Marin Pine Mountain 2 Review: In with the old
In with the old, in with the new. That’s how Marin approached the 2016 Pine Mountain 2. We had the opportunity to thrash this steel 27.5+ adventure hardtail on southern Spain’s unyielding rocky trails. Here’s how she performed…
As you’ve probably gathered from the opening blurb and main photo above, the Pine Mountain 2 is a classic steel hard tail. But if you’ve carefully scrutinized that photo, or are simply hip to the latest in MTB tech, you may be aware that the Pine Mountain 2 is designed around the relatively new 27.5+ tire format, modern hub standards, and an efficient 1×11 drivetrain. Furthermore, if you’ve been mountain biking for a really long time, you might be reflecting on a much earlier iteration of the Pine Mountain—the steel gray and orange rigid Marin of days long past. In fact, as part their 30th anniversary bike lineup, Marin resurrected the Pine Mountain name to brand this modern take on a bygone classic. And yes, as hard as it is to believe, Marin was producing mountain bikes way back in ’86, the same year you could buy a Tandy 600 portable computer for $1600 and pick up the latest Bangles release, ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’, on cassette.
A Steely Revision
While Marin’s choice of steel for a modern mountain bike frame may be considered retro by some, the Pine Mountain 2’s Columbus Thron tubing, sleek bent downtube, investment cast dropouts, and detailed fixtures, takes the classic material to the next level. For those unfamiliar, Columbus Thron is a premium tubing with a notable ratio of stiffness to weight; some claim that a Thron tube set could be as much as 30% stiffer than one made from Reynolds 531, Thron’s closest competitor. At first I was slightly concerned with the relatively minimal frame, especially the seat stays. But after beating this bike to no end on over 800 miles of extremely rocky trails, Columbus Thron proved its pedigree.
There are a few other pieces of metal worth highlighting. The rear 148mm (BOOST) spaced Naild dropouts house a 12-3-9 quick-release thru axle; the ’12-3-9’ references the hand positions of a clock in relation to the rotation of the quick release lever during the three step install process. The Naild QR is a little tricky at first, but once you get used to it, it seems like a solid component. I might add that the lug on the non-drive side, covered with a protective plastic screw cap, seemed to loosen over the first few days. But after a hearty tightening, I had no further issues. Other cast components to note are the seat stay spacer, engraved with ’86’, and the steel plate at the drive-side chain stay yoke (rather than standard tubing); this was employed to make room for 3” tires and a big chain ring.
Overall the Pine Mountain 2 frame is a nice mix of beast and beauty. The tube set is butted and formed in Asia, before a bevy of fixtures are hand-brazed into place (2 bottle cage mounts, grommets for internal cable routing, and rear rack mounts). The finished product leaves the bronze-colored brazing visible through a matte coating giving the frame a raw look. The hand-brazed grommets on the chain stays and down tube allow internal routing, while keeping the rear brake and derailleur cables neat and tidy. The steel grey color, combined with exposed brazing and blue accents, visually tell the story of the Pine Mountain 2’s fusion of old roots and modern tech. A few other shiny bits worth noting are the sculptural head tube badge, and the heritage badge on the seat tube that commemorates Marin’s 30 years in the business.
I’ve ridden quite a few hard tails, rigid bikes, and, for some time, even used a FS Ibis Mojo HD as my daily driver. But I have to say, the 27.5+ format with a suspension fork might just take the cake for trail riding and bikepacking alike. Upon receiving the bike in Madrid, I replaced the 2.8” WTB Trailblazers with the all new Trail Boss 3.0s; I think that the Trailblazers would have been fine, but a little added cushion and chunkier side knobs were more my speed. The Trail Bosses easily set up tubeless in the Scraper rims, and I kept them between 10 and 15psi throughout the trip. At lower pressures, they ate up small bumps and even larger stones, at times giving the bike a full suspension riding quality. In addition, the Float Fork performed extremely well, even when left in the more firm position on the adjustment dial. In all transparency, this is the first time I have done an extended, overseas, trip with a suspension fork. Overall I am impressed; the fork required little to no maintenance, saved my wrists, and added a new element to the riding. So, the bike did indeed seem to float over all kinds of terrain with the all the added confidence typically doled out by bigger tires.
