Shedding some of it's cross country skin the Rift Zone is now a capable and lively bike that is quite happy to push the limits out on the trails
Mar 8 2018
Longer geometry and slacker head angle adds stability
Capable and fun trail machine for a 120mm bike
Needs longer dropper post
Will need a tyre upgrade for UK trails
You want an good all-round trail bike that won't break the bank
The Marin Rift Zone is a dark horse with an unassuming character, it’s a trail slayer with new geometry for 2018 that has moved this bike firmly into trail bike territory. At a humble price the 120mm bike will turn frowns upside down without the need to rob a bank.
The alloy Rift Zone with it’s 120mm of rear travel and 130mm up front slots into the Marin range next to the 27.5” Hawk Hill where the travel and the intentions are the same but the wheel size differs, with the Rift Zone sporting 29er hoops. For 2018 the boost spaced Rift Zone has shed some of its cross-country skin and it has got longer and lower with angles more akin to an entertaining trail bike rather than a twitchy racer. Also new for 2018 is the use of Marin’s Multitrack suspension system, tweaked to allow a more progressive feel over the old IsoTrac set up.
The Rift Zone I had in for test was the top spec model, but at just £2,300 that’s not a really lofty ‘top spec’ bike. What that does mean is that there are to other cheaper options with the same grin-inducing geometry as the Rift Zone 3 at price points of £1, 800 and £1,350.
Our silver steed comes with Rockshox Revelation RC 29 forks and a Rockshox Deluxe RT Debonair shock. There is Shimano kit through and through in the form of Deore M6000 brakes, an SLX mech and an SLX 11-46t cassette coupled with an FSA crankset with 30T chainring. Tyres come courtesy of WTB where there will be Trail Boss 2.4’s front and rear rather than the Onza’s you see here. Tranz X provide a 100mm dropper post on this medium model (larger bikes get longer droppers) with an underbar shifter style lever. Finally, Marin sorts out the rest of the finishing kit including nice n’ wide 29mm internal diameter wheels, 780mm wide bars, a 45mm stem and grip. I weighed the whole bike at 30lbs Without pedals, surprisingly light for the price.
Taking a close look at the Rift Zone you can clearly see the trail intentions of this otherwise stealthy beast, it has suitably low at seat tube, our medium measured 420mm which, Marin say, is long enough to insert a 150mm dropper post with no problems. A longer dropper is something that is sorely needed, the 100mm post fell sadly short of our expectations, although the action and reliability of the lever and post were as sound as a pound.
Following the low slung top tube upwards, it is pleasing to see Marin have stretched the reach on the 2018 Rift Zone, making this number 441mm, it's not hugely long but it’s a step in the right direction. This length of reach, an effective top tube of 558mm and a 'getting on for steep' seat angle of 74.8°, coupled with a 45mm stem gave me a comfortable seated position. Personally, I’d like to see 10-20mm added to the reach and slam on a 35mm stem for more direct steering downhill.
Climbing on the Rift Zone is a so-so affair, it does this neither particularly sprightly nor especially sluggishly. But 435mm chainstays balance the bike well and it's nice to see a brand not succumbing to the mantra of making chainstays as short as possible. I rode my test bike with both 120mm and 140mm forks up front, preferring the latter in every sense. The longer fork doesn’t hike the bottom bracket up too much either, I measured it at 340mm and it does lengthen the wheelbase to 1170mm where the extra length helps the bikes climbing ability even at the expense of a slacker effective seat angle when using a longer fork.
As much as the Rift Zone doesn’t mind uphill, it enjoys a downhill foray, with my 140mm forks giving a head angle of 67° (it'll be 67.5° for stock bikes with 130mm forks) it was keen to turn a wheel down any singletrack I pointed it at. It’s not an out and out gravity machine, with its 120mm of travel it's not designed to be, but it’ll do its best to keep up with you like a faithful dog running full pelt at your side and having an absolute whale of a time. The Rift Zone urged me on for more time and time again, the Revelation forks up front dealing well with a host of trail chatter and the Debonair shock being the mainstay of an engaging and lively, if not particularly plush rear suspension set up.
I found a limit in the length of the travel at about the same time at which the steep nature and the roughness of the track were just leaving the Rifty’s geometry comfort zone too, but I was in pretty deep at that point, if you get my drift! Truth be told the reach of the Rift Zone could be lengthened which would only aid to improve the ride, allowing the rider to really settle into the mid point of the bike and take advantage of those big, stable wheels as the going gets fast.
The Rift Zone is a great all-rounder, this is a bike that will be equally happy on all day cross country adventures as it will razzing laps of your local and finding your limit. Sure, we could stretch or alter the geometry to suit our personal choices but Marin has settled into a safe middle zone of trail bike angles, it is slack enough, it is long enough and it is low enough. Yes, it could be more of each of those things but when making bikes for the masses, maybe sticking down the middle line is the most sensible thing to do. Whatever the reason, in doing so Marin have created a lively, fun little bike that will do many an owner proud.
Rachael is happiest on two wheels, she's been riding bikes for a good few years now after horses got too expensive! Partial to a race or two Rachael also likes getting out into the hills with a big bunch of mates. She's been writing - for publications such as Mountain Biking UK and Flow magazine - for as long as she's been riding and is equally happy getting stuck into a kit review as she is creating stories.