2018 Marin Rift Zone 1 Bike

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2018 Marin Rift Zone 1: Good Times for Less Money

Marin nailed it with this awesome budget trail bike

Rating: Featured Member Review
2018 Marin Rift Zone 1: Good Times for Less Money
The Good:

-Awesome performance for the price -Contemporary geometry -Great suspension kinematics -Great component spec for the price -Very well built and assembled (loctite and grease on threads) -Quality frame (good welds, good alignment and finish) -Nice graphics and attention to detail

The Bad:

-Stock stamped rotors and rattling brake levers

Overall Review:

-Awesome build and performance for the price

-Threaded BB

-Boost 12x148mm rear end

-120mm travel front/rear (210x50mm rear shock) with great kinematics

-Awesome customer support from Marin + 5-year warranty on the frame

HOW I CHOSE IT

I read a few European first rides of the bike and they all seemed very enthusiastic. The Hawk Hill (same suspension platform, with 27.5" wheels) reviews were also super positive, and I couldn't find any flaw in the bike itself. Having read an interview with Marin's MTB product manager, it seemed like that was the bike I was looking for, but it was still a gamble to buy one without trying it as nobody had that bike in stock locally.

Then I kept seeing that bike pop in some NSMB product reviews, and since I'm not a guy to buy something on first impressions, I dug

Overall Review:

-Awesome build and performance for the price

-Threaded BB

-Boost 12x148mm rear end

-120mm travel front/rear (210x50mm rear shock) with great kinematics

-Awesome customer support from Marin + 5-year warranty on the frame

HOW I CHOSE IT

I read a few European first rides of the bike and they all seemed very enthusiastic. The Hawk Hill (same suspension platform, with 27.5" wheels) reviews were also super positive, and I couldn't find any flaw in the bike itself. Having read an interview with Marin's MTB product manager, it seemed like that was the bike I was looking for, but it was still a gamble to buy one without trying it as nobody had that bike in stock locally.

Then I kept seeing that bike pop in some NSMB product reviews, and since I'm not a guy to buy something on first impressions, I dug deeper and asked them about the bike. When I knew that this was one reviewer's personal bike and after getting very positive feedback from him also, I pre-ordered my Rift Zone 1 on the spot without even riding it.

THE NEEDS

I wanted a 29" wheeled short-travel bike that would have suitable geometry for black diamond trails, and durable enough for a few seasons of riding, all for around 2000$usd (with upgrades).

The bike I had spent the more time on recently was a 140mm travel Norco Sight. The Sight's specs were similar to the Rift Zone (Rock Shox Recon RL fork, entry-level rear shock, Deore drivetrain and Acera brakes), but my previous bike was custom-built with coil suspension and XT brakes/drivetrain. I am used to and like the Horst-link suspension platform, and the Marin was going to be my first bike with a linkage-driven single pivot suspension platform.

The appearance and feel of the bike were something that I also considered, and in my opinion, the Marin was one of the best-looking bikes of my shortlist.

I started with the Rift Zone 1 and customized it to make it a bit more capable.

THE BUILD

The bike arrived without a scratch with every bolt thread well lubed with grease or thread locker where needed. Having been a bike mechanic for a little while in the past, I was very impressed. Having a threaded bottom bracket was one of my main requirements since I don't like creaking sounds, so I am really glad that Marin has gone with a threaded BSA bottom bracket. The bearings on the frame were smooth, the welds were nice, the frame seemed to be well aligned, and every visual detail was well executed (paint, graphics, cable routing, etc.). I just needed to even the tension a bit better on the stock wheels but that’s to be expected on a bike of that price range.

The only thing that bugged me on the bike was the 141x9mm rear hub that is used on the lowest-tier model of the line. My LBS told me twice me that it would arrive with a 148x12mm axle and hub, but after exchanging emails with Marin's awesome technical support, I knew that it would arrive with the 141x9 hub. I didn't mind that much, since the dropouts were boost 148x12mm and Marin has used a removable metal screw-in adapter to accept the 141x9mm hub/axle in the 148 dropouts. That means that the frame is worth investing in a good set of wheels.

