Tester: Karl Rosengarth
Weight: 150 lbs.
The 27.5 Hawk Hill is an entry-level bike that passes muster. The frame is built from 6061 butted and hydroformed aluminum alloy. Judicious use of house-branded components saves money without cutting corners on important bits such as the Shimano Deore Shadow Plus derailleur, Shimano hydraulic disc brakes and high-quality suspension bearings. With its 32 tooth chainring and 11-42 cassette, the 10-speed drivetrain has enough range to tackle mountainous terrain.
I’ve ridden entry-level bikes with cheap, underperforming suspension forks that compromised the ride experience. Not so with the Hawk Hill. The RockShox Recon Silver RL fork impressed me with its comfort, control and tunability. Kudos to RockShox for trickling down Motion Control damping and Solo Air technology to lower price points. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.
The Hawk Hill’s geometry results in the low-slung, stable feeling that’s de rigueur for 120 mm trail bikes these days. The bike felt confident and capable at speed—just lean and carve, my friend, lean and carve. The tradeoff was a few pedal strikes on rocky tech trails. In tight, twisty terrain, the steering response felt snappy. That’s generally a good thing, but I occasionally found myself oversteering at slow speeds. Were this my personal bike, I’d probably swap to a slightly longer stem and be completely happy. Overall, the Hawk Hill handled like a good trail bike should, proving that proper geometry can be had at any price point.
Marin leveraged knowledge gained while developing the IsoTrac suspension found on its flagship models when designing the MultiTrac rear suspension for the Hawk Hill. The MultiTrac kinematics are optimized for the bike’s single-ring drivetrain, and the designed-in anti-squat helps combat pedal bob. The X-Fusion O2 Pro R shock has no external compression damping adjustment. Marin set the internals to a “medium” damping level. In a nutshell, the rear suspension felt more toward the stable and efficient end of the spectrum than it did the cushy end. On big hits, there was no harsh bottoming, thanks to the leverage rate ramping up at the end of the stroke. Over a wide range of conditions, the MultiTrac suspension performed admirably and without incident.
The stock wheelset comes with 27 mm wide (internal) Marin-branded tubeless compatible rims. Tubeless conversion shaves rotational weight and allows lower tire pressure, which improves traction and helps cushion the rider. The folding bead “Performance Line” Hans Dampf tires lack Schwalbe’s cut-resistant SnakeSkin sidewall and they’re not rated as tubeless compatible. However, they worked just fine on my demo bike with Stan’s NoTubes tubeless tape, valves and sealant.
Speaking of the wheelset, that’s a common upgrade target on any entry-level bike. Lightweight wheels typically makes a bike feel more lively. The Hawk Hill frame is compatible with 142×12 mm thru-axle rear hubs (after removing a drive-side dropout insert that’s used to adapt the stock 135×9 mm quick-release wheel to the frame). The Recon fork accepts a 100×15 mm thru-axle.
I’ve always had soft spot for entry-level bikes. That’s where most mountain bikers, myself included, got their start. It used to be challenging to find a worthy full-suspension bike on the lowest-priced rung of the lineup, and opting for a hardtail typically proved the smarter move. With game-changing bikes like the Hawk Hill, there’s a full-suspension option that not only makes budgetary sense at the time, but is also worthy of future upgrades. The price might even leave some spare change for adding a dropper post. Conveniently, the frame has internal dropper routing. If you’re looking for an entry-level full-suspension trail bike, take a hard look at the Hawk Hill.
- RockShox Recon Silver RL fork performs quite well.
- Rear suspension resists pedal bob and feels efficient.
- Modern trail bike geometry equals good handling.
- Rear suspension not as plush-feeling as some others.
- Low-slung geometry prone to pedal strikes in rocky terrain.
- Schwalbe tires lack SnakeSkin sidewalls and are not rated for tubeless use.
Specs (based on size tested):
Top Tube: 24.8”
Head Tube: 67.5°
BB Height: 13.3”
Weight: 31.6 lbs. (includes pedals)
Sizes: XS, S, M, L (tested), XL
This review originally appeared in Dirt Rag 197 as part of our Sub-3k Trail Bike Lineup. Subscribe now to never miss an issue and while you’re at it, sign up for our email newsletter to get fresh content delivered to your inbox every Tuesday!
Update: Since we ran the above review in print in Issue 197, Marin contacted us and stated, “While Dirt Rag did receive the Marin Hawk Hill sample bike converted to tubeless with non-tubeless rated tires for the review, Marin no longer does this [tubeless] conversion on sample bikes unless the tires are rated as tubeless compatible by the tire manufacturer. Riders must only go tubeless on tires that are rated [for] such service.”