- The Trek Marlin 5 is great for a sturdy, capable commuter or getting into mountain biking.
- A coil spring suspension fork, Tektro hydraulic disc brakes, and Shimano gearing give great value.
- The Marlin 5 has a lot of great features like internal routing and rack mounts improve functionality.
- Rear rack mounts and a kickstand mount make the Trek Marlin 5 a good bike for commuting.
- If you’re serious about mountain biking, I’d recommend upgrading to a more trail-worthy bike.
This Trek Marlin 5 2022 review gives you all the details you need to decide if this budget hardtail is the right bike for you.
The Trek Marlin 5 is a solid bike for the price, but just a bit more money could get you a lot more bike. If you’re looking for a daily rider that’s comfortable on your local tails, the Marlin 5 will serve you well with a solid aluminum frame and reliable components.
I got my first mountain bike when I was twelve, and I’ve ridden everything from ultra-budget hardtails to high-performance racing rigs. For this review I dug deep into the spec’s and performance of the Trek Marlin 5 to see how this budget mountain bike measures up to the competition.
Trek Marlin 5 Performance
The Trek Marlin 5 is definitely an entry level mountain bike, so you shouldn’t expect serious capability for really technical trail riding. It does give you decent performance on easier flowy trails and definitely is enough bike to get you started in the sport.
The aluminum frame is durable and relatively light, so this bike feels rugged enough for taking on off-road riding and singletrack. It has enough capability for beginner riders, but you’ll quickly feel held back as your skills progress.
The Trek Marlin 5 definitely doesn’t have the same descending capability as a real trail bike, but it’s sturdy enough to handle some flowy singletrack.
The 100mm of front suspension isn’t very much, and you’ll find it bottoming out if you ride on very rocky, rough trails. The geometry is also limiting with a very steep head tube angle and short reach that will leave you in a sketchy position on steep descents.
The steep seat tube angle puts you in a good position for climbing efficiently. At under 31 lbs, this bike is relatively lightweight for it’s price and doesn’t feel like it’s slowing you down on the uphills.
If you’re looking at a bike like this, it’s likely it will be your only bike and will be used for multiple purposes. From trails to bike paths to cruising around town, the Trek Marlin 5 offers great versatility. I’ve used mountain bikes for commuting for years, and I think the Marlin 5 would be a great option for a commuter.
This bike is perfectly functional for commuting and comes with features like a kickstand mount and rear rack mounts so you can fully equip it for getting around town.
Trek Marlin 5 Gen 2 Frame and Geometry
The Trek Marlin 5 is built around Trek’s Alpha Silver Aluminum frame which is durable and relatively lightweight. It’s awesome that this budget frame has internal cable routing that keep your shifting and brake lines protected and hidden away inside the frame. Combined with a chainstay disc brake mount, this makes the bike look sleek and clean.
The geometry is on-par with what you’d expect for a basic hardtail mountain bike, so you won’t get the most aggressive positioning. This geometry puts you in a nice comfortable position that’s great for all-around riding. Just don’t expect to feel comfortable on super steep trails.
Specs and Components
For the $740 price, the Marlin 5 gets you a decent selection of features including hydraulic disc brakes, a coil-sprung suspension fork, and reliable Shimano shifting. The components are nothing fancy, but they perform to my expectations for a budget bike.
The Marlin 5 comes equipped with a 2x8 Shimano Altus drivetrain for 16 total gears to choose from. This setup is a bit old-fashioned as most modern mountain bikes have shifted to one-by drivetrains for simplicity.
The Suntour XCM coil spring fork gives you 100mm of front suspension travel that helps smooth out bumps and chatter in the trail. It also has a hydraulic lockout so you can improve your efficiency on pavement.
This coil sprung fork doesn’t have as much adjustability as a higher end air fork, and it’s not lightweight, but it works well for the price.
The Trek Marlin 5 Gen 2 comes with Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic disc brakes. If you’re looking at getting a budget mountain bike, this may be the first bike you’ve ever had with powerful hydraulic disc brakes, and you’ll be amazed by the power and modulation you get over other mechanical disc brakes or V-brakes.
Brakes are an easy-to-overlook feature for mountain bikes, but they make a huge difference in giving you confidence to ride fast knowing that you’ll be able to stop at a moment’s notice.
This bike comes with Bontrager alloy wheels. For this model Trek chose to have wheel size depend on the frame size. XXS comes with 26” wheels, XS and S come with 27.5” wheels, and M and above come with 29” wheels.
