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Marin Rift Zone 2 full suspension MTB review

18 Oct 2018

With its solidly oriented frame geometry this is a bike designed for speed on the trails

Cyclist Rating: 

This review first appeared in Issue 45 of Cyclist magazine

The Rift Zone is Marin’s most speed-oriented full-suspension bike, created for riders looking for the pace and easy rolling capabilities of 29-inch wheels in a trail-ready package.

Long, low, and slack – it’s more aggressive than the average XC race bike. With an emphasis on having fun, it features matched 120mm travel and a dropper post.

Made for more than just chasing seconds, will it get the balance between speed and enjoyment right? 

Buy the Marin Rift Zone 2 full suspension bike from Tredz Bikes

The frame

A logo on the Marin’s seat tube claims it’s ‘made for fun’. We won’t disagree.

With a very active suspension design it works constantly to keep your progress smooth and controlled regardless of what’s under the wheels.

There’s no lock-out lever on the excellent RockShox Deluxe R shock, but thanks to a clever suspension design there’s little need.

The bike pedals well without bobbing about too much, yet is able to absorb small chattery shocks and bigger whacks.

When the going does get rough it feels like there’s even more suspension on offer than the 120mm listed.

Helping this is a low bottom bracket which plants the bike close to the ground, adding stability.

With a medium-length wheelbase the kinked seat tube allows space for the rear wheel to move under compression and keeps the seat stays short for nimble turning.

With above average stiffness the Rifty is unlikely to get pinged off course, allowing you to instead carve through rough sections while Boost spacing means it accommodates the latest hub standard, for stiffer and more readily interchangeable wheels.


Sram’s 1x11-speed NX provides all the gears you might need, with none of the faff of a front derailleur.

With a clutch in the rear derailleur helping keep the chain in place, shifting across the wide 11-42t cassette feels assured. With one less derailleur, shifter, and cable it also looks very clean.

Unusually the Marin’s groupset sees both the big Ss united, with Sram providing the gearing and Shimano supplying the Acera, decent quality models that are reliable and fairly powerful, if unlikely to set anyone’s world alight.

Finishing kit

Bang on the money! With a stubby 45mm stem and broad 780mm bars the Marin is ready to cut loose.

Keeping steering characteristics consistent, these dimensions carry across every size in the range, meaning no-one gets sold short, though smaller riders might want to chop down the bars.

The TranzX dropper post lets you get the saddle out the way with the push of a lever, making tricky sections less intimidating.

It’s as good as you’ll find at this price-point, which is to say worth having, but likely to require regular fettling to keep working perfectly.


A light, strong wheelset that can be set up tubeless and rolls on cartridge bearing hubs. Can’t ask for much more.

With broad rims, they provide a pleasing curvature to the wider-than-average tyres.

Vee Tire Co is a new name to us. With a flexible 90 tpi casing and low-profile its Crown Gem models are light and fast rolling.

With a wide contact patch they’re relatively gippy on hardpacked terrain but don’t fare so well in the mud.

Still, set them up without tubes and they’ll be deadly-fast in a straight line. 

First impressions

Like a diminutive yet self-possessed pug, the Rift Zone is an almost comically bolshy bike considering its modest 120mm of suspension.

Big tyres, big bars, and an upright and attacking stance combine to suggest a build that’s ready to rumble.

Hedged slightly towards fun on the downs rather than sprinting on the ups, it’s inclined to sit relatively deep into its suspension.

Instantly plush feeling and very happy to dive through the corners, we didn’t find ourselves butting up against the limits of its medium amount of travel.

On the trail

With the Rift Zone, Marin has opted for a solidly trail-oriented geometry. This means a slack head angle for confident high-speed handling, accentuated by a low bottom bracket and long wheelbase.

Yet without excess weight, and carrying only a moderate amount of suspension travel, the Rift Zone doesn’t feel stodgy.

Relatively short in reach and with an aggressive wide bar and short stem, it’s more one for grinding up the hills and blasting back down than a cross-country all-rounder.

Helping it excel at both is the dropper seatpost. The Rift Zone crams in 11 gears courtesy of Sram’s Nx groupset. Its single chainring setup and ultra-wide cassette are a perfect fit, helping you change swiftly from racing downhill, to climbing back up.

Let loose to run among the rocks, or hurtling over roots and cutting through turns the bike’s smooth suspension and excellent lateral stiffness allow it to get as wild as you dare.


The composure of the frame is just about matched by the RockShox Recon fork.

It does a decent job once tweaked correctly, pumped up to match your weight or personal preference.

Modulating how it squashes and bounces back are rudimentary compression and rebound adjustment.

It’s hard to overstate the confidence boost imparted by a dropper post. Approach a tricky section and with the push of a lever the saddle drops, allowing you to negotiate the hazard without the risk of being sent over the bars.

Get back onto the straight and narrow and the saddle pops back for maximum pedalling efficiency.

Also increasing confidence are the very high-volume tyres. Flexible enough to smother the terrain into submission, their peppering of stubby knobbles will dig into loose and rocky conditions.

Rolling quickly and adding further cushioning, they’ll squish over if you push them too hard.


Frame: Active suspension helps make for a smooth ride. 8/10 
Components: Sram's Nx 11-speed groupset is the star. 10/10 
Wheels: Light and strong with broad rims and fat tyres. 9/10 
The ride: The Rift Zones composure allows you to go wild. 8/10 

Verdict: With its solidly oriented frame geometry this is a bike designed for speed on the trails.  

Buy the Marin Rift Zone 2 full suspension bike from Tredz Bikes


Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 612mm 580mm
Seat Tube (ST) 420mm 426mm
Reach (R) 441mm 441mm
Stack (S) 614mm 614mm
Head Tube (HT) 105mm 105mm
Head Angle (HA) 67.5 67.5
Seat Angle (SA) 74.8 74.5
Wheelbase (WB) 1,156mm 1,160mm
BB drop (BB) 38.5mm 37mm


Marin Rift Zone 2
Frame 6061 aluminium, 120mm MultiTrac Suspension, Boost thru-axle, RockShox Recon RL fork, 120mm travel, compression and rebound adjust
Rear suspension RockShox Deluxe R Debonair, rebound adjust
Groupset Sram NX 1x11-speed
Brakes Shimano Acera hydraulic disc
Chainset FSA Comet, 1x30t
Cassette SunRace 11-speed, 11-42t
Bars Marin Mini-Riser, 780mm
Stem Marin 3D Forged Alloy, 45mm
Seatpost TranzX Dropper Post, 120mm travel
Wheels Marin Aluminium Double wall rim/Formula hub, tubeless compatible, Vee Tire, Crown Gem 29x2.3, tubeless compatible
Saddle Marin Speed Concept
Weight 14.85kg (M)

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