It might be small on travel, but it’s big on character, and now Marin’s Rift Zone is available with a carbon frame. Like its more affordable alloy sibling, the Rift Zone Carbon rolls on 29” wheels and packs 125mm of rear-wheel travel mated to a 130mm travel fork, with modern geometry and a build kit that leans towards the burly end of the spectrum.
The intentions of the Rift Zone are clear to see, from the geometry to the equipment specification. The numbers and angles are the clearest indications though; a 65.6-degree head tube angle, 76-degree seat tube angle and a 480mm reach on the size large pictured here are all on the money for a progressive trail bike.
Despite being short on travel the Rift Zone Carbon 2 is hugely entertaining with bags of speed and agility thanks to the geometry which is on point for an all-round trail bike that excels everywhere, but is happiest when gravity is on your side. It’s also relatively easy on the wallet and smartly specced.
The Rift Zone's 76-degree seat angle does gives a nice comfortable position for generating power, and while some might say it needs to be even steeper I found it worked well for me. Despite its length and slackness, the Marin is highly maneuverable at slower speeds and easy to shake about on tight and twisting singletrack. It makes even the boring tame connecting trails good fun, and while the weight is a little on the high side for my personal tastes, it never felt like it was being unduly held back by an invisible anchor.
The balance feels good and the geometry didn't feel unmanageable through twisty trails. The short chainstays help it turn sharply through the corners, the wide bars and stubby stem give plenty of leverage and overall it's agile and easy to move about. Occasionally I found I had to pull myself onto the nose of the saddle to keep the front wheel down on very steep climbs, but most of the time it was a competent ascender. The wide range Shimano cassette gives you all the range you need on the climbs too, and the Maxxis tires behave well in a wide range of situations.
On paper, there is a lot going for the Marin Rift Zone Carbon, and when you get it onto your favourite trail for the first time, you’ll be blown away by just how strongly able it is. It shows just how important geometry is, more than the amount of suspension travel you’re packing. Backing up the numbers is the burly build kit that ensures it’s all a recipe for shredding any trail as fast and joyously as you like. As it reminds you on the stem, this bike is “made for fun”. It’s no bullshit PR either, the Rift Zone lives up to that claim.
The handling is fast and nimble - there’s certainly no sense the big wheels are taking away from the fun factor at all. It’s easy to flick the bike about and it rotates around corners with precision. Pop is plentiful with this Marin. It gets airborne easily off the smallest lip, the front wheel a breeze to loft over ruts. It’s a bike that properly leaves you grinning all the way to the bottom. It's a blast in the corners too - it feels solid though high-speed berms with the short chainstays enabling you to really push the back tire into the ground for maximum traction and carry the speed past the apex.
I found the balance good with Rift Zone Carbon. I felt nicely felt centred and was able to shift my weight about as needed. It’s pretty stable for the most part, but perhaps not the most rock-solid planted at higher speeds in big terrain - longer chainstay would certainly increase the stability at higher speeds, but the Rift Zone instead trades that outright planted feel for a more lively presence on the trail. For trail riders looking for a bike that ramps up the grin factor for everything from trail centers to bike parks and don't want a big travel enduro beast, the Rift Zone Carbon impresses.
The Rift Zone Carbon doesn’t let up when the obstacles come at you big and fast. The Fox suspension, Maxxis tires, and Shimano four-pot brakes all cope with just about everything very well. It also surprises with its ability to tackle the sort of terrain that would naturally suit a longer travel bike. It doesn’t possess the bottomless feel of some short travel suspension setups, but it can soak up a wide range of impacts from square-edge rocks to slippery roots. Line choice is still critical, but thankfully the Rift Zone changes direction like a dart. Maybe it would benefit from a beefier fork with a bit more travel? Hmm… Regardless, it’s a fun bike that will leave you smiling.
+ Great handling
+ Modern geometry
+ Solid build kit with nice attention to the details
- Rear shock needs setup time
- Vague Shimano brake bite point
- Bit heavy for a short travel bike
Short travel meets big bike geometry is an emerging trend, and the new Marin Rift Zone Carbon is an exciting addition to a growing list of choices with a sorted specification for the money.
— David Arthur
Check out the full review at pinkbike.com