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Trail and Enduro Bikes

Marin Hawk Hill 2017

California dreamin' - or the best value trail bike on the planet?

With the launch of the new Hawk Hill trail bike at the Flyup 417 Project venue, we fired up the Dirt van for a day out to see what Marin had in store for us.

Photos: Ben Winder

 

A brand with plenty of history – Marin Hawk Hill

There’s plenty going on with Marin for the year ahead with revisions throughout their mountain bike range and rightly so, as here is a brand that was one a key player in the trail bike category here in the UK. Marin were one of the first to get real volume sales of full-suspension bikes when many brands were experimenting with innovative yet questionable designs which more often than not would not go the distance or perform as promised. Their single pivot designs (teamed up with early Fox shocks) and ample mud clearance proved popular here in on Bristish soil. It wasn’t just trail bikes either, with longer travel bikes like the Wolf Ridge, Alpine Trail and B-17 appealing to those riders with more serious intentions. They hit the spot, having a balanced ride along with a good blend of longevity and simplicity.

Many brands soon caught up though, and along with some aggressive marketing, improved designs, better shocks and more choice meant that (at least here in the UK) Marin’s domination started to fade.

So in the hands of a new UK distributor, along with the Marin-Stan’s race team, a huge dose of experience and enthusiasm from fresh brand managers and design staff we’re told that big changes are happening with this Californian company. Oh, and Marin has the legendary Eric Carter on board too – and he was hitting up the Project 417 trails at the launch days.

Let’s see what’s going on…

Matt Cipes - The man behind the Hawk Hill design

Marin 2017 – A no nonsense approach to bike design.

There was no presentation to sit through at the 2017 Marin bike launch. No marketing bollocks, wheel size discussions or over-hyped suspension systems discussed. Instead, there was the design crew, brand managers and team riders to chat to, a barbeque….and a fleet of test bikes to thrash on the now nicely bedded in 417 Project tracks. A refreshing and promising start – a reflection on Marin’s attitude to designing, producing and selling their bikes. ‘Made for fun’ is their tagline.

 

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It’s been a while since we’ve swung a leg over a Marin. Not long back we had a brief encounter with one of their longer travel machines but felt their sizing and spec was a little dated at a time when a flux of change was hanging heavy in the air of the mountainbike world. Many brands reacted quickly, others took their time, but in 2016 expectations are high and there’s no place for excuses. There have been plenty of changes, re-evaluation and a good dose of thorough testing to launch this 2017 range of Marin bikes and UK brand manager John Oldale promises that we’ll approve of the results.

“We at Marin feel that no matter what you spend on a bike it should be super rad and blow your doors off everytime you ride it.” – Matt Cipes, Hawk Hill designer.

The Hawk Hill – All new and at a killer price

Matt Cipes is the man. He’s the head of mountainbike design for Marin, with a long history in two-wheeled product development and an impressive mix of fitness and skill out on the trail. It was great to see that this trail bike, the Marin Hawk Hill, was the design he was most enthused about. A new platform, from the ground up, with 2016 thinking and great attention to detail. Here Marin have launched a trail bike, with 120mm travel, rolling on 27.5″ wheels that sells for only £1450. With new-world geometry, a single chainring up front and good sizing this is a very promising start to a revised 2017 range.

SIZE IS EVERYTHING.

This bike is bang up to date. Marin have matched a 120mm air sprung fork up front (with tapered steerer and 15mm bolt-thru axle) and a nicely damped X-Fusion O2 air shock at the rear to a well laid out frame design. A ‘Faux-bar’ MultiTrac suspension system is basically a reworking of their proven IsoTrac system and keeps the cost down.

With five sizes available (more than many brands offer, even on boutique frames), fit is something that is very much a priority for this new model and all of the 2017 Marin range. Matt Cipes was keen to point out that this is a playful, capable trail bike, not a ‘slacked out enduro rig’ and as such has to work well over a broad range of riding terrain but still be lightweight yet well balanced in the rough…a tough task at this price point.

With a 67.5 degree head angle, a 1164mm (46 inch) wheelbase and 430mm chainstays in a size large, the numbers look bang on. Add in a low standover height and shortish head tubes and this bike looks like it will perform. This is all well and good but what else stands out?

