The reintroduced Wolf Ridge features a suspension design seen only on one other bike in existence—the Polygon Xquareone. The design is a struggle to define, but here goes: A massive carbon-fiber swingarm pivots from a point forward of the bike's bottom bracket, and also telescopes rearward from the pivot, with a link connecting the front triangle to the swingarm to control that motion. There is also a linkage from the swingarm to the rear shock, which compresses a RockShox Monarch R Debonair to yield 160 millimeters of travel. The damping is intentionally tuned much lighter than on most bikes so that, Marin says, the Wolf Ridge climbs like a short-travel bike and descends like an all-mountain bruiser.
The Marin is notably different to what most of us are used to riding. Setup is crucial, and variation in sag has a huge impact on ride quality. Once dialed, the suspension is ultra-responsive to small bumps as well as shifts in body position, but is eerily uncoupled from pedaling inputs. This makes for a highly tractable bike that climbs far better than most 29-inch wheeled, 160-millimeter-travel bikes, while maintaining a supple, glued-to-the-ground feeling. The Wolf Ridge is comfortable picking through technical, slow terrain, and the lightly damped, highly active suspension delivers impressive performance through roots and chunder until things start getting blurry. Our testers were divided as to how well the Wolf Ridge performed at high speed. The suspension remained compliant, and resisted bottom-out well, but the light damping coupled with the ease that the rider could alter the bike's effective geometry with relatively subtle shifts of body position lent a hint of nervousness to high-speed manners. Taking the time to carefully set things up, and then being willing to adapt your riding style to suit the bike's strengths will yield real benefits. Serious meat huckers will still probably yearn for a little more damping, both compression and rebound, even though that runs counter to the design philosophy at work here.
The Wolf Ridge delivers a good blend of spec that you'd expect from a $6,800 bike—RockShox Lyrik RCT3 fork, X01 Eagle drivetrain, WTB Vigilante and Breakout tires shod upon Stan's Flow rims and sweet Deity bar and stem, although the KS LEV SIO dropper with a setback head raised eyebrows among testers who are embracing the steeper seat angles currently in vogue. We would be hard-pressed to crown it the one bike to rule them all, but for a long-travel, climb-happy bike, the Wolf Ridge is a capable rig that dances to its own beat and is worthy of consideration.
Q&A with Matt Cipes, mountain bike product manager, and Chris Holmes, brand director
The Nail’d R3ACT – 2 Play suspension is a unique beast. Can you give us the easily digestible company sound bite describing the mechanics of how it works (and is there a shorter acronym)?
First off, there is not a shorter term for the R3ACT – 2 Play system; the technology and trademark came from our partner Naild. In a nutshell, the system, as employed on the Wolf Ridge, uses a unique kinematic that effectively isolates pedaling forces from suspension movement, and vice-versa. This allows us to use a very light tune on the rear shock, keeping the suspension very active, but without the negative side effects, such as inefficiency, that generally accompany lightly damped suspension.
Does the idea of a 'quiver-killer' bike run counter to the ultimate goals of consumerism, i.e that of trying to sell more consumers multiple bikes and thus increase total unit sales?
Ha, great question. While we here at Marin are always happy to sell more bikes, we wanted to hearken back to the days when mountain bikers had one bike to do most everything, when we didn't have a few different mountain bikes at our disposal, when we all rode versatile bikes. With that in mind, we targeted a wide spectrum of riders, everyone from XC trail to enduro racers— basically most anything on the spectrum other than XC race and DH. One could race XC on it, due to the suspension's efficiency, but we realize that the weight is outside the realm of competitive XC race rigs. Plain and simple, it's a mountain bike.
Really light damping and a high degree of responsiveness to body position seem to be key characteristics of how the Wolf Ridge rides. Would it be fair to state that there is some learning curve/rider adaptability required in order to get the most out of this bike?
We have had experienced riders who have mentioned that they had to get used to the enhanced traction as well as the downhill speed that the Wolf Ridge delivered. They were able to brake later, but that also meant that they had to use more brake as well.
Just for the sake of being really obtuse, are there any plans to extend the R3ACT – 2Play design in the Marin range to other wheel sizes or travel options?
While we don't comment on future plans, Naild’s R3ACT – 2 Play system is certainly adaptable to different wheel sizes and travel options.