Marin Hawk Hill 1 Review
Cons: No dropper post, poor tire specification
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Should I Buy This Bike?
The Hawk Hill 1 is an excellent affordable entry-level full-suspension mountain bike. Marin updated the Hawk Hill's frame design in 2019, modernizing the geometry of this capable and well-rounded bike. It has 120mm of rear and 130mm of front suspension, striking a nice middle ground that is suitable for most riders and locations. It climbs relatively efficiently and has surprisingly confidence inspiring downhill capabilities for people looking to improve their skills. Our professional mountain bike testers were repeatedly impressed by just how much fun it was to ride this budget-conscious bike. It comes reasonably well-appointed, though there are a few low-points of the build, and is ready to tackle the trails straight out of the box. If you're just getting into the sport, looking for your first full-suspension bike, or you don't want to take out a second mortgage to buy a new bike, the Hawk Hill 1 is worthy of your attention.
The Hawk Hill 1 features Marin's Series 3 aluminum frame which is made of hydroformed 6061 aluminum. The 120mm of rear-wheel travel is controlled by their MultiTrac suspension platform. The MultiTrac design is a single pivot system that has the main pivot just above the bottom bracket with small pivots just above rear axle on the seat stays and a rocker link about halfway up the seat tube. The frame has internal routing for the rear derailleur and a dropper seat post. There is a mount for a bottle cage within the front triangle. The Hawk Hill is available in 5 sizes, XS-XL.
We measured our size large test bike and found that it has a 1190mm wheelbase, 634mm effective top tube length, and a 462mm reach. The head tube angle measured a nice modern 66.5 degrees with a 74.3-degree seat tube angle. The bottom bracket is 334mm off the ground and the chainstays are 432mm in length. At the weigh-in, the Hawk Hill 1 tipped the scales at 31 lbs and 10 oz set up tubeless without pedals, though that was with a heavier rear tire that replaced the destroyed Vee Tire Crown Gem that came on the bike.
- Series 3 aluminum frame
- MultiTrac suspension platform
- 120mm of rear-wheel travel
- Designed around a 130mm fork
- Available with 27.5-inch wheels only
- Offered in three builds ranging from $1,600 (tested) to $2,650
Mountain biking is inherently fun and riding the Hawk Hill 1 was more fun than our testers expected for a bike in this price range. Marin has managed to make a bike that does just about everything pretty darn well and is generally a blast to rip around on. We tested a previous version of the Hawk Hill and had a similar feeling about it, though Marin has updated its geometry for 2019 making it a bit more stable and confident on the descents. Despite the updates to the geometry, the Hawk Hill remains highly maneuverable with quick handling and a playful attitude that will have you seeking the fun line out on the trail. One thing is certain, the Hawk Hill 1 is highly capable and versatile, its performance exceeded our expectations for a full-suspension mountain bike at this price. Our suggestion: switch out the tires, add a dropper post, and let it rip.
The Hawk Hill 1 really shines on the descents. Testers found it to be comfortable, balanced and composed right out of the gate with only some simple adjustments to the air pressures in the suspension. The Hawk Hill has a very natural and automatic feel to it, the geometry is dialed, the suspension feels relatively plush, and the cockpit setup is comfortable and modern. Whether cruising on smooth flowy trails or tackling steeper rocky sections, it inspired confidence and was more fun to ride than we expected.
The geometry of the Hawk Hill is relatively modern without being over the top. Marin has hit a comfortable middle ground that helps to keep its downhill performance quite well-rounded. The 1190mm wheelbase is long enough to give it decent stability at speed, but no so long that it sacrifices agility. It has a long-ish 634mm top tube and a 462 mm reach, it definitely feels a bit longer than the Giant Stance 29, but not so long that you feel overly stretched out. The 66.5-degree head tube angle feels perfect on this bike. It's just slack enough that it inspires the confidence to tackle steeper sections of trail without being too slack that handling feels sluggish or vague. The 432mm chainstays are on the shorter side for a full-suspension bike and this does wonders to keep the rear end feeling sporty and playful on the descents.
