Marin is a brand known for releasing top-of-the-line bikes that fall into various classifications, but which bikes from them are the best?
Over the last 35 years, Marin has built a reputation as being a lead contender for the best bikes in the cycling industry - with premium parts and materials, as well as advanced designs. However, when you check out their impressive line-up, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the number of options that they have available.
The best Marin mountain bikes are the Alpine Trail Carbon 2, RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2, RIFT ZONE 27.5 1, SAN QUENTIN 3, and EL ROY. Whereas their best road, gravel, and E-Bikes are the HEADLANDS 2, PRESIDIO 3, FAIRFAX 3, Alpine Trail E2, and the SAUSALITO E2.
The riding season is just around the corner, which means that it’s probably a good time to start thinking about getting yourself a new bike. When it comes to launching world-class bikes, Marin is a name that you know you can rely on. Since Marin first came on the scene back in 1986, it immediately gained attention from the cycling community and industry pros as being a tier-1 manufacturer that prioritizes quality and advanced designs. That is why so many riders out there choose Marin over the competition. However, although Marin originally started out as a mountain biking brand, over the years, they have expanded their reach and began manufacturing state-of-the-art bikes of different classifications. These days, Marin is highly-regarded for not only its mountain bikes but also its road, gravel, and E-Bikes, as well - which is why, if you want to find the best Marin bike, you first have to determine what kind of bike you want to ride. To help you understand this further, we are going to take a closer look at the best Marin bikes in more detail.
Best Marin Mountain Bikes
If you are looking for a top-notch mountain bike, Marin is going to be a manufacturer that you know you can count on. When Marin first started building bikes, they entered the cycling world as a high-end mountain bike manufacturer. To this day, they are widely considered to be among the best in the industry. If you are itching to hit the trails on a quality mountain bike, Marin has got a very impressive line-up of options that range in specs and performance.
Before you begin weighing out your options, you should first decide what kind of mountain bike from Marin is going to suit your riding style best. Marin has got the best of both worlds - with an awesome selection of Hard Tail and Full Suspension mountain bikes to offer riders. If you want to shred with a minimal setup that is guaranteed to increase your speed and minimize your weight - a Hard Tail mountain bike is going to be your best bet. The reason for this is that a Hard Tail does not have a shock or rear suspension, which means that you have got less weight with you on the trail.
However, if you are looking for ride comfort and reliability, a Full Suspension mountain bike from Marin is going to be much better suited for your riding style. A Full Suspension bike gives you the ability to land jumps with more confidence and mitigate the risk of getting jolted off of your bike. It is also going to allow the bike to absorb most of the impact that you experience on trails - that would otherwise be going straight into you - saving you energy and enabling better recovery on chaotic trails and jumps. With that being said, you will have a bit of added weight and you may also end up needing to deal with more maintenance down the line.
What you will lastly want to consider is your budget for your Marin mountain bike. This is manufacturer is considered to be a specialist in mountain bike engineering - with their focus being premium quality bikes - which can at times be a bit pricey. However, Marin also aims to make their bikes as accessible as possible by using affordable, yet quality, parts for some of their bikes to reach the budget shopper. Keep reading to learn more about the best mountain bikes from Marin.
Alpine Trail Carbon 2 (Best Overall Full Suspension)
The Alpine Trail Carbon 2 is the best of what Marin has to offer in the Full Suspension category. This is a mountain bike that was built to shred trails like no other. Marin designed this bike to perfection with only the most high-end parts and materials, which is why it is also their most expensive Full Suspension option - currently being sold for $4,500.
This Full Suspension mountain bike from Marin is part of their incredible Alpine series. The design has similarities across all of the other sub-models from the Alpine series but you will find that certain parts and materials will differ - with the Alpine Trail Carbon 2 being the best of its league. The Alpine Trail Carbon 2 is an upgrade from its predecessor the Carbon 1 and features significant improvements to increase ride quality and performance.
