First Ride: Marin Alpine Trail

Jul 4, 2018 at 10:00
by Paul Aston  

Marin launched the Hawk Hill last year, as an affordable full-suspension trail bike with a solid spec, a sub $1600 price tag and plenty of room to upgrade. The Alpine Trail follows a similar path, but with bigger wheels, more travel, and a higher price tag. That higher tag doesn't mean less value, as this 150mm travel 29er is ready to tackle some rowdy terrain with aggressive geometry and an up-to-date build. There are two complete bikes to choose from: the Alpine 7 at $2749, and the Alpine 8 at $3699.
Marin Alpine Trail

Intended use: trail/enduro
Travel: 150mm rear / 160mm front
Suspension: Multi-Trac System
Wheel size: 29"
Frame construction: Series 4 6061 Aluminium
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Trail 8 - £3000 / €3599 / $3699 USD
Trail 7 - £2200 / €2699 / $2749 USD

First Look Marin Alpine Trail

Construction and Features

Unlike Marin's flagship Wolf Ridge and its Naild suspension system, the Alpine Trail is kept simple: an aluminum frame with a linkage-driven single-pivot rear suspension. Marin calls it Multi-Trac suspension. The seatstays pivot on the rear dropout and are bridgeless to clear the larger wheel and stat tube at full compression. They are connected to a forged one-piece rocker linker to maintain stiffness that drives a trunnion-mount metric shock. The frame is one-by compatible only. Marin's goal here is a no-frills approach - a solid machine with numbers and components that are up to date.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Rocker link
The forged and welded rocker link drives a trunnion-mount shock.
First Look Marin Alpine Trail - bridgeless seatstays
Bridgeless seatstays give a clean look and ample clearance for 2.6" tires.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - seatstay pivot
Marin located the rear pivot on the seat stay, so it's a single-pivot swingarm, not a true four-bar 'Horst Link' linkage where the seat stay and dropout are one unit.
First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Rocker link
Trunnion-mounted shocks maximize shock travel while allowing for a shorter eye to eye length and a more compact frame installation.

Marin moved the rocker link mount forward, compared to older models with a similar design. This was to maximize seatpost insertion for today's longer dropper posts. Shorter seat tube lengths allow riders to size up if they want to, while still being able to get the correct seat height with long dropper posts. The new shock position opens up space to fit any shock on the market, and they have tested nearly every large coil and air-shock with piggy-back reservoirs and haven't found one that doesn't fit.

Marin also spent a lot of time making the shock tunes as similar as possible between the X-Fusion and Fox-equipped bikes. Their goal was to gain support from the frame kinematics, while using lighter than normal damping to keep things lively and to track faster in rough terrain. Configuring the right air-volume spacers also played a key role.

Rounding off the minor details, the Alpine Trail features Boost 148mm and 110mm hub spacing, a tapered head tube, a 73mm threaded bottom bracket, internal cable routing through the front triangle, and space for a full-sized water bottle inside the frame.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - FSA Comet crankset
For the Trail 7, Marin chose the FSA Comet crankset.
First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Marin bar stem
Marin spec their own bar and stem on the 7, with a Deity cockpit on the Alpine Trail 8.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Tektro brakes
The Tektro Orion brakes had all the power I needed on the trail.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail 9 - Studio
Marin Alpine Trail 7
First Look Marin Alpine Trail 8 - Studio
Marin Alpine Trail 8


There are two complete bikes to choose from: the Alpine Trail 7 (pictured and ridden with the black/grey colorway) is the lower spec model and comes in at $2749, using some of Marin's own branded parts, an X-Fusion 02 shock and a Manic dropper post, a Yari fork, and a Shimano drivetrain; The $3699 Alpine Trail 8 comes with Fox Suspension, a KS LEV seatpost, a SRAM NX Eagle drivetrain, and sprinkled with Deity finishing touches. Just because the Trail 7 has a lower price, doesn't mean it not spec'd to shred, it still comes with a wide 800mm handlebar that can be cut to suit any rider, a 150mm dropper post (125mm on S-size), 203/180mm Tektro Orion four-piston brakes and tough Vee Tire FlowSnap treads. Both models also come with Marin's own rims with a 29mm internal width to support wide, 2.6" rubber.

