It wasn’t long after hearing that Marin had a new bike to show before Sea Otter that the wheels started turning. We were told little other than it was a pretty exciting bike, and a big step forward for the brand in terms of mountain bike performance. Just coming off the Polygon press launch in Oregon, and knowing that Marin has worked with Naild for projects in the past, we had a sneaking suspicion about what we might see.

Walking into dinner and seeing Darrell Voss sitting at the table pretty much confirmed it. Marin’s newest bike would be the second in as many weeks to launch with the Naild R3act 2Play suspension system. Based on our time with the Polygon Square 1 in Oregon, this would probably be a good thing, but we couldn’t wait to find out…

Dating back to 1986, Marin has been around since the days of having a single bike to truly do it all. There weren’t any category specific bikes, and you’d often race XC, DH, and maybe compete in a trials competition in the same weekend on the same bike. Obviously, much has changed since those days. Now there’s a category for nearly everything with diversification making bikes better than ever for a particular segment of riding, but also flooding the market with options and making it harder for your average rider to choose a bike. In Marin’s terms, mountain biking is heading towards “nichification.”

Much like Polygon, Marin and Naild share a common vision of improving the MTB experience through improved technology that makes the ride better, while also cutting down on the number of bikes a rider may feel the need to own. If you can pedal a longer travel bike up, why not make the most of the travel on the way down?

While the R3act-2Play suspension system is the same basic concept as that from the Polygon, the Marin has a different swingarm designed for 29″ wheels along with different pivots, links, and a different design goal and intent. Calling it a partnership, rather than a licensing, both Marin and Darrell Voss’s Naild worked closely together to create their own vision of a paradigm shift in mountain biking. With travel no longer able to accurately define the category, Marin says that the Wolf Ridge is capable of allowing any rider on any terrain to have a better ride – big claims for sure.

Fortunately for Marin, we’ve seen first hand that the R3act-2Play suspension system seems to deliver on its promises. This time though, instead of a 180mm trail destroying 27.5″ wheeled monster, the Wolf Ridge is built around a 160mm travel 29er. Combining their own Marin geometry theory and biometric fit and kinematics, Marin worked with Naild to ensure that the fit would keep a consistent center of gravity for all riders of all sizes for more consistent suspension performance.

Along the same lines of the Polygon, the thought behind the Naild R3act-2Play system is that modern suspension system over use hydraulic damping to make up for poor kinematic design. Darrell still played coy on discussing kinematics too deeply stating, “I’m not going to talk about kinematics in detail. It’s not that I can’t or I won’t, but it takes away from the final message.” He did however, talk again about the concept that this is more of a ground tracing device than suspension system. Admitting that this is quite a different methodology to suspension design, it was described as the constant load on the chain holding the frame up – or on a plane. However, the suspension is free to move whenever it encounters a bump (even when pedaling) since the main link is always in compression. That ‘on plane’ concept also keeps the geometry constant when climbing or descending, and allows for a lower bottom bracket.

Darrell didn’t shy away from the topic of chain growth either. Stating that you actually need a small amount of chain growth over a small range for the suspension to work properly, he said it’s when you have too much chain growth over a small range that you experience feedback through the pedals.

The last thing Darrel seemed to really want hit home was the concept of equipoise, or that the tension between the BB and the dropout is acting against the inertia of the rider which wants to move backwards under acceleration. This is what helps smooth out the suspension for a ‘lumpy’ power output like that of a human.

All of this boils down to building a long travel bike that pedals like a short travel bike and seamlessly transitions without any levers or special shocks. In that regard, the Wolf Ridge is similar to the Polygon in that the suspension uses about 60% less damping than a standard bike. Note that this does not mean it has no damping at all, just less than that of another bike since it’s not relying on the damping more than the kinematic.

