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Value Field Test: Marin Rift Zone

Jul 6, 2023 at 18:58
by Dario DiGiulio  


Marin Rift Zone

Words by Dario DiGiulio; photography by Tom Richards

No strangers to creating idiosyncratic and unique bikes, Marin has done it again with their new update to the Rift Zone. The 130mm trail bike manages to deliver a ride feel well in excess of its numbers, and the little ripper lives up to Marin's claim that it is "made to party, whatever your jam might be."

Though Henry seems unable to pronounce the name correctly, don't get it twisted: despite being the most expensive bike on test, the Rift Zone 29" XR is still smartly-specced with a well-rounded parts kit attached to an impressively capable frame.
Marin Rift Zone Details

• Travel: 130mm / 140mm fork
• 29" wheels
• 65.5° head angle
• 77° seat angle
• 430mm chainstays
• Reach: 485mm (L)
• Sizes: S-XL
• Weight: 34.8 lb / 15.8 kg
• Price: $3,499 USD
• More info: marinbikes.com


With 130mm and 140mm of travel in the frame and fork respectively, the Rift Zone sits squarely in the middle of our travel range for this Value Field Test. The Marzocchi Z1 fork and Fox Float X shock complement each other nicely, offering great performance and simple adjustment. It's no mystery that I'm a fan of Shimano's MT420 brakes, so I was happy to see them specced here. The drivetrain is also a Shimano joint, with an SLX/XT combo paired to some FSA cranks and chainring. The house-brand wheels keep things rolling, and the Maxxis Assegai tires slow you down and provide the grip.

The Rift Zone's geometry chart is in keeping with most trends these days, with a fairly long 485mm reach in the size large, and a 77° seat angle to keep things upright on the climbs. The 65.5° head angle may not be super slack on paper, but as we'll get to in the ride impressions that didn't quite translate in real-life feel. The short 430mm chainstays are consistent across all frame sizes, and the high stack - low bottom bracket combination gives a very confident and planted feel when standing.



The defining characteristic of the Marin's climbing attitude is one of compliance and grip. With fairly active suspension and the upright riding position that the geometry provides, the Rift Zone doesn't coax you into sprinting up every hill in sight. Rather, it's content to pick up technical and challenging bits of trail, getting to the top in due time.

The Float X has an easily accessible lockout switch, but there's another parts kit choice that keeps the Marin feeling a little slower on the climbs: the front and rear Assegai tires. While we're all big fans of the descending performance of these aggressive Maxxis treads, they certainly don't roll as quickly as other options when it comes time to get up the hill, so expect a bit of drag as payment for your increased confidence on the descents.

All told, the handling and planted suspension of the Rift Zone make it a calm and capable climbing bike, just don't expect blazing speeds when you're on the pedals. With a different tire spec and perhaps some lighter wheels, the character could be changed quite drastically, but I really didn't mind the extra grip on loose and scrappy bits of climbs.




If you're looking for a short travel bike that delivers a descending feel well in excess of its numbers, then the Rift Zone deserves a place on your short list. We all came away from rides on this bike impressed by just how capable it felt on the descents, bucking any expectations we may have had for its relatively middle-ground geometry and travel numbers.

The low bottom bracket and high stack combine to give you a rather upright riding position, which helps the short back end whip around corners with ease. Longer, arcing turns take a bit more finesse, as the bike wants to change direction quickly unless your handling is calm and planted.

Thanks to the supple and muted-feeling suspension, the Rift Zone really managed to impress in chunky terrain where you just want to brace yourself and plow through. In these scenarios, one could be easily fooled into thinking it had a lot more travel than advertised, really giving it a mini-enduro bike character. This is helped by the burly parts package, which should prove reliable through their fair share of rock smashing.


Though I'm a big fan of the Shimano MT420 brakes, their long levers and funky ergonomics might prove bothersome for folks who like their cockpit as neat and tidy as possible. They feel great once the levers are set up in the correct spot, but that is a bit more fussy than some more traditional lever shapes. Thankfully, they pair nicely with Shimano's shifter, which provided excellent performance for the duration of the test. Sadly the drivetrain uses an XT derailleur and SLX shifter, which takes away the dual-click upshift that nicer Shimano tiers delivers.

