While I test rode the Marin Attack Trail during OutDoor Demo, I was really interested in the Pine Mountain–a steel hardtail that uses the new 27.5+ wheel size. Why? Well, this plus/mid-fat/husky size is intriguing to me, I have yet to spend any significant time on one, and I love hardtails. Greg, for one, is totally sold on the wheel size, and has been talking it up since trying it this summer.
After reading John’s glowing test ride review of the no-frills Pine Mountain 1, I contacted Marin to see about getting a bike in for long-term review. They obliged and sent the Pine Mountain 2, which has a smart build and a reasonable price tag of $2,749.
The Pine Mountain has been a mainstay in Marin’s line–almost since the beginning of their 30-year history. Over the years it’s evolved to stay current, and this bike is thoroughly modern, even if it is a hardtail.
Its head tube angle sits at 69 degrees, with a 120mm fork. The seat tube angle is 70 degrees, and the chain stays are fairly stubby at 437mm. For our large-sized tester, the wheelbase is 1,141.3mm (44.9in), which is similar to many trail-oriented 29ers and the handful of other 27.5+ hard tails on the market. Marin offers the Pine Mountain in sizes from small to extra-extra large–good news for riders well over 6ft tall.
Marin uses a Columbus Thron tubeset for the frame and opted to clear coat the raw steel for a unique look. There are also accents of brass around the brazed fixtures on the frame. The Pine Mountain is versatile with internal routing for a dropper post, mounts for two water bottle cages, as well as mounting points for racks, fenders, and even a front derailleur. Considering the steel frame and big ass tires, it’s likely no surprise to you that the bike weighs in at 29.6lbs. (13.4kg).
For maximum tire clearance, Marin went with Boost spacing (148×12) on the rear triangle. But instead of using a more conventional thru axle from RockShox or DT Swiss, Marin uses a Nalid 12-3-9 quick-release thru axle. Don’t roll your eyes just yet–the Nalid system offers actual benefits above a threaded thru axle. It’s easy to use, arguably safer than a threaded axle, and is definitely faster.
The 12-3-9 refers to the lever positions during installation. Slide the axle in with the lever at the 12 o’clock position, rotate it to the 3 o’clock position, and then flip the lever to the 9 o’clock position to lock it in place. If you don’t install the axle correctly, you can’t lock the lever. If that sounds confusing, don’t worry; reading that explanation takes longer than it does to remove the axle. The axle is only compatible with the Nalid system, but I think you’ll see this on more and more bikes.
Nalid offers their system for forks as well, as demonstrated in the video below. The process is exactly the same for the rear axle.
A 120mm-travel Fox 34 fork takes care of the squishy-business up front. It’s not the swanky, Kashima-coated, Factory Series 34, but it does have the latest FiT4 damper, a big improvement over the older CTD system. Like the frame, the fork uses Boost spacing (110×15). Tire clearance around the arch is excellent.
Marin spec’d the new Shimano M8000 XT group for the drivetrain. It’s a 1×11 system, with a 32T chainring and an 11-42T cassette. The cranks, ring, bottom bracket, derailleur, cassette, and shifter are all XT. Shimano also gets the nod for brakes, but Marin went with SLX stoppers to keep the price down. Rotors are 180mm front and 160mm rear. Personally, I would like to see 180mm rotors front and rear with so much tire to slow down.
Other spec highlights include a KS Lev Integra dropper post with their standout Southpaw remote, WTB Scraper rims, WTB Trailblazer tires, and a color-matched WTB SL8 saddle. The stem (70mm), bar (725mm), and grips are all Marin branded. I would like to see a wider bar spec’d stock, preferably something around 760mm. With so much tire to move, you’ve really got to put some muscle into turning. A wider bar would make it an easier fight. Also, with the narrowish bar, the steering can be floppy during slow, tight maneuvers.
Of course, as soon as the Pine Mountain showed up, it starting raining and didn’t stop for two weeks! This wasn’t just a little bit of drizzle either, it was pouring all day, every day. This meant my first couple rides on the bike were on pavement. Finally, the weather improved, the trails dried, and I was able to get out on the dirt.
Even though the WTB Scraper rims and Trailblazer (980g) tires are tubeless compatible, the Marin came with tubes installed. The heft of the wheel/tire/tube system was very noticeable. On flat ground from a standstill, it takes more effort to get the wheels rolling. If the terrain is rolling, the weight doesn’t have much of an impact, but you can bet your ass you’ll feel it on the climbs. Do yourself a favor and ditch the tubes ASAP! The Maxxis plus-sized tubes used on the Pine Mountain weigh 440g each. That’s basically like having a lightweight XC race tire inside an already heavy tire.
Also, the Trailblazer tires themselves are not impressive. When it comes to aggressive cornering, their profile on the 45mm-wide rims is just too square. Jeff had the same experience when he tested them earlier this year. I’ve seen a couple friends running the Trailblazers on narrower rims (30-35mm), and the rounder profile that produces greatly improves handling. Considering the length of product cycles, I’m sure this was the only option available to Marin when they were finalizing spec for the Pine Mountain. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a different tread pattern spec’d on future models of this bike.
All that said, there are now several more 27.5+ tire options available, and we’ll be reviewing them with the Pine Mountain as the test mule. In fact, I’ve already converted the rims to tubeless and swapped out the stock tires for a WTB Bridger in the front and a WTB Trail Boss in the rear. Both tires are 3 inches wide and come in at about 200g (each) heavier than the Trailblazers. But, without the tubes, overall weight per wheel is around 200g less than stock.
So far, I’ve only gotten a handful of shorter rides on the bike. I’m not immediately sold on the new wheel size, but I’ll only know for sure after I’ve had time to log some serious miles. I think finding the right tire pressure for my riding style is going to be vitally important to my experience. Jeff and I will both be riding the bike during the course of the long-term test, so be sure to check back in for our final thoughts.
It sounds like you’re not totally jazzed, but I’m looking forward to the final review. I fell in love with the Pine Mountain 1 at Outerbike and I’m curious to see if any of that magic translates from the fully rigid to the front suspension.
On a related note, my Pine Mountain 1 came with Nobby Nics which performed exceptionally well. Of course, dry Moab is the near polar opposite of wet Georgia!
Yeah, not totally jazzed. Maybe like some light, Muzak, doctor’s office kind of jazz.
I’m liking this!
I had a chance to ride this bike on my recent visit to the Atlanta office, and I thoroughly enjoyed it!! While “steel is real,” I’ve found myself to not be as big of a fan of steel bikes lately… simply going with an aluminum frame would reduce weight and make the bike feel a bit more nimble, and would reduce cost at the same time.
Regardless, I had a great time ripping on this rig and would have loved to have ridden it for longer!