The Alpine Trail XR gives you the right bang for your buck and goes faster at your destination
Marin says its Alpine Trail XR is aimed at “enduro-style riding and racing” where “travel and geometry are more important”.
The expanded geometry is easy to spot, the head angle loosens and the dense construction. Look closely at the spec sheet, and you may need to take it twice.
This is because it is jam-packed with a good kit, but still comes at an incredible price (obviously compared to its closest competitors).
So, is the Alpine Trail XR a bargain of the year or is it too good to be true? Read on to learn more.
Marin Alpine Trail XR Suspension and Frame Details
Marin’s multitrack suspension system provides 150mm rear-wheel travel.
The Alpine Trail XR is made using Marin Series 4 aluminium. Its pretty traditional design is far from the radical Mount Vision we rode back in 2019.
The tubes are delicately shaped and curved, adding additional reinforcement to the top and seat tube junction, while the top and bottom tube head meet well and early in an effort to help increase the tube junction.
There is no seatstay bridge, ensuring mass clearance of the soil (and it also allows Marin to use smaller chainstays).
Driving a rear shock is a one-piece forged rocker link designed to be tight and strong with a suspension system to eliminate any unnecessary flex and make the rear of the bike as smooth as possible.
When it comes to suspension travel, the Alpine Travel XR has 150mm. It doesn’t sound that much compared to some other enduro bikes.
We imagine this to be a high-quality case (and let’s not forget, the 10-time World Downhill Champion has chosen to use low-travel bikes on a regular basis compared to his rivals to win some big races, so this is clearly possible if done correctly).
That 150mm rear-wheel drive is delivered through Marin’s ‘Multitrack’ suspension platform. It consists of a single pivot with shock driving connection (seatstays and rocker link).
All frames receive bottle cage mounts (most of them), internal cable routing and decent frame protection in all the right places.
Shimano’s M4100 brakes can’t match the power of more expensive options when under heavy pressure.
Marin was unstoppable when it came to the ratio of the Alpine Trail XR.
You only need to look at the front of the bike to see how calm the head angle is. The fact that you can recognize it from the look of it says a lot. At 62.5 degrees, it definitely makes the Alpine Trail XR one of the more extreme bikes.
In a similar vein, the 78.5-degree seat angle (measured at my preferred pedalling height) is a steep one compared to its counterparts, suggesting a comfortable sitting position when winning steep mounts.
That rake-out head angle with the 455mm Reach contributes to a longer 810mm front centre (horizontal measurement from the centre of the lower enclosure to the centre of the front axle), which undoubtedly contributes to greater stability.
At 335mm from the floor, the bottom bracket is actually quite low. It comes with pros and cons. The main negative aspect is the lower the lower bracket, the more common it is to cover your pedals on the ground or rocks.
Arguably the biggest plus is that it reduces the centre of your mass and helps the bike to feel more confident through turns.
Another measurement of note is the centre of the back, otherwise known as the chainstay length. Marin decided to keep the rear of the Alpine Trail XR seriously compact (designing the bike around 29in wheels is not easy).
The 430mm rear centre is smaller than other bikes with similar objectives. While this works well for smaller riders in a more compact frame size, taller riders on larger frames may sometimes find their weight too far behind the wheel (which is a big part of the reason why some brands are now developing the chainstay measurement as the frame size increases).
The seat tube length is really compact (only 400mm in size tested here).
This means there is enough scope to use a long-haul dropper post and you should not have any problems on your way after the saddle is completely dropped.
This gives riders the option to increase the frame size if they are sizing or looking for a bigger, more stable bike.
Marin Alpine Trail XR Specifications
Front and rear Maxxis Assegai tires benefit from switching.
The most notable parts coming out of the spec sheet should be the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate Fork and the Super Deluxe Coil Ultimate RCT Shock.
When you consider bikes (with aluminium frames) considerably more expensive than the Trail Alpine XR, don’t use this level of damper, it is attractive to be included in such a competitively priced machine.
The Fork Charger uses the 2.1 RC2 damper, which provides external compatibility with high and low-speed compression damping along with rebound damping. It is easy to change the air pressure in the spring, and tuning the spring’s progressiveness ensures the use of volume spacers that can be quickly installed and removed.
On the back, Marin has selected to specify Coil Shock, absolutely indicating that the logo has advanced the Alpine Trail XR to be revolutionary enough to address one. The choice should deliver the most sensitive early part of the journey and provide plenty of much-needed traction with it.
Externally, the Super Deluxe Coil RCT gives rebound and low-velocity compression-damping adjustment. There is also a low-speed compression lever to help stabilise the shock for climbing.
Gearing is something of a mixed relationship. The Shimano XT 12-speed rear derailleur works with the SLX 10-51t cassette and the SLX shifter, all powered by FSA gradient cranks.
The Shimano M4100 also offers four-piston brakes. These include cheap, non-servo wave-equipped levers.
