2021 Marin El Roy Steel Hardtail

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International shipping available. Some exclusions apply.
Marin El Roy Steel Hardtail Review
Not fooling. An incredibly fun (and weird) steel hardtail.
Vital Review
s1600 ElRoyA 343961

It's April 1, but this isn't a joke. What has a 480mm reach and a wheelbase that approaches size-large-DH-bike territory, but is made for a rider 5'5" to 5'10"? The punchline probably won't make you laugh, but the ride sure will. The Marin El Roy is one of those freakishly long, slack, steel hardtails and the ride on this limo is considerably more entertaining than any MTB April Fools attempt.

Marin is no stranger to the hardtail game when we consider they made their first hardtail over 30 years ago. Even more specifically, they're no stranger to the modern hardtail game. Marin has been pushing their line of affordable-but-aggressive metal bikes like the San Quentin and Pine Mountain aimed at non-squish sadists for years. They survived the moon-patrol-bouncing 27.5+ tire fad, evolving these hardtails into purpose-built trail smashers with treads reined back to a max width of 2.6-inches. The Norcal company's hardtails reflected that hey-we-like-to-be-kinda-weird geometry, but Marin never went full Euro-weird until this year when they launched the cro-mo steel El Roy with its 63-degree head angle, 78-degree seat angle and semi-truck wheelbase. They probably had to redesign their website just so the El Roy thumbnail would fit among the other bikes in their line.

We had two different riders spend time aboard the El Roy to see just what an extreme hardtail encounter like this may yield. One tester is a long-time hardtail-only rider, and the other definitely loves himself a barcalounger when trails gets rough. We received the bike at the end of 2020. At the time, it had a retail price of $2,699, but thanks to Covid, raw materials prices, currency exchange rates and gaps in component supply chains, the price of the El Roy is now $3,499. Fun is going to come at a premium in 2021.

Marin El Roy Frame and First Impressions

Visually, these stretched out rigs are polarizing - people either love them or hate them. When we sent a photo of our test El Roy to a friend, the reply was, "I want the 5 seconds of my life back wasted looking at this thing." To be fair, we used to feel the same about the aesthetics of bikes like the El Roy. They remind us of our first department store bikes from childhood that ended up with a reamed-out headtube, blown headset and scandalously bent-and-choppered fork. You know, the department store bike that saw zero maintenance and flat landings off of cobbled together scrap-wood ramps?

Thankfully we have moved past our visual disdain for this style of bike because we've seen them for the last seven or eight years in our bike check section, thanks to pioneering boutique brands and their super-fan customers. When Marin took the freakbike a bit more mainstream with the El Roy, we decided to bite. If they could take the risk, so could we, especially considering winter was approaching and our choice of trails would be limited. If the bike was a dud, we wouldn't have missed out on bigger, better trail-riding opportunities while testing it. Additionally with our rides taking place in frozen temperatures, why not ride a hardtail? Suspension bike performance isn't optimal in frigid temps, and the El Roy is double-butted steel, which has a knack for masking some of the sting from the trail. By now, we're used to masks, so let's shake some dental work loose.

Let's start with a shallow observation- as odd as the angles might be for a lot of people, the sparkly paint and bright red graphics that match the fork are awesome. The El Roy is a good-looking bike. The slender steel tubes, the external routing and the simplicity at the junctions are a treat. The shock absorbing seatstays are narrow, and may not be everyone's cup of tea as they join the seat tube lower than the toptube, but we give a thumbs up to the El Roy for its aesthetics.


  • Ready run over things
  • Very stable at speed
  • Marzocchi Z1 performance
  • Eat-up-anything tires
  • Surprisingly good on technical climbs
  • Good looking bike
  • Frame-only option for a custom build


  • Too much bike for most hardtail riders
  • Tough to navigate tight switchbacks or corners
  • Only two size options
  • Complete bike price is high for the spec, especially after the Covid-related bump


  • Triple-butted 4130 Chromoly frame
  • 29-inch wheels
  • 140mm Marzocchi Z1
  • 63-degree headtube
  • External cable routing, stealth dropper routing
  • Threaded 73mm bottom bracket
  • 148mm rear spacing
  • Weight - 32 pounds, 4 oz as tested (size regular with some non-stock parts as we had an early-release media bike. Figure about 33 or 34 pounds with the stock build)
  • MSRP $3,499 USD, $1049 frame only