This is the screw-in metal adapter that is used to attach the quick release axle on the drive-side. It can be removed with a hex key to fit a regular boost 12mm axle.

I bought the lowest priced of the line so that I could upgrade it as I wished, and I liked the paint scheme better. Right from the start, for someone who is getting into mountain biking, there was not much needed to be upgraded before heading to the trails save for the VEE Crown Gem tires. They have a soft compound that could have been alright as rear tires, but I changed them right away for something beefier. I also swapped the stock resin-only rotors for Shimano RT66 180mm/203mm, installed a 120mm Brand-X Ascend dropper post, Specialized Butcher 29x2.6 GRID tires, Race Face Half Nelson lock-on grips, Deity Compound pedals, an MRP Race axle (172mm x1.5) and a boost rear wheel that I had built (WTB Asym i29 rim, DT Champion spokes and Nukeproof Neutron hub).

The rest of the build was perfectly fine to start the season: 780mm Marin house brand bar and 45mm stem, i29 Marin offset-drilled rims, Shimano Deore 10 speed rear derailleur with 10-42 cassette, Shimano Altus BR-M315 brakes with resin pads, 30t steel narrow-wide chainring on Marin house branded crankset and BB. The 76mm bcd crankset might make finding replacement chainrings a bit more complex, but since the stock one is made of steel, with regular maintenance it will probably last 2 seasons before needing to be replaced.

Here's a closer look of the Deore and house band drivetrain. The crank arms are covered in clear protective film, of course.

At first, I thought about installing an angleset to slacken it out a bit, but the BB was pretty low already and I didn’t want to lower it any more (although this could have been sorted with offset bushings). I decided to try it with the stock geometry and see how I’d get used to it.

To keep it looking fresh, I entirely wrapped the frame with Xpel Ultimate paint protective film which I cut myself since I couldn’t find a pre-cut one. I'm not sure I'd do it again, but I have kept all the templates in case I'd want to replace a piece.

THE SETUP

Tester info: I am 5'9", 165lbs, and bought a Large (460mm reach).

I had ridden only a few times in the last seasons and this was a "comeback" summer, so I took it easy at first. The X-Fusion O2R shock blew after the first 10kms, but in a week, I had my shock back from warranty and bolted it back right away. Riding blue trails and a few blacks to get accustomed to the bike, I quickly got the riding bug back and was eager for more. The XFusion shock's damping is pretty good for the bike's intentions, and I didn't expect that much performance for the price. It isn't coil-like, but still pretty sensitive and resistant to overheating for a basic air shock with no reservoir. I was used to more travel front and back, so I started with a bit more air than was recommended for my weight to keep it from bottoming out.I have kept pretty low sag numbers with142psi in the shock and 120psi in the fork for the whole season and never felt anything bottom out. I came close to use full travel on a few occasions on harder trails, but with that setup there was enough small bump compliance and mid stroke support to satisfy myself.

Having 32mm steel stanchions, the fork isn't what I would have chosen for the bike if I had more budget, but I was honestly surprised and the stiffness it still had. I had a lot of riding time on stiffer forks, but I rarely felt that flex was an issue on the Recon.I honestly enjoyed riding it even with the basic damper, and if on a budget, there are other upgrades that I would do before changing the fork.

The stock Shimano BR-M315 brakes have good enough power for xc and trail riding, but I could feel them fade in the longest downhills. I could have sorted it with a bigger rotor out back, but metallic pads aren't available for those brakes. Anyway, since the levers rattle and that annoys me, I just bought Shimano SLX M7000 brakes (with finned pads) for next season and will pass the Altus brakes to my commuter/loaner bike. That’s a compromise they had to make to sell the bike at that price point, and they work perfectly fine for their intended use (on an entry-level trail bike).

