace and FSA running gear, Shimano brakes and SRAM’s 1x11 NX shifting gear. The rest of the gear is made up of Formula Boost-spaced hubs and a sealed cartridge FSA headset, with Marin’s in-house bars, rims, stem and saddle sorting out the hoops and contact points.
The entry-level B17 even gets a dropper post as stock, with TranzX's 120mm post appearing on all frame sizes above Small. Marin’s finishing kit at this level is solid, subtle and reliable with a 45mm stem anchoring the well thought out 780mm wide bars. A solid cockpit set up.
The B17’s numbers provide some clues as to the kind of fun machine Marin have set out to produce with a low BB height, super long wheelbase and promising head angle all rounded off with a reasonably stretched top tube length, putting this frame into the ‘progressive, modern’ geometry bracket. The B17’s virtual 73.4-degree seat angle is another figure that lends weight to the claim that this is a bike designed with japes in mind.
As trail rides tend to do, the first excursion on the B17 started with a fire road climb, and it was at this point that a slight amount of worry for the bike’s uphill abilities set in; the slack seat angle making for a slightly laboured pedalling experience. Two minutes with a hex key alleviated some of this feeling by sliding the saddle further forward in order to find a better pedalling position and weight distribution.
Had the B17 overcooked the play factor to the detriment of uphill prowess? Well, no, and that’s thanks in part to progressive geometry and the enormous levels of traction offered by the plus-sized tyres which, once a healthy pressure was attained, offered bucket loads of grip on all but the greasiest of wet, rocky surfaces.
Technical climbs were steadily if not rapidly dispatched and I half expected the plus-size wheels and tyres to feel a bit draggy and slow, yet cranking the B17 up and over roots and rocks on steep gradients showed the additional rubber to offer an extra level of bite.
It’s when pointing the B17 down the trail that things really start to come alive. The generous length of the wheelbase offers up heaps of stability over moderately-sized technical sections and drops, and confidence grows with each obstacle overcome.
With such a beefy frame and tyres, married to the 130mm of travel on tap up front and 120mm in the rear, this bike felt taut and really showed off its abilities on singletrack, where big grins were on tap when ploughing those grippy plus-sized tyres into berms and finding all sorts of traction.
After such great success on the kind of trail centre riding that most of us will ever do on a trail bike, it was only fair that the confident B17 be directed at something more brutal. The burly looking B17 deals with steeper sections admirably for a short travel bike and it was only when tackling sustained larger hits from trail debris that the Recon fork’s limitations were found out, with feedback reduced and their ability to track the terrain before returning to take the next hit limited.
A 120mm dropper post is never going to be quite enough on larger framed bikes, yet the Tranz X coped admirably with the gargantuan levels of filth and moisture thrown at it over several days’ use during a very wet autumn. Equally dependable, if not outstanding, are the Shimano BR-M315 brakes, which offer ample stopping power and a decent level of modulation, though faster riders will want something with more grab.
It’s always worth taking the time to set up shock, fork and tyre pressures to suit your weight, riding style and the sort of terrain you’ll be riding, and the B17’s large tyres offered the chance to run some pretty low pressures while seeking out grip in the wet woods. The RockShox Monarch R Debonair out back offers a straightforward rebound speed dial, keeping things simple when switching between travelling and descending and when opened up the B17’s back-end tracks and pops well, keeping things dialled on man-made trails and coping admirably in the rougher stuff thanks to the substantial frame and welds.
If you’re on the lookout for an outstanding bike on a budget, then the B17 1 has to be seriously considered. The plus tyres and modern geometry provides stacks of confidence to new and experienced riders alike.
At £1800 - I’ll say that again, £1800 - it’s a lot of bike and a pile of fun for your hard earned cash and you’d be hard pushed to find a new ride with as much pedigree for this kind of price.
While not a mountain goat of a climber, the hefty but exceptionally capable B17 1 manages to nail that very tricky price point at the entry level of the market. This is a bike which expertly combines a great frame - ripe for upgrades - with snappy suspension, dependable components and forgiving tyres that, when combined, encourage rowdy riding on groomed trails as well as natural ones.
The original B17 was a WW2 bomber made by Boeing, nicknamed the Flying Fortress. I’ll let you join the dots.
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This review was in Issue 51 of IMB.For more information visit Marin Bikes
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By James SwannOriginally from Sheffield, James lives and works in the mountain bike mecca that is the Lake District and has been falling off bikes since he was six. In between working on bike events, riding bikes, racing bikes and writing about bikes he enjoys talking about bikes with anyone who will listen. He really likes bikes.