The upside to the overly-aggressive dual Assegai spec is that you now own TWO Assegais, so you could potentially swap the rear out for a faster rolling alternative and keep the front as a spare for down the line. The Z1 fork is another standout spec, which has impressed us over numerous test bikes at this point.

It feels like a mantra by now, but let me say it one more time - the Rift Zone is a bike that exceeds its' numbers when it comes to downhill capability and performance. You could definitely jump into a low-stakes enduro race here and there, knowing you won't be terribly under-gunned, and it definitely won't hold you back on the local hot laps. Though the suspension performance biases a bit towards the descent, I wouldn't hesitate to spend a long day pedaling the Marin to access fun and challenging terrain.


+ Punches well above its travel bracket
+ Solid frame that should withstand the fun you're going to have
+ Good components with no immediate upgrades needed


- Active suspension feel biases towards descending
- Dual Assegai tires rob some speed on the climbs
- Cable routing may prove tricky for at-home mechanics down the line

Author Info:
dariodigiulio avatar

Member since Dec 25, 2016
200 articles

  • 69 1
 Definitely pronounced "muh-RIN". Let that muhrinate.
  • 18 38
flag YukonMog (Jul 11, 2023 at 11:18) (Below Threshold)
 It's a latinate name and modern convention for most latinate words is to emphasise second to last syllable unless otherwise indicated in the word (accent etc)
'Marrin' is probably technically correct but doesn't stop 'mericans mis-pronouncing yet another word.

You dont say Muh-rio for Mario
And I bet you dont say Muh-rinnus for Marinus. What about Marino frame builder
: Muh-rinno ? Or Marreeno
  • 33 1
 @YukonMog: American English is a non-prescriptive language. The way a word is used or pronounced is essentially the correct way to use or pronounce it.
  • 22 0
 @YukonMog: modern convention hardly applies, it's a proper noun of unsure origin. Pretty funny for a Brit to declare his preferred pronunciation and then give the local's pronunciation as an alternate. But, I'm afraid North Americans have been doing that to place names all over the world for a long time, so I'll let it slide. Smile
  • 16 7
 @BiNARYBiKE: "Unsure origin"? Marin bikes was founded in 1986 in Marin County...the birthplace of mountain biking. Most of the early bikes were names for trails and landmarks in Marin County. Thus the correct Muh RIN
  • 8 0
 @YukonMog: far from an expert, but based off this whole “Latin” angle you’re pulling, you also don’t say Mary-o, which seems to be how he would pronounce it. It would be Mah-rio, just like Mah-rin. Mare-rin would be anglicizing tf out of it.
  • 8 0
 @pwkblue: I’m talking about the name of the county. Scholars aren’t sure exactly where it comes from, but there are a couple theories.
  • 6 0
 @YukonMog: named after Huicmuse of the Licatiut: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Marin
  • 14 0
 As a Marin native, I can assure you it's actually more like "m'r-ihn". Most locals don't really pronounce the "u" part in the first syllable. Almost like it's spelled "M'rin". lol
  • 24 1
 Don’t mind pronouncing it the American way, so long as y’all can stop saying “I could care less” when what you really mean is “I couldn’t care less”. Please and thanks
  • 8 0
 @motdrawde: all my ‘murican friends say “couldn’t care less”. Perhaps I’ve made that a requirement for continued friendship.
  • 3 0
 You learn something new every day. I think just about everyone I've ever heard in the UK pronounces it the same way as Henry. Most (including myself until I learnt otherwise) also say Vitus with an 'eye' instead of 'Veetus'.
In our defence, we do know how to pronounce Iraq though. ;-)
  • 1 0
 @seraph: Yep, it's akin to how people from Toronto tend to say "tronno" and people from Baltimore say "balmer". Unaccented syllables tend to get de-emphasized. In the East Bay, though, we always gave your county both syllables.
  • 1 0
 @commental: I think I generally heard Vitus with the eye pronunciation stateside as well. That said, in looking it up, given the word’s origins, if we are referring to the saint, who was Italian, then it would indeed be vee-tus; same appears to hold true for French, aka the mother tongue of the brand.
  • 2 0
 @panthermodern: Yes, the name is a resurrection of an old French brand.
From the horse's mouth;
  • 65 2
 Cons: we had to write something here.
  • 30 36
flag toast2266 FL (Jul 11, 2023 at 9:25) (Below Threshold)
 Cons: it's a 35 pound bike before you put pedals and real tires on it. So you pretty quickly end up with a 37 lb bike that only has 130mm travel.
  • 53 5
 @toast2266: what's wrong with assegai front and rear? Sounds like real tire to me. For me I'll even lose weight by going dissector rear.
  • 14 2
 @toast2266: I'd ride a medium, so slightly lighter out of the box, throw on some we are one carbon wheels, carbon bars, and maybe even a lighter rear tire.. IDK man, I think it would get lighter.
  • 11 14
 @ybsurf: assegai's are great. Exo casings are not.
  • 3 0
 @ybsurf: I they are referring to the EXO casing it comes with. If you'd plan to really push the bike those should probably be upgraded to a heavier casing.
  • 12 0
 @toast2266: weight, cost, reliability. Marin kept two of these up so one them could be kept down.
  • 9 4
 @DKlassen8: and that'd be all well and good if this thing had 160mm travel. But a short travel tank doesn't make much sense, especially when there's both lighter bikes at this price point, as well as longer travel bikes at this price point.
  • 7 0
 Hahah Exactly! Those cons seem pretty lame. It's reads as though they had a quota for cons, so they fished some weak ones.
  • 9 2
 @toast2266: real tires? Assegai's are not lightweight and as far machismo factor they are at the top of heap these days.
  • 13 0
 @toast2266: if you changed to an Exo+ Assegai/Dissector combo, the weight wouldn't change, and as a 130 bike, I imagine that it would be totally sufficient for most people.