The Alpine Trail Carbon 2 has a full carbon fiber frame. The Unidirectional Carbon Fiber Front Triangle is a brand new frame and has a state-of-the-art design. The carbon fiber material enables this bike to have incredible speed, agility, and versatility. You will find that this bike is built like a tank but is still very lightweight - giving you the flexibility to have an uphill advantage over riders - while at the same time, having the ability to reach incredibly fast speeds for downhill racing.
It also features a highly advanced Fox 38 Performance Elite - a world-class fork used by only the best mountain bikes out right now. This fork has incredible dampening and will make your ride feel as smooth as possible when riding on even the most rugged and chaotic trails. This is also encouraged by the Alpine Trail Carbon 2’s 29-inch wheels, which roll over terrain like butter.
Marin spared no expense when designing the Alpine Trail Carbon 2. In addition to their own custom parts that they used for the rims and saddle, Marin implemented a variety of high-end Shimano parts through various components of the bike. You will find Shimano present in the front and rear brakes, brake levers, cassette, hub rear, shift lever, and rear derailleur. In addition, you have got a top-of-the-line FSA Gradient in the crankset.
Marin designed the Alpine Trail Carbon 2 to be a heavy-duty bike that can take some serious impact. What makes this Full Suspension the best overall is how well-rounded its specs and performance are in virtually every category - without compromising any ride quality. This makes the Alpine Trail Carbon 2 a bike that is suited for a serious mountain bike rider that wants the best of what Marin has to offer - with price being irrelevant. The only issue with Alpine Trail Carbon 2 is that its $4,500 price tag is going to be way out of reach for the budget shopper.
RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 (Best Speed Full Suspension)
Every mountain bike that Marin releases is designed to take a beating - with the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 being no exception to that. This is a bike that is rugged and versatile but most importantly fast! The RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 is not quite as heavy-duty as the Alpine Trail Carbon 2 but it will have the advantage in a race solely off of its sophisticated design to enable fast riding - especially in a downhill scenario. However, much like with the Alpine Trail Carbon 2, this is one of Marin’s most premium Full Suspension mountain bikes, which is why the asking price is around the same - at roughly $4,400.
Naturally, one of the characteristics that enable the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 to have such incredible speed performance is the full carbon frame. Marin utilized a very advanced Unidirectional Carbon Fiber Front Triangle frame when designing this Full Suspension bike, which is going to make it stand out amongst so much of the competition. In addition, Marin equipped the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 with a Fox Performance 34 Float and Fox Float Reservoir for the bike's front/rear suspension.
A key characteristic that makes this Full Suspension bike so aggressive yet capable of speed is its geometric design. Marin designed the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 with a very low and slack tail, which is going to work wonders for downhill shredding. Much like with our previous option, Marin made this Full Suspension mountain bike with a 29-inch wheel, which is going to greatly assist with rolling over terrain and debris. The geometrical design combined with the wheel size gives the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2 a serious boost over a Hard Tail with similar specs - enabling the rider to have much better control over the bike’s handling when hitting extremely high speeds.
This Full Suspension Marin mountain bike features an excellent Shimano SLX 12-Speed, which offers a solid variety of gears to handle different kinds of grades and inclines. The crankset has an impressive FSA Gradient and you will find Shimano parts in a lot of the other components of the bike such as the front and rear brake levers, rear hub, and rear derailleur. In addition, Marin features some of their own custom parts for the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2’s rims, grips, stem, and saddle.
All in all, this is a world-class Full Suspension mountain bike from Marin that is going to be hard to beat by the competition. If you are looking for sheer speed and top performance on trails, the RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON 2, will not let you down. However, the $4,400 price tag does make this bike only accessible to a handful of riders.
RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 (Best Value Full Suspension)
Marin makes a lot of premium mountain bikes that are among the best in the world - with top-quality parts and materials in every detail of the design. However, a lot of them can get quite pricey, as Marin holds nothing back when it comes to building a high-end bike. To make their mountain bikes more accessible, Marin strives to get creative with designs and relies on alternative materials other than carbon fiber to manufacture more affordable options for the budget shopper.
The RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 is a perfect example of a Marin bike that ticks all of the boxes for so many Full Suspension riders without breaching the $2,000 threshold. This Full Suspension mountain bike from Marin is a showstopper and is guaranteed to let you shred like a pro on a variety of different trails. This specific model is an extension of the RIFT ZONE series, which we just touched upon with Marin’s top-performing speed bike.
This is a mountain bike designed for all intents and purposes. Marin aimed at making the RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 one of the most well-rounded and dynamic bikes from their line-up. This is going to be a perfect option for a rider that wants to have a universal Full Suspension bike that is ideal for racing, climbing, and jumping all in one go.
Marin designed the RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 with a quality Series 3 6061 Aluminum Frame. This is not going to be the lightest frame that you can get, as carbon fiber will definitely be a better option for you if that’s your priority. However, the aluminum frame is one of the key reasons why Marin was able to make this bike so affordable. Marin utilized a premium quality aluminum frame that is built to last. Although it is a bit heavier than what some riders would like, this material is going to be a lot more durable than carbon fiber.
You can expect your RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 to go the extra mile for you when it comes to longevity. Mountain bikes have a habit of getting knocked around quite a bit and this aluminum frame is going to enable your bike to take a beating - without you needing to worry about dents and cracks like you would with a carbon fiber option. This is not only going to save you money on your initial investment but it could also result in fewer maintenance costs when you do run into issues. The only thing to be aware of with this aluminum frame is that it is much more likely to experience corrosion, which is why you want to take precautionary measures to avoid rust.
Marin also equipped this mountain bike with an excellent RockShox Recon Silver RL 27.5 fork. In addition, you have got premium Shimano parts in the front and rear brakes, brake levers, derailleur, rear hub, and shifters. Marin also utilized their own custom parts for the rims and saddle - while implementing a SunRace, 11-Speed for the cassette. All in all, the RIFT ZONE 27.5 1 is the best value Full Suspension mountain bike that Marin offers, as you get a lot for what you put down, which is a great deal for just $1,900.
The great thing about Marin’s RIFT ZONE series is that it is so expansive - with a variety of different builds that vary in specs and performance. The RIFT ZONE Series falls into 3 different initial categories that range in wheel size so you can pick the one that suits your riding style the best. However, you can also choose to get an upgrade from the 27.5 1 by going for the RIFT ZONE 27.5 3, which features better specs.
The upgrade does cost $1,000 extra making it nearly $3,000, but this is going to be a great option for any rider that wants to up their game and has the cash to do it, as you get a Marzocchi Bomber front suspension and Fox Float DPS rear suspension within. On top of that, the upgrade comes with better Shimano parts such as the SLX drivetrain.
SAN QUENTIN 3 (Best Overall Hard Tail)
If you are a Hard Tail rider, you really can’t beat Marin’s SAN QUENTIN 3. This Hard Tail mountain bike is part of Marin’s SAN QUENTIN series and it is the best among the 3 options. The SAN QUENTIN 3 is a crowd favorite among singletrack riders who are looking to shred with precision. This Marin mountain bike was built for durability and it can handle pretty much anything that you throw at it.
In addition, to singletrack riding, the SAN QUENTIN 3 is also great for jumps and maximizing air-time. Marin designed this bike with an aluminum frame, which does give it a bit more weight than a carbon fiber option, however, this is actually favorable for a lot of Hard Tail riders, as it gives the bike considerably better durability. Carbon fiber is known for cracking much faster than aluminum when met with a hard impact, which can be particularly problematic for hardtail riders, as they do not have additional suspension.
The SAN QUENTIN 3’s excellent quality Series 3 6061 Aluminum frame is perfectly complemented by its RockShox Revelation RC fork. Marin also equipped this Hard Tail mountain bike with premium Maxxis Assegai 3C MAXX TERRA EXO tires. The 27.5-inch wheels that this bike has combined with these tires are going to enable great rolling for the most rugged terrains and conditions - allowing you to shred through the chaotic trails.
