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Which Trail MTB is Right For Me?

Don't be put off by all those kick-ass Marin mountain bikes, we're here to make choosing your dream bike a breeze.

Buying a new trail mountain bike can be daunting. It’s a bit like turning up to a restaurant where they have a hundred different dishes and you’ve never tried any of them before.

Never fear, we’re going to be your helpful waiter, and navigate you through the menu of options to find you something that’s going to perfectly hit the spot in deciding what is the best trail mountain bike for you.

Sorry though, no wine this time!

Marin Rift Zone XR

What Is A Trail Mountain Bike?

First up, what is a trail mountain bike or trail MTB?

That's a pretty easy one. Trail MTBs are designed to do most things really well.

'Trail bike' mountain bikes go up, along and down your favourite trails and are designed to do all of those things as best as they possibly can. Trail bikes are the Jack-of-all-trades, Swiss-army-knife of the mountain bike world... and we love them. You can view the complete collection of Marin Trail Mountain Bikes here.

Marin Bikes Rift ZOne XR frame

Mountain Bike Frames 101

A mountain bike's Frame is the main component and is the piece that Marin designs and builds. Simply put, it's the bit in the middle that says 'Marin' on it.

A trail MTB's frame can be hardtail (meaning without rear suspension) or suspension (meaning with rear suspension) and made of aluminum alloy, carbon fiber or steel. Aluminum alloy is the bike industry’s bread and butter – it’s light, easy to work with, and strong enough to stand up to the rigours of off-road riding.

Carbon fiber is the wonder material of trail mountain bike design. Made of individual layers of fiber sheets, it’s possible to build a frame that’s lighter than alloy while being strong in all the places that matter. But each frame has to be layered up by hand before being set in a custom mould, which makes it more expensive to produce.

Steel is the wild card: heavier than aluminum, but prized for its classic look and its distinct ride quality.

It’s not just about materials though – the profiles of the frame, the lengths of the different sections and the angles they’re joined at will all change how a bike rides. We call this 'mountain bike frame geometry' and is a whole topic on its own.

Hardtail or Full Suspension MTB..?

The age-old question of whether you should buy a full suspension or hardtail MTB always sparks fierce debate amongst riders.

Suspension refers to suspension units fitted to the bike and means that one or both ends of the bike will absorb impacts from whatever you’re riding over, or into.

Hardtail mountain bikes are fitted with a suspension fork only and, as such, only have front suspension. Your legs do the work of soaking up the bumps and or some riders it’s more fatiguing, whilst for others, it’s part of the fun.

Full suspension mountain bike frames have front and rear suspension via suspension fork and rear shock. Full suspension has taken over the top end of the trail mountain bike market and is generally more comfortable and controlled to ride when things get rough.

Marin Rift Zone XR rocker link
Marin Bikes Which Trail Bike 4

And The Best MTB Wheel Size For Trail..?

Wondering what is the best mountain bike wheel size?

Wheels and tires for modern trail mountain bikes are generally 27.5" or 29". There’s no right answer to what is the best MTB wheel size is best – though you'll hear no end of riders arguing the case for their favourite!

In general, 27.5" mountain bike wheels are slightly lighter and stronger at a given price point, and suit smaller riders or anyone looking to get their wheels off the ground. 29" mountain bike wheels tend to suit taller riders and are good for smoothing out rougher terrain or covering lots of distance.

Tires tend to be a balancing act between weight, grip and rolling resistance. A more aggressive tire will drag on longer, faster rides, but pay you back with better braking and cornering.

Still wondering how to choose MTB wheel size? Take what we've said above, apply it to your trails and then ask your friendly, local Marin dealer for their advice.

And Drivetrains for Trail Mountain Bikes..?

Mountain Bike Drivetrains are a boring but highly useful part of a bike, known to many simply as 'the gears'.

The drivetrain (the gears) lets you tailor the effort your legs are making to the trail you’re riding. Change gear down to make pedalling easier, change gear up to pedal harder and go faster. Makes sense right?

Single-front chainrings are becoming the norm on all sorts of bikes, especially trail MTBs. They’re easy to live with and work well with hardtail and full suspension frame designs.

