By Ryan Johnson
Marin Bikes have long stood out from the rest of the pack due to the innovative Quad-Link rear suspension designs. What’s important to recognize here is that the Rift Zone 29er XC7 sports the third-generation version. Why change you might ask? This bike, or rather the 29-inch wheels were the reason.The suspension geometry of the older Quad-Link design wouldn’t allow the use of the larger wheels without compromising the ride and performance. In addition to allowing big wheels, Quad-Link 3.0 saves weight over the older designs while maintaining the same legendary rear-end stiffness.
The new suspension offers a new and improved function. Compared to Quad-Link 2.0, this third version has a more linear shape to the leverage ratio curve. The simple truth is this: where the older design pushed a bit too easily through the last bit of travel towards bottom out, Quad-Link 3.0 doesn’t bottom the shock as easily over ledges and big, sharp hits. It has a more linear, rising rate (or falling leverage rate) curve.
This allows the bike to be setup with 25-30 percent sag so you can experience a plush, active top of the stroke. Over bigger bumps, the suspension progressively offers more resistance as the leverage rate falls. The result is a suspension system that offers comfort and efficiency, yet it’s very predictable and confidence inspiring in dicey terrain.
I like that the pivot placement is shared among the tubes on the 6061 aluminum front triangle. Rather than being anchored solely to the down tube, version 3 splits the load between the bottom bracket junction and the seat tube. This is a big bonus for strength and stiffness. Another major improvement with the relocation of the rear suspension linkages is that the down tube will accept a water bottle above and below. While this may not be noteworthy if you regularly ride with a hydration pack.
My test bike was outfitted with a complete Shimano SLX drivetrain, save for the XT rear derailleur. Up front a Fox 32 Float 29 RL balanced the suspension duties with the Fox RP2 rear shock. Marin opted for Formula RX hydraulic disc brakes and they worked as great as they look. The build is rounded out with a solid performing set of Sun/Ringle Black Flag wheels and a host of alloy components from FSA and Marin for the rider compartment.
I studied the geometry of the Rift Zone before the bike arrived and tried not to taint the first ride with too many expectations, yet the bike did not disappoint. It is a quick and agile steed. I anticipated this, noting the short chainstays and overall wheelbase. And while I might have sized up to the large in retrospect, the medium suited me just fine with a 100mm stem. My only issue was that I was forced to raise the seatpost just above the safe insertion mark to get the WTB Silverado saddle to my fit.
I’ve ridden other bikes with similar-looking suspension layouts. And the Marin Quad-Link 3.0 works in similar ways. The mini 4-link configuration offers an inherent pedaling efficiency, yet it is responsive to bumps both big and small. It works while you pedal, and this is quite apparent as you thrash your way up rooty climbs. The suspension actively follows the surface without causing funny feedback in the pedals.
I rode it most of the time with the Propedal off. It simply climbed better on rough trails this way. Descents were just as rewarding on the XC7, even though it only has 100mm of travel. It has open dropouts and quick release skewers on both wheels. Thru-axles would be a nice touch and would surely stiffen things up, however I wasn’t bothered by flex in the frame or suspension system.
The components worked flawlessly, as expected. Shimano SLX sits at that magic point where great reward is not far removed from great value. The Fox dampers, while lacking a few gee-whiz adjustments of thehigh-end units, were workhorse steady and sturdy. This is a bike that you can count on for many seasons of singletrack service. Marin spec’ed it with a triple crankset, and I appreciated it as there are always those climbs where it is nice to have a bailout gear for the steepest sections. As an affordable, all-round XC/Trail bike, the Marin Rift Zone 29er XC7 is a complete package, and it is more than ready for your next adventure.
While most of us lust for the top-of-the-line wunderbikes, Marin successfully demonstrates that great riding experiences can be found for less than $3,000. The XC7 offers up enough performance to please all but the truly snobbish. Sure, it won’t win accolades at the trailhead weigh-in, but it rides lighter than its roughly 30lbs. would suggest. I attribute the lively feel to the efficiency of the Quad-Link rear suspension, the short chainstays, and the balanced front end geometry. The bike simply rode well, just as happy to do strenuous race-pace workouts or blast through rocky sections of twisty singletrack.
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $2899
- Weight : 30.0lbs
- Sizes Available: 17, 19, 20.5, 22”
- Contact: www.marinbikes.com
- Age: 39
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 190lbs
- Inseam: 32”