Gary Fisher Marlin

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2001 Marlin : Off road wishes, Ramen noodle budget

Oct 15, 2000
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:The least expensive off road bike to date

Cons:Pleanty, but at this price you can't complain

Working at a shop I am constantly encountered by the classic dilemma in cycling, when wishes exceed budgets. For most of us it means having to opt for the slightly heavier bike, or choosing the $400 suspension fork, as opposed to the way cooler $600 one. But for some people out there who lack the disposable income it is often the choice between riding off road or not riding at all. For all you students out there this review is for you.

To get the basics out of the way, there is no bike in this price range that is going to be a knock your socks off performer. These bikes, while a good value, are nowhere near some of the higher end stuff in terms of performance. What you are buying is the minimum quality and spec that is prudent to ride off road. Buying one of these bikes for off road use is like going to the dentist who got through dental school with a 1.8 average and a healthy contribution to the dean from "mummie and dahdie". Sure he likes the nitrus a bit to much but if you need a dentist you'll go on the hope that he was awake the day they covered the stuff that you need done.

Ok, so what makes the Marlin so special? Two things; first it meets all of the minimum requirements for riding off road, second it does so for $100 less than you could get the same minimum for last year with a price of $430. These minimum features that I talk about are basically the three most important and expensive parts of the bike; the frame, fork and wheels.

The frame is crafted of 7000 series aluminum by the finest robots taiwan has to offer. The aluminum alloy used offers a frame that is both lighter and stiffer then its steel counterparts in this price range, but it is not the fact that the frame is light that makes it nice however. Most of the time they spec bikes under $500 with a recreationally set up frame, basically it mean that it will handle like a 1974 caddie when it comes to carving up your locala single track. The marlin though uses real live off road geometry, Genesis to be exact.

Genesis geometry is basically the latest brainchild of off road guru and company namesake, Gary Fisher. The whole idea is to get your weight rearward to reduce the risk of going over the handlebars. In the process of doing so they were able to make the bike handle faster, more stable, and climb better than any other out there. Best of all this is not some watered down ride that many companies offer, the tale of the tape reveals that the frame on the marlin is set up to the exact same geometry as the $2500 Supercaliber, the bike of choice for the Gary Fisher/Saab racing team. What it all comes down to is that genesis will make riding much more fun, especially if you are a beginner used to riding beginner bikes.


The next big thing to cover is the fork, there are three things that you want in a fork, it must be adjustable, rebuildable, and it must say RockShox Marzocchi or Manitou on it. The RockShox Jett as specd on the Marlin offers all of these. If you have the suspension it needs to be set up for your weight and style in order to be effective. Second, most people who have a suspension fork want it to work for more than a year, so you, or your shop, will need to be able to take it apart so that it can be cleaned and lubed in order to prolong life. The only downside to the fork spec'd on the Marlin is that the travel is somewhat limited at only 60mm of travel. Oh well beggars can't be choosers.

Finally the wheels. Wheels must have double wall rims. This basically means that the rim is a box section rather than being just a U-shaped piece of aluminum. The Bontrager Corvair rims meet this requirement and go a step beyond by offering a machined braking surface for smooth and consistent braking. Another nice plus is the use of a Shimano brand rear hub. As reliablity is concerned shimano hubs are up there with death and taxes.

Drivetrain, Brakes? Beyond saying that the bike is spec'd with a mix Shimano Altus and Alivo components with a couple of taiwan no name parts filling out the balance, I won't say much else because it does not matter. While the drivetrain works, it is by no means of the quality to call an "off road" drivetrain. In this case however, smooth reliable shifting is a luxury that cannot be afforded.

If cash flow is a bit of a problem but you want to ride off-road, the Marlin is the bike for you. Don't fool yourself though, if you can swing the extra $100 or $200 dollars for a Tassajara, or Hoo Koo E Koo by brown baggin it for a month or two, go for the nicer bike, it will end up riding better and costing less in repairs in the long run. But if you are already brown baggin the lunch, eating the government cheese or whatever, the Marlin is the bike for you. But remember not to sell too much blood, you'll need it on the first climb.



Recommend this product? Yes

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