My bike came with Exo+ Assegais on both sides. My home trails are Bootleg Canyon in NV, which is generally pretty rough on tires, but they've held up for 9 months now with only one flat that made me need to reinflate on the trail.
  • 14 0
 @toast2266: exo are not bad depending on where you ride and it's a 140/130 bike.
  • 3 0

They must have been so bummed when they couldn’t list the Shimano brakes as a con…
  • 3 0
 @Saidrick: I used to have them on my hardtail, and the power was fine, but I couldn't stand the fact that the levers felt like garbage. Upgraded to XT and never looked back.
  • 10 0
 If it had lighter tires and climbed better the cons would've read 'needs better tyres so it can descend better
  • 6 0
 I scrolled through the article again to see what was the issue really, but couldn't find it. Could anyone clarify how the cable routing could prove tricky for the home mechanic?
  • 3 0
 @ybsurf: I put a dissector on the rear of my bike and it wore out in half a season- started ripping off side lugs. The fastest wearing tire I've ever used, it melted faster than even my Kenda Pinners. Anyone else have this problem?
  • 5 0
 @vinay: If it's the same as my 2021 Rift Zone and 2021 Alpine Trail, Marin doesn't use locking cable ports or internal sleeves. This means that to get the cable from one end to another if you don't have an existing cable to tape it to, it is tricky to get it to go to the right place. The cable ports they use are just like a rubber/silicone plug, so they are pretty hard to get into the hole. You kind of have to squish it with tire levers and pliers to get it back into place. Overall, not a big issue, just takes a couple extra minutes if you're running new brakes, shifter, or dropper cable. Definitely better than any cable tourism.
  • 1 1
 @hamncheez: yes they are maxxis
  • 2 0
 @vinay: They talk about it in the video part of the review.
  • 2 0
 @vinay: I have a Rift Zone 1, and can confirm it was a right pain! The top inlet is only as wide as the cable/hose, and the bottom inlet is not a whole lot better. It required some frustrated fishing and annoyingly I lost a bit of brake oil down the tube in the process. Hopefully never have to do that again...
Superb frame otherwise, I'm really loving mine!!
  • 1 1
 @hamncheez: yeah they do wear fast, which they made them in dual compound. Next I'll go back to the aggressor.
  • 1 0
 @hamncheez: especially in Utah those tire womt last long I'm sure. I usually easily do a full season+ here in pnw
  • 6 0
 @toast2266: Its got EXO Assegais, appropriate for its travel and and a frickin Z1 on the front. I’d take that over a noodly trail fork any day. Also, who’s going to run DD or DH casing on a 130 bike…
  • 4 3
 @iduckett: anyone who wants to keep air in their tires?
  • 45 0
 This has been one of the best bikes per $$ for a long time. This version sounds even better.
  • 5 4
 Why would you buy this over a ripmo af though?
  • 2 3
 @Kmccann137: Good point. Would buy the Ripmo AF. Would crush it on the way up and down.
  • 18 2
 @Kmccann137: it's hard to look at the Ripmo, even if it's a good bike
  • 31 0
 Getting a bike with two good front tires is actually great. You can pick up a solid rear tire from a company like Specialized for half the price of an Assegai. Buy 3-4 cheap rear tires, keep the second Assegai for a spare front, and you're set for the season.
  • 3 0
 I like this way of thinking.
  • 2 1
 This is the way.
  • 20 1
 Pros: descends well

Cons: biased towards descending

Certainly good to outline, but also a tad redundant?
  • 55 0
