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.
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.