PINKBIKE FIELD TRIP
MARIN RIFT ZONE 29 3
An XC bike at heart.
Words by Sarah Moore, Photography by Tom Richards
We're halfway through the full-suspension reviews in our Field Trip value bike series
and up next is the Marin Rift Zone 29 3, an aluminum 29er with 125mm of rear travel and a 130mm fork that retails for $2,849 USD. The Californian brand says that it’s an ideal bike for "pushing the limits up and down the trail and chasing personal records."
The 125mm of travel is controlled by Marin’s MultiTrac suspension, a linkage-driven single-pivot layout. As for the frame, it has internal cable routing in the front triangle, Boost spacing, a threaded bottom bracket with ISCG 05 tabs, and room for a water bottle on all sizes. There’s no frame protection on the downtube and minimal protection on the chainstay.
Marin Rift Zone 29
Travel: 125mm (rear) / 130mm (fork)
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: aluminum
Head angle: 65.5 degrees
Chainstay length: 425mm
Reach: 455mm (medium)
Weight: 33.3 lbs / 15.1 kg
Price: $2,849 USD
More info: www.marinbikes.com
With a 65.5° headtube angle, and a 76° effective seat-tube angle, the Rift Zone’s geometry is in line with the other full suspension trail bikes we have on test. On the size medium, there’s a 455mm reach and a 1186mm wheelbase, with short 425mm chainstays across the board.
The Rift Zone is available in a 27.5" version as well as carbon versions, with prices ranging from $1,769 USD for the Rift Zone 29 1 to $4,299 USD for the Rift Zone Carbon 29 2. The test bike we rode on the Sunshine Coast is the Marin Rift Zone 29 3, and it retails for $2,849 USD. It comes with a 130mm Marzocchi Z2, a Fox Float shock shock, a Shimano SLX drivetrain, and Shimano Deore 4-piston brakes. There’s no familiar Maxxis or Schwalbe mounted to the wheels, with the Rift Zone sporting Vee Tire Co tires front and rear. Climbing
The Marin Rift Zone has a firm pedalling platform, which means that there's very little movement in the rear end and it feels extremely efficient on fire road climbs. There is a lock out on the Fox Float rear shock, but it's not a bike where you’re going to be reaching down to use that pedal assist very often.
While that efficiency is great on long fire road climbs and smooth, winding singletrack, it does make it harder to stay seated on technical climbs than when you're pedalling on a bike with very active suspension like the Giant Trance X or the Polygon Siskiu T8. It sometimes feels like the Rift Zone prioritizes efficiency over all out traction to a fault. You're more likely to have to get up out of the saddle and help that rear wheel up over obstacles on the Rift Zone. That being said, if you're the type of rider that prefers to push a harder gear and stand up for technical sections, the Rift Zone will reward you. Descending
On the descents, the Marin Rift Zone feels much more nervous and less composed at speed than the other full-suspension bikes we were riding on the Sunshine Coast. It has the shortest wheelbase and the shortest chainstays on test, and that is likely a contributing factor to this feeling when things get rough and fast on the descents.
In the Rift Zone's description on the Marin website, it says that it is "more aggressive than an XC race bike for more control at top speed, and more fun while chasing seconds" and that is an accurate description. Despite having just 5mm or 10mm less travel than the other full suspension bikes, it feels like its roots are in XC and it's not a mini enduro sled. It's not comparable to the Polygon Siskiu T8 or Devinci Marshall on the descents.
The flip side is that the Rift Zone feels much more capable than a traditional XC bike, and it's really fun when you get into rolling terrain and have a series of short climbs followed by short descents. On that kind of terrain, where you can really pump into the downhill and accelerate up the next climb, it feels quick and poppy. It might not be the bike for rough terrain, but if you don't have rough terrain, you're going to be riding a whole lot faster on the Rift Zone than on a more active bike that prioritizes absorbing all of the chatter in the trail over quickness.
Very efficient pedalling bike+
The 2021 Pinkbike Field Test was made possible with support from Toyota.
Video: Jason Lucas, Max Barron
Editing: Max Barron
On the other hand, their thoughts are quite different. Vital reviewed Rift Zone Carbon last year and they said it was one the best bikes with a very planted feel (the only con was that it wasnt poppy or something). PB rated Norco Optic as bike of the year, Vital said it wasnt good enough.