The MultiTrac rear suspension platform is quite active. Small bump compliance is excellent and the bike is very forthcoming with its 120mm of rear-wheel travel. It feels plush and smoothes over mid-sized chop and trail chatter, though it felt pretty easy to blow through all of the travel on larger hits and rock drops. The RockShox Recon is a definitively low-end fork. It feels a little flimsy and flexy at times, but testers were pleasantly surprised by how plush it felt on the front end of the Hawk Hill. It may not have the best small bump compliance, but it soaked up medium and larger hits quite well. That said, testers noted that the front and rear suspension didn't always feel balanced, especially when compared to the Giant Stance.
The components on the Hawk Hill 1 are generally serviceable and functional on the descents. We go over the build in greater detail below, but here we'll lay out a couple of things that affect the downhill performance. First, the Vee Crown Gem tires. The tires provide a drifty but predictable feel, they don't offer a lot of cornering or braking traction but they feel ok. These tires are not very durable, however, and we put an inch long tear through the tread of the rear tire on the first ride. If you plan on riding this bike aggressively or running a tubeless setup you'll want to swap these out asap. The lack of a dropper post is another negative. The Hawk Hill 1 does have a quick-release seat clamp, but a dropper seat post would be amazing on this bike to lower and raise the saddle height at the push of a lever.
The Hawk Hill 1 has an admirable climbing performance. It's not the fastest or most efficient bike we've ever ridden up a hill, but it's comfortable and gets the job done. The geometry provides for a relatively comfortable pedaling position and the active rear suspension helps maintain traction. The drivetrain is nothing fancy, but it works and provides ample range for most climbs.
The Hawk Hill's geometry puts the rider in a comfortable, but not especially efficient climbing position. The 462mm reach is on the longer side for bikes in this test, and it is noticeable but doesn't make you feel too stretched out either. The 74.3-degree seat tube angle is bordering on slack by today's standards and the rider's weight is situated a touch behind the bottom bracket. The higher you position the saddle, like our tall testers, the farther back the weight feels over the rear wheel. It's not a crippling problem, but we definitely prefer to sit more directly above the cranks.
The rear suspension is quite active and while that does help to maintain traction over uneven surfaces there was noticeable suspension bob when seated pedaling. The bobbing was even more pronounced when out of the saddle. Unfortunately, the rear shock doesn't have a compression damping/climb switch as that would be very beneficial when climbing on the Hawk Hill 1. The Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain works reliably. The 11-42 tooth cassette is paired with a 32-tooth front chainring and provides ample range for most trails. Stronger riders may never want for easier gears, but the 32-42 gearing may be a little tough for the steepest sections of climbing.
For $1,550, the Hawk Hill 1 comes pretty well appointed and is mostly ready to rip up some trails with a few glaring low-points of the build.
The RockShox Recon RL fork is a common specification on bikes in this price range. It's far from our favorite budget fork, but it worked well enough for our testers on the Hawk Hill 1. The Recon will never feel as smooth or plush as higher-end models, nor is it as tune-able, but it felt less like a pogo-stick than previous models we've tested. The Recon has an adjustable air spring to dial it in to the rider's weight, it also has a rebound adjustment and a compression adjustment that works like a lock-out. The rear suspension is controlled by an X-Fusion 02 Pro R shock. We've had bad experiences with this shock on other budget bikes in the past, but we were pleasantly surprised by its performance on the Hawk Hill. It felt plush and smooth in its travel and has a functional rebound adjustment. It would be nice if it had a compression damping adjustment, or climbing switch to reduce pedal bob while climbing, but it worked reliably during testing.