The original Marin wheels were perfectly fine even if I had built a boost 148x12mm rear wheel. My Nukeproof freehub broke at the end of the season and damaged the engagement ring in the hub shell, so I ended up needing to use the stock rear wheel for the last few rides. Installing the stock wheels and adapter, I was wondering why I had built up another one. The stock freehub doesn’t have many points of engagements but it is pretty silent, and I rediscovered how much I loved quiet freehubs. So, don’t go ahead and build another wheel before you have tried the stock one!

The Deore drivetrain was working perfectly and had good range to climb even the steepest access roads with the 11-42t cassette and 30t chainring. I’ll install a new chain and keep the exact same setup for next season. I swapped the stock Marin saddle for a WTB Deva since the stock one was putting a bit of pressure on the inside of my thighs. This is a personal preference so try it and you might end up loving it.

THE RIDE

The new MultiTrac suspension platform replaces the IsoTrac.

The more I was riding the bike, the more I liked it. Most rides I would go for a long climb followed by a long downhill or many up/down runs. The rear suspension performance is surprising in a really good way, and even if it had 60mm travel less than my old Norco Shore, I did not feel the lack of travel holding me back on the same trails. It took me a few rides to really settle on my suspension pressure, but for my weight I went with 85% of my weight, which is 5% over what was recommended by X-Fusion. I have never felt the bike bottom out, and the o-ring indicated that I was getting 90-94% or my travel on the double-black diamonds.

In my opinion, this bike climbs better than the Norco Sight that I was previously riding. I did not like the amount of antisquat on the Sight, on which you could feel the chain lock the suspension too much to my likings, but on the Rift Zone it is just right. The seat tube angle is steep enough to preserve my knees from pain, which I could feel on longer rides with my previous bikes. I wouldn't mind if it was a touch steeper, but I have slid my seat as far forward as possible and it suits me perfectly.

The more I pushed the bike on the downhills, the more I liked it. It is a pretty stiff bike for its intended use, and I felt that it was really planted. I opted to size up to a large and I don't regret my decision. It is long and stable, and I think that I am faster on the downhills than I was with the Sight or Shore, which both had slasker angles (65 and 67 degrees respectively) and more suspension travel. The low bottom bracket (13,3") on the Marin probably helps with this too. The shock had a tendency to pack in rough choppy sections if I didn't have the exact right pressure in it, but once I had found it, it was great. I wouldn't mind trying the shock with a lighter tune, but I'd like to keep the same end stroke ramp. Adding volume spacers would probably keep this ideal. At first I thought that I'd upgrade the shock at some point, but after the season, I think that the money would be better spent on a stiffer fork. The frame can handle 130-140mm without voiding the warranty depending on the axle-to-crown length, and combined with offset bushings, a longer fork would put the BB at pretty much the same height, while slackening the head angle. This would make for an even more stable bike on the downhills, while keeping its great uphill manners.

I have neither felt nor heard any creak, squeak, or other annoying thing from the bike. The internally routed dropper cable rattles a bit into the frame on rougher trails, but it doesn’t bother me enough to notice it.

The icing on the cake is the awesome customer support that I have received from Marin. I have sent countless emails to their technical support to ask for technical info before buying the bike and while upgrading it, which were always promptly responded with pinpoint technical information in a friendly manner. I seriously felt like if I was dealing with a much smaller company, and it is a detail that really won me over.

Made for fun. Absolutely.

CONCLUSION

After my most fun riding season ever, I can say that I am so glad that I have chosen this bike. I have never felt myself progress as much as this summer and I give a lot of credit to the bike that was begging to be ridden. It is written «Made for fun » on it and I could really feel that the product designer knew what he was doing when designing this bike. The frame is trustworthy and worth upgrading as much as any other boutique brand in my opinion, and the builds for all three models of the range are really good for the money. I have paid more for a frame only than this whole bike in the past and the Marin feels much better. Plus, you’re backed with a devoted company that’s been around for decades, and their customer support is awesome. That’s exactly what I was looking for, and I’ll keep it in my stable for years to come. Now if they’d sell them frame only, I’d replace it with the new 2019 Alpine Trail 150mm travel bike, which has a slacker head tube angle (65), steeper seat tube angle (76), and a bit more suspension travel. 

