I have a bit of an affinity with Marin bikes. Although my very first mountain bike was a Scott back in 1990, I quickly moved on to a series of Marins, thanks in part to the fact that in the early 90s almost everyone in Wellington knew someone related to the importers and you could score a bike for wholesale. I think my uncle’s kid may have gone to kindy with one of the owner’s kids? Anyway, 40% off retail wasn’t to be scoffed at and my series of Marin Eldridge Grades served me well over the years. In fact my second one is still going strong as a commuter bike for Spoke reviewer Aaron Young. So when I had a layover in San Francisco recently, I arranged for Marin to lend me one of their latest bikes to ride for the afternoon and burn off whatever shitty food I’d eaten on my flight over.
The Attack Trail is a 150mm travel carbon all-duro rig, that’s burly, stiff and really quite well resolved. There is one model above this but after riding it for the afternoon I wasn’t left thinking I really needed the component upgrades. Its suspension is their own Quad Link 3, which is essentially a floating pivot design similar to a DW Link, and even with a fully loaded camera bag on (and a fully loaded stomach) it pedalled remarkably even when standing, and I was doing a bit of that trying to keep Mark Weir in sight.
It’s worth pointing out that my suspension setup was insanely quick, and being as flustered as I was I didn’t move the shock from its open setting either, so with a bit of attention to setup this thing would climb even better. To say I was impressed would be an understatement.
It’s funny, it’s certainly been a while since I’ve ridden a bike with two chainrings, and it took a little getting used to, but riding up Mt Tam with a 38/36 combo was out of my reach so I found myself dropping down to the granny a few times. I guess really it’s six of one/half a dozen of the other; if you want a clean, simple cockpit you’re always going to lean toward a 1x setup but, I wasn’t too fazed with the shifting, and as much as I thought I hated 2x setups it wasn’t all bad. The chain didn’t drop unintentionally once during my four hour mission.
I think you’d find it pretty hard to find a 2014 or 2015 bike that didn’t have a 142×12 rear end. Having nothing to really compare this bike to, being a new design from the ground up, the rear end was suitably stiff and tracked straight, and from what I could tell it followed the front wheel’s line and rarely strayed of course. Again I was pleasantly surprised.
I love Elixir Trail brakes; unlike some people out there I’ve never had any troubles with them and love the four piston calipers. That love carried through to the Attack Trail. That said though, on a bike this aggressive and capable I was feeling that the undersized rotor combo could have been switched up from its 160/180 setup to a more real world 180/200.
Cable routing was clean and well thought out, with every cable heading into the one slot on the head tube. Unlike a bunch of bikes out there, this setup also looked pretty tidy with the brakes switched to how we run them in New Zealand. The rear brake hose exits cleanly at the base of the down tube to head across the lower link.
Even though we do despise front derailleurs here at Spoke (because that’s a perfectly good place to put a bottle opener), the tidy cable routing theme continues on the Attack Trail with this nice little detail to keep the cable tucked away nicely.
So the only thing that seems to be polarising people with Marin’s new full suspension bikes is the copious amount of carbon used in the seat mast and head tube junctions. It is a matter of taste of course; on screen when I first saw it I wasn’t a fan, but after seeing the bike in the flesh and riding it, I couldn’t care less. Especially as the bike performs so well. Which reminds me, I didn’t tell you how it descended. After letting beer (our original destination was a coastal pub) lead us on our ride, it became apparent that the fairly boring trail we were on was going nowhere fast. The only positive is it gave me a chance to open up the bike on what was essentially a fireroad with bunny-hoppable water bars. Traction in high-speed loose corners was surprisingly good and the bike was easy to get off the ground over the awkward G-out water bars (most of the time). After we pushed back up to find some good technical descending, the bike came alive; it definitely likes it rough and was unfazed by ledges, drops and dense root sections. Bear in mind I only spent four hours on the bike but it was enough to give us a good indication of its abilities and it really whet our appetite for spending more time on this bike.