El Roy Geometry

The El Roy only comes in two size, regular and grande. Our testers were 5'9" and 5'10" tall, so we rode a regular, claimed by Marin to fit riders who are 5'5" to 5'10" tall. With a 480mm reach on our regular, our testers were really curious to see if they were actually at the "tall" end of Marin's sizing spectrum. The size grande, labeled by Marin for riders 5'10" to 6'4", has a 510mm reach and 1282mm wheelbase. To our surprise a CDL is not required to operate grande and our 5'10" tester wanted nothing to do with a bike that big. The aftermath of the Ever Given was still too front-of-mind apparently.

Have we said long and slack yet? Seat angle aside, the El Roy has numbers that you can find on DH bike geometry charts. A 63-degree head angle and 1252mm wheelbase on our regular size is literally World Cup downhill-ready. The 435mm chainstay length is ballpark, if not long, these days, and along with the 318mm bottom bracket height, the measurements on the rear end of the El Roy resemble other *normal* trail 29er hardtails out there.

The steep 78-degree seat angle, is what helps make the 480mm reach manageable for any rider who'd normally ride a "medium" bike. The saddle position brings the effective top tube measurement to 617mm, which is in the range of a long medium or a short large full suspension trail bike. If you're shorter than 5'9", we're not sure if there's an El Roy for you. Maybe a 5'8" rider could pull it off, but our 5'9" tester felt like he was at the limit of who could ride this bike with a reasonable fit.

El Roy Build Kit

Carlos and His Experience - 5'10" 195 pounds

Geometry numbers on enduro bikes has been getting pretty aggressive over the last several years, and the long, low, slack philosophy has now hit the humble hardtail. When the press releases came out on the Marin El Roy, I did a double take. 63-degree head tube angle? 78-degree seat tube? Marin, is that you?!? Blink twice if Chris Porter is holding you hostage.

As a rider who, until last year, had given up on full suspension and was a 100-percent-hardtail guy, I was intrigued by what such radical numbers could do, so I was excited to get a chance to try the El Roy.

This thing is slack. Like, “get to the chopper!” slack. Personally, it seems like a hardtail with these numbers stands out more than a full suspension bike, but that might just be that we’ve all grown more accustomed to seeing hardtails leaning more XC than DH. Even for a 170mm enduro bike, these numbers would be on the hairy edge. For reference, the hardtail I’ve been riding for the last few years, a Chromag Rootdown, was considered somewhat radical with a 65-degree headtube angle and 75-degree seat tube angle. The reach on the El Roy is quite a bit longer than the Chromag, too — 480mm vs. the now-dated 447mm.

Setup and Fit

One really nice thing about hardtail bikes is there just isn’t that much to do before getting out on the trail. I adjusted the saddle height and did a quick sag and rebound check on the fork. The Z1 doesn’t have a ton of adjustments, which works just fine for this bike. Although the reach is on the long side for me, with such a steep seat tube angle, the cockpit actually felt a little cramped, which is a nod to Marin's recommended rider size of 5'10" for the regular. I slid the saddle back a touch and removed some spacers from under the stem to find a nice position.

On the Trail

Here in Southwestern Idaho, we have a lot of trails that could be defined as “hardtail friendly.” That wouldn’t do for this test, so I went to one place not covered in snow that I would be able to put the El Roy in its comfort zone. The trails at Table Rock offer a good amount of chunky sandstone, with some steep, technical climbs, ledgy drops, and natural wall rides.

The climb is a gut punch right out of the parking lot — steep, with occasional rock sections that make you earn the elevation. The good news is that this is also the final descent on the way back to the car, and it’s a hoot. I was a little worried about how this bike would climb. With such a relaxed headtube angle, that front tire should be wandering like an addled bumblebee, right? Well, that’s not what I found. Maybe it’s the longer chainstays, but I found the front end generally staying put. Is the El Roy a snappy climber? No. Am I a snappy climber? Also no.

On trails I normally rode with full suspension, I didn't feel like I was hindered by this hardtail, and I didn't change up lines to tender-foot my way down.

