This week, Marin Bikes is launching a whole 2018 range of bikes – from gravel to full-on trail monsters. We were lucky enough to get hold of an early sample of its new B17 model for a few days’ testing, so we sent Chipps and work-experience Tom up on to the hilltops to see what you can expect from this £1800 trail bike. (And then the bike had to go back in a box and back to distributors Paligap as it was the only one of its kind in the country…) Let’s see how he got on:
Does anyone remember the original Marin B17? Can you believe it’s 20 years since it came out? Me neither… The original B17 was one of the first ‘aggressive trail’ bikes in the UK. It featured a whole four inches of travel and a dual crown fork to show that it meant business. Made famous by the riding of one of Marin’s star riders of the time – a certain Dave Hemming – it was pretty influential in showing that a ‘big’ travel bike could be used for chunky trail riding as well as just plummeting down the mountains. While it might be laughably twee by modern standards, it was ahead of its time.
Marin kept the name alive over the years and there was a B17 hardtail in the mid-noughties. This B17, though, is new and bang up to date. No pressure though, Marin… it’s only one of the most iconic names in your range, right? So let’s have a look at the meat and potatoes:
As you can tell from its look and stance, the Marin B17 One is a smart looking all-round trail bike – and with 130/120mm travel, it has more than that original namesake. And coming in at £1800, it fits into a highly competitive marketplace of ‘my first full suspension bike’/’my first decent trail bike’. Marin pitches it as an all-terrain trail shredder, which seems pretty spot-on, suggesting that it’ll shine on ‘sandy, rocky, nasty trails’. There are three bikes in the range, with the range-topper featuring GX Eagle 12 speed. We have the more modestly specced entry-level bike here, but it still has the same frame at its heart, which makes it ideal for a long term upgrade project. The other models are £2300 and £2900…
The bike comes with 2.8in Vee Rubber tyres on 38mm rims, tubeless ready for some low pressure grip. The tyres are among the knobbiest plus tyres we’ve seen specced on a bike and do add to the bike’s reassuring feel and suggest that it won’t suddenly swap ends at the first sign of damp, which more ‘summer’ treads can do.
The front and rear RockShox suspension combo seems well specced for the bike and only took a bit of pressure fettling to get a good feeling. The bike endured some stiff packhorse-trail climbs where smooth power put-down was needed, as well as the complementary knobbly descents. The bike comes with a multi-brand 1×11 setup: SRAM NX rear mech and shifter, a KMC chain and a Sun Race 11-42T cassette. It all meshed together surprisingly well and there is a ton of upgrade potential. There are even front mech bosses if you want to go big/long.
Shimano M315 brakes take care of the stopping, with 180/160 rotors. If anything, this was probably the weakest link in the spec, with clunky three-finger levers and average stopping. Good enough, though, and hydraulic rather than cable disc operation. The hubs are Centrelock too, which might limit your upgrade potential too, but there’s a whole host of decent Shimano offerings that’ll fit.
The FSA crank comes with a 30T thick/thin chainring, which is paired with the 11-42T cassette out back for a decent gear range. You’ll want taller gears if you’re a downhill monster, but for the intended market, having a less punchy gear range is ideal.
It’s great to see bikes coming with dropper posts as standard at this price. The test bike had a KS Lev Integra, though the spec sheet promises a Trans-X with 1x remote lever. Small frame sizes have 100mm drop, with the rest getting 120mm drop. Unless you’re dropping off Helvellyn, a 120mm drop will suit most trail riders and it’s a great addition to the spec.
But how does it ride? As we said, the bike got some decent steep ups and downs thrown at it and it performed well. The bike has a comfy and welcoming feel. Geometryistas will be pleased to see that there’s a 435mm reach on the Medium frame. Angles are 67°/73.4°. The bike feels like a well sorted trail machine. In the dry conditions of our test period, the big tyres gripped well and added to that secure feel. It’s ideal for a first suspension bike for a rider coming from a hardtail – the suspension delivers decent grip on climbs and is active enough on descents to complement the added cushion and suppleness of the 2.8in tyres. The weight is a not-insubstantial 32.5lbs. This did a good job of hiding well on the climbs and as we’ve mentioned, there’s a great potential for upgrades (and losing those inner tubes would be a great start). If that’s unpalatable, there are two versions above this one.
As mentioned, we only had this bike for a short time, but it did a decent job of winning us over in terms of being a great, affordable full suspension bike for newcomers or riders wanting to take the plunge with their first suspension bike.
We’re looking forward to seeing the rest of the range unfold for 2018…
|Tested:||by Chipps for A week|