Wheels and Tires
The Marin branded wheelset that comes on the Hawk Hill 1 has a 29mm internal rim width and are tubeless compatible. Our test bike came set up tubeless and we have no complaints about the ride quality or durability of the wheelset. The Vee Tires Crown Gem are another story entirely. While these tires have a decent tread pattern and relatively predictable but somewhat drifty traction, they are not durable. The rear tire on our test bike exploded on the very first ride with an inch long tear through the tread. Our tester had to limp the bike down the hill with an energy bar wrapper covering the tube that was bulging out of the gaping hole. We've tested bikes with these tires in the past with similar results. These tires simply should not be ridden tubeless, the casing is not robust enough to handle real trail riding. We recommend upgrading the tires immediately.
The Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain is a relatively standard specification for bikes in this price range. The performance is generally reliable and it provides adequate gear range for most trails with an 11-42T cassette and a 32T front chainring. We prefer 11 and 12-speed drivetrains, but the Deore 10-speed works well enough. The Shimano MT201 hydraulic disc brakes are nothing to write home about, but they did a reasonable job of slowing and stopping the Hawk Hill 1. More powerful brakes would be preferred, but these can handle the speeds that most riders buying an entry-level bike will be traveling.
The handlebar and stem on the Hawk Hill make for a comfortable front end. The 780mm handlebar is the perfect width and the Marin MTN grips were comfortable. The short stem helps give the bike its quick handling and shorten the reach of this long bike slightly. The Marin saddle was fine and caused no complaints or discomfort to our testers. The rigid seat post was a serious low-point of the build, though neither of the full-suspension bikes in this review came with one. At least the Hawk Hill has a quick-release seat clamp, making saddle height adjustments a tool-free endeavor. Our six-foot-tall testers did find, however, that the stock seat post on the size Large test bike was a little too short and they had to position it above the minimum insertion line to get it high enough.
The very first thing we would upgrade on the Hawk Hill 1 is the tires. The Vee Tires Crown Gem that come stock on this bike have decent traction, but they will wear out very quickly. The rear tire on our test bike lasted for approximately 4 miles of riding before it literally exploded and had an inch long tear through the tread. Some more robust and durable tires would do wonders for the performance of this bicycle.
The other most obvious upgrade to the Hawk Hill 1 would be a dropper seat post. For around $200 you could take the performance of this bike to the next level. Sure you can raise or lower the saddle height by hand, but life is better with a dropper post. Budget-friendly droppers by Tranz-X and X-Fusion have proven to be reliable in our testing.
Marin offers the Hawk Hill in three different builds with the Hawk Hill 1 we tested being the most affordable entry-level model in the lineup. All models come with the same aluminum frame and geometry with varying component specifications.
The Hawk Hill 2 retails for $1,950 and comes with a RockShox Deluxe R rear shock, a SRAM NX 11-speed drivetrain, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post.
The Hawk Hill 3 will set you back $2,650. It comes equipped with a RockShox Revelation RC fork, a Fox Float Performance rear shock, Shimano SLX 11-speed drivetrain, Tektro Orion 4-piston brakes, WTB Trail Boss tires, and an X-Fusion Manic dropper seat post.
We recognize that $1,600 is no drop in the bucket, but considering the fact that "affordable" mountain bikes cost double that these days, it's easy to call the Hawk Hill 1 a great value. This bike is pretty much ready to tackle anything, though you'll probably want to shell out for new tires if you plan to ride anything rocky or aggressive on this bike. If you're just getting into the sport, buying your first full-suspension bike, or you're on a super tight budget, the Hawk Hill 1 offers performance that we've come to expect more expensive bikes. If you can justify spending $350 bucks more, the Hawk Hill 2 comes with a dropper post, a nicer drivetrain, and an upgraded rear shock.
The Hawk Hill 1 is a quality full-suspension mountain bike offered at a very reasonable price. What it lacks in flashy components it makes up for with a well-rounded performance that easily exceeds the asking price. This bike blends reasonable climbing efficiency with solid downhill performance, and it is easy to recommend this as an entry-level full-suspension mountain bike to anyone on a tight budget. Sure, there are better bikes out there, but at this price, it's hard to beat the performance of the Hawk Hill 1.
— Jeremy Benson, Kyle Smaine