GO WIDE OR GO HOME…

Wide is where it’s at with the Hawk Hill, and rightly so. Let’s start with the cockpit: Most bikes at this price will be poorly equipped, but not here; a double-butted aluminium 780mm bar (yep) and a shortish 60mm stem lead the way in the correct manner.

Rims are again an afterthought or compromise on many bikes but here Cipes has spec’ed a quality rim with a generous 27mm internal width. A good move that gives a larger volume tyre a better shape. Talking tyres, the Marin Hawk Hill is shod with quality rubber, Schwalbe Hans Damph 2.35″ front and rear – no messing about.

Wide ratio cassettes have been a game changer in the last few years and here we see a SunRace 11-42T 10 speed cassette being driven off a single 32T chainring. Light, clean design at a price point where most still have a triple chainset. Another forward thinking move from Marin.

ATTENTION TO DETAIL.

There are few, if any, areas which have been overlooked on this bike. A rear swingarm holds a standard 135mm Q/R rear hub but is designed to be converted to a 142x12mm bolt through axle if you upgrade your wheels at a later date.

The single chainring is a 74mm BCD bolt pattern allowing a smaller ring size (28T or 30T) to be fitted to forged crank arm without problems. The bottom bracket is a standard threaded type with external cups for a creak-free and easy maintenance future. Noise is kept low (and chain retention good) with a standard ‘clutch’ style Show Plus Deore rear mech.

Reliable and easy to bleed Shimano BR-M315 hydraulic disc brakes may not have the cute ‘one-finger’ levers of the more expensive models but with 180mm rotors front and rear dish out some well modulated and more than adequate power.

A dropper post can be added (your first upgrade…) and internal cable/hose routing is standard on the Hawk Hill. We’d switch to a pair of lock-on grips too.

HOW DOES IT RIDE?

It’s all well and good having a great spec, good sizing and well sorted details but what is it like on the trail? Does it have that edge that will make us fall for it, just like all our favourites in the Dirt 100?

First impressions are very good. A light bike for the price that seems well balanced when it comes to suspension characteristics. The Hawk Hill felt stiff under acceleration, controlled in the corners (helped by the purposeful 32 spoke wheels) and balanced in handling. Traction was good (we tackled only a small amount of climbing) and although the rear shock doesn’t have a lockout or compression damping adjustment it behaved well and the air sprung RockShox Recon fork held its own, kept the shape of the bike well and pulled no surprises. The Hawk Hill is a fun bike to chuck around, with good trail manners – a handy rider could take this bike into some challenging terrain with confidence.

“It has massive upgrade potential and rides way above its price tag” – John Oldale, UK Marin brand manager.

THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHT…

With trail bikes this thoroughly developed at just above the grand mark price-wise it goes to show that you don’t have to lay down silly money to have fun on the trails. If you’re new to the sport, or just want an affordable trail bike to sit alongside your DH machine, the Hawk Hill could well be the future-proof and easily upgradeable trail bike to put at the top of your list.

Lapierre, Giant, Calibre, Voodoo and Vitus have very well spec’d bikes around this price point but dig deep and have a look at the details closely to see if they suit your needs. Few have single ring transmissions, many will have cheap tapered bottom brackets axles and you’re unlikely to see a broad range of frame sizes in many cases.

So, will the Marin Hawk Hill go the distance? At a price point lower than most bikes we get in to test, it will be interesting to see just how this trail bike stands up to some action. We’ve got one due into Dirt HQ very soon, so stay tuned.

Stock is due in UK 1st week of August.

PRICE: £1450

marinbikes.com

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Thinking of buying a trail bike? Check out our buyer’s guide HERE.

Eric Carter hitting the Flyup 417 trails at the Marin launch. Photo: Jamie Edwards

see also

Review | YT Jeffsy | Dirt Mountain Bike

BEST ENDURO AND TRAIL BIKES 2015 (FULL SUSPENSION)

2017 INTENSE RECLUSE

2017 SPECIALIZED ENDURO

NORCO OPTIC

 

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