Marin Alpine Trail 7 spec
Marin Alpine Trail 8 spec

Geometry & Sizing

It's great to see affordable bikes come in larger sizes, so taller riders can benefit from the handling advantages of a shorter stem. Only a few years ago, anybody over the 5' 9" (180cm) mark had to put up with a tiny frame and a 70mm stem to get a decent riding position, so to see a €2699 bike with a 490mm reach in X-large and 35mm stems on all sizes is great progress. For smaller riders, the small-size frame is kept at a sensible 420mm reach, where some brands seem to have over-sized their small frames.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Geometry 3

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Geometry 2
First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Geometry 1

I generally dislike writing First-Ride reports, as it is tough to get on a bike for a few runs and be on point, but the Alpine Trail was a break from the norm. I pressured the suspension to give 28% rear sag and 15% front, set the brake levers to my angle and went to shred.

The Alpine Trail isn't the most spritely pedaler on smooth surfaces, having some bob, but this does help it to track better over bumpy terrain, and while you may be losing fractions of efficiency on the road, it is generally easier to ride up and through technical terrain. The steep 76º seat angle put me in a good position over the bottom bracket and minimized front wheel lift despite the short-ish 430mm chainstay.

Over the top and into the thick of Les Get's worst kept singletrack secret, we were bombing. The geometry is aggro for a value bike with a 65º head angle, and 76º seat angle, and there's no other way to describe the Alpine Trail as friendly and easy to ride. The single-pivot kinematics sits the bike into the travel and preserves the geometry while braking, keeping more weight on the rear wheel and maximizing traction. It also has plenty of mid-stroke support to keep it riding up in the travel in the rough stuff as well as making it easier to descend in a tall, strong position without issue. It drives well when pumping terrain and also tracks well, with a measure of forgiveness and no harsh rebound.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Riding

The normal protocol on a media ride is to hand out the highest tier machine, which has the lightest, most refined components and best suspension. In reality, the bike than most people will buy will be the lower-level clunky tank. In this case, we took the lower level Alpine Trail 7, and I wouldn't change a thing. Tires are often where money is saved on lower priced bikes, yet the rarely seen 2.6" Vee tire combo had sturdy casings, soft rubber and a good tread pattern. I didn't feel like I was losing anything important. Only nicer clicky sounds from the rear hub, a crisp gear shifter, and maybe a slightly smoother dropper post with seamless actuation. The Alpine 7's performance is focused where it matters - for shredding down the kind of alpine trails it was made for. We'll have one for a full review later this year.

First Look Marin Alpine Trail - Riding


  • + 78
 Really keen on these budget + shred friendly price points. Definitely a huge void in the market in this area.
  • - 14
flag jayacheess (Jul 4, 2018 at 18:33) (Below Threshold)
 True, but these Marins don't seem like the best bang for the buck. YT offers Jeffseys with a significantly better component spec at the same price.
  • + 26
 @jayacheess: every new bike release article there is someone commenting that YT offers the best value/spec/bang for buck. Why dont i see more of them on the the trails then? i can count on 1 hand how many people i've seen riding a YT on my local trails
  • + 14
 I see a ton of YTs, and they are great bikes. but they are one company, more companies need to follow suit in my opinion. I wouldnt say they offer much better value than the builds listed here either
  • + 2
 @philip9175: I have yet to see a single YT out here. If they're such a great deal, then how come i only see people riding yeti, specialized and santa cruz?
  • + 16
 @jayacheess: #nobodycaresyourideaYT
  • + 12
 @philip9175: they're pretty much always out of stock and the pre orders are usually months in advance. YT is great at marketing and had some nice rides, but their supply chain management is lacking
  • + 14
 Former Jeffsy owner here. The pedal bob and rear flex of that bike drove me crazy. Good value parts spec though, and those parts are now on a different frame.
  • + 0
 @philip9175: I’ve seen 5 in my last 2 rides. Probably 10% of bikes. Whistler opening day had a fair amount of YT bikes too. You also have to consider it’s a fairly new brand. If you’re not seeing them you’re not paying attention.
  • + 2
 @sosburn: because you’re in Sausalito...
  • + 5
 Interesting comments on how many YT's people see out on the trails. In the UK you see an awful lot of them
  • + 1
 @aceface17: Really? Go compare the Jeffsey AL comp to the Marin Trail 7. It's not just a little bit better. It's a lot better. Same with the Jeffsey CF vs the Trail 8 for the same price.
  • + 0
 @mungbean: I ride a Transition. I used to ride a YT. Luckily the component spec was excellent and was totally worth mostly switching over to the new frame.

