Field Test: Marin Team Marin 1
A hardtail race bike that doesn't take itself too seriously
- Travel: 120mm fork
- Aluminum frame
- Wheel size: 29″
- Head angle: 67°
- Seat tube angle: 74°
- Reach: 450mm
- Chainstay length: 425mm
- Reach: 463mm (large)
- Quick and lively handling without feeling sketchy
- Excellent way to get into XC racing
- It’s great to see a Deore 12-speed drivetrain at this pricepoint
- No dropper post, but it’s still a good value even when one’s added on
- Some cable rattle on rougher sections of trail
28.1 lb / 12.7 kg
The Marin Team Marin 1 (yes, that is the model name) is aimed at aspiring cross-country racers, whether that’s a high school NICA athlete, or someone who wants to add the occasional race into their riding schedule. It’s a race bike that doesn’t take itself too seriously, with modern geometry that allows it to hold its own on trail rides outside of the tape.
The aluminum frame itself is nicely finished, and there’s nothing that gives it away as being a value-priced bike. There’s room for two water bottles inside the front triangle, internal cable routing, and a small amount of chainslap protection. The internal cables did rattle a bit—some foam sheathing around the housing would help with that—and the chainslap protection did start to wrinkle from heel rub.
The Team Marin 1 is well spec’d for the price, with a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain and MT201 brakes, a RockShox Judy Silver TK fork with 120mm of travel, and fast-rolling Vee Rail Rocco tires. There’s also a 780mm wide bar mounted to a short, 35mm stem, another sign that this isn’t your typical purebred race machine.
The one thing that’s missing is a dropper post, something that I’d recommend adding as soon as possible. There’s a reason more XC racers are finally using dropper posts—they make descending much, much easier, and while races aren’t typically won on the descents, it sure doesn’t hurt to be able to stay in control rather than just hang on for the ride.
As far as geometry goes, the Marin’s numbers fall into the new-school XC realm. It has a 67-degree head angle, a 74-degree seat angle, and a reach of 450mm for a size large. The chainstays measure 425mm. Those numbers are more relaxed than what used to be the norm in order to improve the bike’s handling on more technical descents.
If you’re looking at the reach numbers of the hardtails in this Value Field Test and thinking, “that seems short compared to my full-suspension bike,” don’t forget that on a hardtail the reach increases when you’re sitting on the bike and the fork sags into its travel. Personally, I’ve found that comparing toptube lengths can be an easier way to figure out how a bike will feel while sitting down and pedaling. On that note, that Marin’s 628mm toptube length is fairly typical for a size large.
The Team Marin 1 has that classic hardtail feel—stomp on the pedals and it’ll scoot right on up the trail. Its quick handling was an asset on tight, awkward climbs. This is a great option for riders that enjoy picking their way through puzzling sections of trail.
It’s not insanely light, but it was the lightest hardtail on test, and the weight difference between this bike and some of the other test bikes that were 2 or 3 pounds heavier was very noticeable. The Vee Rocco tires are quick rolling too, although that does come at the cost of some traction, especially on loose, sandy sections of trail.
I’ve long been an advocate of wide bars and short stems, but with the Marin I actually found myself wishing for a slightly longer stem in order to slow the steering down slightly. The 780mm wide bars and short stem combined with the steeper head angle make the handling really quick, almost too quick. A 50mm stem would go a long ways to dialing back some of the twitchiness.
The Marin Team 1 shines brighest on the climbs, but it’s no slouch on the descents, as long as you remember that it’s a cross-country bike, not a hardcore hardtail meant for bashing through the gnarliest trails. Keep those expectations in check and it’ll deliver a good time. The sharp handling keeps it entertaining on mellower, rolling terrain, with a quickness that encourages standing up and sprinting whenever possible.
As mentioned earlier, a dropper post would be the first thing to upgrade—that’ll immediately expand its descending capabilities. With the seat lowered, the Marin held its own on the chunky downhill portion of our test lap. You’ll obviously want to pay a little more attention to line choice, and the 120mm Judy will only do so much when things get rough, but overall I was impressed with its handling.
On some XC race hardtails it can feel like there’s a razor thin line between control and disaster, but on the Team Marin 1 there was a little more margin for error—a botched line or a mis-timed corner didn’t automatically result in doom.
The Shimano MT201 brakes aren’t the absolute strongest, but the 180mm rotors do help, and they’re just fine or XC / light trail duty. The Vee Rocco tires started to show their limits during higher speed cornering. They have a very round profile, and the lack of pronounced shoulder knobs led to more than one unplanned two-wheeled drift. The profile isn’t all that different from the Maxxis Forecaster tires that were on a different test bike, but I found the Forekasters to be much more predictable and easier to trust in loose terrain.
Photos by Tom Richards.