Words by Chili Dog | Photos by Chili Dog, Marin Bikes, and Ryan Gladney
Two years ago, our minds were blown by a new suspension design. The Naild R3ACT 2 Play system looked and rode unlike anything we’d ever been on, and the partnership between Naild and Marin created one of the most talked about bikes that year. Designed by mountain bike mastermind Darrel Voss as a way to re-think mountain bike rear suspension, it was as impressive as it was polarizing. If you aren’t familiar with it, you can read this behind-the-scenes, in-depth development story we did with Darrel Voss. We embedded with Naild and key players from the bike brand to take part in testing and documentation as the design evolved over two years. Marin’s Wolf Ridge was one of the bikes released with Naild’s suspension design. It is a 29-inch wheeled machine that sets a new bar for pedaling efficiency and bump compliance. We liked the bike so much, we custom painted one up and gave it away to one of our readers!
Marin received lots of feedback from that long travel 29er and packaged the same amazing suspension performance in a more playful 27.5-inch platform with 150mm of travel. Carrying on the legendary name of the Mount Vision, the new bike is targeted towards the aggressive all mountain rider. Thanks to plenty of beefed up tubes, the Mount Vision is equipped to handle burlier terrain than the Wolf Ridge, while also improving some of the critiques of the Wolf Ridge.
Our Mount Vision 9 has a gorgeous clear coat, mixed with a metallic flake paint fade that hi-lights the unidirectional carbon fiber construction of the frame but adds some pop. Marin will be offering three versions of the Mount Vision, all with a carbon frame. The builds will offer riders of different budgets a chance at trying this unique machine.
SPEC The Pro model comes with a Float X2 Factory shock, a Fox Float X2 Performance shock comes on the Mount Vision 9, and a Rock Shox Deluxe R on the 8. Fork spec follows a similar pattern with a Factory 36 on the Pro, Performance Elite on the 9, and Pike RC on the 8.
Pro level builds are also rolling with the new Shimano XTR Enduro brakes, and XTR drivetrain. e*thirteen’s TRSr carbon cranks save weight and provide an ultra stiff, race ready crank. The spec is rounded out with Deity Mohawk carbon bars, a 35mm Copperhead stem, Fox Transfer Performance Elite dropper and Carbon e*thirteen TRS wheels clad in TRS Race tires for the price of $8,899.99. Certainly a hefty investment, but at least one that comes with tons of R&D and a top-shelf spec.
The mid level Mount Vision 9 build we are testing has a little less bling, but still packs more than enough performance. Instead of the new XTR brakes, the 9 build sports 4-piston XT M8020 brakes with XT levers. SRAM Descendant carbon cranks spin the chain around a SRAM XO1 Eagle derailleur while a SRAM GX shifter makes it move up and down a 12-speed cassette. Stan’s Sentry MK3 aluminum wheels offer a solid balance of performance and price. Deity again provides the cockpit spec, but this time with their aluminum Skyline bars and 35mm Copperhead stem. A KS Lev Integra dropper post rounds out the important bits on the build that retails at $6,799.99.
The $5,299.99 Mount Vision 8 is Marin’s entry level carbon machine. Suspension spec is all Rock Shox with a Pike RC fork and Deluxe R rear shock. Wheels are Stan’s Sentry S1 clad in WTB Trail Boss tires. Shifting duties are handled by a GX Eagle derailleur and NX shifter powered by SRAM Descendant aluminum cranks. Shimano XT MT520 brakes slow things down and are actuated by Shimano MT500 levers. Instead of the Deity spec like the upper trims, Marin uses an in house bar and stem to shave cost. A KS Lev dropper rounds out the budget, performance oriented spec.
Having gone so far to design a bike around the impressive performance of the Naild system, Marin saw it necessary to go the extra mile in development. The four-bar suspension with a sliding element to control the rear axle path is custom-tuned depending on frame size. Diverting from the Wolf Ridge, the Mount Vision has an additional vertical link connecting the top tube and rear shock. Matthew Cipes, MTB product manager at Marin elaborated, “We added the swing link to give the bike a very poppy and playful feel to compliment the 27.5-in wheels and bring out the best in them.” As a side benefit, the change in linkage made room for an impressive two water bottles on this bike— something many of their pro riders requested.
Cipes went on to say, that Marin, “Took a lot of feedback from Martha Gill, Matt Koen, and Nikki Whiles for the bike as well as input from Joe Murray. Matt & Martha provided the Enduro racing side of it and Mr. Nikki Whiles added his input on the jib and playful part. With the spread of skill and background, I feel it allowed us to pull off quite an amazing machine.”
The Mount Vision has two separate suspension kinematics, one for small/medium frames, and another for large/extra large frames. Designers understand that a 205-pound rider will be exerting much different loads on the bike than a 140-pound rider. This extra time and focus put into the design will allow all riders to experience the best of what the Naild system provides.
