By Brice Minnigh
Weight: 28.1 pounds
Most of our testers were left a bit confused after riding the Marin Rift Zone 29er XC8 back-to-back against the more racy bikes in this category. Compared with the more race-oriented BMC Fourstroke and Felt Edict, the Rift Zone seemed outclassed in the speed department, while hinting of a more playful disposition than its competitive counterparts. Our test team was unanimous in pronouncing the Marin's geometry fun, with sensible angles and a well-balanced feel.
All but one tester agreed that the suspension was less progressive than the other fullsuspension race bikes in this group. Several noticed pedal bob while climbing—both in and out of the saddle—which made the bike feel comparatively sluggish. While the frame's floating-pivot design is functional, some said it was far from the best they had ridden. The Marin was also less precise in the handling department, feeling noodly in tight turns that demanded more pinpoint steering.
We also felt that the 142×12 through-axle was a solid design touch, even for an XC bike. One point on which all riders agreed was that the Marin comes with a handsome array of parts, which makes the bike a good value for
the price. Kudos were given to the Shimano XT drivetrain—which features the Shadow Plus clutch mechanism on the rear derailleur—as well as the Fox 32 Float CTD 29er fork and Fox Float CTD Boost Valve shock. Praise also was offered for the smart Easton EA70 XC 29er wheels. Some expressed regret that the bike had Formula brakes, rather than Shimano XT, as this would have dovetailed nicely with the rest of the XT kit.
Overall, we found the Marin Rift Zone 29er XC8 to be more of a fun-loving recreational cross-country/trail bike than a full-blown XC race rocket, and with the enviable assortment of components, the bike boasts considerable bang for your buck.