Review: Marin Mount Vision

Jeff flogs the Marin Mount Vision, which features some interesting suspension.

By Jeff Lockwood

Rider: Jeff Lockwood
Height: 5’10"
Weight: 152lbs.
Inseam: 32"

I must admit that I was a bit skeptical when the Marin Mount Vision arrived at my door. Besides being a full suspension bike cynic at heart, I anticipated this rig to be very noisy because of the sound amplification so commonly found with monocoque bicycle designs. There is always the weight argument, too. And the frame was designed with input from someone who designs race cars.

A guy who designs race cars? That’s right. Engineer John Whyte developed technologies used by some top Formula One racing teams across Europe. He’s recently taken his engineering knowledge and experience from the car racing industry and applied it to bicycles. That’s all he does now—and he does it well. In addition to the Quad System design theory used on the Marin Mount Vision, he also produces bikes under the Whyte moniker. (See Chris’ review of the Whyte PRST-1 in issue #93).

Mr. Whyte tells me that he designed the Mount Vision frame as something he would like to ride: an ideal XC bike that is lightweight and climbs efficiently…something designed to be ridden on a trail. He also says that most of the people recently buying this bike are those interested in longer rides. Endurance racing really is getting popular, huh?

Knowing there was some serious engineering technology packed into this bike—and that it was designed for the kind of riding I have recently been into—I was anxious to open the box, build it up, ride it and try to understand what makes the Quad System design so special.

Once it was out of the box and built up, I did my requisite heft test. It felt a bit heavier than my normal steel hardtail, but boat anchor analogies would be inaccurate. With my pedals and some California mud still attached, the Mount Vision tipped the scales at 26.6lbs. (published frame weight for the 17.5" is 5.9lbs.). My next usual test is the old "heel on the pedal and toe on the crank bolt and extend the leg" flex test. The wheels definitely flexed a bit, but the 6061 T6 alloy aluminum monocoque frame kept its integrity—there was basically no flex or slop. Wow.

That’s it. Time to ride.
Down the rockiest local trail, the only things I heard were my cold, wheezing lungs. Lack of a traditional chainstay removed any and all chain-slap, and the big hollow frame avoided becoming a rock amplifier (not that kind of rock).

When I actually had the nerve to throw the bike into a hard downhill turn, the bike avoided the lateral shaking and flexing I usually anticipate in a full-suspension bike.

I encountered some bouncies during some long, grinding, out of the saddle climbs, but the lock-out on the Fox Float RL definitely came in handy during those moments, as did the lock-out on the SID Team fork. But as it almost always does when I am perched above a nice full suspension rig blasting through rocky trails, my full-suspension cynicism began to fade. With four inches of travel in the back, and 80mm up front, the bike definitely took the little bumps as well as the big hits with no annoying inefficiencies. The reasoning behind this is central to the Quad System design of the bike and warrants further exploration.

The suspension of the bike basically consists of a four-bar linkage. The monocoque swingarm is anchored to the front triangle in two places: on the seat tube about four inches above the bottom bracket and again on the downtube’s underside about three inches from the bottom bracket.

At these anchor points, the front triangle comes together with the swingarm through the use of four small 35mm connector links, which Marin calls Quick Links. These links are designed to allow the rear wheel to move up and back early in the travel. When the wheel moves back the effective chainstay length grows, which is supposed to put the rear wheel in contact with the ground more often. Then, later on in the travel, the rear wheel moves forward towards the bottom bracket, shortening the effective chainstay length. This is supposed to eliminate the upward "bounce" motion associated with each stroke of the pedal.

The shock is positioned at the front of the swingarm in front of the seat tube. It’s pretty rare for a four bar linkage system to have the shock driven directly off the swingarm, but it allows the complex linkage of the Marin Quad System to make an instantaneous pivot center (IPC). Basically, the pivot center moves dynamically and allows for a "progressive rate of shock compression." This means that as the wheel goes through its travel, it becomes more difficult to compress the shock.

This bike definitely felt more solid in the back than most full-suspension bikes I have ridden. And since I am a hardtail-lover at heart, when I get closer to being on a bike with the feel of a hardtail and the advantages of full-suspension, the more stoked I am. We’re not all the way there on the Mount Vision, but it is definitely way closer to my utopian vision of such a bike.

The Mount Vision is priced at $2299. The component group includes Shimano XT shifters and derailleurs, WTB Rocket V saddle, Momentum Comp headset and Moto Raptor 2.1 tires. Easton Monkeylite bars with a slight rise clamp to the FSA XC 120 Alloy stem and RockShox SID Team fork. DT Swiss Onyx disc-ready hubs lace to Mavic 225 rims, and finally, Hayes hydraulic disc brakes which are smooooooth and quiet. The Mount Vision is only available in black.

If you’d like better components hung on the exact same frame, the high-end Mount Vision Pro is available for $3999 and is available in silver and blue. And if either of those prices are too high for you, you can get a component-free Mount Vision Pro frame for $1199.

I definitely appreciated the fact that this was a cross-country full suspension bike. While it wasn’t the snappiest in the turns, it definitely performed well and was a blast to ride. The 17.5" frame I rode has a 71°/74° set-up, with a top tube length of 22 3/8", a chainstay length of 16 3/4" and a 13" bottom bracket.

The Mount Vision frame has a three-year warranty, while the bearings are guaranteed for life. The price seems a bit high, but considering that it is built well, performs great and is a solid, hassle-free ride, the priceyness can be justified. Heck…it quelled most of my full-suspension hang-ups.


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