Marin Rift Zone 29 Carbon XR Review

MARIN RIFT ZONE 29 CARBON XR REVIEW

SHORT-TRAVEL COIL FUN

Review by Dario DiGiulio

As mountain bikes continue to get better each year, it’s beginning to seem like every brand is honing in on the mythical one bike that handles everything pretty well. That starts to take some of the weirdness and excitement out of the industry though, and historically those unusual approaches and novel ideas are the things that have kept mountain biking design fun. Marin has decidedly kept that spirit alive with their Rift Zone Carbon, a unique little bike that promises to be pretty fun, but did they hit their mark?

THE LAB

The Rift Zone is Marin’s take on the modern short travel 29er, but with a few notes that set it apart from the crowd. It sports 125mm of rear travel driven by their MultiTrac 4-bar suspension system, and a 140mm fork up front. We’ve been testing the Carbon XR model, which comes with a carbon fiber front end, an alloy rear triangle, and a very capable parts package including a coil sprung rear shock.

QUICK HITS

• 125mm MultiTrac Suspension Platform
• HTA 65.1°
• STA 76°
• REACH 475.84mm

Price: $1,769 – $4,859
Website: Marinbikes.com

Marin offers their Rift Zone Carbon in sizes small to extra-large, so fit riders from 5’3” to 6’4”. The geometry of the Rift Zone Carbon is relatively progressive amongst the shorter travel market, taking some inspiration from the enduro sector with a 65.1° head tube, 76° seat tube, 475mm reach, and 614mm stack in a size Large. The bottom bracket sits low at 31mm of drop, and the chainstays are quite tight at 425mm. Wheelbase then totals a compact 1219mm, which should retain the fun element that Marin seeks to offer with the Rift Zone.

Marin Rift Zone 29 Carbon XR Profile Shot

The MultiTrac linkage driven single pivot suspension is designed to offer good big-hit capabilities and efficient pedaling. Being a “regular” single pivot design, the axle path only has a tiny 1.5mm of rearwards travel, before arcing round to around 8mm at bottom out – this should retain a snappy feeling to the handling, at the expense of stability in large compressions. There’s around 21% of progression to ensure coil compatibility. Anti-squat at sag increases from 120% to 145% as you move down the cassette, which should offer a good level of pedaling support in all gears. Anti-rise is high at 114% at sag, dropping to only 100% at bottom out, which should give a slight compression of the suspension when braking and maintain the geometry well in steep terrain, at the expense of compliance.

Marin offers the Rift Zone Carbon in a choice of three build specs ranging beginning with the $3,799 Rift Zone 1 and moving through the $4,379 Rift Zone 2 to the top-spec Rift Zone Carbon XR model tested. Marin also offers the Rift Zone Carbon as a frame-only with the XR-spec Fox Factory coil shock. The XR build spec retails for $4,859 and gets you a well-appointed build kit that requires no immediate upgrades. With an XT/SLX drivetrain, 4-piston XT brakes, and Shimano-hub wheels, things are decidedly name brand where it counts. This is the same case on the suspension front, where you get a Fox Performance Elite 36 with a Grip2 damper, as well as a Factory series coil out back. Touchpoints are all Marin branded, but leave little to be desired, as they all work quite well and match the character of the bike nicely. One somewhat unusual spec choice is the Vee Tire Co. Attack HPL tires in an Enduro casing. These are the same ones developed with Aaron Gwin over the past couple years, and they certainly make the intentions of this bike known – this is no cross-country rig.

Marin Rift Zone 29 Carbon XR Review

THE DIRT

We made sure to send most of our testers out on this bike with as little prior knowledge as possible, as your visual read of the Rift Zone can totally betray the way it feels on the trail. With its stout frame, aggressive stance, and coil sprung rear end, you’d think it was a longer travel enduro rig. While it carries some of those traits through, the character of this Marin is much different than many of the bikes we’ve been riding recently, making it a bit hard to categorize. The synthesis of geometry numbers gives it a solid feel on trail, with a well damped yet comfortable suspension characteristic to match.

The super-short rear end is great in the right kind of corner, namely one with enough support to square off and slap into but feels twitchy and unstable when speeds pick up or features start to string together. You’d think this would translate into a poppy and jibby feeling platform, but the kinematics seem more biased towards quieting trail feedback and staying planted. That said, point it at a decent lip and it’ll happily fly, with just enough progression to avoid bottoming out when avoiding bodged landings. The cockpit feels a bit cramped, likely due to the relatively short stack and reach, but you can overcome this by riding a bit more off-the-back, as was typical of many older bikes we’ve all probably spent time on. The short 35mm stem and 20mm rise bars mean you could easily add a good amount of space to the cockpit to help with this too, if desired.

Pedaling performance is good, as you’d expect from a 125mm bike, but it’s by no means sporty. This is more due to the build kit than the frame design, as anything will feel a bit sluggish with sticky Assegai-esque tires front and rear, a coil shock, and a 35lb build weight. Those burly spec choices are key to the Rift Zone’s capable performance on the way down though, so to me the tradeoff is worthwhile. You could easily turn this bike into a climb-biased whippet with some fast-rolling tires, an air shock, and perhaps some lighter wheels. For that reason, it’s a very compelling platform that can be pushed in a variety of directions, based on your tastes and your trails.

Marin Rift Zone 29 Carbon XR Review

The Wolf’s Last Word

The Marin Rift Zone occupies a very unique spot in the bike market, as a short travel frame meant to attack relatively serious terrain. The build kit reflects this goal, and is very much up to the task, even if some of the geometry numbers let the bike down a bit when it comes to maximum attack. The component spec offers great performance for your money, and the frame is very high quality, so the overall value strikes me as quite fair for those looking for a short-travel aggressive trail ripper.

Price: $4,859
Weight: 35.1 lbs
Website: Marinbikes.com

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SPECIFICATIONS

CHASSIS
Frame: Carbon Front Triangle, Series 4 Alloy Rear End | 125mm

Fork: Fox Performance Elite Float 36 | 140mm | Grip 2
Shock: Fox Factory Series Coil | 210x50mm

COCKPIT
Brakes: Shimano XT 4-Piston | 203F/180R rotors

Handlebar: Marin Trail Alloy Bar 35mm| 800mm| 20mm Rise
Stem: Marin CNC Aluminum 35mm | 35mm Length
Headset: FSA No 42/47 | Sealed Bearings
Seatpost: TranzX YSP23JL 1x Remote | S:125mm | M/L: 150mm | XL:170mm
Saddle: Marin Trail Speed Concept Pro

WHEELS
Hubs: Shimano Boost

Rims: Marin Aluminum Double Wall | 29mm Inner
Front tire: Vee Tire Co Attack HPL, 29×2.5″ | Top 40 | EnduroCore
Rear tire: Vee Tire Co Attack HPL, 29×2.5″ | Top 40 | EnduroCore

DRIVETRAIN
Bottom Bracket: MEGAEVO BB | 73mm BSA

Cassette: Shimano SLX M7100 | 12-Speed | 10-51T
Cranks: FSA Gradient | Modular 1x | 32T
Shifter: Shimano SLX | 12-Speed | I-Spec EV
Derailleur: Shimano XT | 12-Speed | SGS

We Dig

Fun and unusual synthesis of parts and geo
Great build kit
Adaptable frame platform

We Don’t

Mix of progressive and dated geometry
Heavy and sticky for a short travel bike

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