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Marin Pine Mountain 2 2020 Review

A supremely versatile hardtail that serves as a killer adventure rig and decent trail bike
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $2,100 List
Pros:  Easy-going geometry, exceptionally versatile, killer drivetrain
Cons:  Heavy, weak tire specification
Manufacturer:   Marin
By Pat Donahue, Jeremy Benson  ⋅  Mar 7, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 9
  • Fun Factor - 25% 7
  • Downhill - 30% 7
  • Climbing - 30% 8
  • Build - 15% 9

Our Verdict

The redesigned Marin Pine Mountain 2 is a supremely versatile bike that is comfortable in many situations. This steel bicycle was designed with a clear emphasis on bikepacking and adventure riding but also works quite well for trail riding. The geometry is modern without being extreme, and it balances an excellent climbing position with solid handling and stability. The Pine Mountain is an excellent option for shredding the trails after work with your friends and then going on multi-day bikepacking missions on the weekends. It could easily double as a sensible commuter when outfitted with some racks and frame bags. As a result, it earned our Top Pick for Versatility. For the price, it is easy to call this bike a strong value given the quality feel of the steel frame and mostly stellar build kit.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pine Mountain is a true jack-of-all-trades.
The Pine Mountain is a true jack-of-all-trades.

Should I Buy This Bike?


This Pine Mountain 2 is an excellent option for the mountain biker with an eye for adventure and utility. If you are a rider who enjoys a nice trail ride and likes getting adventurous in the backcountry, this is the bike for you. This is not the hardest shredding hardtail mountain bike by any stretch. It is also not the lightest and zippiest climber. Instead, it is a tremendously versatile bike that can go on a week-long bike packing mission and then go rip around on the local trails the following week. The Pine Mountain never feels out of place railing a berm or slogging up a climb, but it was clearly designed for adventure riding. The steel frame delivers a comfortable and muted ride, the pedaling position is comfortable, and the geometry is neutral. It is a great choice for spending a long day in the saddle. It has a lot, and we mean a lot, of mounts for racks, bags and accessories and Marin provides measurements for custom-ordering frame bags.

Are you seeking a hardtail for general trail riding? The Specialized Fuse 29 is our Editor's Choice for Best Hardtail Mountain Bike. The Fuse offers a superior trail-riding experience compared to the Pine Mountain. It is lighter, zippier, more stable, and can be ridden harder than the Marin. The Fuse can't match the adventurous attitude and utility of the Pine Mountain. That said, the Fuse is a much better choice for those looking for a trail bike.

Despite weighing a meaty 34-pounds  this steel steed is a surprising slick climber.
Despite weighing a meaty 34-pounds, this steel steed is a surprising slick climber.

Are you interested in a hardtail mountain bike that gets downright radical? The Rocky Mountain Growler 50 is an absolute shredder. This bike has the DNA of an enduro bike in a simple and low-maintenance hardtail design. The Growler is insanely stable at high speeds, is confident on steep terrain, and responds very well to being ridden aggressively. It boasts solid climbing abilities thanks to a steep seat tube angle and decent uphill steering. If you value versatility or want to do some big, self-supported rides, the Pine Mountain is still the obvious choice. The Growler is a great option for the rider who wants a hardtail to push their limits.

If your idea of a fun hardtail is a light and supremely efficient bicycle, the Ibis DV9 is a great option. The DV9 is a fast and feathery climber with razor-sharp handling. This bike is zippy and efficient enough to enter into a cross country race while still having the right angles and attitude to be fun on a casual trail ride. The DV9 is a very slick climber thanks to the light carbon frame and direct power input. On the descent, this bike can slice and dice its way down the trail thanks to quick handling due to somewhat conservative geometry. If you want to get out on the trail and hammer, the DV9 is a great choice. It still is no match for the versatility and utility of the Pine Mountain. While the DV9 is a cut above in terma of speed and efficiency, the Pine Mountain 2 is a far better adventure and bikepacking bike.

The steel Marin Pine Mountain 2 frame. Note all of the frame mounts.
The steel Marin Pine Mountain 2 frame. Note all of the frame mounts.

Frame Design


The Pine Mountain 2 has a 4130 Chromoly steel frame. Steel has distinct advantages as a frame material. It offers a very compliant and damp ride compared to aluminum or carbon fiber. When riding over rough or chattery trails, steel mutes the trail surface more effectively while aluminum and carbon fiber can provide harsh feedback. This muted and damp feel has huge advantages on a bikepacking mission when you are in the saddle for nine hours at a time.