 

About five years in the making, much of the Marin Wolf Ridge looks familiar if you’ve seen the Polygon Square 1. The elevated stay swingarm is impossible to miss with a built in fender a requirement for use. The massive swingarm houses a 43mm slider with a built in pressure relief valve in the pivot. Built as a four bar suspension system, the bikes are equipped with a Fox Float X2 or a Rock Shox Monarch Debonair rear shock which is run fairly open. Cable routing is internal through the head tube, poking out above the bottom bracket with tidy guides sending it back into the swingarm. Underneath, a PF86 bottom bracket is tucked under the swingarm with ISCG 05 tabs for good measure.

As an early adopter of the Naild thru axle system, the Wolf Ridge also uses the 12-3-9 system for a 148 x 12 rear end.

Again, we find a custom KS dropper post with an 18mm set back to accommodate for rear wheel clearance at full bottom out.

Offered in four sizes, I was on the medium for the launch ride which I found to fit very well for a long travel 29er at my height (5’8″). I did wish I have a few more millimeters of room to drop the 150mm seat post since it’s currently bottoming out in the seat tube, but Marin said they would be working on that for production.

To be sold in two different builds, the Pro and the 9 are both pretty awesome specs with SRAM Eagle. Claimed weight is under 30lbs without pedals and set up tubeless for a large Pro model. I weighed a non-production sample at the launch and it came in at 30.73lbs, though it didn’t have the proper build.

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

First Impressions

My time on the Wolf Ridge was very short but it still provided a window into the Wolf Ridge’s psyche. Unlike the Polygon launch, this time the attending journalists were run through a presentation before hand. To be honest, I liked the other format where we just jumped on the bikes and rode – letting us form our own opinions before we were fed the information about what we should be feeling. But Sea Otter is an incredibly busy place and the first ride was still pretty eye opening.

I really like the Polygon a lot, but without living somewhere that I have access to incredibly gnarly trails I’m not sure I’d want to pedal around a 180mm travel bike – even though you totally could. The Wolf Ridge on the other hand – this is the R3act-2Play system in the size that’s just right. After a tiring ride the day before, I fully expected to be gassed on today’s ride with the Wolf Ridge, but the bike climbed so well that I felt like I was more energized at the top for the downhills. Remaining incredibly composed on some techy wet roots and jumps, the bike left a huge smile on my face at the end of the ride.

Compared to the Polygon, the suspension didn’t feel quite as supple over the terrain, though that could be suspension tune or just the difference between 160 and 180mm of travel. On the flip side though, the Wolf Ridge seemed to be more poppy off lips and was easier to wheelie and play around on.

Even though my time on the Wolf Ridge was brief, this is a bike I can’t wait to get more time on. As I said earlier today, this is the most excited I’ve been about a new Marin in a long time, and can’t wait to see what it’s like in the long haul.

marinwolfridge.com

36 COMMENTS

  1. I’d get this frame if not for the missing bottle cage mount. Hopefully some other brand will make a bike with same suspension system but with bottle cage mounts.

    • There is nowhere to put a bottle mount on this frame, at least not in a place most riders would be happy with one.And looking at the suspension layout, it is unlikely any frame using it will have a ‘reasonable’ bottle mount.

  2. I can’t remember the last time I saw a bike and laughed at it, LOL. This thing doesn’t even have the excuse of being an e-bike.

  3. The front and rear sections simply do not look like they are from the same bike. Just looks weird. Marin needs some design people instead of engineers most likely designing the looks. That’s a lot of money for a weird looking bike. They should hire the person who designed the look of the new Ibis Ripley. I’very never considered an ibis but that bike is lovely.

    • That’s one of the dumbest statements I’ve heard in a long time. Good luck having a designer rather than a structural engineer doing the stress calculations…

      • @ Cryogenill – Geez dude, read it again before you make things up. To quote my statement on engineers: “engineers most likely designing the looks.” My statement said noting about structural engineering or stress calculations. The premise of my statements are about the look of it. Just saying the engineers “probably” did the design for the look. Years ago when I was a PD mgr w/ not a lot of budget, we did our best to make things look good but rarely had a designer for the for looks. We had engineers who did their best to make things look good under my direction.