NOTE: Here are three shots above showing rear spacing with the Trailblazers. The Trail Boss 3.0s had adequate space as well with over 1/4″ on each side of the chain stays.
Fit for Adventure?
Aside from its 2 bottle cage brazeons (the Pine Mountain 1 has 3), rack mounts, and sturdy tube set, what makes the Pine Mountain an “adventure ready” bike? Firstly, 27.5+ is quite the do-all platform for bikepacking and trail exploration. As we mentioned in the Trail Boss Review, 27.5 x 3” tires add suspension benefits to keep you comfortable during long days in the saddle. And the added floatation expands the terrain potential. However, when deciding on a wheel and tire size, 27.5+’s downfall comes in the form of tire availability. While this platform is perfect for weekend trips or week long trips alike, when picking a bike for a month long journey through a developing country, one might opt for more prevalent 29 or 26” tires. The same hypothesis can be applied to the BOOST rear hub/spacing (148mm) which may leave you stranded in a world full of 135mm OLD hubs.
That said, ‘trail adventure’ is where the Pine Mountain shines. The Pine Mountain’s geometry follows a well-rounded ‘trail geometry’ model—a [relatively] short wheel base and a somewhat slack front end (but not too slack at 69 degrees). This translates to a bike that’s nimble, but not too squirrely. Marin tampered the slack lines with just enough of a conservative stance to retain a comfortable stance for longer days. It’s also a very stable bike. I felt more control picking through slow rocky and technically challenging sections of trail than I have on a bike in a while.
In terms of fit, I did feel that the sizing was a little off. While I’ve always felt comfortable on a size “large” frame, the 19” Pine Mountain felt a bit small. The seatpost was extended past the minimum insert line and was still a tad short, which made the handlebars feel a little low. But to be fair, this could be rectified by sizing up, changing the stem, or having a slightly longer steering tube. In hindsight, I would have opted to try out the XL (21”).
An additional interesting and adventure-related feature is the three mounts on the underside of the top tube. This could be a recipe for a custom designed bolt-on frame bag.
To compliment its showy frame, Marin chose parts wisely. To start, the Shimano XT 1×11 drivetrain is a welcome sight. While the gearing sometimes left my knees screaming for granny, it shifted flawlessly and offered a solid gearing ratio. I should mention that my kit included a DSLR, 4 lenses, and a laptop… not to mention that much of the terrain in southern Spain is tremendously steep. That said, barring 12lbs of electronics, the 32t front chainring and 11spd cassette is a fine solution for light bikepacking. No doubt as a local trail rig and weekend bikepacker, the 1×11 system is perfect. I’d be curious to know if a 30t ring up front is possible. On first glance, there is limited space between the chain and the front of the chain stay when shifted toward the small side of the cassette. It could work, but might be pretty tight.
In addition, the SLX brakes are hard to beat, literally. In my opinion, they are some of the toughest, and best working, hydraulic brakes on the market. An important factor to consider when out in the backcountry.
Note that the kit below doesn’t reflect several changes I made to the setup specifically for this trip. Firstly, I swapped the WTB saddle for an ERGON SMC-3; this is just personal preference. Also, I had Marin send the bike with a rigid seatpost, vs the standard KS dropper included with the bike. As mentioned above the WTB Trailblazers were replaced with WTB’s new Trail Boss 3.0 tires. And finally, I swapped the grips with Ergon GS1s for comfort on long days in the saddle (great grips, I might add).