 Pros: fun. Cons: biased towards fun.
  • 14 2
 @jesse-effing-edwards: I would argue that pedaling double Assegais will be decidedly unfun
  • 6 0
 @mtmc99: I bought a San Quentin 3 with double Assegais and was having serious regrets until I put a Purgatory on the rear. As DaneL said now I have a spare for the front.
  • 11 0
 Ive got last years version of this bike (actually the 3 model, so slightly different spec), and i agree that it does really punch above its travel and numbers. I took it to the local bike park last weekend it absolutely held its own. Regarding the weight, i think the big issue is the wheels. The wheels are by far the weak spot in the spec, theyre super heavy, and at least on last years bike, they were quite slow engaging. Killer build for the money, and ive been really happy with it.
  • 6 0
 I ride a RZ 3 as well, was immediately blown away by the capability of this bike. I agree about the wheels, I plan to replace/upgrade my wheels once they are shot but after 2 seasons of hard riding they remain true and with good spoke tension. This is the only bike I have ever owned that did not require any upgrades to make trail worthy.
  • 5 0
 I would really have liked to see the Rift Zone 1 in this basically to see some different components get tested rather than the usual stuff.X Fusion might be good enough for someone looking for a value bike. Plus the blue orange color option is amazing on the 1!
  • 2 0
 I have the new RZ1, and I've also been a fan of X-fusion for many years. Although this is my main bike so I actually swapped out 90% of the build before I rode it. I put the Sweep forks on my hardtail, and I'm afraid they aren't much good. The chassis is great, but the RC damper is really harsh and springy. But a hlr or even a roughcut damper swapped into the fork would be a fairly cheap and brilliant upgrade!
  • 7 0
 SLX shifter w/ XT derailleur? Clickbait spec.
  • 12 0
 it would be better if those were reversed, xt shifter and SLX derailleur
  • 4 0
 The Rift Zone 2 is ~$1000 cheaper. It has a Z2 fork and Rock Shox Deluxe rear shock. Do folks think it will perform similarly or worse than the XR? I've never ridden a bike those sus components.
  • 3 1
 I've ridden a similar bike with a Z2 and I found the performance to be quite poor. Really harsh compression damping and there is no adjustment for the HSC. It is possible to swap the damper for a Fox Grip 2 though, so you can upgrade, but that damper isn't cheap. RS Deluxe is good in my experience. I've never ridden a Z1 fork, but on paper it sounds like a rather good upgrade.
  • 3 0
 IDK about the performance, but it seems like RZ2 are the direct comparison to the Vitus and the GT, not the RZ XR.
same price point and very similar kit.
The XR is just a step above in budget and the spec shows it.
The Vitus has a very close kit for 1000$ less but it's a DTC so it make sense.
  • 2 0
 L O L at the cons list. Tires can be changed and the cable routing is far and away better than their previous frame design. As far as suspension goes, i dropped all the Fox garbage and put on an Lyrik and Super Deluxe Ultimate and the bike climbs exceptionally well.
  • 4 0
 I have owned a couple of Marins. No real complaints - warranty process has been great each time I have used it.
  • 2 0
 My experience too. Two broken chainstays. Third frame is on its way!
  • 2 0
 @Landonarkens: I also have broken two chainstays, just waiting on the current one to break.
  • 3 0
 @j1sisslow: my 5 year frame warranty is up next spring. I decided it’ll be time to sell the Marin while it’s in one piece before it expires.