Gearing includes the Shimano XT 12-speed rear derailleur, the SLX 10-51 cassette and the SLX Shifter.
There is a decent smattering of self-branded Marin equipment, including a 35mm-diameter bar, trunk, rims, saddles and grips, all of which are well finished and look like bits of kit quality.
Rounding those Marin Rims are my favourite mountain bike tires. Maxxis Assegai adorns the front and rear, with a lightweight EXO + front cover and a tough doubledown option at the rear. Oddly enough, Marin offers the bike with a 3C MaxxTerra tire on the front and a slow rolling 3C MaxxGrip compound on the rear.
I’d say it’s worth swapping them if you can.
Marin Alpine Trail XR Ride Impressions
Marin is fast.
Getting to grips with the bike and revealing how it works means riding several different lanes.
Since the Alpine Trail XR is designed for ‘enduro-style’ riding, I rode it on a variety of trails, from steep natural tracks surrounded by rocks and roots to high-speed and rugged rock gardens found in bike parks.
The Marin Alpine Trail XR
When setting up the 160mm-Travel RockShox Lyrik Ultimate – a fork I’m very familiar with – proved quite simple, I had to spend some time working on the Super Deluxe Coil Shock on the back.
The 350lb spring supplies the Marin bike as standard. After some trial and error, I ended up switching to a 300lb spring. It made me shrink 30 percent. I have fully opened the rebound damping on the shock and have 8 clicks of the low-speed compression damping wound (completely closed).
After dialling in the shock, it took some good riding and some tinkering (must be said, changing the coil springs is more time consuming than tweaking the air pressure in the air-sprung shock), I had to change it. Fork settings a bit.
Lyrik is set with 16 clicks of low-speed compression, the high-speed compression dial is fully open, and 11-click rebound damping for our tests.
In the end, my settings for Lyrik were 70psi in the spring (and the two volume spacers supplied by Marin), 16-click low-speed compression, high-speed compression dial fully open and 11-click rebound damping, again, all completely taken off.
Overall, my median test bike weighed 16.25kg without a pedal.
Marin Alpine Trail XR Climbing Performance
As expected, the steep seat angle of the Alpine Trail XR promotes a comfortable, fairly upright position on the bike. Your hips don’t sit behind the bottom bracket, which makes for comfortable and effective pedal strokes.
The effective top tube is a shade under 590mm, so it’s not a roomy bike when seated, but I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable when riding uphill in the saddle.
The steep seat tube angle offers a comfortable and effective pedalling position.
No, Marin is not the highest climber. This is partially off to a weight of 16.25kg but is also a drag from the 3C MaxxGrip compound used on the rear tire. As I mentioned above, exchanging front and rear tires helps a little here.
The suspension hunks down slightly under force, but is relatively quiet as you rotate the cranks. If you need to confirm things, it’s easy enough to reach the shock’s low-speed compression lever.
The Marin Alpine Trail XR may make you thirsty
After all that climbing, you giggle for a drink. It doesn’t matter if you’re riding large or extra-large frames (as confirmed by one of our technical editors, Alex Evans, who owns the size-large Alpine Trail XR),
Why ask? Well, when I tried to fit a bottle cage and bottle into my medium test bike, I quickly realised that the shock reservoir was foul on the bottle when the bottle was in place and compressed. I closed the bottle cage as high as possible on the mounts, but the shock still hit the bottle so I had to remove the bottle and cage.
Marin Alpine Trail XR Descending Performance
From the get-go, the Power On and Alpine Trail XR feels quicker. This is both in terms of how effective things are with a reasonably hardened frame when you pile on energy, but how stable it is after picking up speed.
The short back end and tight frame make the bike easy to fly or lift the front wheel with little effort from the rider.
This means that when you are working on a trail, it is really natural for the Alpine Trail XR to roll and shape, and you don’t have to expend much energy if you’re keen to bounce along the way. Set aside at every opportunity.
With high speed, loose turns, thanks to the small rear end, I worked a little harder to keep my weight on the front wheel and front tire grip.
In the middle frame these instances were few and far between for me, but this is often noticed by tall riders on large bikes. And that’s not to say that the short back end holds the Marin back, but the slightly longer back end (perhaps on larger frames) simply makes it even better.
The relaxed head angle, low bottom bracket and long front centre add to make for a seriously confident descent, but there is still room for improvement.
It’s not down to geometry, because it feels like Marin has done a great job here. This is more spec, it can be done with some minor updates.
While the Shimano M4100 brakes offer a punch-starting bite, they lack the grunt of their valuable counterparts when trying to eliminate speed in long drag or speed.
Longer levers are quite comfortable, but lack the light feel of the slightly more expensive M6120 numbers found in peers like the Cannondale Jekyll 2, which I reviewed as part of this test.
