First Ride: Marin Wolf Ridge

Marin promised something truly new when the invite went out to attend a pre-Sea Otter media camp. The Wolf Ridge delivers on that. Using the NAILED R3ACT-2 PLAY suspension design, Marin claims to have created a 160 mm-travel 29er that pedals and handles well enough to be the “one bike” to ride anywhere and everywhere.

The key to this system is the sliding stanchion that extends as the suspension moves through its travel. In appearance, it might be easy to think of this as a single pivot bike (meaning the axle path is dependent on the arc created by the swingarm pivoting around a single point) but instead, this is a virtual pivot/4 bar system with an axle path that trends towards vertical.

Most suspension designs deal with the suspension bob created by pedaling forces through low-speed compression damping, something that Darrell Voss of NAILD thinks is less than optimal. Instead of relying on complicated shock internals, this new suspension design creates significant anti-squat (suspension stiffening due to chain tension). This anti-squat, in tune with the rest of the suspension design/kinematics, prevents the suspension from moving excessively as the pedaling creates downward forces on the suspension. That same anti-squat is easily overcome by inputs from the ground, allowing the suspension to track the ground, even while under heavy pedaling loads.

To me, these sounded like familiar claims (see: dw-link), but Voss claims this is the first system the was designed from the ground-up for bicycles rather than being based on motorcycle suspension design theory. Just how the sliding member and linkage interacted with pedaling forces wasn’t that well explained, but Voss intentionally is trying to steer the conversation away from the nitty-gritty of the physics, and towards how the bike performs in the trail.

There are two levels of this bike, and I rode the less expensive Wold Ridge 9, which has a Monarch R rear shock with a single rebound knob. The Pro model has a Fox X2, which seems to work against the idea of simpler suspension, but Marin felt riders shopping for bikes in this price range would be expecting a high-end shock and all high-end shocks are complicated. This is a bit of a mixed message, although the shock does not have a platform lever. As expected, the X2 riders seemed to spend a lot of time fiddling with the compression adjustments. Marin says both shocks have 40% less compression damping than the average shock tune on the market.

The loop we took around Santa Cruz was somewhat familiar to me, as I’ve ridden most of these trails during various press events or other trips to the area. We rolled out of the parking lot and up pavement for a few miles, then on to dirt. As promised, I never, ever missed a lock-out lever, even on the pavement. The suspension felt much the same seated and standing. If I got sloppy with my pedal stroke while standing, the suspension would move, but overall it pedaled amazingly well for a 160 bike. It didn’t trick me into thinking it was an XC bike, but even on steep, grunty bits, it didn’t squat and feel sluggish.

The first descent was steep with some rough bits, and unfortunately, I spent most of the ride thinking the fork felt too stiff. Perhaps this feeling was accentuated by the plushness of the rear end, but I dropped the air pressure in the fork and added a click of rebound to the rear shock which balanced things out.

We hit a dirt climb that had a few steep sections, interspersed with some mud and roots, but for the most part, it was smooth enough to keep up a good tempo.This is where the bike really started to impress me. The suspension worked just as promised, tracking the ground for impressive levels of traction, about staying high in the travel and never feeling like it was wasting energy.

We finished on a slightly muddy, but mostly flowy trail with some fun bits of rocks and steepness. At this point the Wolf Ridge and I were getting to know each other, things really clicked. While I wasn’t sending all the big doubles, the bike instilled a lot of confidence and was down for a lot more rowdiness that I was dishing out.

Marin Wolf Ridge 2017

There is only so much you can suss out about a bike in a single ride, and Marin and Voss are making some very, very bold claims, mostly about how this bike can replace anything from an XC trail bike to full-on EWS enduro racer. Here are my thoughts on Marin’s main points from the press release:

The Wolf Ridge defines a paradigm shift in thinking that will force the rest of the market to take notice:

Where travel does not define category

I don’t feel anyone in the industry was defining categories solely by travel numbers, but rather a combination of geometry, travel and parts spec. And there are good reasons to use travel to define bikes, as a 200mm bike can be made to pedal well, but no one wants (or needs) an 8 inch travel XC bike. Inversely, there are some pretty plush 120-mm travel bikes out there, but even with downhill focused geometry, you’ll never see on being raced on a DH course.

Where a bike can climb and descend equally well

This is where the Wolf Ridge really hits the mark. While long-travel bikes have improved tremendously in terms of getting up the hill to get down, this new Marin may be setting the bar higher than ever before,

Where a bike can be at home in any terrain, with any rider – through the fast and flowy, or the rough and tumble

Claiming “any terrain, with any rider” is a broad stroke, as trails and riders are as varied as the huge range of mountain bikes we have to choose from. I think this bike is going to appeal mostly to riders already shopping for bigger bikes and not pull in much of the short-travel trail bike crowd. Some of this might have to do with the fact that many riders get a thrill out of riding a shorter travel bike at its limits rather than always being well below the performance threshold of a longer-travel bike

Where the mountain bike experience is mind-blowing

My informal poll of fellow journalists didn’t lead me to think many had a mind-blowing first ride, but every single one wanted to know how soon we could get out hands on long-term testers. 


Marin and NAILD are of the mindset that this design is revolutionary enough to make the industry rethink suspension design across the board. After one ride, I can’t make a call on that. But I can say that in the long-travel marketplace, this bike is looking like a very, very serious contender to the best bikes on the market.

