What Ya Got There?
Let’s be honest here, as human beings, it’s pretty easy to dismiss anything that doesn’t conform to the masses. In the case of Marin bicycles, and more specifically the Wolf Ridge 6.7 tested here, the uniqueness in question stems from none other than the Jon Whyte designed Quad-Link suspension platform. We’ll come right out and admit it; in this day of minimalist-looking linkages coupled to swoopy and curved frame spars, the complex and busy looking Marin earned its shares of gawkers, rubber-necks, and naysayers. The downtube features a nice bend as per the current trend and the swingarm is gorgeously arced and formed leaving only the Quad-Link 2.0 as the prime suspect for the prying eyes. If there’s one thing the crew of MBT can relate to, it’s the old saying that one should never judge a book by its cover. In that line of thinking, it’s equally foolish to judge a mountain bike by its linkage.
Our Wolf Ridge reads like a typical trail ensemble with a slight lean toward the aggressive side of things. Squish duties were handled by a RockShox Pike air sprung fork (U-Turn equipped) in the front and a Fox Racing Shox RP23 in the rear. Travel numbers came in at 5 and a ½ inches on both sides. Drivetrain components were a hodgepodge of various bits: Shimano LX group shifters and XT derailleur, SRAM PG-970 Cassette, and FSA Gap MegaExo cranks. Syncross DP25 Double Wall rims came wrapped in Kenda Nevegal (2.35”) rubber. Brakes and levers are all Hayes Stroker Trail series.
All told our aluminum size medium bike weighed in at 35.1 pounds (with pedals) and would set an interested buyer back $2950.
The Walk Around
Even before the complexity of the Quad-Link 2.0 cluster enters the equation, Marin bikes have a unique and easily identifiable style all their own. The Wolf Ridge is no exception and the black and white motif example that we rode was living proof.
As far as the linkage itself is concerned, don’t be intimidated by what is essentially a four-bar design with a little added ingenuity applied for good measure. Let us try to cut through the technical mumbo-jumbo the dealer likes to spread on thick in effort to express the system in simple English. As the wheel encounters terrain imperfections (small rocks, sticks, roots, etc.) the Quad-Link 2.0 is designed to allow for backward motion of the wheel as it slips into its travel. Now think about that for a moment. Not only does the real wheel move up in response but backward as well. Of course, if chains were made of silly putty instead of metal links, the ideal situation would be to allow the wheel to continue on rearward to remove any sense of a square edge hit or smack associated with clawing over an obstruction.
But this is the real world and eventually a rearward moving wheel is going to run out of slack due to chain tension. In the case of the Wolf Ridge, this happens about a third of the way through its travel. Here the linkage takes over by shifting the path of the wheel back onto one in which the bike’s wheelbase is no longer affected (in other words: no further chain growth). But what about the initial tension already caused by the motion in the first place? We’re glad you asked. This tension works to the bikes advantage by slowing down movement of the shock since, after all, to pass through a third of the available travel most likely means a big hit. Now, at the steeper part of the curve, the amount of shock travel to wheel movement increases. Say what? This keeps you from blowing through the entire stroke the way you clearly swallowed up your first 1/3. Think stiffer as you progress/ stiffest just before bottoming out. See, we told you it was simple!
From the saddle, the Wolf Ridge feels a bit more downhill in orientation than it does XC or even all mountain. How so? A slack head angle (66.5 degrees) mated to a short (50mm) stem makes the bike feel rather stretched out with the rider sitting fairly upright. Getting a leg up on the pedals, however, assures the rider that this rig is far lighter than a true shuttle-runner with steady building acceleration. The Wolf Ridge works best under a rider who builds momentum into a steady-head of steam (no XC spurt-on power here). Once the speeds start increasing (be it either due to leg power or gravity’s assistance on a descent) the Wolf Ridge begins to demonstrate its true personality. We found the bike flowed really well in these situations thanks mostly to that slack head angle we mentioned above. The Wolf Ridge rider doesn’t snap the bike around corners or switchbacks so much as he suggests its lines through steady leverage at the bars.
Don’t worry about the rutted chop that doesn’t appear until half way around the switchback, the Pike (especially in full travel mode) and RP23 work quite harmoniously with the chassis to keep the Marin planted firmly in its line. We expected some clatter (or at least some clunking) out of the Quad-Link 2.0 setup but never did any such annoyance reveal itself, even in the rock gardens!
Braking from the Hayes Stroker Trail units was quite up to the task as well on the flats and certainly on the trails. However, their smooth modulation and firm grip tends to loosen up a bit on really steep descents or high-speed sections (when some would say you need them most). We learned fairly early on to brake a few seconds earlier than we’re accustomed on similarly spec’ed bikes.
As much as we would liked to have been able to sweet talk our way all the way through this report, the truth is the Marin Wolf Ridge exhibited a few issues during our short time spent with the bike. The first of which comes in the form of the dreaded “b-word”. Hard sprints, out of the saddle efforts, any road riding, and aggressive climbing will cause some pedal bob. Keep in mind this is far from the bob of yesteryear whereby pedal power was sucked up on its way to the real wheel- this is more like rhythmic movement. The good news is that it can be cured by activating the little ProPedal lever on the RP23 to firm things up back there. Yes we know we’ve been spoiled by linkage designs that do their best to obsolete the shock’s own platform damping circuit of late.
Which leads directly to our second complaint: The rather obtrusive shock cradle does make simple tuning of the shock’s plethora of switches, knobs, and levers much more difficult than it has to be. On the Marin, reaching down to flip ProPedal lever off is not an in-saddle affair but rather a come to a complete stop, dismount, and take an interior stab situation.
Finally, and again relating to the linkage configuration, have your knee pads handy even if you don’t consider yourself the type of rider who requires them. Two of our testers came back with skinned knees thanks to the linkage bolts.
It’s easy to get into the line of thinking that the Marin Wolf Ridge is not a do-it-all bike for just about any type of rider, but then again nobody ever said it was supposed to be. Instead what Marin has created is a confident descender that is only a few component swaps away from being able to hang with true downhill-specific hardware. But unlike the sap on the downhill rig, a ski lift isn’t mandatory to get this bike back up the mountain.
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