This frame is designed around 29-inch wheels with clearance for a 2.6-inch tire. Also, it has Boost 12x148 spacing and lots of frame mounts in the front triangle for bikepacking gear. Yes, we mean a lot of mounts. Marin provides information about the mounts and front triangle measurements to allow users to have frame bags custom made to the perfect size.

The Pine Mountain has more frame mounting options than we've ever seen on a bike. This gives you tons of options for mounting frame bags  racks  etc...
The Pine Mountain has more frame mounting options than we've ever seen on a bike. This gives you tons of options for mounting frame bags, racks, etc...

We measured our large test bike and found a 66.5-degree head tube angle paired with a 74.5-degree seat tube angle. The effective top tube measurement is 620mm, and the reach is 460mm. The Pine Mountain has 430mm chainstays, a 315mm bottom bracket height, and a wheelbase of 1188mm. It tipped the scales at a portly 33-pounds 15-ounces setup tubeless and without pedals.

Design Highlights

  • Loads of mounts
  • Bikepacking-friendly handlebars
  • Boost Spacing
  • 29 x 2.6-inch tires
  • Chromoly steel frame
  • Modern, yet reserved geometry

The Pine Mountain makes its money on versatility  but it can still get a little bit rad.
The Pine Mountain makes its money on versatility, but it can still get a little bit rad.

Downhill Performance


The Pine Mountain 2 delivers solid and predictable downhill performance. This isn't the kind of bike that is going to inspire manuals and boosts all over the trail. It also isn't necessarily a hard-charging bicycle that inspires reckless speed. Instead, it is a sensible downhill experience with sharp handling and a comfortable feel.

Marin hit somewhat of a sweet spot with the Pine Mountain's geometry. The numbers may not be flashy on paper and don't follow the long and low trend of slack head tube angles. That said, it is an easy-riding bike that is intuitive. It doesn't require an aggressive pilot or top speeds to be fun. When you are cruising down the trail, the bike feels slack and long enough to be confident on a steep pitch or a fast section of trail. At the same time, the Pine Mountain feels pretty responsive at all speeds thanks to the direct steering and reasonable wheelbase. Cornering is pretty sharp and it is easy to work through awkward lines. This direct steering and easy-going feel make the Marin a very user-friendly bike. No, this isn't the bike for pushing your limits on the descent, but anyone can jump on it and have a great ride.

The steel frame takes the edge off of chattery trails. Steel is real.
The steel frame takes the edge off of chattery trails. Steel is real.

Both testers noted that despite the manageable wheelbase and short-ish chainstays, this bike wasn't particularly playful. This isn't the bike that makes you want to raise the front wheel skyward and manual through dips and rolls in the trail or boost every possible hit. Even if the geometry looks playful, this stout, 34-pound, bike prefers life on the ground.

We were impressed by the Pine Mountain's steel frame. Here at OutdoorGearLab, we ride plenty of fantastic plastic carbon fiber bikes as well as reliable aluminum ones. Immediately upon jumping on this steel frame, the difference in the quality of the ride was apparent, this manifested itself in a major way on the descents. When you are pointing down a fast and chattery downhill, the Chromoly frame does do a good job of taking some of the edge off. To be clear, it was still obviously a hardtail, and you could feel the rocks and roots. However, it did have a more muted and damp feel than an aluminum or carbon fiber hardtail. It was particularly noticeable on the high-frequency, small, chattery stuff that would be less pleasant on a carbon frame. The steel just takes the edge off a little better.

This bike is a solid descender  but you can definitely find its limit.
This bike is a solid descender, but you can definitely find its limit.

The components were a bit of a mixed bag in terms of descending abilities. Let's start with the good. The four-piston Shimano MT-520/500 brakes provided ample power and confidence in all conditions. These binders are a nice specification at this price point. All of that power could definitely come in handy when loaded up with bikepacking gear and screaming downhill. The wheels were fine, and the bikepacking handlebars were a non-issue. The RockShox FS 35 fork is underwhelming but reliable. The chassis is stiff and up for the challenge, but the fork developed a very sticky feel after only a few rides and required service. This is a budget-friendly fork that works just fine but never feels particularly good.

We love the specification of a 2.6-inch tire, especially on a hardtail. The problem is the Vee Tire Flow Snap tires have flimsy and unsupportive sidewalls. The tread is aggressive, and this bike would have the ability to corner pretty darn hard if not for the thinner and less durable sidewalls. Part of the appeal of a 2.6-inch tire is the ability to run a lower tire pressure to add an element of damping. The problem is if you run 21-22-PSI in these tires, they feel exceptionally washy, vague, and it provides the sensation that you are about to rip the tire off the rim. It almost made us want to run tubes to gain a bit of extra stiffness in the sidewall. Luckily, tires are a relatively inexpensive upgrade with the potential of a huge performance gain.