- Frame: Columbus Thron Butted/Formed CrMo
- Rear Dropouts: Boost 148x12mm Naild Locking Thru-Axle Dropouts
- Front Fork: Fox Float 34 27.5+, 3 Position Lever, 110x15mm Thru-Axle
- Crankset: Shimano Deore XT Hollowtech II, 32T
- Derailleur Rear: Shimano Deore XT Shadow Plus
- Shift Lever: Shimano Deore XT 1×11-Speed
- Cassette: Shimano Deore XT 11-Speed, 11-42T
- Bottom Bracket: Shimano Hollowtech II
- Chain: KMC X11L
- Hub Rear: Formula, 148x12mm, Alloy Axle, Quad Cartridge Sealed Bearing, Centerlock Disc, 32H
- Hub Front: Formula, 110x15mm, Sealed Cartridge Bearing, Centerlock Disc 28H
- Rims: WTB Scraper, 45mm Inner, Tubeless Ready
- Spokes Nipples: 14g Black Stainless Steel
- Tires: WTB Trail Blazer, 27.5×2.8
- Brakes Front: Shimano SLX Hydraulic Disc, 180mm Rotor
- Brakes Rear: Shimano SLX Hydraulic Disc, 160mm Rotor
- Brake Levers: Shimano SLX Hydraulic
- Handlebar: Marin Flat Top Riser
- Grips: Marin Locking
- Stem: Marin 3D Forged Alloy
- Headset: FSA Orbit, Sealed Cartridge Bearing, 1 1/8
- Seatpost: KS LEV Integra, 30.9mm
- Saddle: WTB SLC XC
New for this review, here’s a rundown of what bags were used during the test period.
- Frame Bag: Revelate Ranger (L)
- Seat Pack: Revelate Terrapin V2
- Handlebar Bag: Revelate Harness
- Top Tube Bag: Revelate Gas Tank
- Stem Bag(s): Revelate Mountain Feed Bag
- Peripherals: Bedrock Honaker Hydro
- Water Storage: Honaker/Lezyne Power Cages/Magnum Bottles
- Additional: Mission Workshop Hauser 10L Backpack
- Comfortable geometry works for long days in the saddle, but is still nimble and playful on the trail.
- 27.5+ is a great platform for multi day exploration.
- Full-suspension feel without the climbing penalty.
- Choice components, including the Fox Float 34 and the XT 1×11 drivetrain.
- No down tube bottle cage brazeons (why doesn’t every ‘adventure’ bike have these!?). Note, the Pine Mountain 1 has the third pair on the downtube.
- 27.5 is still relatively new and tire availability may be a challenge when traveling to faraway locations.
- The 1×11 drivetrain is perfect for lighter loads, but with a heavy load on steep terrain, an extra couple of gears might save your knees.
- The Nalid thru axle dropout excludes the use of a Rohloff hub.
- I am not a huge fan of the 2 bolt seat clamp; I didn’t have any problems with it, but if frequent adjustments are anticipated, this style of clamp can be a bit of a pain.
First things first. As mentioned above, my only complaint is that the size large, with the setup provided, felt a tad small for me. This is something that could be fixed by tweaking components, leaving the steerer tube slightly longer, or sizing up. Still, I would have preferred a slightly longer and higher reach for our month long journey through southern Spain.
While this may not be the bike I would choose for a long romp in the developing world, due to tire availability and gearing, for bikepacking trips in the weekend to two week range, the Pine Mountain 2 is certainly impressive. My favorite routes combine a mix of interesting climbs, flowing traverses, meandering dirt roads, and technical descents that make your heart thump. The PM2 perform well in all of these conditions, and felt good on long gravel grinds to boot. Even with a somewhat slack trail geometry, it’s a stable bike. If you are on the hunt for a future proof trail bike that will double as a fine bikepacking rig, the PM2 should definitely make your list.
- Size Tested Large (19″)
- Sizes Available S-XXL
- Weight (as tested) 29.2lbs/13.24kg
- Price $2,749
- Contact Marin Bikes
- Recommended Uses trail riding, weekend to month long bikepacking
Between big trips, I can usually be found riding my favorite trails in Pisgah, NC, or tacking together 4 or 5 day bikepacking trips throughout the eastern US and beyond. Most recently we completed a traverse across southern Spain and are currently somewhere in Uganda piecing together a Trans-Uganda bikepacking route.
Weight: 170 lbs
The Marin Pine Mountain was loaned to me for our month long trip through southern Spain.