Even though getting the front wheel off the ground (at least for someone my height), is nearly impossible, I could just grit my teeth and run stuff over. Pick a line and go. The tires combined with the steel frame hid the hardtail persona just enough to make me forget about the rocks I was riding into. There's no denying I could feel every hit through my feet, but it wasn't the bucking bronco ride I've felt on aluminum hardtails with more casual geometry. That wheelbase helped stabilize the rougher rides. Wondering if a line choice would backfire was always lingering in my head, but things always worked out with the occasional rim ping followed by a giggle. On trails I normally rode with full suspension, I didn't feel like I was hindered by this hardtail, and I didn't change up lines to tender-foot my way down. I'm sure times were slower than on a squishy rig, but the excitement of the ride was addicting and made old trails feel new again, if not more fun.

Putting Light Wheels and Tires on for the El Roy Sake of Science

Stock setup with Maxxis Assegai 2.5 tires and Marin wheelset. 34 pounds 4 oz.
Light-trail setup with Race Face Turbine SL wheels and Kenda Regolith 2.4 and 2.2 tires. 28 pounds 12 oz

Not surprisingly, on more flatter, buff trails, the stock El Roy is way too much bike — if for nothing else, because of the tire spec. I happened to have a set of light-weight Race Face Turbine SL wheels with XT cassette and 2.4 / 2.2-inch Kenda Regolith tires nearby. They already had the same Shimano rotors mounted up from a previous test, too. "What if I just slap those on to see what happens?" What happened? Well, I saved 3.5 pounds in wheels and tires (and cassette) alone and had hub engagement that rewarded pedaling even more.

I took the bike to the local fun, undulating, smoother trails and loved every second of it. I didn't notice arm/wrist pressure from the seat angle because I was more active on the bike, sprinting, pedaling and pumping as opposed to grinning and bearing it until going on an extended downhill. In flowy terrain, the geometry still shined despite it being so aggressive. It was an eye-opener and a fluke of a one-off test. I doubt anyone buying the complete El Roy will waste time on a spare set of wheels and tires, but this revelation would make me consider a custom-built, frame-only option all day.

I've recently said things like "if I had to buy new bikes, I'd buy a bike like the El Roy and a big, heavy, long-travel e-MTB. I wouldn't even own a full-suspension trail bike." Purists can ignore the e-bike part, but the versatility of the El Roy with its simplicity and geometry to handle really aggressive terrain well, while being able to change its demeanor with wheels and tires is fascinating. Even without the wheel/tire swap, I'd consider the El Roy strictly for the excitement it provides. Is it weird? Yeah. Is it for everyone? I doubt it. The bike is a big, weird blast with potential to expand horizons and I'd recommend giving it a go.

El Roy Build Kit

The parts on the El Roy won’t wow some of the wonderbike owners at the trailhead, but it’s a well-thought-out build. The price is the only stickler on the complete. Our pre-Covid test bike has a bit of spec discrepancy compared to what comes stock on the bike. We have some nicer bits, as this was an early release media bike and production spec details were still being sorted. Our build had a Deity cockpit instead of house Marin stem and bar. Our drivetrain had an SLX/XT parts mix instead of full Deore, and our rear tire was EXO+ MaxxTerra instead of DoubleDown MaxxGrip. In total, we figure our build was anywhere from one to two pounds lighter than the current stock offering. Plan on a 34-pound bike if you're going complete.


The Marzocchi Z1 felt great. Carlos notes that it was noticeably stiffer handling than the FOX 36 on his personal bike. The GRIP damper may lack some of the adjustability of higher priced suspension, but it worked well, kept the joys of hardtail simplicity alive, and the compression adjustment will firm up the fork enough to make climbing out of the saddle on steep stuff more efficient. It can fully lock out if desired. The compression knob rotates smoothly, without detents, so perfectly setting its location every time is out the question.

Drivetrain and Brakes

Shifting and stopping parts on our test bike and the stock bike are full Shimano. The budget MT-420 4 piston brakes are plenty powerful, although that ol’ Shimano bite point wander lurked on occasions. The stock El Roy is basically full Deore drivetrain (which we love), so even though we had some nicer trim for changing gears on our test bike, we have no concerns with the Deore performance on the trail. We are happy to report that after some issues in the past with FSA's Gradient cranks creaking, we had zero issues with this set. Unfortunately for you, the stock El Roy will have forged FSA Comet cranks which are about half the price of the Gradients we had.

