At first glance, the Marin Wolf Ridge looks like a 1993 Cannondale Super V without the step-through. Haven’t we already gone through this whole moto swingarm nonsense already—like, a really long time ago?
But take another look and you’ll notice that the Marin Wolf Ridge is no antiquated single pivot, it’s using a radically different suspension design who’s inventor, Darrell Voss, is making some pretty outrageous claims.
Not new claims, mind you, just ones that the marketing department of literally every mountain bike company has been making every single year for the past 20 years. So, we’re looking at a bit of a Boy Who Cried Wolf situation. When you walk into a presentation and hear phrases like “holy grail” being tossed around without any mention of Indiana Jones, you roll your eyes and settle in for another bullshit-fest.
Marin is saying that the Wolf Ridge will get rid of niches that categorize bikes by how much travel they have. One of the main claims of the bike is that it climbs like it has something like 120 millimeters of travel and descends like an enduro bike. Again, we’ve heard this before. A lot. If you’re going to make bold claims, you better be able to back them up.
So can it? Can this 160-mil-travel 29er break the mold? Well, I’ll start out by saying that the R3ACT suspension, which utilizes a link and a slider to create a vertical axle path, creates a truly unique riding experience. Also, yes. The Wolf Ridge actually does climb like a short travel bike and descend like a long-travel one.
You really do have to ride it to understand how it’s so different. I’m paid to use words in a way that can describe how stuff rides, but there’s no way I can really do that with this bike. I think the reason it feels unlike other bikes is the level to which it decouples suspension from pedaling support. In other words, it’s both very supple and ground-hugging, and extremely pedal-efficient at the same time.
Darrel Voss had a pretty spot-on comparison that I’m going to steal. He said that it if the bike you’re riding now is a a speedboat on choppy water, the R3Act suspension is like a hydrofoil that lifts the hull out of the water but allows the prop to remain beneath the surface to create full power.
When climbing, or anytime you’re on the gas, it really does feel like every watt is being used to propel you forward. The harder you pedal, the more the bike rewards you for it. In that way, it actually does climb like a short-travel bike. I mean, it does still have 160 millimeters of travel, and it is still nearly 30 pounds, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Marin Wolf Ridge Quick Stats:
– 160mm travel 29er
– 66.5 head angle
– 336 millimeter bottom bracket height
– 435 millimeter chainstays
Wolf Ridge Pro
– SRAM XX-1 Eagle drivetrain
– Fox 36 Performance Elite & Float X2 suspension
– E*thirteen TRS Race Carbon wheelse
– US MSRP $8599
Wolf Ridge 9
– SRAM X0-1 Eagle drivetrain
– RockShox Lyric RCT3 & Monarch Debonair R suspension
– Stan's NoTubes Flow MK3 wheelset
– US MSRP $6799
I know what you’re thinking. It looks a lot like a single pivot, so it must have a shitload of chaingrowth, so it must therefore have a shitload of pedal feedback. But it doesn’t, because of the slider, which is where the magic happens. You can pedal as hard as you want through root balls and junk and it’ll kind of just levitate over it all.
When gravity is on your side, the Wolf Ridge and its R3ACT suspension rewards you, too. The suspension feels linear, deep and unobstructed. Also, it requires less damping than other suspension designs. Don’t ask me how, but what it means is that you can start off with the Fox Float X2 shock’s compression and rebound damping knobs all the way off and gradually add damping to suit your riding style. That’s what makes the suspension feel unobstructed. Systems that are overdamped feel sluggish in comparison.
I’ve only ridden the Wolf Ridge on one 2-hour ride, but so far it’s pretty cool. If you’re looking for a comparison, that’s not so simple. Evil’s D.E.L.T.A. system offers a similar feeling that comes with providing incredible bump control and pedaling support at the same time, but the Marin is different. I haven’t had enough time to determine if it’s good different or bad different. But I’m intrigued enough to want to spend a whole lot more time on it to find out.
More at marinwolfridge.com.