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.

11 Comments

  1. 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.

    • 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.

      • Yes, the pivot of the sliding link (i.e. the tubular rail) is low and irrelevant to your claim about axle path. The whole swingarm slides rearwards and upwards on that rail. So, there is a lot of chain growth here, although the rate of increase probably falls off deeper into travel.

    • Well your absolutely right and people need to get used to accepting a little bit of bad news about a bike they may find otherwise appealing. Actually, Voss has admitted there is an issue with chain growth but has redirected attention away from crank and pedal counter-rotation and tried to focus more on the force at the pedals that a rider has to deal with. He claims that in the R3ACT design forces never get too great for a rider to handle them. Putting things this way he manages to provide a technically correct account – people primarily react to intensity of force and the surprise of the kick rather than degree of counter-rotation of pedals when unsettled by pedal feedback – that is nonetheless deceptive. Riders must be ready for more interference in the operation of the suspension arising from chain growth on this bike than for most others available today.

      There may be certain positives here though. Some riders seem to be enjoying the combination of a large wheel and a rearward axle path. So much so, in fact, that they have somehow missed the pedal kickback. Actually, with a stable bike and the terrain tracking capability the follows from a rearward axle path it is understandable that riders may be less fussed by pedal kickback than we would normally expect.

      I should express another related concern though. I think it is highly likely that there is a lot of friction in this new sliding link – the sliding link idea is fine but the implementation is terrible – and it could easily be resulting in an under-compliant suspension. Now, an under-compliant suspension in which wheel deflections are reduced would naturally enough result in a reduced level of pedal kickback as well. Could this be what is happening? I am not certain, but big wheels and rearward axle paths have been shown capable of hiding a multitude of sins.

  2. Actually. Despite some of the Comments…The redesigned Wolf Ridge, has extremely little growth during compression and pedal feedback.
    I would even rank it higher than the Santa Cruz Heckler (my longtime workhorse), and the Orange Stage Five 29( the bike I use 365 days a year). Keep in mind…Marin claims this is a do-it-all machine. Where it exceeds is where bikes with mega-travel suspension, succeed…ripping down rocky terrain…and free-fall’n, fast.
    I’m not in the market for a Wolf Ridge (especially after the cost of Orange Stage Five. Which has superior suspension to any more complicated brands). But I am hoping that in 2018, Marin makes a 120-130mm aluminum version that is more cost friendly.
    My personal opinion…I musta been drunk, to spend over $5k on a bike. You can buy a really nice truck, for that amount. And many other things. But a majority of these bike companies that sell bikes over the one grand range, usually go extinct. They could sell many more…and make a tremendous profit if they made bikes in the 400-1500 range. I notice the mass effect myself. People rather buy a bike for a couple hundred from a retail store…than spend hundreds more, at a small business bike shop.
    And to make it simpler, on manufacturers…carbon fiber, is no good for mountain bikes. My first, and last…was a Cannondale. Fractured the frame in less than four months. And the warranty, basically stated, “You’re screwed.” But I see zero common sense, for a blue-collar worker to shell-out thousands, for a mountain bike not realizing that parts…and labor, may cost thousands when repairs are needed(especially to replace 11 speed components). Whatever happened to eight, nine, ten speed? 11 & 2 speed, just seems to be a over-costly “Gotta have it,” marketing gimmick.
    But companies such as Marin, Trek, Cannondale, Giant, and Norco, better wise-up, becausse the European bikes are rapidly making an invasion. They are better equipped (especially the low-cost hardtails), better priced, than the big-name brands. And that is what you are truly paying for…the name. Just compare a 500 dollar GT, Mongoose, Fuji, or Scott hardtail…to that of Cannondale, Trek, or Giant. Cannondale puts the cheapest low-end parts on their hardtail. GT, Fuji, Scott…Better equipped and better priced.
    I know what you’re thinking. “What a joke.” 400-800 for a mountain bike. Hunk of junk. But to many, that’s alot of money. And bike manufacturers need to realize this. Certainly, the Asian market has. And their profits far exceed the companies that specialize in producing and over-marketing bikes that few can afford. Or are willing to make sense out of paying for.

  3. I have several people I know demoing bikes at the moment. They all are interested in long travel, big wheeled, “do-it-all” sleds. The Marin has come up in conversation along with bikes like the Enduro 29, the Slash and the Wreckoning. I am biased as my friend is the local Evil dealer, but my point to these riders is that as I’ve become a more “seasoned” (older) rider I have become a big fan of simplicity. I have no doubt the Marin will ride great, but there is a great deal going to make it do so. More stuff equals more maintenance complexity.

    • I agree that there is a lot of stuff going on here, but is it really any more complicated than the lDelta linkage on an Evil?

      • The number of pivot points seem the same, but the Evil is more compact and still is just a single pivot bike regarding rear wheel movement. The Marin adds a telescoping element on top of this. I have no idea what the bearing(bushing?) set up is for the Marin, but swapping bearings on the Evil is pretty simple. I cannot imagine that the telescope stanchion on the Marin at the bb is something that’s going to need to be replaced with any frequency, but no fender is going to prevent slop from getting down there. Finally, since Evil started building trail bikes, it’s tough to find a bad review of them anywhere. We’ll see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*