      • Some people are actually schooled to do both. They’re called (Industrial / Product) Design Engineers. You can get them from several prestigious Universities worldwide.

    • Especially when explaining kinematics is really not that complicated. Was flamed trying to explain that last time but i guess as english is not my native language it was quite a bad argument. Then again i’m not thinking it’s bad, i just don’t see anything special to it. The fact it uses a slider instead of a second bar does not change funadementaly the attribute of the suspension. And the equivalent 4 bars system would not be tuned very differently compared to existing 4 bars system. As i said on polygon there are alternatives for different rear suspension like magic link or commencal supreme high pivot with idler that propose something different. But this one clearly is not that different from existing solutions.

      • I saw your comment on the other story and I agree with it. I suspect people flamed you because the phrase “I checked the kinematics” set off people’s BS detectors. This was a false positive, IMHO, as your later comments made clear. And I further agree that this isn’t very different from existing designs. I mean, maybe there’s something different that’s not obvious, but if there is, Voss hasn’t said so.

        What Voss *has* said is incoherent. He talks about how unlike all suspension designers before him, he incorporates the rider’s mass into kinematics, but seems oblivious to the fact that kinematics excludes mass by definition. In Voss’ own press release, he says, “All the recent offerings out there have been pixie dust mixed with marketing jargon and with R3ACT 2­PLAY, it stops.” This reads like an Onion article: Voss insists that his design is not a suspension system but a “ground tracing device,” and it’s different from everything that has come before. How is it different? Voss won’t say because “it’s a distraction.” If that’s not pixie dust and marketing jargon, I don’t know what is.

        I’m baffled as to why these bikes have a slider *and* a shock attached to the swingarm. The link to the shock doesn’t affect the wheel path at all. They could have used a pull shock in place of the slider while dumping the shock/linkage currently attached to the top tube. This would simplify the mechanism by removing unnecessary pivots and maybe save a little weight in the bargain.

        Voss’ design may work fantastically well, and I hope it does. Early reviews seem positive. But he sounds for all the world like a guy pitching a 100-MPG carbeurator.

      • Antoine, I value a lot of what you’ve put out to the public as it’s helped widen my own thinking and designs, and I agree that folks were a bit harsh on you about your Polygon comments. But admittedly you’ve been wrong before (and you owned up to it, cheers for that). There is nothing wrong with being incorrect, however there is something wrong with being obstinate in one’s thinking. Until butt hits the saddle, feet hit the pedals, and tires hit the trail, and/or you get a hard copy of the engineering drawings it is all speculation, so it’s a good idea to stay open minded. I do recognize that it’d be a helluvalot easier if Darrell was a bit more forthcoming with information beyond ‘shut up and ride it’, but so far every mag/site that has put any amount of time on it have been mighty intrigued in that the design is doing what Darrell has said it would, with implications that it’s doing it better than everyone else. That to me is reason enough to start looking deeper at the how’s and why’s, to see what that missing link they found is that yes, everybody else has overlooked.

        • Well said. Additionally how do you model having the slider/strut thing into existing kinematic models? I’m not sure this is a design you can just plug into a spreadsheet like Antoine does and get some final numbers that describe it.

          That said I think the work he does is useful.

  4. I’m not one to shy away from goofy looking stuff if it works well. But this is too much. the swingarm looks like it came of a 1990’s Cannondale Super V; it just has too much metal on it. As someone else said, hire some designers.

  5. All of you commenting on the looks need to check out what a Poly type of bike is and this new suspension platform is about to completely change mountain biking.