So what exactly does Naild have to offer? Naild R3ACT — 2 Play has an incredibly long name and complex design, but the basic idea is that it isolates the rider’s mass from acceleration forces. As a result, the bike is influenced as little as possible by rider mass, and rider mass is influenced as little as possible by terrain. Instead, the rear end tracks over the ground, tracing each and every bump. Pedaling efficiency is also increased since rider bob that would normally introduce inefficiencies is drastically reduced.
The upper link of the Naild system features a carbon composite link, and the lower links are aluminum. Keen eyes will notice that the rear fender size has increased slightly from previous Naild bikes on the market, which should do a better job of shielding the large sliding stanchion tube from debris. It’s a nice upgrade even though we never had an issue with our previous Naild bikes, despite taking them out for some of the muddiest riding we’ve ever done.
Geometry is definitely one of the most hotly discussed areas of bike design. It seems one group of riders believes bikes can never be long, slack, or low enough. Meanwhile the other camp may not ride overly steep terrain, and don’t fancy themselves as EWS-level downhillers who prefer a playful and lively bike on their weekly trail rides. Marin chose to play it safe with a 65-degree head tube angle, 330-millimeter bottom bracket height, and 420-millimeter chainstays. Those numbers didn’t come out of thin air however. They were the result of an extensive biometric fit study done by Marin using anthropomorphic data to map and define rider position and center of gravity. It’s the same information that influenced the Naild suspension kinematics changes as well.
Our size large Mount Vision 9 has a 75.1-degree virtual seat tube angle and 64.1-degree actual seat tube angle. The top tube measures 563 millimeters actual, and 626 millimeters effective. Those numbers are on the more conservative side of the spectrum, but numbers only tell part of the story. This bike definitely rides well and puts the rider in a comfortable position, whether sitting or standing. Main put in the hours to do detailed biometrics studies and use that information to guide the geo numbers that work best for body geometry and ergonomics on the bike.
When asked who this bike is for, Cipes stated, “This bike is for the rider who loves the playfulness of smaller wheels but still wants epic days and to crush the descents. It’s really in line with that the Mount Vision has been for Marin, an all-mountain bike that can play in the enduro game but is more at home blasting out of corners, popping wheelies, and having fun!”
Marin was nice enough to ship us our Mount Vision early, so we’ve been putting in the hours on this bike. For those that haven’t had the chance to ride a Naild-equipped bike, the experience is like no other. The suspension design is the most supple, bump eating, mind blowing combination of pivots we’ve ever ridden. Putting the sensation into words is next to impossible.
Square edge hits are where this design shines, literally swallowing them up without even the slightest hesitation or pedal feedback. This is particularly helpful on rocky climbs, where jagged sharp edge rocks tend to grab onto your wheel and slow your already straining momentum. Just like the Wolf Ridge, the Mount Vision simply motors up rocky sections with complete ease. It feels like cheating compared to most any other bike on the market.
Marin went so far as removing the pedal switch from the rear shock. It’s a bold statement, serving as a direct claim of the impressive pedaling performance of the Naild system. Thankfully, the move isn’t just marketing fluff. There’s really no need for a pedal switch on this bike as it has such little bob. If you’re a clipless pedal rider you’ll notice the increased efficiency even more. The smoother the pedal strokes, the better the Naild platform works with you to transfer power directly to the ground without efficiency loss in the suspension.
One of the catchphrases commonly found around the Wolf Ridge’s Naild suspension is its “ground tracing” feel. The Mount Vision maintains that supple, ground hugging feel but has addressed the somewhat muted feeling the Wolf Ridge offers. The Mount Vision’s altered kinematics make the bike much more fun on smoother trails or when it comes to getting airborne. Along with making it more playful and lively, it also makes the bike ride and feel lighter as it lifts up and over obstacles much easier.
Don’t like flying through the sky? That’s alright because in typical Naild form, this bike is absolutely glued to the ground in corners, off cambers and washboards. Composed and confident are adjectives at that keep jumping off the keyboard when I’m trying to describe riding Marin’s Mount Vision. Situations that would leave most suspension designs feeling squirrelly or overwhelmed are where the Mount Vision shines. It offers composure and traction where we’re usually used to floating and aiming.
The Wolf’s Last Word
When the Mount Vision arrived at out door, excited didn’t even begin to describe how aggressively I tore into the box. I truly loved the Wolf Ridge and was excited to see how Marin applied the Naild system to a shorter travel 27.5 bike. Marin did a solid job improving upon the lack of pop in the kinematics of the bike, but the bike is still best fit for riders that aren’t constantly jibbing and popping around the trail. But, if you’re looking for ground tracing traction and un-matched small bump performance that will effortlessly soak up big hits and landings, the Mount Vision is insane. Not just a one trick pony, this bike also climbs exceptionally well. Whether in or out of the saddle, a stable pedal platform supports you while the suspension still soaks up every bump. I am excited to continue testing this bike and see how it shapes up. Will this be the next favorite 27.5 Naild bike, or will the Polygon Square One hold onto its title? We’ll find out!
Mount Vision Pro – $8,899.99 Mount Vision 9 – $6,799.99 Mount Vision 8 – $5,299.99