Why did I switch? I got a good deal on a Patrol.
  • + 2
 @jayacheess: Diamondback/Commencal/Canyon are great, and, well... actually have bikes in stock. Why does everyone jump on the YT is everything hype train?
  • + 5
 @jayacheess: In case this is relevant, I found this in the fine print on YT's site... Disclaimer: Owning a Gwin bike (brand) doesn't actually make you Gwin. Individual results may vary. Razz
  • - 5
flag jayacheess (Jul 5, 2018 at 3:08) (Below Threshold)
 @mtbikeaddict: oh, for sure. YT is just an example. There are lots of brands offering better bang-for-the-buck offerings than this Marin.
  • + 0
 @jayacheess: Ah... just the most common example. Huh. It just seems like bikes are a little overpriced in general nowadays... just makes you wonder when there are bikes pushing 10k and then similar component builds for k's less. How much does it cost to make one? Yeah, there are several options that are better... I suppose compared to more expensive options the Marin's not bad, and they've got the right idea... good geo, reasonable parts... but still... Hm.
  • - 1
 @mtbikeaddict: When you cut out the retailer, then bikes can be thousands of dollars less. That's how Direct-To-Consumer brands (YT, Commencal, Diamondback, Intense, etc.) all operate and why they are so much cheaper. You are basically buying a bike at wholesale cost. There's really not much to wonder about it.
  • + 0
 @ka-brap: But it's not like there are tons of different manufacturing plants making tons of different parts over in Asia... multiple brands use the same factories etc. So even ignoring DTC... why the (sometimes sizable) price differences, and does each bike really cost that much? Bikes are a pretty expensive mass-produced item. Sure, you could say that cars/boats (even houses) are too, but those are high-profit (and yet even more mass-produced)... wait for your dealer to run a sale, you get thousands off. Get last year's bike for several hundred less. So I guess that's my point. How much of this stuff is profit in some form. $300 sunglasses? The list goes on...
  • + 1
 @mtbikeaddict: well as a former retailer (and current product manager in another industry), when a $5000 bike is sold for $3500, the retailer is selling basically at his/her cost. Margins on complete bikes are fairly poor in comparison to other hardgoods and especially softgoods. And in the grand scheme of "mass produced", bikes really aren't mass produced to the extent that their costs come down dramatically. Many of the high end bikes we lust over number in the hundreds produced each year, not thousands.
  • + 3
 @philip9175: Come to Europe, they're fricking everywhere.
  • + 2
 @stealthpenguin: You’re probably right. Lot of local bike companies in Norcal (Ibis, Spec, SC, Lobster, Riv) and people here support homegrown brands.
  • + 1
Because they are always out of stock. Demo’d one a month ago and loved it. Brought they bike back and said I want to order this one. I was told 2019 season in stock. That’s like 8 my months away wtf
  • + 1
 @ka-brap: True. I remember when my sister for a new bike on closeout... the shop said they couldn't ask any less cause it was pretty much at the price it cost them.
  • + 33
 Wait...a budget friendly, rowdy bike, with a solid spec, that isn’t available online only? It’s bizarro PB.
  • + 4
 I'm only here to complain, and now I'm just lost. Oh, I know! You can barely ride mountain bikes in Marin County, with almost zero singletrack being available, and a radar enforced 15mph speed limit. What a bunch of posers.
  • + 5
 @hllclmbr: If anything it makes you ride faster to avoid getting caught Wink
  • - 4
flag themountain (Jul 5, 2018 at 7:46) (Below Threshold)
 Budget friendly?? Almost 4 grand for a bike only because it has fox components?? The rest ist eavy as fu..! Not a bargain in my book, sorry.
  • + 8
 Question/speculation: are these new generation Marin bikes being produced in the Polygon factory?

I ask because the Australian distributor of Polygon has recently added Marin to their previously Polygon-only lineup, and there seems to be commonality in derailleur hangers, bearing kits etc. Also share the decent spec and affordable price point characteristic.