Wheels and Tires

Big ol' meats be mounted up on this beast, and these tires match the aggressive geometry. Dual Maxxis Assegai 2.5 tires with DoubleDown casing and MaxxGRIP rubber mean you better like to suffer for your soup. But if you're buying a hardtail with EWS-ready tires, suffering is probably your middle name. To keep the freakbike freaky, ours was sent with the big, sticky Assegai up front but our rear tire was EXO+ MaxxTerra. After the first ride, we swapped the front tire to match the rear, and rolled Dual Assegais with EXO+ MaxxTerra. It only made sense for our terrain. That sidewall and rubber combo let us enjoy this steed in our 'hood with some faster rolling speeds. For steep, wet climates, the DD/MaxxGrip would be a standout choice. Note that our 32-pound 4-oz bike weight is with the DD/Maxxgrip up front and EXO+ MaxxTerra rear.

Marin's stock wheels are no-frills and continue to roll straight and true. Upgraders should keep in mind that they are centerlock-equipped (not 6-bolt), and the rear Shimano hub has been fine, but definitely lacks a bit of engagement. With no rear suspension to make you worry about kickback or feedback or Outback steakhouse, the more engagement we can get in our hardtail hub, the better, especially considering the nuisances of navigating this lengthy machine in trickier, technical climbing situations.


The 150mm X-Fusion post worked solidly. It's a bit slower than we prefer, but the remote was smooth and didn’t require a lot of force to actuate. Carlos could have easily used a 200mm post and it should be noted that the size grande gets a 170mm dropper, which is still probably on the short side of things for tall riders.

Long Term Durability

We've had the El Roy out in frozen, snowy conditions, sorta-wet conditions and dusty dry conditions for a few months now. Aside from a lube or two and some wheel/tire experimenting, we haven't touched it for maintenance. The bike is creak-free and there have been no issues with parts. The Z1 fork has been a highlight, and the drivetrain components (yes, the stock Deore) will last a few seasons provided they don’t get smashed on too many rocks. While pure speculation, Carlos' years of hardtail experience indicate that the thin seatstays may be something to watch if you're a heavier, aggressive rider tackling big-hitting terrain.

What's the Bottom Line

It’s fair to say that the humble hardtail is seeing a renaissance these days. If you haven’t ridden one with modern geometry, you’d be surprised at just how capable these bikes are. The Marin El Roy is an extreme, envelope-pushing example, and while its not going to be perfect for everyone in all situations, it plays in the rough really well.

Coming in only two size will mean the El Roy is not an option for smaller riders, and the economy-related issues that forced a price bump in last few weeks are unfortunate as the value of the complete bike takes a hit. While the El Roy is a unique steel frame with a great fork and capable components, the $3,499 price tag may make it a harder pill to swallow as a second bike. The $1,049 frame-only option is an exciting one, however, for those wanting to customize their ride.

For terrain that challenges with technical climbs and then rewards with fast, rough downhills, the El Roy is a competent and ready hardtail. As a machine, hardtails are great for a few reasons — less maintenance, fewer adjustments, easier to clean. They are fantastic for winter riding because there are no pivot bushings to take the hit in the wet conditions. Ride them often enough and become a smoother rider out of necessity, too. If you dare to be different and want to test the extreme fringes of MTB geometry, then the El Roy is ready to get weird with you.

Vital MTB Rating

  • Climbing: 3.5 Stars
  • Descending: 4.5 stars
  • Fun Factor: 4.5 stars
  • Value: 3 stars
  • Overall Impression: 4 stars

Hit up www.marinbikes.com for info on the Ely Roy.


Post a reply to: Marin El Roy Steel Hardtail Review

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1 member reviews

Marin Trail Bomber with 3 month review UPDATE
The Good
Dialled progressive geometry and durable spec, Super Fun, smooth, compliant steel, stable and very fast downhill, great climber, "steady" all rounder
The Bad
On the heavy size, limited sizing, a bit uninspired on the flat or mellow trails
Overall Review:

3 month update

I've been riding the Marin Elroy since early October now, so I felt a good time to add an.updated review. First I think adding a little about me as a rider, and what kind of terrain I ride might set the scene a bit more for any of you considering getting this ultra modern hardtail from Marin. 

