Marin Rift Zone XC7 29er review
Just over a year ago I was seated on a stealthy looking, brushed aluminium workshop finished 100mm 29er suspension bike fresh from the Whyte and Marin R&D base in Cheltenham. I had the product chief and Ian the designer for company. It was very misty so their secret would be kept under safe on the Downs that day. When presented with the development model I was of the opinion that 29er hard tails were so comfortable that you’d never need a suspension version. How wrong I was? Suspension gives you extra comfort and combined with the bigger wheels blistering speed down hill. The sample bike seemed so fast that I was visibly shaken by my run down the Cissbury East Gate singletrack.
The new design uses "Quad Link 3". Basically the suspension function is the same but many Marin and Whyte fans will be shocked. Personally, I prefer the look and the original look will not work with a 29" wheel. Also this design can be made lighter.
Finally the production version has arrived and I’ve had a chance to take it for a proper ride. Yesterday, I spent some time setting our demo Rift Zone up and headed out for the hills. Despite needing a rest after racing Friday (I took Will up for his first ever road race, gave him some tips and he duely rode of and won!) I chose and very hilly ride. The bike climbs like a mountain goat so it was a while before I flipped the Propedal lever. This is a handy feature but, pedaling smoothly, I didn’t need it. As with most 29ers riding out of the saddle is definitely an option and the Propedal was good for this.
The next test was to see how it went downhill. I felt really comfortable on the twisty single track. However, I was caught out by the steep drop off the bridle way at the base of Chanctonbury that drops into a bomb hole. The bike and body were capable but the mind got in the way. I used to ride this when no one else did when the run out was rough and strewn with debris. So how come I’m nervous now that it is smooth and well ridden and I’ve got the big wheel advantage? Use it or you lose it! I rolled off and felt quiet elated and this meant that I could attack the jumps on the Lion Trail. The bike felt safe and fast.
When I got back I was really keen to see how I’d done but my Garmin seems to have died – no Strava!
It's not a big hit trail bike but with the larger wheels this bike could see of may 130 -140mm 26" Trail machines. Just remember when you go big that its still only a 100mm travel bike.
Fork: Fox Float RL taper, 9mm QR.
Transmission: Shimano SLX with an XT rear mech.
Brakes: Formula RX.
Wheels: Sun Ringle Black Flag, Conti X-King 2.2 tyres.
Marin lo-rise bar 680mm, 80mm stem (I set it flat/upside down), WTB Silverado saddle.
Weight 29lbs 6oz, Size tested 19” (they come up small to size, the 17” is perfect for a rider 5’3” to 5’6”) We have a 19” and 17” to try.
The fork was fine and I never noticed any flex because of the 9mm QR and appreciated the lower weight. The wheels are light and with the X-Kings got me up hill without too much effort and in the wet just about kept me on track descending. Some riders might want more rubber, more grip, but the extra weight is not a compromise that I’ll make on a big wheel and in the dry these tyres are fine. I’d prefer a flat and wider bar especially for dry weather riding when you can really power up a 29er out the saddle. The WTB Silverado saddle always looks uncomfortable but is surprisingly good and gets better the longer the ride.
Would I have one? Yes. Considering the price of £2,199 the spec, weight and ride are as good as you’d get any where. I’d recommend that Marin change the bar and put the logo both ways round on the stem.
Clare (in the picture) borrowed the medium and this is what she said: "At long last there is a 29er small enough for me to try – a Marin Rift Zone for the weekend!
From the start I absolutely loved it. The effortless climbing and, for a change, riding at the front of our group. With the occasional growl of “I hate you Harrison” as I passed a male friend on the climbs, it was all good.
The Marin is so comfortable, especially over roots – you hardly notice them! Very fast downhill which, I must admit, nearly caught me out a couple of times.
Overall I cannot fault the bike. My performance seemed so enhanced on it that it seemed as if I have been in training for a few months, which did make me feel a bit of a cheat!
Better start saving….."
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