Marin Alpine Trail E1

Marin Alpine Trail E1 review

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The seeming resurgence of Marin continues. After a few years in the mountain bike wilderness, coming out with bikes that floated no one’s boat in particular, Marin is releasing some really excellent looking machines. Mountain bikes with progressive geometry and well-thought-out spec lists that frequently feature some lesser spotted marques amid the usual suspects. Marin bikes usually come with some pretty impressive value price tags to boot.

  • Brand: Marin
  • Product: Alpine Trail E1
  • From: marinbikes.com
  • Price: £4,795
  • Tested: by Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 150
Marin Alpine Trail E1

Marin’s metal framed bikes in particular also just look really, really cool. Which brings us to this bike we have here. From the lithium in its battery through to the steel coil wrapped around the shaft of its rear shock, the Alpine Trail E1 is a very metal bike indeed. Marin only currently offers two types of e-MTB. The 140/140mm 29er Rift Zone E and the Alpine Trail E here with 160/150mm travel and a mixed wheel size configuration.

The Bike

The Marin Alpine Trail E1 has a 160mm travel X-Fusion Trace 36 RC air-sprung fork up front and a RockShox Super Deluxe R coil sprung at the rear, controlled by Marin’s MultiTrac suspension design. It’s that coil shock that does more than anything else to help signify what this bike is all about. Namely, mucking about. I’ll get more into that in The Ride section.

This E1 is the middle spec Alpine Trail and offers a really well-thought-out spec that gets the most out of your money without introducing too many compromises or costly upgrades. The motor is a Shimano EP6 paired to a 630Wh battery in the downtube. The EP6 is literally the same motor as Shimano’s top-end EP8, but its housing is more basic aluminium (instead of the 200g lighter magnesium one found on the EP8). So we’re still talking the same 85Nm of torque, the same three power settings and the same Shimano feel to its power delivery.

A quick big-up to Shimano for its display units. They’re the best balance of discreetness with useful viewable information (yay for accurate battery level, cadence info and a clock!)

In terms of geometry, the Marin Alpine Trail E1 is exceedingly fun-focused. The head angle is an excellently slack 63°. The BB height rides dynamically low. The chainstays are a dinky 435mm length. All in all, the geometry is best suited to riders who aren’t interested in terra firma. Riders who are always looking for the alt. line. The next thing to bounce off. Air bandits. Jibbers. This is the e-bike for you. The ample standover and short seat tube really help in this regard. Yes, that is a 200mm dropper in there.

In terms of going-back-to-the-top, the geometry has a comfy reach to it (505mm on this XL) and a steep 78° effective seat angle, that makes for a nice seated climbing position for winching uphill on access tracks while you chat to your fellow playmates about what-just-happened or what-trail-to-do-next.

The 11-speed drivetrain is a clear budget-minded choice. But so what? It totally works and is fine. The Shimano MT420 4-pot brakes were OK. Not amazing. Certainly better when we swapped to resin pads up front. But once again, we’d be thinking about 220mm rotors pretty soon.

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention the wheels. The Alpine Trail E1 is a mixed wheel e-bike. In an already-outdated move, the rear 27.5in wheel comes shod with a 2.8in Plus (remember that?) tyre. The wheelset itself is no great shakes, but does the job. And definitely kudos to Marin for speccing CushCore inserts front and rear on their e-MTBs now (the rear insert is not Plus-specific).

The Ride

As I’ve already touched upon, the Alpine Trail E1’s raison d’être is messing about in the woods. This is not a bike that is aimed at all-day high-mileage adventures. Marin does the Rift Zone E series for that sort of hideously sensible behaviour. The Alpine Trail E1 is for smashing hot laps brah. And it does so with such a degree of single-minded hilarity that you find yourself wearing a full face helmet a lot more frequently than you used to do.

I mean, like any mountain bike, it can be pressed into service doing other types of riding too but its heart is very much in wiggly woodland. Perhaps the two key features in this regard are the chainstays and the coil rear shock. Those short stays give the Alpine Trail E1 a serious appetite for manuals and jumps. They do also mean that the bike is not actually that great at technical climbs (the front wheel just comes up in the air far too readily).

As mentioned, the bike is better suited to winching back up to the trailhead on gradual fire roads. That coil rear shock may cause a bit of to-and-fro faff to begin with when getting it sorted out with a spring weight that best matches your weight and riding style (go to a Decent Bike Shop), but once you’ve found the ‘right’ spring, you’ll be LOLing your way across the slipperiest of root arrays and loving the lack of calf ache even after the zillionth lap of Your Track. Gosh, coil is brilliant. 