  6. I agree that performance is the first consideration when buying a bike… but how it looks is also a big consideration (color, style, build kit, etc…). When a bike costs this much it has to look nice as well. Anyone who says they would buy a bike w/ it looking this odd is the minority. The Polygon actually looks nice compared to the Marin… it’s different but the front and rear work together. Marin apparently has a great working bike by initial reviews, but will sell more if it also looked nice. In the end, they actually will sell enough of these bikes to make it worth it since it is a great performing “marketing” bike. Everyone is talking about Marin which is a success when you think about it. So good job Marin!

      • It looks like you didn’t read all my posts on this article. I think the bike looks pretty bad and would never buy it. Never once in any of my comments did I say I like the look of the bike. Only said the Polygon looked nice compared to the Marin (Front and rear of the Polygon work together). The Marin is hideous. Just saying it’s going to be a marketing success for Marin because we are all talking about… Marin.

  7. I’ll be maybe the first here to say I don’t all together dislike the look of this Marin or its Polygon cousin. My first pick for looks? No, but I’d take this over a Tantrum or Ellsworth any day. I really don’t mind it–and if it rides as good as they say, I could put the looks behind me rather quickly.

    Where this is a HUGE win is that it is the only time, in my life, I have looked at a Marin with any degree of serious consideration. Big win for Marin in terms of interest. But in the same breath, they lose me at $6700+ for the bike. Yes, I know it has a good part spec, but lord almighty… a person can get an XT/SLX SB6 from Yeti for under $5K. That’s a great performing, good looking bike for $2000 less and you don’t have to say you ride a Marin 😛

  8. I bet this bike is amazing, but…..

    Priced too high (esp for a Marin, sorry), and

    At that price, the Pro model needs to weight 28 pounds.

  9. Whoa… the price on these is crazy. I understand its a new suspension, but essentially does the same as Switch Infinity. For $8500 I can get 2 Yeti SBs or a completely blinged out one.

  10. If a 30lb bike is heavy, maybe it’s time to hit the gym. I have an Intense M3 in my garage that’s almost 50lbs.
    Yeah it looks weird. Yeah it’s from Marin, but it’s made on the same island as everything else. From a quality standpoint it’s pretty hard to buy a poor quality bike from a reputable manufacturer. Yeti, Ibis, Intense, Santa Cruz, Pivot are all great bikes, but at the end of they day, all they do is stoke your ego and make you look better to label wh*res in the parking lot measuring contest.
    These bikes are not better than the Treks, Specializeds and Cannondales of the world. There is no quantitative proof of this and even magazine and online reviews don’t say that there is anything better about those bikes. It’s all perception and image. some of those “boutique brands” cough Santa Cruz cough, are owned by humongous corporate entities bigger than the “corporate brands”.
    Still love my Santa Cruz though, but if this was the new Santa Cruz Tallnoy for 2018, nobody would be this offended. Offended over a bike, that 99% of you will never ride. Offended over a bike that was designed differently than same boring and tired designs the industry has been repackaging for the last 8 years with different tire and wheel sizes.
    Mostly you’re all offended that this didn’t come from the cool boutiquey brands you all lose your internet minds when they change a color over. And the rest of you are offended it didn’t come from Specialized so you couldn’t really let that venom and internet outrage fly!
    How dare Marin charge so much! Last time I check a new bike requires new tooling, fixture setups and new carbon molds. That stuff isn’t cheap.

  11. I’m torn between the Polygon Square One and this bike. I’ve been on a “monster” C’Dale Trigger 29. Though I love this bike cos it’s super fast on the straightways. But it’s a beast when turning. There are a lot of tight turns/switch backs in the trails I ride and my bike feels like a bus while my friends on their peppy 27.5 bikes breeze through them like they’re on rails.

    My question is how did the Marin feel while turning on tight switchbacks? Which bike (polygon or Marin) turned better?

    Cheers!

    • @Eggz, probably the Marin, but that seems like it could just come down to the amount of travel. However, I did feel that the Marin was more playful, and certainly was easier to wheelie and manual.

      • Hey Zach. Thanks so much for your reply. That’s great to hear. Looks like I’m gonna have to clear some inventory to make room for this bike.

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.