When designing this bike, Marin put in a lot of attention to detail, which is why they custom-made a lot of its parts and components. You will find that the SAN QUENTIN 3 is equipped with Marin’s signature Mini-Riser handlebars, 3D Forged Alloy stem, grips, and rims. In addition, you have got an FSA Comet crankset, as well as Shimano parts in various components of the bike such as the MT4100 Hydraulic Lever, Deore rear derailleur, and lever, as well as MT420 front and rear brakes. Marin spared no expense when building the SAN QUEINTEN 3, as it is armed to the teeth with state-of-the-art parts and materials.
What is also great about this Hard Tail bike is that it is fairly affordable compared to most of Marin’s Full Suspension options, as the aluminum frame enables the manufacturer to cut down on some material costs. The SAN QUENTIN 3 is available for just $2,400. Although this is still a bit pricey, Marin hooks you up with a top-notch Hard Tail Mountain Bike - you certainly get what you pay for.
However, if this is a bit out of your budget and you like the specs and capabilities of the bike, one of the best things about the SAN QUENTIN series from Marin is that you can always get an alternative model that has very similar specs and virtually identical design. The SAN QUENTIN 2 gets a small downgrade in the frame, as well as a few other parts and components but Marin does cut down the cost to make the bike just $1,600.
If you are on an even tighter budget, you can always opt for the SAN QUENTIN 1, which is still a fantastic bike that costs a mere $1,100. This fantastic range gives mountain bike riders a lot of variety to not only select a bike that suits them best on specs but also on a budget, making the SAN QUENTIN series the best value Hard Tail bikes that Marin has available.
EL ROY (Best Overall Hard Tail)
The EL ROY is a Hard Tail rider’s dream bike. Marin designed this bike to be the most capable Hard Tail bike in their line-up - with the ability to handle every type of terrain and condition imaginable - regardless of difficulty level. However, it is also important to recognize that this is the most expensive option in Marin’s Hard Tail category, as it is currently going for $2,800. If you want a high-end Hard Tail and have the money to spend, this is going to be the bike for you.
Unlike the SAN QUENTIN series, the EL ROY does not feature an aluminum frame and instead utilizes Cro/Mo Steel. This highly-advanced steel frame is what makes the EL ROY such a rugged bike that is capable of shredding with pure aggression - making it as close to indestructible as you can get.
The EL ROY also has a really impressive geometrical design that enables a very balanced ride comfort for a variety of different trails. However, the geometry also makes the EL ROY suitable for different kinds of terrain, as you can ride over rocks, hit jumps, and slash through the mud like nothing. With these performance capabilities in mind, Marin felt it was only logical to throw a 29-in set of wheels and Maxxis Assegai tires on the EL ROY - taking the bike’s ruggedness to a new level.
The Series 3 Double Butted and Formed CrMo tubing frame is very well complemented by a Marzocchi Z1 front suspension. Much like with the SAN QUENTIN, Marin implemented a bunch of its own high-end custom parts for various components of the bike such as the handlebars, grips, rims, and saddle The EL ROY is also equipped with a fantastic FSA Comet crankset and an FSA Orbit headset. Naturally, you can expect only the best Shimano parts in other parts of the bike such as the Shimano BR-MT420 front and rear brakes, HF-MT410B Shimano hub front, Shimano Deore derailleur, and shift lever, as well as Shimano BL-M4100 Hydraulic brake levers.
The EL ROY is a bike for an experienced mountain bike rider or a pro that wants to harness absolute aggression on trails. This bike is going to be ideal for everything that you throw at it but it is not going to be the best option for an introductory rider or someone looking for a balanced experience, as it may end up being too much bike to handle for some. The only real drawback of the EL ROY Hard Tail mountain bike is that it costs $2,800, which does not make it ideal for anyone shopping on a budget. In addition, unlike the SAN QUENTIN bikes, the EL ROY does not belong to a series, which means that there are no downgrade options.