Despite the weight  the Pine Mountain scoots uphill effectively.
Despite the weight, the Pine Mountain scoots uphill effectively.

Climbing Performance


The Pine Mountain 2 is a smooth and efficient climber. This is a bikepacking rig, and Marin did a great job providing a comfortable feel that would work well for those full-day rides. The components worked quite well with the geometry to deliver an impressive climbing experience.

While spinning away in the saddle, the geometry feels conducive to long and burly climbs. While a 74.5-degree seat tube angle doesn't seem particularly steep on paper, it is a decent number on a hardtail. Both testers agreed, the seated climbing position felt quite direct, and it was easy to put the power down. This bike weighs nearly 34-pounds without pedals, which is undoubtedly hefty. That said, the weight isn't all that noticeable when you are grinding away on a climb. Sure, if you stood up and tried to sprint up the hill, you're going to feel the lag of the extra weight, but on a casual climb, the Pine Mountain never felt unusually heavy or clunky. Much of the weight is in the steel frame, which, unlike super heavy wheels, isn't all that noticeable of a location to hide some extra pounds.

The climbing position is very direct thanks to a steep seat tube angle.
The climbing position is very direct thanks to a steep seat tube angle.

The relatively airy cockpit provides enough space without stretching the rider out. It didn't feel cramped or too long for the two testers who stand at 6'1" and 6'0". The bike worked uphill through switchbacks effectively. The short-ish wheelbase and moderate head tube angle work well to help riders navigate tricky sections of trail. Super-long bikes can feel cumbersome and difficult to work through awkward lines. The Pine Mountain felt easy to steer and adaptable.

We mentioned the damp and muted nature of the steel frame in the section discussing this bicycle's descending abilities. Much of the same characteristics manifest themselves on the uphill as well. When you are seated on a long climb, the extra comfort of the steel frame is apparent. Pedaling up and over a choppy section of trail on a hardtail can be downright uncomfortable. When seated, your butt is almost on top of the rear axle, and some bikes make it feel as if the forces are translated right to your body. The Chromoly frame seems to mask some of those unpleasant bumps. It should be noted that we were still fully aware we were riding a hardtail bicycle. There was no mistaking the Pine Mountain for a full-suspension bike, but it was absolutely more comfortable than carbon fiber.

We were pleasantly surprised by how well the Pine Mountain climbed despite its heavier weight.
We were pleasantly surprised by how well the Pine Mountain climbed despite its heavier weight.

The 2.6-inch tires fared better on the climb than they did on the descent. We did have to somewhat over-inflate them to stiffen the sidewalls, but they hooked up well on the climbs. Damp, loose, hardpack, they delivered a decent amount of grip and rolled reasonably well. The Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain is a tremendous specification at this price. It shifted well under load and delivered a huge gear range. This will no doubt come in handy if you are grinding this bike uphill loaded with bikepacking gear.

Photo Tour


The RockShox 35 fork is plenty stiff and stout  but it doesn't feel good. At all.
The Shimano SLX 12-speed drivetrain is absolutely fantastic.
A comfy saddle  nice wide handlebar  and a dropper post!
This unique handlebar is intended to make attaching handlebar-mounted bags much cleaner and easier.
The Vee Tires have a decent tread pattern  but the sidewalls are too flimsy.
This image shows the placement and spacing of all the bosses on the pine mountain frame. Potential helpful information if you're having custom frame bags made of trying to find the right fit.

Value


At $2,099, it is easy to call the Pine Mountain 2 a strong value. This bicycle performs very well within its intended application. It is an adventure/bikepacking bike that also works pretty well as a trail bike and could even double as a commuter. The build kit is largely impressive, and the bike has a built-to-last feel to it. We love it.

The Pine Mountain appreciates a nice meander.
The Pine Mountain appreciates a nice meander.

Conclusion


Marin knocked it out of the park with the all-new Pine Mountain 2. This bike is tremendously versatile, and it delivers a strong value. This is true bikepacking and adventure rig that also delivers rock-solid trail-riding performance. It is a perfect option for the rider who lives for adventure riding but also wants to go out on an after-work trail ride here and there. Marin paid attention to the details and delivered an easy-riding and intuitive bike that a lot of people can enjoy.

Other Versions


Marin makes two versions of the Pine Mountain , including the 2 reviewed here, which is the higher-end build.

The Pine Mountain 1 retails for $1,350 and comes with a Series 2 Chromoly frame with the same geometry. It comes with a 120mm RockShox Recon RL fork, an 11-speed Shimano Deore drivetrain, Shimano Mt420/400 brakes, and a rigid alloy seatpost.

Pat Donahue, Jeremy Benson