As the birthplace of mountain biking Marin County, CA has been front and center of off-road innovation for decades. In the late 1970s the Bay Area’s free-thinking vibrations reached far and wide. Hurtling down Mount Tamalpais on a bicycle was one such bi-product. Naturally, the region spawned a number of bicycle brands rooted in those pioneering days. Including Marin Bikes.
The brand was born in 1986. Founded by Bob Buckley, Marin Bikes reflected the organic growth of the northern California off-road scene. Trails were built. Riding styles progressed. Bikes needed to keep pace. Buckley sought to produce an affordable range of bikes that would meet the demands of both terrain and rider. Hanging out at the iconic Sunshine Cycles in Fairfax, CA Buckley met soon-to-be National Champion and eventual Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Joe Murray. Murray became Marin’s first product manager and the brand took flight.
Marin Bikes eventually changed hands in 2011 after a few too many downs and not quite enough ups. But despite the change, the brand remains rooted in the very same soil. Under new and invigorated leadership Marin’s legacy continues. The bikes still bear names of legendary local spots and its Petaluma HQ isn’t too far away from the original office – which happened to be a recording studio rented from the band, Grateful Dead.
Marin’s forays into road bikes began as far back as 1991. Today Marin offer a comprehensive line-up of drop-bar bikes that pay homage to the brand’s origins. These are road and gravel bikes built for exploration and for surfaces that are less than perfect.
Marin’s Beyond Road range features four models: Headlands, Gestalt, Gestalt X and Nicasio. Each model is available in a number of builds to meet a range of budgets and component preferences. While each model differs they all share the Beyond Road Geometry, which Marin states “offers a blend of endurance road handling with enhanced stability for off pavement use”. Outside of the Beyond Road range, there’s a couple of commuter options, too.
Here’s a look at the key models in Marin’s drop-bar range…
The Headlands 2 retails for $2849, while the Headlands 1 costs $2399.
The Marin Headlands are one of gravel riding’s most iconic spots. So it perhaps should come as no surprise that Marin’s carbon grave bike bears their name . The bike comes in two models, Headlands 1 and Headlands 2, as well as being available as frameset only option.
The Headlands builds around a unidirectional full carbon frame that is typical of modern gravel chassis. There’s plenty of tire clearance – 700 x 45mm or 650b x 47mm – as well multiple mounts for cages and bags. Both point to Marin’s desire for the Headlands to be ready for longer trips over rugged terrain. However the geometry suggests that this is a bike that will perform on technical trails too: it utilizes the combination of short-ish chainstays paired with a longer top tube to keep the ride nimble.
The frameset comes with a seat tube port for internal dropper routing, further evidence of the Headlands’ versatility. The Headlands 2 even comes with dropper post as stock. Other notable details include a 1x drivechain on both models – Headlands 2 comes with a Shimano GRX hydro groupset, while the Headlands 2 opts for SRAM’s Apex 1 hydro offering. Other specification differences include a 700c wheel set on the 2 and a 650b wheel set on the 1.
Interestingly the Headlands also comes with mounts for both mudguards and a rear rack. A lightweight commuter then too, perhaps?
The 2021 Gestalt models start at $1099.
The Gestalt fits neatly into Marin’s Beyond Road category. Its geometry is much the same as the Headlands’; a blend that aims for comfort and stability without sacrificing handling. The 6061 aluminum frame has disc brakes, internal cable routing and plenty of mounts, including mudguard and rack eyelets. The Series 3 frame used on the Gestalt 2 adds thru-axles and a tapered headtube.
However unlike the Headlands the Gestalt maximum tire clearance is 700 x 35mm. By today’s ‘gravel’ standards this is pretty narrow. This probably makes the Gestalt more appealing to endurance road riders and commuters and for off-road journeys over miles of hardpacked gravel and maintained fire roads rather than rugged, steep double track and unpredictable trails.
The theme continues with the drivechain specs. Both of the 2021 models – the Gestalt 1 and Gestalt 2 – come equipped with 2x chainsets with a gearing range that is distinctly ‘all-road’. The 1 comes with a 9-speed 50/34compact chainset and an 11-32 cassette while the 2 pairs a 10-speed 50/34 chainset with an 11-34 cassette.