Best Marin Road & Gravel Bikes
Most people know Marin as a world-class mountain bike brand but they have also got a very impressive selection of road and gravel bikes in their line-up, which should not be overlooked. In their store, Marin has coined terms for these bikes that are outside the norm of how the cycling industry would classify them, as Marin’s road bikes are categorized as ‘Flat Bar’ - whereas their Gravel Bikes are ‘Drop Bar’.
These bikes are going to be good for casual riders, commuters, as well as long-distance cyclists. Unlike mountain bikes, these Marin bikes have a bit more versatility, given that they can be used for a number of different riding styles. However, you will find that some of these options from Marin, do greatly vary in specs and price, which is great, as riders can choose something that meets their performance needs and their budgets. Keep reading to learn more about the best road and gravel bikes from Marin.
HEADLANDS 2 (Best Overall Gravel Bike)
HEADLANDS 2 is a gravel bike from Marin under their Flat Bar category. This is a world-class hybrid gravel/road bike that is the best of what Marin has to offer from this classification. HEADLANDS 2 is a highly-dynamic piece of machinery and is a major competitor for the best gravel bikes in the entire cycling industry.
To start, HEADLANDS 2 is equipped with a full carbon frame, which makes it very reliable for both road bike use and gravel riding. The carbon frame enables the bike to weigh in at 21.4 lbs, which is a bit heavier than your standard road bike but this is actually one of the key features that make Marin’s HEADLANDS 2 so dynamic, as the added weight will give you much better performance on gravel and more rugged terrain.
The frame alone for the HEADLANDS bike costs just under $2,000, which is the bulk of what the bike is worth, as Marin’s design is masterful. Riders who bought the HEADLANDS 2 give it praise for how versatile and well equipped it is for whatever they use it for. This is an amazing bike to use for your commutes, given that it is still very lightweight and maneuverable. The tough build, however, makes it an optimal choice for gravel riders.
If you are looking for a top-notch bike that can give you the best of both worlds between gravel and road, look no further, as the HEADLANDS 2 has got you covered. In addition to the full carbon frame, this gravel bike is equipped with an advanced Full Carbon Tapered Steerer fork, which has been custom-designed by Marin. You will find that Marin gave the HEADLANDS 2 a lot of attention, as they also designed the rims, saddle, handlebars, grips, and stem.
The HEADLANDS 2 gravel bike also features an FSA headset, bottom bracket, and crankset. Marin utilized premium Shimano parts for the hydraulic disc brakes, derailleur, and shift lever. All in all, you have got advanced parts and components in every detail of the HEADLANDS 2 bike. With all of these parts and materials in mind, you can expect to pay for them, as this is Marin’s most expensive gravel bike at $3,100.
However, if you are finding that this is outside of your budget, the great thing about this bike is that you can get the same design with very similar specs for a bit cheaper with the HEADLANDS 1. This is still a premium quality gravel bike with a carbon fiber frame but with slightly downgraded parts and a price tag that is $500 cheaper - making it $2,600. This is an excellent option for anyone on a tighter budget but still on the market for a high-end gravel bike from Marin.
PRESIDIO 3 (Best Commuter Road Bike)
Marin has a nice selection of road bikes that are designed specifically for commuting - with the PRESIDIO 3 being the best of what they have to offer. This commuter road bike is part of their PRESIDIO series which features a few different bikes that vary in specs and performance.
Bikes are incredibly dynamic and manufacturers design them this way to cater to the needs and preferences of different riders out there. Marin has taken a unique approach with designing their alternative models outside of their traditional mountain bikes by designing road bikes that are intended for a specific type of use. The PRESIDIO series is a perfect example of how Marin focuses on giving commuters a bike that is meant just for them.
These days so many people prefer to ride their bike to work and to run errands over driving a car. If that is you, the PRESIDIO 3 is going to be an amazing bike to take care of your commuter needs. This bike is straightforward, low maintenance, and meant to get you from Point A to Point B - without too much focus on technical riding. The PRESIDIO 3 is designed with high-end parts and is easy to adapt to a wide variety of different urban settings.