Specifications

Product Marin Rift Zone 1 Bike
Model Year 2018
Riding Type Trail
Rider Unisex
Sizes and Geometry
S, M, L, XL View Geometry
Size S M L XL
Top Tube Length 585mm 612mm 636mm 670mm
Head Tube Angle 67.5° 67.5° 67.5° 67.5°
Head Tube Length 100mm 105mm 110mm 115mm
Seat Tube Angle 74.8° 74.8° 74.8° 74.8°
Seat Tube Length 385mm 420mm 450mm 480mm
Bottom Bracket Height 337.5mm 337.5mm 337.5mm 337.5mm
Chainstay Length 435mm 435mm 435mm 435mm
Wheelbase 1134mm 1156mm 1178mm 1209mm
Standover 684mm 713mm 725mm 750mm
Reach 420mm 441mm 460mm 490mm
Stack 609mm 614mm 619mm 623mm
Wheel Size 29"
Frame Material Aluminum
Frame Material Details Series 3 6061 Aluminum Frame
Rear Travel 120mm
Rear Shock X-Fusion O2 R, 210x50mm, Rebound Adjustment, Custom Tune, 25mm x M8 Hardware
Fork RockShox Recon RL 29”, 120mm Travel, Compression and Rebound Adjustment, Alloy Tapered Steerer, Solo Air Spring, 110x15mm Boost Spacing, Maxle Lite, 51mm Offset
Fork Travel 120mm
Head Tube Diameter 1 1/8" x 1 1/2”
Headset FSA No 57E, Sealed Cartridge Bearings
Handlebar Marin Mini-Riser, 6061 Double Butted Aluminum, 780mm Width, 4º Up, 9º Back
Stem Marin 3D Forged Alloy, 45mm
Grips Marin Dual Density
Brakes Front: Shimano BR-M315 Hydraulic Disc, 180mm Rotor; Rear: Shimano BR-M315 Hydraulic Disc, 160mm Rotor
Brake Levers Shimano BL-M315 Hydraulic
Drivetrain 1x
Shifters Shimano Deore 1x10-Speed
Front Derailleur ---
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore Shadow Plus SGS 10-Speed
ISCG Tabs Yes
Chainguide
Cranks Marin Forged Alloy 1x10
Chainrings Hollow Spindle, Steel Narrow-Wide 30 Tooth Chainring, 76mm BCD, Boost Spacing
Bottom Bracket External Sealed Cartridge Bearings
Pedals ---
Chain KMC X10
Cassette SunRace 10-Speed, 11-42 Tooth
Rims Marin Aluminum Double Wall, 29mm Inner, Pinned Joint, Disc Specific, Tubeless Compatible
Hubs Front: Formula, 110x15mm, Centerlock Disc, 32H; Rear: Formula, 148x12mm, Quad Sealed Bearings, Centerlock Disc, 32H
Spokes 14g Black Stainless Steel
Tires Vee Tire, Crown Gem 29x2.3", Dual Control Compound, Folding Bead, Tubeless Compatible
Saddle Marin Speed Concept
Seatpost Marin, Two Bolt Alloy
Seatpost Diameter 30.9mm
Seatpost Clamp Alloy
Rear Dropout / Hub Dimensions 110x15mm
Max. Tire Size
Bottle Cage Mounts 1
Colors Satin Cyan
Warranty
Weight
Miscellaneous The Rift Zone is our most speed oriented MultiTrac bike, created
for the rider looking for the speed and roll over capabilities of
29” wheels in a trail capable package. Long, low, and slack trail
geometry is more aggressive than an XC race bike for more
control at top speed, and more fun while chasing seconds.
Price $1,549.99
More Info ​Marin Bikes Website

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