My chainstays both broke on the drive side of the yoke near the chainring. How about yours?
  • 3 0
 @Landonarkens: Mine broke in the exact same area.
  • 3 0
 @j1sisslow: it’s the same spot that prompted Transition to do a voluntary recall of their frames.
  • 1 0
 Excellent suspension. I've got the same pairing on my Transition scout and love it. Definitely would be worth trying some lighter and faster tires, like a Michelin wild/force AM combo to make it faster on the climbs, and probably most descents too. That would be a pretty ideal trail bike for Marin County riding where this bike calls home
  • 3 1
 Hey Henry, you're English so it's important you pronounce things properly, leave the bad pronunciation to the Americans , except Marin, say that like they do.
  • 1 0
 I'm rocking a 22 Marin Rift Zone 2 27.5, though upgraded most of drivetrain to XT and SLX as well RS Revelation and Super Ultimate sus. Nothing to complain about, running smooth.
  • 1 1
 I've not tried the 12 speed cassettes, but my experience of 11 speed is Deore may shift a little better, but I'd take Sunrace any day from a longevity point of view. I've had a couple of Deore cassettes that have quickly died because of the crap rivets they use.
  • 2 3
 Would be nice to see if these budget bikes are UDH equipped so drivetrains could be upgraded to T-types in the future. Haven't seen this mentioned on either review. That's something to consider if I want a "future proof" bike.
  • 6 0
 This bike and all RZ models rock a UDH.
  • 8 0
 PSA, you don't need to stick a 1000$ drivetrain to ride your bike in a coupler of years...
  • 2 0
 I can't be the only one who see's Bert from Sesame Streets's Bert and Ernie riding this bike?
  • 6 7
 @dariodigiulio The wandering Shimano bite point "issue" is attributed to an incomplete bleed 99 times out 100. I suggest you check out the Greg Minnaar brake bleed tutorial where Marshy gives him instruction via zoom:

  • 2 0
 What’s the hydration vest @dariodigiulio is wearing ?
  • 1 0
 Camelbak chase vest
  • 1 0
 First time I've wanted a Marin
  • 1 0
 The 430 chainstays with 29" wheels sound like a great fun!
  • 1 0
 Who first came up with what is now a ubiquitous frame design?
  • 1 1
 How big of a rear tire could this frame fit? 2.8"?
  • 5 0
 2.6" seems like a safe bet, Marin doesn't give a specific number on their site.
  • 8 9
 Why is the rider wearing a life preserver?
  • 2 0
 Why do you hate water?
  • 3 0
 For water landings of course!
  • 3 0
 @nickfranko: Hey, McFly, you bojo! Hoverboards don't work on water… Unless you've got power!

also in my experience MTBs also don't work on/in water.
  • 1 1
 Did we find Levy ?
  • 1 4
 My alpine trail 8 was on paper a good bike. Off paper it was awful. Just saying.
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