I'm 5'10, 210 lbs, from NW UK and ride a "regular" El Roy. Typical riding grounds are steep, muddy, loamy rocky and rooty - lots of steep long, fireroads, tight technical climbs and steep gnarly descents.  Locally, straight out of the door I have a 4 mile tarmac climb, then a 1.5 mile techy climb on rooty, muddy, sandstone strewn single track to access a series of super steep loamy wooded downhill trails, with several natural drops and off camber rooty sections.  Despite the long climbs around 2/3 of the total altitude gained is lost in around a minute and half of white knuckle descents. There is a fire road loop/farm track and another 15 minute climb to get back up to the top. Great fun, but the downhill thrills are well earned. This is the regular "lockdown" circuit. I have also been able to ride the Elroy several times on longer (20km)  black trails at Coed Y Brenin (MBR for those who know) and Coed Llandegla, some steep Shropshire downhill laps and a Dorset bike park. In terms of US/ Canadian comparisons, most of my  "local" riding would be comparable to PNW or BC trails. 

So how does the Elroy do it do; firstly this is a big burly beast of bike It is not super lightweight however the Elroy is very clearly  geared up for the rough end of the spectrum. However, the Elroy is a very capable climber - it's not a XC whippet by any stretch, at all, but it is a solid steady climber of a bike, happy to winch away up pretty much anything, tarmac, fire road etc in a comfortable and really well seated position. On steep techy rooty stuff, while it needs some muscle to move it, the bike climbs extremely well, the 78 degree seat tube angle really putting you in a perfect hill conquering position and the big 29 hoops allowing really good obstacle rollover at low speed. Some additional weight is needed over the front wheel to keep it tracking straight on the really steep stuff but there is plenty of room up front to manoeuvre yourself around as needed. In the UK winter the Assegai tyres keep the bike firmly rooted to to the trail, the Double Down Maxi grip on the back sticking and affording maximum grip on Wet roots, thick mud and roots. In drier weather then a fast rolling tyre would certainly take some of the  effort out of longer climbs, but in the quagmire of a UK winter the stock tyre choice works perfectly. 

On flatter trails, the bike is a steady burner, it rides and handles well, is easily manouvered around tighter turns given it's long wheelbase and weight but it is not a poppy bike, or particularly exciting to ride on the flat...sure it moves along, but it wants to be either being pointed up or down to really come alive. It's not for example great on a pump track, it takes a while to get moving - that said if you can get the speed up it pumps (and jumps)  well, but its not a straight out of the gate pump track flyer. On longer " XC " rides the Elroy is a good day bike,  and that ride might not be all super thrills and spills especially where the terrain is mellow and it's not going to be at gold medal speed, but it's certainly very comfortable, capable and lively enough to be enjoyable. 

So what happens when the trail points down ? The Elroy comes alive, it perks right up and it absolutely shreds. The super slack 63 headangle, long wheelbase and Z1 fork keep the bike so planted that you would  probably think a hardtail shouldn't be ridden so fast, but that's where the real trick of this bike is. The 140mm bomber and steel frame just soak up the rough stuff, the faster you go the more the bike seems to glide over obstacles - line choice becomes less important as I'm normally accumstomed to on a hardtail, and the bike really rides super smooth. The back end stays steady on all but the very roughest rocky stuff and even then the front end is so composed you can pretty much leave the back end to it. In all honesty the Elroy rides gnarly downhills as smooth as a short travel FS suspension yet feels more planted and much more exciting. Its an absolute  bomber of a bike in this regard and I reckon can take pretty much anything you can throw at it.

 Spec wise my bike was a pre-production model and slightly better specced than the eventual production bike (mine came with XT rear mech, SLX  cassette and shifter, 170mm FSA gradient crankset, upgraded Shimano XT esque brakes, deity copperhead stem and 800mm carbon mohawk bars) so is great out of the box. I changed the SLX cassette out for DEORE due to a fault with the SLX cassette now being dealt with by Shimano in the UK, but other than that everything is well specced. 