Details, Prices and Availability:

Key frame highlights:

• Full carbon fiber frame, developed with biometric data to localize weight on each size
• Naild patent-pending R3ACT – 2 Play rear frame member
• Trail geometry with a low BB height, 66.5° head tube angle, 435mm chainstays
• 29” wheels, 160mm front and rear travel
• Exclusively 1x drivetrains

Wolf Ridge Pro

• SRAM XX-1 Eagle drivetrain
• Fox 36 Performance Elite & Float X2 suspension
• E*thirteen TRS Race Carbon wheelset
• 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

Check out Marin’s website for the lowdown.


Full text of press release follows:

Marin® Launches Wolf Ridge™

One Bike To Rule The Ride

Novato, Calif. – April 20, 2017 – Marin Mountain Bikes Inc. has announced the debut of the
all-new 2018 Wolf Ridge, a bike rooted in the birth of mountain biking, when one bicycle did it
all and there were no category-specific machines. Trail riding has evolved since those early
days of bombing down Mt. Tam, and your mountain bike experience will never be the same.

Welcome to the new way of thinking about the ride, the Marin Wolf Ridge.

In development for nearly five years, the Wolf Ridge was designed using biometric data for the
perfect rider fit, applied physics for ideal kinematics based on a rider’s center of gravity, and
the desire to create a bike that addresses the holy grail of mountain biking: a full suspension
rig that doesn’t make you miss your hardtail on the climbs, and one that you can confidently
point towards technical singletrack for the descent.

The Wolf Ridge defines a paradigm shift in thinking that will force the rest of the market to take
notice:

– Where travel does not define category
– Where a bike can climb and descend equally well
– Where a bike can be at home in any terrain, with any rider – through the fast and
flowy, or the rough and tumble
– Where the mountain bike experience is mind-blowing

Marin has teamed up with Naild® to design, craft and build the Wolf Ridge around their
revolutionary R3ACT – 2 Play® system, bringing a mountain bike to market that out-performs
all expectations of performance, providing the rider with the best mountain biking experience
that is available today.

Naild’s R3ACT – 2 Play system has unique core kinematics which manage the inertia of
acceleration loads. The system does not require platform/lockouts from external devices on
any travel applications, even the 160mm travel of the Wolf Ridge. A custom kinematic was
developed with Naild to ensure that the Wolf Ridge would have the pedaling prowess
previously unattainable in a long travel bike.

“I’ve been riding mountain bikes since my first rigid bike in 1983, while the folks at Naild have
been in the sport since before aluminum became a frame choice,” says Matt VanEnkevort,
CEO of Marin Bikes. “Those of us that have been around this long have watched the evolution
from rigid, to front suspension, to full suspension. If you could have more travel, without a lot of
extra weight, or negative pedaling effect, why wouldn’t you? Marin and Naild have combined
forces, so that you can have it all – without tricky damping, lockout levers and such. All it takes
is superior kinematics and vision. I believe the Naild system will forever change the way we
look at travel, and the Wolf Ridge is about to become your new favorite bike. With the Wolf
Ridge and the Naild system, a 160mm travel 29er bike can be your everyday ride, and I predict
you are going to love it.”

“Naild is honored to be working with a legendary brand like Marin,” says Darrell Voss, founder
of Naild. “Marin has literally been at the forefront from the onset of the new age of mountain
bikes. The technology that Naild is bringing to market after a decade of solitude development
has many symbiotic aspects that are in harmony with the passion of Marin’s core values. It’s
with much gratitude that Naild was able to work so closely with Marin as we brought the
R3ACT – 2 Play technology to life within Marin’s flagship line of bikes.”

Matthew Cipes, Mountain Bike Product Manager for Marin adds “It’s amazing having a bike
that can climb so well, yet rip downhill better than any bike that I have ever ridden. It’s simply
mind-blowing, you have to ride it to fully understand the performance.”

Reigning three-time North American Enduro Tour series champion Kyle Warner is looking
forward to racing a Wolf Ridge this season. “For me one of the most exciting things about the
new Wolf Ridge is how much it will simplify my race weekends from a tuning and bike set up
standpoint. For the first time ever, I will be able to focus on setting my bike up to descend as
well as possible at a race, without having to make a compromise if there is a significant amount
of pedaling involved in some of the stages. The bike is so efficient when pedaling that you can
get away with running more of a downhill bias and still know that any energy you put into the
pedals is going 100 percent into moving you forward. No more switches, lockouts, or stiff
setups for the pedally stages. It’s just set and forget and enjoy every moment of the trails!”

Kyle Warner

The Wolf Ridge Pro and Wolf Ridge 9 models will be available worldwide summer 2017.

Learn more about the Wolf Ridge at marinwolfridge.com.

Marin Bikes founded in 1986, believes that life is better with bikes. We are dedicated to
improving the lives of our customers with fun, high-caliber bicycles, which provide years of
enjoyment. We operate a business based on passion, fueled by hard work, and fulfilled by the
satisfaction of bringing the joy of cycling to our riders. Learn more about Marin’s critically acclaimed
models at marinbikes.com.

  • Ol’ Shel’

    This has massive amounts of growth between BB and axle during compression. The reviews of these designs conveniently avoid talk of pedal feedback, which has to be huge. Personally, I’m getting a little tired of glowing initial reviews, only to learn the truth after the advertisement money has stopped flowing. You can buy a decades-old high-single-pivot from Orange if you want similar performance with less complexity and cost.

    • Eric McKeegan

      I’m far from an expert, but with a pivot that low, the swingarm should be effectively getting shorter as travel increases, but the stanchion allows for some growth throughout the travel. This is something that was talked about during the briefing, as some chain growth is needed to provide anti-squat, but too much, or too much at any point in the travel can be problematic.

      As someone who has a lot of time on the very Orange-like Heckler, this Marin is in a whole different league.

      Come on, man. This is by far the most critical of anything I’ve read about this bike, or the Polygon. You know it isn’t about the ad money.