Marin Hawk Hill review

Meet a trail bike that's actually affordable

27.5 All Mountain Trail
Marin Hawk Hill

The Hawk Hill doesn’t look like a $1500 bike.

What is it

The Marin Hawk Hill is a full suspension trail bike that delivers a premium experience at a budget price. At its heart is a nimble aluminum frame with 120mm of rear travel, a 130mm up front, and 27.5 wheels.

Marin Hawk Hill

The Hawk Hill comes with a modern cockpit, wheels, and great tires.

What sets this bike apart is the attention to detail. In the sub $2000 market, most competitors spec narrow bars, crappy tires, and too many chainrings. Marin went a different route, outfitting the Hawk Hill the same way a savvy mountain biker would. That means a short stem/wide bar, 1x drivetrain, meaty tires, and wide rims.

Marin Hawk Hill

Marin’s higher end full suspension models use a flex stay. To help keep costs down, the Hawk Hill has a rear pivot near the axle. They call this linkage design MultiTrack.

Originally available at just one price point, Marin has recently expanded the Hawk Hill family. There are now three different builds. The base model, tested here, retails for $1500. The new Hawk Hill 2 and 3 utilize the same frame, but with higher end componentry. Those models retail for $1950 and $2650 respectively.

Marin also offers the Hawk Hill in a plus sized version. This bike, the B-17, is available at the same three price points. For kids, Marin just launched the Hawk Hill Jr. This gem ships with 24” wheels, but can be upgraded to 26er.

Pros
  • Bike costs less than some aluminum frames
  • Playful handling
Cons
  • For the money, there’s nothing to complain about.
Mtbr’s Take

The Hawk Hill is the mountain bike you’d build for your best friend. It’s humble, but it has all the right pieces. That’s incredible considering it retails for $1500. You see, it’s easy to build a high end bike. When money’s no object, you spec the best.

Marin Hawk Hill

One way Marin shaved costs is by using Shimano’s entry level brakes. These don’t have the same bite as more expensive models, but the longer levers (and 180mm rotors) provide good leverage.

When you’re trying to hit a budget, things get interesting. Brands often struggle to perfect this recipe. They’ll often take shortcuts like spec’ing too many chainrings, crappy tires, or tiny little bars. The closer you look at the details, the more apparent the cost cutting. Marin’s Hawk Hill takes an altogether different approach. The closer you look, the more impressed you become.

Marin Hawk Hill 2018 Geometry

The Hawk Hill is available in five sizes. The geometries are beginner friendly, without inhibiting future growth.

The aluminum frame may not be at the forefront of the enduro bro trend, but that’s not the point. It’s a trail bike which blends agile handling with sensible numbers. After all, this bike is targeted towards newer riders. The end product is both playful and capable, without sacrificing much on either end of the spectrum. Even experienced riders will enjoy the bike’s sharp handling characteristics. That means that unlike most entry level bikes, this is a frame you could slowly upgrade and enjoy for years.

Marin Hawk Hill

Wide rims provide better sidewall support for tires, allowing you to run lower air pressure. The end result is better traction. Stock, these wheels ship with tubes, but the setup is tubeless compatible.

As it ships stock, there’s little room for complaint. The base level model comes equipped with a house branded 780mm bar, 60mm stem, and 27mm wide rims. These rims are paired with 2.35 Schwalbe Hans Dampf tires. Can we please take a second to appreciate the choice of grippy tires and modern rims? There are plenty of brands with more expensive offerings that don’t get this right.

Marin Hawk Hill

The stock wheels use a 135 Q/R, but the frame can be converted to a 142×12 thru axle. With the industry move to boost, there’s a ton of great deals to be found on “old wheels.”

There’s more genius lurking behind the drivetrain. To nail down a wide range 1x at a reasonable cost, Marin paired a Shimano Deore 10-speed drivetrain with a Sunrace 11-42T cassette. The system doesn’t shift with the same precision as an OEM Shimano cassette, but it’s damn close. We’re willing to overlook the slight performance drop for the gearing and cost savings.

Marin Hawk Hill

The Recon fork uses a Motion Control damper, which would have been high end a few years ago. This system also gives you the option of locking out the fork for long climbs.

On the suspension front, we were pleasantly surprised with the RockShox Recon. It’s remarkably plush, albeit heavy due to the steel uppers. The X-Fusion shock was disappointing in comparison. Even at 30% sag, the ride was on the firmer side. Because the shock lacks a climb switch, this helped the bike feel spritelier under hard acceleration, but it was a touch harsh on descents.

Marin Hawk Hill

The Hawk Hill is made for fun.

With a price tag of $1500, some compromises had to be made. All things considered, the Hawk Hill 1 is an incredible package. We’ve tested dozens of sub-$3000 full suspension builds over the years and have always come away disappointed with one thing or another. This is a bike that proves you can have fun without spending a fortune. However, if we had the money, we’d probably spring for the Hawk Hill 2. This build retails for an extra $400, but comes with a dropper post, better rear shock, lighter fork, and SRAM 1×11 drivetrain.

Marin Hawk Hill

In the world of high end mountain bikes, $1500 is often the cost of a new wheelset.

Bottom Line

For many riders, the big selling point for the Hawk Hill will be price. At $1500, it’s not cheap, but it’s a veritable bargain in a sport where high-end rigs can top 10 large. But don’t let the price fool you. This trail bike isn’t just for beginners. With contemporary geometry, well thought out spec, and appealing aesthetics, even advanced riders can enjoy it.

Rating: 5 out of 5 5 Flamin' Chili Peppers
Price: $1500
More info: www.marinbikes.com

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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