The X-Fusion fork may not be coil (boo!), but it is a very impressive performer. Stout. Consistent. Decently adjustable compression damping. Comes fitted with a couple of volume spacers too (lighter riders may wish to remove them). The head angle is slack for stability and confidence but the speccing of an actually short (35mm) stem and decent width (780mm) bars keeps things plenty responsive up front. Oh, and the own-brand grips are really nice. Which is rare these days. Kudos to Marin.

Talking about rubber, the weak link on this bike is that fat rear tyre. It just doesn’t really add anything to the ride. Even the potential extra traction of a larger footprint is cancelled out by the wheelie-prone geometry. After a handful of rides we replaced it with a regular 2.4in Maxxis DHR II and everything was improved. Less drag. Less vagueness. More #lovesbackwheel fun.

Which brings us finally to the motor. The thing that most potential e-bike shoppers are understandably fixated on. Truth be told, I didn’t really think that much about the Shimano EP6 on this bike. Now then, this is almost entirely due to the playcentric nature of the bike itself. I didn’t often find myself doing much in the way of ‘proper’ mountain biking on this bike. It wasn’t that sort of beast. Having said that, I’ve ridden this motor (and its EP8 sibling) on other bikes and I am going to come out and say that Shimano motors are not my favourite. They’re not bad, it’s just that they feel underpowered when compared to pretty much all other brands.

This is particularly noticeable when attacking a rise or sprinting out of an over-braked-into corner; the motor seems to die away instead of helping you out. It kinda feels like a deliberate software ‘policy’ (“This rider’s putting in loads of watts thus they don’t need any more…”) so who knows? Maybe Shimano will release a firmware update and unleash the wattage a bit more readily? Here’s hoping. Anyhoo, on this bike, the motor and battery were not an issue. Loads of lapping and laughing.

Overall

In a funny sort of way the Marin Alpine Trail E1 was simultaneously the most aggro and the least aggro of all the three mullet e-bikes we’ve tested here. Most aggro in the sense of a heavily gravity-focused performance. Least aggro in the sense of motor assistance. Good cop, bad cop. It’s a partnership that actually really suits this playful bike and plays to its strengths.

The lack of top-end grunt from the Shimano EP6 motor isn’t really felt when spinning back up fire roads where you don’t really attack anything or encounter anything truly steep. And there’s no denying that (possibly as a result of this absence of va-va-voom) the range/MPG of the system keeps on going for an impressive amount of time. And that’s with a battery that is ‘only’ 630Wh (compared to some rivals’ 700+Wh).

The Shimano motor is certainly one of the most natural feeling motors and can feel less intrusive or pushy. Which, when climbing on techy trails is rather disappointing, but when descending can help with flow. Regardless, the Marin Alpine Trail E1 is a great example of the modern day e-lapper.

Marin Alpine Trail E1 specification

  • Frame Aluminium, 150mm
  • Fork X-Fusion Trace 36 RC, 160mm
  • Shock RockShock Super Deluxe Coil R
  • Wheels Marin Aluminium Double Wall, Shimano hubs
  • Front tyre Maxxis Assegai 29×2.5in
  • Rear tyre Maxxis Minion DHR II 27.5×2.8in
  • Chainset Shimano EM600, 160mm, 38T
  • Drivetrain Shimano Deore 11-speed, SunRace 11-51T
  • Brakes Shimano MT420, 203/203mm
  • Stem Marin Aluminium, 35mm, 31.8mm
  • Bars Marin Mini-Riser Aluminium, 780 x 28mm, 31.8mm
  • Grips Marin Grizzly Lock-On
  • Seatpost TranzX, 30.9mm, 200mm
  • Saddle Marin eMTB
  • Bottom Bracket Shimano
  • Motor Shimano STEPS EP6, 85Nm
  • Battery Shimano BT-8036 Internal, 630Wh
  • Size tested XL
  • Sizes available S, M, L, XL
  • Weight 24kg
  • Head angle 63°
  • Effective seat angle 78°
  • Seat tube length 430mm
  • Head tube length 130mm
  • Effective top tube 641mm
  • BB height 28mm BB drop
  • Reach 505mm
  • Chainstay 435mm
  • Wheelbase 1,288mm

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Review Info

Brand: Marin
Product: Alpine Trail E1
From: marinbikes.com
Price: £4,795
Tested: by Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 150

Orange Switch 6er. Stif Squatcher. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. Ebikes are not evil. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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