Would it surprise you to learn that MBT's collective view of Marin's mountain bike line has traditionally been summarily centered on the word, "meh"? It's not that we had anything against the company's offerings so much as not a whole lot of them tend turn up around here in the east coast and the few that have were plagued with bulky linkages known for snagging baggies.
Our own experience with the brand dates back about half a decade ago or so when we tested not one but two of their bikes: The Wolf Ridge and Mount Vision Pro. Looking back on those tests now, it appears Marin has made some serious evolutionary changes in the past few generations of hardware, perhaps the most notable being the move away from their previously bulky Quad Link configuration for a design that is far more compact albeit more difficult to distinguish from just about every other contemporary offering at a glance.
When we happened upon a chance to put the 2013 Mount Vision XM6 through its paces, our initial enthusiasm was fueled by discovering what's changed and what has not these past few years from the camp paying homage to the California County known for starting it all.
The Marin Mount Vision XM6 is Marin's all-purpose trail bike designed for budget-friendliness and it's spec sheet reveals a surprisingly well-rounded build beginning with trusty 6061 aluminum frame construction and a RockShox Sektor TK Solo Air fork good for 5.5" of travel and a RockShox Ario RL in the rear (also coming it at 5.5"). The 30-speed drivetrain (10x3) is a mix of SRAM pieces and bits- X7 derailleurs mated to X5 cranks and shifters. Braking comes in the form of Avid Elixir 1 hydraulic discs front & rear and Maxxis Ardent rubber comes wrapped around Alex SX44 26-inch rims. Odds and ends consist of Marin's house-branded hubs, bars, stem and seat post while WTB was called upon for the saddle itself.
All told our size Medium weighed in at 29.8 pounds with our trusty Wellgo C135 pedals (not supplied) installed and a setup identical to ours can be had for $2099.
In person, the Mount Vision XM6 appears rather clean and simple and set-up actually reflected this despite a nearly infinitesimal range of adjustability at your disposal with the air-sprung fork and shock.
We began by pressurizing the fork's chambers to the manual's recommended sag for our test riders' weight and kept the rebound roughly in the middle for the most part; turning it up a bit on successive chop. The shock is equally simple to get into spec and we ended up settling on about 25% sag which was easily measurable thanks to the included red rubber ring.
Climbing on board the Marin, even a stand-still reveals what has been steadily becoming the modern definition of a do-it-all trail bike: The reach to the short-stem riser bars is fairly upright and comfortable on the lower the back and the rider-position between wheels feels good and balanced.
Sizing seems spot-on with both past Marin bikes and when compared to offerings from the likes of Trek, Specialized, Giant and so on.
Some bikes require plenty of fiddling with to feel comfortable enough for long days in the saddle but the Mount Vision isn't one of them. Set it, forget it, and start plotting your epic ride.
Dropping the hammer on the Mount Vision XM6 is about as drama-free as it gets and we mean that in a good way. Leaned a bit to rear? No worries about an impromptu wheelie. Start out standing? You aren't going to spin the rear tire. The word of the day is balance and it's a trait you'll really come to appreciate when the going gets rough.
The bike gives off a very neutral vibe that, if anything, tends to lean to the plush side of the spectrum but 30 gear options make working your way to a good clip absolutely effortless. Start low and easy and click off through the gears until your thighs are burning; this is a bicycle that likes to build momentum. You aren't going to find XC-style bursts of forward momentum here and actually, that stability we spoke of above when dropping the hammer continues to come into play regardless of how much speed you're carrying.
Typically when we speak of a bike that handles neutrally and boasts stability, cornering performance suffers but we're glad to report that's not the case here. The XM6 flows well through tight turns thanks to a fairly wide bar and rider position that never favors just the front or rear wheel. Of course, in extremely tight ribbons of trail with multiple switchbacks, the Marin will give up some cornering confidence to twitchier, quicker-steering setups. The key is to remember you'll make up any time lost in the corners back on the straights thanks to that versatile gear train and ability to hold a line.
If we were forced to isolate the Mount Vision's weakest link, it would have to come down to climbing prowess; which isn't to say the bike absolutely drags once the conditions turn skyward but rather the realities of a stable-handling chassis sporting 5.5" of suspension and weighing in around 30-pounds come into play here.
Our best advice when staring down the barrel of a long grinder is to make the most of the bike's gearing for comfort, build what momentum you can and spin away until you summit. You can be assured that this setup takes away concerns of body positioning (so stay seated if it helps) and carefully choosing lines, leaving you to simply supply the needed leg power to get the job done. The shock is lockout-equipped should you start to feel like too much energy is being sapped by suspension movement but we managed to ascend some pretty hefty climbs without flipping it on.
As is so often the case, bikes that can appear a bit sluggish going up make the most out of going back down and the Mount Vision is no exception. That 5.5" of travel, aggressive tire tread and chassis that never displays nervousness really pay dividends once gravity takes a hold of the front wheel. We're positive you'll find flow you didn't realize you had on technical descents and steep chain-rattlers.
The Avid Elixir 1s are more than adequate for most of what you can throw at the XM6 but their limitations can be reached if a lot of downhilling is on your to-do list. As always in the situation, larger rotors can be an affordable upgrade.
The Marin Mount Vision XM6 is an undeniably charming package, especially at its price-point. The improvements Marin made to the physical attributes of its Quad Link setup are most welcome indeed- gone are the days of scraping knees on bolts or catching shorts on the rockers themselves. Aside from looking slimmer, the bike feels narrower on the trails as well.
We're especially impressed with Marin's frame geometry, which proved both comfortable and extremely versatile. The bike doesn't stand out for excellence in one particular category but it manages to do just about everything well and that's nothing to shake a stick at – regardless of affordability.