The Gestalt X10 retails at $1299, while the Gestalt X11 costs $2199.
Add an X and the Gestalt gets a lot more extreme. Marin describe the Gestalt X as “the mountain biker’s drop bar bike”. It appears built for the task.
Like the Gestalt series 3 frameset, the Gestalt X features a 6061 aluminum frame with internal routing, 142x12mm thru-axles, flat mount disc brakes, and rack and mudguard mounts. However, tire clearance is far more generous. There’s room for up to 700 x 42mm or 650c x 47mm tires here. And like the versatile Headlands model the frame is dropper-post ready. The geometry differs from the Gestalt too. Marin say its tuned for “more adventurous riding”. To achieve this the headtube angle is slacker, the bottom bracket is lower and the wheelbase is longer.
The Gestalt X comes in two offerings: the X10 and the X11. Both bikes run 1x chainsets with the 10 and 11 signifying the number of gears on offer. Both pair a 42t chainring with a 42t cassette to offer you a gravel-friendly climbing gear ratio of 1:1. Similarly both the X10 and the X11 are fitted with 700c wheels and 37mm rubber. The differences? The higher specced X11 uses a mix of FSA and SRAM Rival 1. It also features hydraulic brakes and comes with a dropper post as standard.
Named after a Marin County area famed for its trails, Nicasio is the brand’s Beyond Road steel bike. Using a 4130 CrMo frame gives it plenty of versatility and appeal. Endurance road. Light touring. Gravel explorer. The Nicasio seems primed for all these purposes.
There are two updated models for 2021, the Nicasio 1 and the Nicasio 2. The 2 features a few frameset upgrades, notably lighter tubing, thru-axles, flat mount brakes and a tapered headtube paired with a carbon fork. Both frames have full mudguard and rack mounts, and two to three bottle bosses.
The Nicasio line-up also features some additional builds. These include include the Nicasio + and the Nicasio Ridge, with the latter specced with a 1x drivechain, a dropper post and 650b x 47mm tires.
Regardless of the model, the shared geometry points to a stable ride: the lengthened chainstays are notable, helping to create a longer wheelbase than on either of the Gestalt models.
Prices start at $899 for the Nicasio +.
Lombard is one of San Francisco’s most iconic streets. It’s also the name of Marin’s urban drop-bar bike. Seemingly Marin designed the Lombard to function as both a weekday commuter and weekend tourer. Read the accompanying marketing copy and there’s a reoccurring theme – rugged and reliable. In short, Marin regards this as a bike that’s will excel within the city limits, while still being more than capable of escaping them.
Currently, there are two builds in the Lombard range, both featuring a Series 3 aluminum frame. However the Lombard 2 gets a carbon fork with thru-axles while the cheaper Lombard 1 sticks with aluminum. Both bikes feature disc brakes – mechanical on the 1, hydraulic on the 2 – and have plenty of tire clearance; up to 700 x 45mm. Its credentials as both commuter and light tourer are enhanced by its full quota of rack and mudguard mounts.
Both the Lombard 1 and 2 utilize a 2x drivechain; gearing range is what you’d expect from a typical road compact set-up. With the bike aimed at longer commutes as well as weekend riding, this gearing choice should make sense for most.
Prices for the Marin Lombard start at $899.
Marin’s Four Corners model aims firmly at those in search of adventure. It’s a rugged steel-framed touring bike; ready to carry everything, possibly even the kitchen sink.
The Utilitour 4130 CrMo frame and forks are home to six bottle mounts, rack and mudguard eyelets and ‘lowrider’ fork mounts. The geometry is dialed in accordingly; its generous stack height promotes all-day comfort while its long chainstays and wheelbase offer the stability needed for a fully-loaded bikepacking expedition, both on-road and off.
Marin say that the Four Corners geometry is “based on biometric fit data”. The result is five different frame sizes – XS-XL – and with size proportionate 650B or 700C wheels. Other specifications are what you might expect for a bike of this nature; the 2021 model features a touring-friendly triple-chainset that provides the wide gearing range that you need for loaded touring. On-the-go repairs are made easier thanks to mechanical disc brakes and external housing throughout.
Like most touring rigs, the Four Corners would also make an able commuter; especially if you need to lug a fair amount of gear to work. The 2021 Four Corners bike retails at $1049.