On June 18th, the Bike Habitat hosted an evening with Marin Bikes up in Ash Canyon. Marin Bikes was in the area for the 2010 Tour de Nez, and made their first stop here in Carson City en route to the Reno events. They brought their demo van full of an assortment of Marin bikes for us to demo on our trails, and it was a great opportunity for people to try out the various styles of mountain bikes to see what best suited their style.
According to their website, Marin Bikes was established in 1986 in San Anselmo, California and celebrates its 24th anniversary this year. Its offices lie in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais, commonly referred to as the birthplace of mountain biking and still at the heart of the sport. In other words, they’re no spring chickens when it comes to mountain bikes.
I’m a big fan of 29ers, and would have liked to give one of the Marin 29ers a try; however, I had my eye on one of their other bikes for my demo ride. Still, I took some time to look at their entry level 29er hardtail, the Alpine Trail. For riders on a tight budget, hardtails are definitely the way to go. You can get a really good performing bike for under $1,000, since you don’t have a lot of money tied up in rear suspension components. And when you add the larger, smooth riding 29 inch wheels to the equation, you may find it’s all the suspension you need depending on what trails you ride. At $785, the Alpine Trail appears to be a good value with enough performance to tackle most any trail. Lester got the Alpine Trail out for a loop, and agreed with my assessment. While the cheaper componentry was not as nice as what he was used to on his own bike, he thought the ride was pretty good and that it was a good value for the money.
I’ve never had much time on a high-end, light weight full suspension bike, so I opted to give the Mount Vision 5.8, a try. At first glance, the most noticeable aspect of the Mount Vision is the shape of the frame. Marin’s hydroforming process allows them to get creative with the frame tubing, creating a frame that is stronger where it needs to be, and lighter or with more flex in the spots that don’t need the extra strength. All bikes in the Mount Vision series have 120mm of suspension travel (just under 5 inches), which seems to be the sweet spot for all around trail riding. Dan from Marin bikes filled me in on the technology of the Mount Vision, really focusing on the Quad Link rear suspension. You’ll notice from the photos below, that all the pivot points are contained within the front triangle. This seems like a pretty good idea to me, as it creates a stronger rear end with less flex, and helps keep your bearings out of the water and muck. It should be a system with great durability. Dan also mentioned that the pivot design was progressive; initially plush for small bumps, and then firming up further into the travel. While some suspension systems follow an arc up and back through the travel, the Quad Link brings the rear wheel back towards the center as the wheel goes further into the travel. Dan said the Quad Link design assists the rear shock, rather than totally relying on fancy shock valving for its performance.
Dan and I went out for a spin on the singletrack, so I got to see how all this technology worked out on the trail. We did a short loop with a variety of terrain, so I was able to get a feel for what the bike was about. We started off our ride by heading up the canyon on a series of climbing switchbacks. Pedal induced suspension bob was not noticeable, but the rear suspension kept the ride comfortable. There are a couple rocky sections on the climb we did, and the rear wheel hooked up great. This is one area that full suspension bikes excel in; maintaining traction in a difficult climb while under full pedal power. Hardtails take a bit more finesse and body English in these situations to maintain traction.
The descent was a lot less smooth than the climb, and was a better place to test the personality of the Mount Vision. We rode down the Ash Canyon Creek Trail, a tight single track that has lots of turns, rock steps, bridges, log crossings, and fast rolling bumps along its course. The Fox fork and Quad Link rear suspension really soaked up the bumps and absorbed the deflective energy from the trail obstacles. The bike seemed stuck to the ground in many of the places I normally catch air on with my hardtail and rigid bikes. Preloading the suspension a bit before the jumps would probably be necessary to get back the lost air. Also noticeable was the fantastic traction while braking. This was in part due to the aggressive WTB Moto Raptor tires equipped on the bike, but also because of the suspension design. Some full suspension designs lock up the rear suspension under heavy braking, but the Quad Link still felt fully active, even over the dusty cobblestones of the rock chute along the Creek Trail. This is one area where my hardtail’s rear end starts skipping and I lose a little control. Geometry of the bike seemed to be a good mix of stability and quick handling.
The retail price of $3,465.00 puts the Mount Vision 5.8 at the upper end of the price range for the series. The more affordable Mount Vision 5.6 retails for $2,100, but is still packed with performance. Although my time was short on this bike, I felt this would be a great machine for someone who was looking for that one bike to do it all. Light enough for fast XC riding, but with enough suspension performance to tackle a wide variety of trail conditions.
It was great to get out and ride some different bikes, but if you weren’t out riding, there was plenty to eat and drink at base camp courtesy of the Bike Habitat. Denis and Viola had the Bike Habitat chuck wagon going, so there was BBQ, chili, Sierra Nevada brews, and other snacks to enjoy between rides. Thank you to Bike Habitat and Marin Bikes for putting on such a fun event!
If you’re interested in getting a closer look at a Marin bicycle, head down to the Bike Habitat, located next to Best Buy just south of Carson City.