This remains my only current bike and it's perfect for me, my local and regular riding spots and despite it's "super radical" progressive geometry, it has always felt just right and has proved it is no one trick pony (which was my concern before committing ) or a strictly niche hardtail. Is it a modern all  rounder though ? For me, yes, absolutely, it's an amazing bike for my all round needs, it's good at everything, great at climbing and absolutely excels on crazy descents, but this is suited to where I live and what I have availble to ride, so that should be born in mind. What I will say is, the Elroy will soon have anyone who throws a leg over it and gets to know it gravitating towards steeper and steeper faster trails...Its going to take you to the dark side pretty quickly if you give it an inch.

 In design I'd say this bikes aligns well (on paper) with other highly progressive steel hardtails out there like the Chromag Arcturian or Doctahawk, the On One "Hello Dave", Norco "Torrent" or the new Kona "Honzo ESD"  all bikes designed with steep, wet, loose and gnarly  PNW and UK conditions in mind...there is some crossover I guess with the relatively  "conservatively  aggressive" (by 2021 standards at least) hardtail geometry of the Marin San Quentin or Nukeproof Scout which , based on personal preference might suit all round "modern" riders a little better, but for gravity focussed leanings the Elroy is a very exciting, rewarding, super fun and  confidence inspiring steed - not merely a shuttle uplift oddball or a "grim donut" experiment too far...if you are on the look out for this kind of modern trail bike and the sizing suits then it should definitely be on your consideration list.  

Hats off to Marin for this adventurous bike, that really pushes the expected limits of the humble hardtail and while it might initially be something of a "marmite" bike (you either love or hate it!) I suspect subsequent years will see a growing trend from.mainstream companies  towards these modern and daring geometries, that actually don't feel that weird, or extreme to ride....just subtley improved. Made for Fun indeed.


Post a reply to: Marin Trail Bomber with 3 month review UPDATE


Marin El Roy Steel Hardtail
Model Year
Riding Type
Enduro / All-Mountain
Sizes and Geometry
Wheel Size
Frame Material
Frame Material Details
Series 3 double-butted and formed 4130 CrMo tubing
Rear Travel
Rear Shock
Marzocchi Z1, EVOL air spring, GRIP damper with sweep adjust, Kabolt 110 axle, 44mm offset
Fork Travel
Head Tube Diameter
FSA Orbit 40 No.42 ACB, integrated drop-in
Marin Mini-Riser, 6061 double-butted aluminum, 780mm width, 28mm rise, 5° up, 9° back
Marin 3D forged alloy, 35mm length
Marin single clamp locking
Shimano MT420, 4-piston hydraulic disc, 203mm front / 180mm rear rotors
Brake Levers
Shimano MT4100, hydraulic, I-SPEC EV compatible
Shimano Deore SL-6100R, 12-speed
Front Derailleur
Rear Derailleur
Shimano Deore 6100, 12-speed, SGS, SHADOW PLUS, direct attachment
FSA Comet, modular 1x, MegaTooth technology, boost spacing, 170mm length
32 tooth, direct mount
Bottom Bracket
Mega EXO, 73mm BSA threaded
KMC X-12, silver and black
Shimano Deore 6100, 10-51 tooth, 12-speed
Marin double-wall alloy, 29mm inner, welded joint, disc specific, 32 hole, Tubeless compatible
Front: Shimano HF-MT410B, Boost, Centerlock
Rear: Shimano HB-MT410B, Boost, Centerlock, Micro Spline freehub body
14g black stainless steel
Maxxis Assegai 29"x2.5", MaxxGrip, DoubleDown, tubeless compatible
Marin Speed Concept
X-Fusion Manic with 1x remote, 150mm travel (size Regular), 170mm travel (size Grande)
Seatpost Diameter
Seatpost Clamp
Single bolt
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions
148mm x 12mm Boost
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts
Gloss Black Sparklespace
Lifetime for rigid frames
External rear derailleur and brake housing, internal dropper post routing
Post mount brake mounts
Bolt-on thru-axle included
More Info
What do you think?
Where To Buy
Free shipping on orders over $50 (continental U.S. only).
International shipping available. Some exclusions apply.
Free shipping on orders over $50 (continental U.S. only).
International shipping available. Some exclusions apply.

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