I would happily downgrade the XT / SLX drivetrain for 12-speed Dior gearing, which means the Marin M6120 can specify four-piston brakes, which have servo-wave technology on the levers.
If it’s too expensive, switching to a larger rear rotor (180mm to 203mm) can help a little.
The other aspect of the note is the 35mm diameter bars. These were too heavy for my 68kg weight and caused unnecessary reaction through my hands on rough lanes.
Knowing that the Lyrik fork feels very forgiving, I changed the bar and went out to the 31.8mm alloy bar to see if it made a difference in comfort. On the same track, with the thin diameter strip, things got a little easier on my hands.
I have to make it clear that these are disgusting quibbles, and definitely don’t make or break the ride experience of the Alpine Trail XR. These tips enhance the bike’s performance.
Therefore, the Alpine Trail XR is not perfect, and there is room for improvement when it comes to spec. But still, the positives of this bike are far from over. It has a cheeky character and an unbearably fast propensity for controversy.
The experience with the bars and pedals can be a bit raw compared to some of the biggest travel bikes in this category.
It would not remember if you are using massive or extra-massive frames (as shown by way of means of certainly considered one among our technical editors, Alex Evans, who owns the size-massive Alpine Trail XR),
that doesn’t make the big impacts the same, but it certainly does.
As expected, the complementary early part of the shock stroke does a great job of connecting the tire to the dirt, but is also supported through the middle of the trip when you need it.
On really big hits, I never felt like I was colliding with the final third of the journey. Instead, things are controlled and smooth when you call that final few millimetres.
Overall, the Alpine Trail XR is less like an ultra-refined supercar and more akin to a more rugged and ready muscle car. There’s stability and grip – never dulling the fun factor – and masses of ability on pretty much any trail.
How does the Marin Alpine Trail distinguish the XR?
In terms of travel, the Marin Santa Cruz is closer to the Branson CR, but it’s more of a bruiser than a carbon-framed counterpart. Similarly, Propain Tyee AL 29 has a similar sense of playfulness and support. However, Marin trumps the tie when it comes to all-out speed.
At the most subtle end of this class, the Alpine Trail XR begins to highlight chinks in its armor compared to the Giga or the G-180 RS MX. Both White and Newproof – which have more travel in the front and rear than the Marin – feel more composed and less frantic when barreling through rock gardens at speed.
Enduro Bike of the Year 2022 | How we tested.
While this does not negate the need for these bikes to fall with ßthe confidence and balance of a full-blown downhill bike, they still need to be pedalled back to the top of the hill.
But, more than that, they need to be built to last with units that take a serious shot.
To be crowned as the best enduro bike in the test, we are looking for a bike that is quite pleasant on the mounts (no enduro bike is ever a cross country like a cross country!) And is easy to ride when back on the slopes.
A serious amount of riding is required over the course of 12 weeks to test the bike. The terrain must also be diverse. The test covers everything from roots and steep, natural trails to rocks and mud, with fast, high-speed bike park tracks with wheel-destroying rock gardens and chunky jumps.
To mark the differences we have ridden all the bikes back-to-back on the test and mixed the action of riding the bike to see how each machine feels when we are fresh – and not too fresh.
Price GBP £ 3475.00
Weight 16.25kg (M) – without pedal
Available sizes are M, S, L, XL
Tires Maxxis Assegai 3C MaxxTerra EXO + 29×2.5in (fr) / Maxxis Assegai 3C MaxxGrip DD 29×2.4 in (r)
Trunk Marin CNC, 35mm
Shifter Shimano SLX
Seatpost X-Fusion Manic, 150mm
Saddle Marine Speed Concept
Rear Shocks RockShox Super Deluxe RCT Coil
Rear Driller Shimano XT
Handlebar Marin 35 alloy, 780mm
Bottom bracket FSA MegaEVO
Grips / Tape Marin Lock-On
Frame Series 4 6061 Aluminium, 150mm (5.9in) Travel
Fork RockShox Lyrik Ultimate, 160mm (6.3in) Travel
Crankset FSA gradient
Chain KMC X-12
Cassette Shimano SLX 10-51t
Shimano BL M4100 (203mm / 180mm rotors)
Marin Aluminium Double Wall Rims on Wheels Shimano MT410B (fr) and MT510B (r) Hubs
Pros and Cons
Pros : Spec is impressive considering the price; Good geometry; Capable of speed
Cons : Good-spec brake levers help to add more confidence; The bottle does not fit in small frame sizes, though it includes mounts
Marin Alpine Trail XR Conclusion
8 out of 10 stars
This bike will take you down any path you dare to throw it. Some minor spec changes really enhance its performance
The Marin Alpine Trail XR is a seriously capable bike, apart from the fun of riding.
Moreover, the spec on offer is really impressive for cash. Well, there are some small (ish) potential changes that can really be made to improve performance, but there is no way to see how good this bike can be when you open the taps.