Anyway, these are nice looking bikes at a good price, kudos to Marin
  • + 1
 One of them owns the other, it’s not unlikely
  • + 4
 Asked the guys at Polygon why the Marin looks so similiar to their bike and stuff. Make in the same factory. Didnt say anything really about ownership of the brands but they are in the same factory for some of the bikes. This was 2017 sea otter incase if anyone was curious.
  • + 2
 There's only so many frame makers out there... Kineses, Ideal, Carbotec, UCC, etc. Probably a new manufacturing deal.

@kleinblake: Never saw any headline saying there was a sale, but who knows since both are private companies and that thing doesn't always make the news.
  • + 3
 @Jamminator: I think it’s more accurate to say they’re owned by the same parent company, and it’s why they both have Naild suspension
  • + 5
 @kleinblake: The whole world is owned by parent companies, which are owned by capital management firms, which are owned by hedge funds, which are owned by banks, which are owned by even bigger hedge funds which are owned by a very small group of people or families who literally own everything. If you think Bill Gates or Carlos Slim are the richest men on earth then you have no idea how this world really works. Trust me when I say that Bill Gates and C.Slim are middle class billionaires who are only "paper rich".
  • + 12
 @Boardlife69: Rothschilds build bicycles, got it
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: so you're exists!?
  • + 1
 @Milko3D: Its called layers of ownership. It helps to avoid paying taxes and keeping the public unaware of who owns what. And more than likely the Rothschilds or one of the other families does own a part of Specialized or any other brand that fits into what I described above. "Layers of ownership" is what Switzerland....specializes in.
  • + 1
 Related for sure, but keep in mind, Polygon the brand is owned by Insera, who is an experienced, skilled and competent supplier providing OEM private label manufacturing for other brands as well...
  • + 5
 @Boardlife69: One place carbon will never replace alloy: My tinfoil hat. Thanks for the reminder!
  • + 11
 Finally Marin made a decent looking bike!
  • + 5
 LOL.. they have always been sorta funky.. the Marin Quake series was funky looking but, what a nice ride it had. been selling Marin's for about 15 years now -- they dare to be different indeed
  • + 9
 Hey Pinkbike - please do a piece about the former owner of Marin, his story and why he left. I've only heard bits of rumours, but it definitely sounds interesting
  • + 11
 Sick looking bike. No fuss, affordable, shredding machine!
  • + 4
 When I saw Marin in the title I was hoping it would be more on the Wolf Ridge. Both the Marin and Polygon with the R3act suspension seemed to have some positive reviews despite many folks comments on the odd looks of the bikes. Bike press have been quiet on them for a while now. Any long term reviews on those in the works?
  • + 7
 For the price, geo and spec look good.
  • + 5
 Specs say Vee Rubber tires, catalog photo shows WTB's, and the test bike has one Vee and one WTB...
  • + 1
 That was literally the first thing I noticed too, strange especially when Paul talks about the "vee tyre combo" having sturdy casing etc. despite not using a vee tyre 'combo'.
  • + 3
 With the FSR patent expired I don't understand why anyone would make a bike like this anymore...??? If there's gonna be a pivot back there anyway it might as well be on the chain stay where it can do more good.
  • + 1
 I was thinking the same thing. But, it most likely has to do that this frame was ready in Taiwan and Marin needed a cost effective option ASAP.
  • + 3
 They ride totally different though, I prefer the way a linkage single pivot rides to a FSR or horst link. I think they feel much more poppy under pedaling. Every horst link bike I've ever ridden has felt like it was wallowing in its travel. Different strokes for different folks as they say.
  • + 1
 @ZappBrannigan: except the Giant NRS which oddly.never reappeared after the patent expired. wonder why?
  • + 1
 @bizutch: The redalp became the undisputed ugliest bike and everyone else gave up?
  • + 1
 @ZappBrannigan: I disagree, the pivot on the chainstay or seatstay shouldn't make one 4 bar more poppy than another. It's the overall kinematics and and the damper quality/set up. A person should be able to make either linkage set up ride the same. The chainstay pivot is just going to let the suspension continue working during breaking.
  • + 2
 @ZappBrannigan: Don't think you understand what I was referring to. Giant NRS linkage was an FSR design that actually locked out the suspension as the user pedaled. You said FSR bikes wallow. Just pointing out a singular, very specific FSR bike that did the exact opposite. It was an XC bike and people loved it but Specialized had the patent and squashed Giant's usage of the design.
  • + 1
 @bizutch: Ahh got you, didn't know that.
  • + 2
 Only explanation for single pivot instead of four bar would be brake squat. Maybe they want a relatively high BS value to preserve geometry in the steeps.
As four bar design the IC would shift to a position way more forward hence giving you very low anti rise/ brake squat. Some people like that, some don‘t. Also depending on your riding/braking style.
  • + 1
 But I wonder why go that route on entry level bikes? There are for sure riders that prefer the breaking mannerisms of a SP, often when combined with other traits of a bike set up for DH/DS. But for your average trail rider, especially when looking at entry level/lower cost riding options I'd think the chain stay pivot would be the way to go. I know I feather/drag my brakes more than I should!! But I've rode with people who ride the brakes the entire time a bike is under gravity's influence! Smile
  • + 6
 Mehh! It's not over 6k! I can't be lookin at this!
  • + 1
 Agree that more value bike reviews are good to see. Paul said the 7 comes with 800mm bars and vee 29x2.6 meat, as well as a Shimano drivetrain. The specs state a 780mm bar with e-13 TRS cassette & XD driver, and 29x2.3 tires for both the 7 & 8. I’m most surpised about the e-13 cassette, and look forward to a LT review on these Tektro 4 pots.
  • + 1
 Bravo Marin. Aside from helping bike shops stay in business, theres another huge benefit of these over mail order bikes: the ability to see them in person and throw a leg over them and test ride them at your local shop. You simply cant do that with a yt, commencal, etc.