To compensate, the range of cassettes (the assembly of cogs on the back wheel) has increased, with super-easy bottom (the big cog) gears for climbs. A 46T or 50T bottom gear will let you get up a climb with less effort, which is great for all-day rides. More expensive drivetrains tend to work more smoothly, with smaller jumps between gears and less weight.

Marin Bikes Rift Zone XR drivetrain
Marin Bikes Which Trail Bike 5

Handlebars, Grips and Pedals for Trail MTB..?

Controls, or 'finishing kit' are the bits of the bike you touch on your trail MTB, like pedals, grips, handlebars and the saddle.

When descending or jumping on a trail mountain bike it helps massively to have the saddle lowered, as it means you can shift your weight around and use it to control the bike, rather than just being a passenger.

On many Marin mountain bikes you can control your seat height with a dropper post – just push a lever, sit on the saddle, and it’ll move out of the way. Press the lever again when you need to do some seated pedalling, and it’ll return to full height. Modern trail mountain bikes are awesome like that.

Complete mountain bikes don’t tend to come with pedals as there are so many different types out there, but some of Marin’s range include basic ones so you can hit the trails straight away. And for those that don't, we'd recommend the awesome Marin Oso Flat Pedal.

Marin Bikes Which Trail Bike 3 2

So... Which Trail Mountain Bike is Right for YOU?

Now you've got the basics nailed, let's work out the best trail MTB for you and your trails.

Whether it's the heavy-hitting, big-bump crushing Alpine Trail or the wallet-friendly, newbie-welcoming Bobcat, the Marin range has something for you.

Marin Bobcat

The Best MTB Trail Bike For Beginners

One of our most-asked questions on social media is always "what is the best MTB bike for beginners?".

If you’re a beginner mountain biker, a quality hardtail will let you get out on the trails with minimal cost and hassle.

The Marin Bobcat Trail is our value trail bike and is a great hardtail MTB for beginners, with a light aluminum frame, a choice of 27.5" or 29" wheels, 120mm front suspension and modern geometry. It’ll look after you when things get rough, and you can even fit a luggage rack to double it up as a commuter or tourer.

The Marin Bobcat Trail 3 is a great place to start though if you’re able invest a little more into the Bobcat 4 or Bobcat 5 you’ll be rewarded with lighter and heavier-hitting components.

The Marin Bobcat 5 in particular is a killer value, aggressive XC bike with on-trend tan wall tyres, a 1X drive train and a super-capable ​​SR Suntour suspension fork that won’t let you down.


For the Bit of Everything Trail MTB Rider

Why restrict yourself to just one type of trail, even if you’ve only got one bike?

The Marin Rift Zone is designed to be a fast, fun and easy-to-ride trail mountain bike. It’s an insanely capable MTB that will take on your local trail, your favourite bike park or your summer holiday to the mountains.

Built around 125mm of rear suspension and a 130mm suspension fork the Marin Rift Zone is lively and engaging but has aggressive enough geometry to tackle most trails. We made it to be versatile and suited to as many riders and trails as possible.

The Rift Zone 27.5” (meaning it has 27.5” wheels) is for riders that prefer their bike to be easy to ride, quick to accelerate and easy to throw around on the trail. The Rift Zone 29” (with those bigger 29” wheels) is for anyone that prefers a bigger ‘feel’ to their bike or wants to carry speed a little better through rough, fast terrain.

What's the best size MTB wheel for you? Look at the trails you'll ride and decide which will best suit the terrain. Then, as we said above, ask your local Marin dealer and they can help. They're the experts!

The Marin Rift Zone 1 is probably the best full-suspension MTB for beginners you'll ever find.

It's the perfect first ‘proper’ mountain bike and has the feel of a high-end MTB without the top-end price tag. Upgrade to the Marin Rift Zone 2 and you’ll get a dropper post and improved suspension then up to the Rift Zone 3 for a kick-ass trail bike that’s built to take on your favourite trails anywhere in the world.

For riders looking for something even more special, there’s the Marin Rift Zone Carbon, a world-class carbon mountain bike that’s available in two versions. The Rifty 1 is built with everything you need to make it your dream bike, the Rifty 2 steps that up to the next level with high-end Fox suspension, powerful 4-pot brakes and components from Maxxis, Deity and FSA. It’s a real dreamboat.

