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Bargain hybrid bikes: Marin Muirwoods review

9 Mar 2018
Verdict:

Solid and tough, this is a great commuter that has plenty of appeal beyond the working week

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£550

Buy the Marin Muirwoods from Tredz here

Marin claims the Muirwoods is most at home in the concrete jungle, built for jumping kerbs or cutting through the park on the way to the shops or university campus.

The classic commuter bike used by bike shop employees, it’s essentially a steel mountain bike with slick tyres, but brought up to date with road bike-style 700c-diameter wheels.

It certainly looks cool, but can it hang as tough as it claims in the big city?

The frame

Made as it is from steel, the Muirwoods does without any of the fancy hydroforming seen on the aluminium bikes.

Still, its simple ferrous frame is no less handsome or functional for being composed of regular tubing.

Long and relatively low slung, chief among its design quirks are the dropped seatstays. Joining the seat tube well below the clamp, in theory they should allow a greater degree of flex and add some squish to the back of the bike.

It’s hard to say if it’s this or the double-butted tubing, but the Muirwoods is certainly comfy. Similarly neat is the head tube, which flares out at the top and bottom to accommodate the internal headset bearings.

It’s an assemblage that would look at home on a much pricier bike. The fork slotted through it has a broad arch to leave space for big tyres, even with mudguards squished in alongside.

Happy to be loaded up, with mounts on its legs and dropouts there should be no difficulty in fitting any variety of front rack. Similarly, the neat tabs behind the seat cluster ensure the same for the back of the bike.

Three sets of bottle cage mounts mean the Muirwoods is desert-expedition ready too.

Groupset

Shimano’s Alivio rear derailleur is unlikely to set hearts racing, but it’s a level up from the even more basic Altus found on some rival bikes at this price.

With nine cogs at the back and a Suntour brand triple chainset up front, the range of gears is huge. However, to save cash the higher spec rear derailleur is mated to cheaper Altus shifters and front mech.

This always feels like a bit of a cheat. Still,  the shifting is snappy enough. More exciting are the Shimano hydraulic brakes.

Powerful, easily serviceable, and nice looking, fitted with matching 160mm rotors, the grab at the calliper is plentiful, while the action and fit of the lever is equally pleasing.

Finishing kit

The low and broad bar suited us, providing lots of stability, though riders looking to nip between traffic might wish to hacksaw it down a touch.

The tacky grips, with a slightly knurled surface were also a hit. As was the saddle. Flat and moderately padded, we can see the majority of bottoms taking to it.

Supporting it is a tough twin-bolt seatpost that’s secure and makes adjusting the angle of the saddle easy. With lots of grip and scope for mucking about, the included platform pedals reminded us of the sort you might find on a BMX bike.

With an aggressive shape, but a forgiving plastic construction, your feet are unlikely to come off, and if they do your shins ought to remain in one piece.

Wheels

The relatively wide Schwalbe Citizen tyres are tough and relatively puncture-resistant, with reflective sidewalls and a Kevlar belt beneath the multi-terrain tread.

Spinning on conventional cup-and-cone bearings the standard quick-release hubs support a full complement of 32 spokes.

A tough combo, they amp up the bike’s ability to accommodate far more aggressive offroad use if required.

On the road

Despite being steel, the Muirwoods isn’t carrying too much excess weight. Low towards the front and with a long reach, it invites you to push it along at a fair lick.

Yet a wide bar and stable geometry mean it’s also happy to be wrenched about. Done up as a slick city commuter that’ll also take on rougher tracks too, the Muirwoods is readily adaptable.

With space for bigger tyres and geometry that’s unlikely to get flustered no matter where you point it, we quickly found ourselves wondering what else it might be capable of.

Practical but with a naughty streak, the Muirwoods will inject some fun into your daily trudge to work. Sporting puncture-resistant medium-width tyres, once rolling it’s capable of steamrolling most things in its path.

Although it offers relatively low drag, you could still speed it up by swapping the tyres for narrower treads, or switch to beast mode by fitting off-road knobblies.

As it is, both the tough wheels and robust tyres are dependable and moderately quick. With a broad-ranging 12-36t cassette, and equally wide triple chainset, there’s no chance of running out of gears, whether you’re going up or coming down.

The mix of Shimano Altus shifters and Alivio rear derailleur works well, delivering the chain to each of its nine sprockets with an authoritative clunk.

Even better are the Shimano brakes. With easily enough power to halt the bike in any situation, the controlled way in which they dole out their power makes locking up a wheel an unlikely event.

Excellent parts bolted to a versatile frame make the Muirwoods a great commuter. Yet it’s also up for touring trips, or with a switch of tyres even mountain biking, stretching its appeal well beyond the end of the working week.

With saddle and cockpit likely to end up level, the ride position on the Muirwoods is engaged rather than upright.

Its comparatively low front end means putting some force behind your pedalling is worthwhile, even if the frame itself isn’t mega stiff.

Exhibiting just a smidgen of flex, the payoff is comfort. Although the difference is subtle, compared to most aluminium hybrids the Muirwoods is more compliant over chattery terrain.

Welcome in any scenario, it’s especially good when riding with the additional weight of panniers pushing the bike into the ground.

Looking at the figures, despite a fairly conventional 72° head angle and standard-length wheelbase, this bike feels well planted.

We’re chalking this up to a combination of the long top tube, short 70mm stem, and exemplary standover height. Directing the bike’s course, the very wide bars also inspire confidence and encourage reckless behaviour.

Some may even find them overkill for the city and want to chop them down, but we’d leave them as they are. 


Ratings

Frame: Double-butted steel tubing provides extra comfort. 9/10
Components: Solid mix of Shimano and Suntour. Big gear range. 8/10 
Wheels: Tough enough to handle off road riding with ease. 8/10 
The Ride: Confidence-inspiring in all scenarios. 9/10

Verdict

Solid and tough, this is a great commuter that has plenty of appeal beyond the working week 

Buy the Marin Muirwoods from Tredz

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 605mm 600mm
Seat Tube (ST) 485mm 485mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 425mm
Head Tube (HT) 133mm 133mm
Head Angle (HA) 72 72
Seat Angle (SA) 73.5 73.5
Wheelbase (WB) 1086mm 1085mm
BB drop (BB) 70mm 69mm

Spec

Marin Muirwoods
Frame Double Butted CrMo 
Groupset Shimano Altus 3 x 9-Speed
Brakes Shimano BR-M315 Hydraulic Disc
Chainset SR Suntour XCR6, 48/36/26t
Cassette Shimano HG300 9-Speed, 12-36t
Bars Marin Alloy Flat Top Riser
Stem Marin 3D Forged Alloy
Seatpost Marin Alloy
Saddle Marin Fitness
Wheels Double Wall Disc Specific 32h, Schwalbe Citizen 40c tyres
Weight 13.14kg (L)
Contact marinbikes.com