Furthermore, not all frames are equal. In fact, for me, most of the reason I buy a particular bike is because of the frame, not the components. A YT may be cheaper than brand X ehen you comparecl components, but that's not the only thing to compare. For me, there are a lot of bikes that ride WAy better than a YT, which justifies the higher cost. Add the ability to test them out at a shop for proper sizing and suspension feel, the ability to support the industry/shops, and see the colors in person, and theres a huge advantage to not buying mail order. For some people, bikes are all about lowest price. While price is important to me, it's not my #1 factor in choosing a bike. And I'll never buy a bike without throwing a leg over it to compare sizes.

Bravo marin.
  • + 4
 Why does the 8 have a shittier dropper than the 7?
  • + 2
 I'm looking at the rest of the build spec and thinking I'd take all of the 7 over the 8, except for maybe the DPX2, and even that's a big maybe as I've been very impressed with everything I've tried from X-Fusion.
  • + 1
 Although an in depth Review is prefered, First-Ride reports generally suffice as a 2nd Ride report would be a just be another Deja Vu or worse - right before the next year model comes out.
  • + 3
 Whoa!! Someone Poked Da Bear!!! Nice Lookin Stead ;+}
  • + 1
 The market/riders on a budget need more bikes like this, good job Marin, and by extension other brands that have been coming to the table with recent offerings.
  • - 1
 Bang for the buck? Are u high? Mega 290 factory has the same price over here. And the spec is lightyears better. And yeah, you can buy it at a dealer, if you prefer. NX on on a 3.7k alu bike is ridicilious. Nice geo, though.
  • + 2
 But why not 4 bar instead of faux? Can't cost any more to make.
  • - 2
 This isn't a quite a faux bar. Faux bars have a solid rear end (no chain stay or seat stay pivots). They rely on chainstay flex to reach full rear travel. On way they chose one over the other, I'm not sure.
  • + 2

Faux bar suspension just means the pivot is on the seatstay instead of the chainstay. It essence a false four bar, since the wheel is attached to the frame by a single pivot vs a four bar which has 2 pivots. A flex design doesn't have four seperate bars so it isn't a faux bar.
  • + 1
 @damo: ahh I see. I thought I read the other way around somewhere. My mistake.
  • + 3
  • + 2
 Looks like a great bike. Keen to hear Paul's thoughts in the final review
  • + 1
 Geometry looks ace
  • + 0
 Fuji will be next.
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