Marin Alpine Trail XR

And If Your Trail Mountain Biking Leans More Towards Enduro?

If you’ve decided that you want to step your riding up a level, whether it’s big mountains, bike parks or racing enduro, the Marin Alpine Trail is calling your name.

A big-wheeled big hitter, all Alpine Trail models feature 150mm of rear travel and 160mm front suspension from Rock Shox. A slack head angle means it’ll tackle steep technical trails with ease, while the steep seat angle means you’ll pedal back to the top for run after run.

Just like the Rift Zone, the Marin Alpine Trail is available in aluminum or carbon versions, both with components to suit a range of riders. The aluminum-framed Alpine Trail 7 is built to hit the trails hard, without damaging your wallet and pairs heavy-hitting components and a 1X drivetrain to create a bike that’ll impress even the most experienced of riders.

The Marin Alpine Trail XR is a special-edition bike that’s built for pure speed on the most aggressive trails, specced with top-performance coil suspension for riders that want that extra edge. And yes, XR does stand for 'eXtra Rad'!

The carbon-framed Marin Alpine Trail Carbon 1 and 2 models are both beautifully light, incredible to ride and the perfect bikes for steep, technical mountain bike trails. The Alpine Trail Carbon 1 is built with slightly more affordable components, the Alpine Trail Carbon 2 is built as a no-nonsense dream bike that's dripping with primo gear but at a price that isn't out of this world.

Marin Alpine Trail E2

For the Rider That Needs an Extra Boost, there's eMTB.

Forget what you think you know, eBikes (or eMTBs) aren’t just fantastic for older mountain bikers, or anyone with health issues. Marin’s Electric Mountain Bikes are perfect for riders who want to pack the most riding into the least time or want to go higher, further and faster than their conventional bike will allow.

The Marin Alpine Trail E series takes the geometry and performance of the Alpine Trail family and adds a Shimano STEPS motor, so you can double your descents. The bikes also feature mixed wheel sizes, with a burly 27.5 inch rear wheel helping you up the climbs while a 29" front wheel keeps things on track. Both bikes come with heavy-hitting coil suspension and top-class components that will give you the confidence to push yourself further and faster.

Just like all of our bikes the Alpine Trail E1 version matches performance and value, without compromising your ability to go fast and ride hard. The Alpine Trail E2 is our balls-to-the-wall dream machine that upgrades pretty much everything to create the best eMTB you’re ever likely to need.

Marin Bikes Which Trail Bike Team Marin

And the Best XC Trail MTB?

If you’re hankering to ride fast and cover long distances, an XC bike is the answer. The Marin Team Marin has a lightweight alloy frame, quick-handling geometry, 120mm of front suspension, and fast-rolling but comfortable 29er tires. In its base version the Team Marin is both a great beginner MTB hardtail and a perfect N+1 bike, meaning it's great for anyone looking for a more affordable hardtail for rides that don’t need full suspension.

The Team Marin 2 steps things up with a dropper seatpost and Fox’s acclaimed 34 StepCast fork. In this guise, the Team Marin is built to compete and is more than capable of anything from your local mountain bike trails to those big and nasty National XC race tracks.

Marin El Roy hardtail

Don't Forget The Hardcore Hardtails!

Why are they still making mountain bikes with no rear suspension?! Because they're fun, of course!

If you ride a modern MTB hardtail, you’ll see why they’re still in demand. The Marin San Quentin range takes cues from Marin’s dirt jump and slopestyle bikes, featuring short chainstays, slack head angles and 27.5" wheels for a bike that’s fun, flickable and ready to take to the air. Just watch any of Matt Jones' videos to see for yourself.

The Marin El Roy is the epitome of hardcore MTB hardtails, designed by our British team and born out of the UK's obsession with steel bikes. The El Roy is big, slack and long, designed to ride anything a full suspension bike can, with progressive geometry and 140mm of travel from a Marzocchi Z1 fork.

Marin Bikes Which Trail Bike Rift Zone 275

And that's a wrap!

These aren't the only bikes in the Marin range, but between them, they've got your back on the singletrack.

And while you might not win if you turn up to an XC race on an enduro bike, you'll probably manage to have fun. And fun is what mountain biking's all about. Pick one, and go hit the trails!

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