I am not saying the methodologies are right or wrong, but we cant blindly trust what the reviewers are saying. Ideally, we should all test bikes before buying. Unfortunately, thats not the reality... Ranch over.
The Beta MTB folks freakin love Evils and tend to not like less poppy, longer cs, smashy kinda bikes quite so much.
All in all though probably good for us as a whole. Getting a bunch of different opinions overall really helps when a bike or component comes along that EVERYone is hot on. The Transition Spur comes to mind as one of those where pretty much every reviewer sang its praises
I mean, every bike magazine/website has some favorites and if you check reviews it turns out that.... *Gasp* all bikes are pretty good which is probably the case and differences between them are minor.
Of course there are places where it's outgunned.. but it's also kind of neat when someone says 'you just rode down that.. on that?'
Replaced the fork first, but I have the Hunt wheels on my wishlist next along with a drive train upgrade. Glad the frame supports the 148x12 boost standard, even though it came with a perfectly serviceable, but crappy drivetrain. I've done 25 mile 3000' days on this bike and can mostly keep up with my pals both up and down.
First the good. I don't think that this bike is a nervous descender, but I also don't have the privilege of comparing it to other current model full suspensions. I suspect that most riders will find the descending performance acceptable if upgrading from a hardtail or a 10+ year old full suspension, even if you are riding in the mountains. For me, this bike would be overkill for Midwest USA riding. The brakes are great so far - four piston calipers and 180/200 rotors is more enduro than downcountry.
Then the OK. Efficient pedaling means different things to different people. Again, I wasn't comparing this to the current crop of budget full suspensions. The suspension is more active than I was expecting based on the review. It is more efficient pedaling than the last full suspension I spent significant time on (2012 Specialized Camber 29), but the review made it sound like it is tuned to ride like a firm xc race bike (e.g., Specialized Epic). It definitely does not make me want to get out of the saddle to pedal hard. I spend a lot more time in the saddle spinning up climbs in a low gear that I would normally be mashing up in a big gear on my hardtail. The plus of the more active suspension is great traction.
Now, some of the bad.
Unlike most reviews, I had a rough time dialing in the fork. I'm 125 lbs, so I probably fall outside the target weight for the stock spring and damper configurations. It was initially difficult for me to get anywhere close to full travel at the recommended settings and the fork performance degraded quickly after a few rides in dusty conditions. A big issue that any purchaser should be aware of is that Marzocchi left the foam rings out of the Z2 on initial assembly. They don't admit to this, but I suspect it was a supply chain issue. In my opinion, this led to suboptimal lubrication causing unacceptable stiction and creaking. After 60 miles of riding, I did a lower service and installed aftermarket foam rings. This solved my stiction issues. I still find that the fork is more supportive than I'd like, so I may experiment with removing the one air spring volume spacer it comes with.
This bike does not feel very "downcountry" due to the very heavy wheels and tires. I plan to upgrade both to make the bike better suited for longer days in the saddle. The stock tires do have amazing grip, but the rolling resistance is more than I prefer. The spec of an HG compatible SunRace cassette means that I may also be purchasing a new cassette with the wheel upgrade since microspline seems to be killing the market for HG compatible boost hubs. Oddly, the lower spec Rift Zone 2 gets a microspline rear hub and cassette.
My freehub developed an unacceptable amount of play in the first 100 miles of riding. There was an audible clunk when bouncing the rear wheel and the wobble was bad enough that it affected the shifting towards the low end of the cassette. Marin sent me a warranty replacement freehub. The jury is out on whether it will be a long term fix, or if it will also go bad quickly. In case anyone is wondering, the hub is a rebadged Formula CL-1248, which has no instructions available online, so your on your own for service.
This is the "lowest" bike I've every ridden. We have lots of rocks here in Colorado, so I put a taco bash guard on it to protect my chain and chainring. I hit my guard every other ride, so you should probably invest in similar protection if the trails you ride are rocky.
Why did the lower spec Rift Zone 2 get a sweet chain stay protector while the higher spec Rift Zone 3 received a glued on strip of rubber? I added more protection at my own expense, but I would prefer the Marin integrated protector. Stock downtube protection would also be a plus to keep up with the newest crop of aluminum trail bikes.
Conclusions. With the stock components, this is a solidly a "trail bike" that can suit many riders well. I'm not sure what to make of the contrast between the heavy weight and efficient-ish suspension. I'm hoping that it feels a bit quicker when I upgrade to lighter wheels and tires.
Not sure if you’ll be able to read that though...