I think this is a pretty smart way to do wheel sizing for a bike like this. On small frame sizes, the rear wheel can be annoyingly close to the seat tube. Variable wheel sizing ensures that riders of all sizes have a frame and wheel size that feels easy-to-control.
The wheels are not tubeless compatible and use a schrader valve, so you’ll be limited if you’re looking to upgrade tires.
The Bontrager XR2 Comp wire bead tires on the Trek Marlin 5 are nothing special, but they work well for giving grip in a wide range of conditions. They aren’t particularly lightweight or aggressive, but they do the job.
- The Bontrager alloy handlebar is a good width that gives you control on the trail or in traffic.
- The Bontrager Arveda saddle with steel rails is durable and comfortable on longer rides.
- The bike has a durable and lightweight Shimano aluminum crankset.
Competition for the Trek Marlin 5 Gen 2
At $750, the Trek Marlin 5 is at the lower end of the price range for mountain bikes. There are a lot of bikes to choose from in this category so it’s hard to stand out. The Marlin 5 does a good job of providing high-value features and components, but it isn’t anything unique in the category.
In my opinion, the Trek Marlin 5 is at the edge of the price cutoff where you can start to get a really capable aluminum hardtail for trail riding. Unfortunately, I think it falls on the wrong side of that cuttoff.
The Trek Marlin 5 is a perfectly functional mountain bike for everyday use and occasionally hitting the trails, but if you want to spend more time on singletrack and develop your skills, there are better options.
Read on to see some other options to consider, including two of the best mountain bikes you can buy if you’re on a budget: the Marin Bobcat Trail 4 and the Canyon Grand Canyon 5.
Trek Marlin 5 vs Marin Bobcat Trail 4
For a more trail-worthy bike at a similar price, the Marin Bobcat Trail 4 is a fantastic option that’s built for progressing mountain bikers. At $800, the cost is only slightly more than the Trek Marlin 5, while the design and components make this a more capable trail bike.
The Bobcat Trail 4 has the same coil spring suspension fork and hydraulic disc brakes as the Marlin 5 and comes with a super reliable Microshift Advent 1x9 drivetrain. This budget 1x drivetrain offers fantastic value with wide 11-46 cassette gear range and a clutched rear derailleur. This drivetrain will be a big upgrade for trail riding.
The biggest difference between these two bikes is in the frame and geometry. Marin has done a much better job of bringing progressive modern mountain bike geometry into this budget frame. The slacker head tube angle and longer reach will make the Bobcat Trail feel much more confident on singletrack.
Personally, I would definitely recommend the Marin Bobcat Trail 4 over the Marlin 5 as it has more capability to ride well on trails as you progress your mountain bike skills. For $200 more you can upgrade to the Bobcat Trail 5 for even more capability.
Trek Marlin 5 vs Cannondale Trail 6
The Cannondale Trail 7 is a popular entry-level aluminum hardtail that competes with the Trek Marlin 5 in price point and specs. There really isn’t too much differentiating these bikes. Both have basic but sturdy aluminum frames, 2x8 drivetrain setups, 100mm Suntour forks, and similar geometry.
One advantage of the Marlin 5 is that it comes with 29” wheels for size medium and above, where the Cannondale Trail 7 only has 27.5” wheels across the sizes.
Trek Marlin 5 vs Canyon Grand Canyon 5
If you can scrape together just a little bit more cash, the Grand Canyon 5 is an incredibly high-value mountain bike that delivers a lot more bang for your buck than the Marlin 5.
With a 1x12 Sram Shimano Deore drivetrain, a better suspension fork, better Shimano hydraulic disc brakes, and a lightweight aluminum frame with trail-ready geometry, this bike gives you a boatload of functionality that’s left off a mountain bike like the Trek Marlin 5.
Because of their direct-to-consumer model, Canyon is able to offer bikes at significantly lower prices than most manufacturers. The Grand Canyon is just $900. In my opinion, this is one of the best value hardtail mountain bikes on the market.
Where to Buy the Trek Marlin 5 Gen 2
- Direct from Trek
- High Mountain Sports
- Your local bike shop
About THE AUTHOR
I love mountain biking and live in Salt Lake City: a central hub for the MTB community. I started biking four years ago when a series of injuries put me out of commission for trail running. While biking started as cross-training, I fell in love with the sport. I mainly enjoy using my bike as a tool for exploration, I've done 50-mile all-day epic rides in the mountains and have been to some amazing places on my bike.Read More About Jakob Thygerson