This transit bike features a Series 2 Commute, 6061 Aluminum frame, which is lightweight and durable - giving riders the best of both worlds. You have got Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and levers, as well as various custom parts from Marin such as the rims, handlebars, and stem. In addition to the great frame, Marin has paired it with an equally impressive 6061 Aluminum fork.
A feature that we really liked about the PRESIDIO 3 is its puncture-proof tires. Marin understands the frustration of getting a flat when you are riding in a city - especially if you are commuting and using your bike for something other than casual riding. The top-quality puncture-proof tires of the PRESIDIO 3 are going to ensure that you get to where you are going with maintenance issues along the way minimized.
Another great characteristic of the PRESIDIO 3 is that it is a very affordable bike from Marin compared to some of their other options. Even though the PRESIDIO 3 is the most expensive from its series, you can still pick one up for just $1,200, which is a steal for the excellent specs and performance - especially if you are going to be choosing between this transit bike and a car.
Although bikes are great for commuting, they are also an excellent way to stay in shape. That was the focus of this hybrid fitness/commuter road bike from Marin. The FAIRFAX 3 was designed to give riders an optimal level of fitness for anyone that wants to burn calories when they commute or ride casually.
This hybrid road bike is also part of Marin’s Flat Bar selection and features a very similar frame to the PRESIDIO - a Series 3 Fitness, 6061 Aluminum. This is an aluminum frame that is built to last - while at the same time, keeping weight minimized. However, where the FAIRFAX 3 does differ from the PRESIDIO in design is that it is equipped with a full carbon fork. The carbon fiber fork and lightweight aluminum give the FAIRFAX 3 a more lightweight build, which is perfect for fitness riding.
However, the lightweight advantage of the FAIRFAX 3 also makes it more versatile for different riding styles - in particular, long-distance cycling. It is not going to match up to the specs of the HEADLANDS 2 for this kind of riding but it will perform great nonetheless.
Much like with the PRESIDIO, this fitness bike is also equipped with puncture-proof tires, which is a must these days for anyone riding in a city. Marin built this bike with high-end Shimano parts for the derailleur, as well as the 9-speed cassette. In addition, you have got an FSA headset and Tektro hydraulic disc brakes. All in all, an amazing bike and quite affordable, as you can get yourself one for just under $1,100.
Best Marin E-Bikes
In recent years, we have been seeing E-Bikes become more and more popular on the road - and for good reason. They enable people who may lack the physical ability for extensive cycling to ride in comfort and they also make bike riding much more convenient for so many people who rely on this mode of transport for work and commutes.
Marin has taken notice of this, which is why they began manufacturing world-class E-Bikes for their customers. However, compared to Marin’s other selections, their E-Bike line-up has been minimized - with a focus on quality over quantity.
Alpine Trail E2 (Best Mountain E-Bike)
We covered Marin’s Full Suspension mountain bikes earlier - with the Alpine Trail 2 being the best of what Marin has in their line-up. They took the same design of their top-notch Full Suspension mountain bike and converted it into an E-Bike.
The Alpine Trail E2 has all of the same amazing specs - with a full carbon frame, premium quality Shimano parts, and an excellent Fox 38 fork. However, it is also equipped with a BT-8036 Internal 630Wh battery and a Shimano STEPS EP8 motor.
This mountain E-Bike is going to enable you to take on trails like never before - regardless of whether you need the E-Bike assistance to meet your physical needs or simply to make shredding all the more fun.
One of the best things about riding an E-Bike is just having the ability to cruise at your own pace. Marin designed the SAUSALITO E2 to do just that, which is why so many casual riders opt for this as their favorite option.
The SAUSALITO E2 is an amazing E-Bike that is designed with only the highest-quality parts. The bike features an SR Suntour NVX-E suspension that makes riding very comfortable and cushy, as well as a 6061 Aluminum frame that is both lightweight and durable.
You have got premium Shimano parts in the derailleur, brake levers, shifters, and cassette - in addition to Marin custom parts. The bike is powered by a Shimano STEPS E6100 System motor and a Shimano BT6010. This is a top-of-the-line E-Bike that is designed for comfort, fitness, and transit all in one.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson