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Marin Rift Zone Review: Best Budget Short Travel Bike of 2021

Best Budget Short Travel Bike of 2021

  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Travel: 125mm rear/130mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66.6

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: 32.25 lbs (aluminum frame)

Price: $1,679

What We Like: Budget all day rider

What We Don’t: It is heavy

Marin nailed it with their new Rift Zone. The new modern geometry that they have given this bike is excellent. It is the definition of “long, low, and slack,” and it is a blast to ride. The price of getting on some carbon framed bikes with well thought out components is great to see. This will offer a lot of people the chance to get out and explore their local trails. Marin even beefed up the front brakes so the bike can offer a bit more assistance when the geometry gets you in some tricky spots. For the price and the fun ride, the Marin Rift Zone is our Best Budget Short Travel Bike of 2021.
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  • Climbing Ability 90% 90%
  • Downhill Ability 90% 90%
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Pros

Upgraded Rear Suspension

Cons

Bottom Bracket Has Had Some Issues

Travel: 120mm rear/130mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66.5

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 475mm (large frame)

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Pros

Downhill Ability

Cons

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Travel: 120mm rear/130mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66.5

Seat Tube Angle: 76.2

Reach: 470mm (large frame)

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The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

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  • Climbing Ability 80% 80%
  • Downhill Ability 80% 80%
  • Overall Fun 90% 90%

Pros

Budget All Day Rider

Cons

It Is Heavy

Travel: 125mm rear/130mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66.6

Seat Tube Angle: 76

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: 32.25 lbs (aluminum frame)

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Pros

Downhill Prowess

Cons

Seat Angle Could Be Steeper

Travel: 115mm rear/120mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 67.5

Seat Tube Angle: 75.3

Reach: 473mm (large frame)

Weight: 26.23 lbs

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Cons

Slow On Climbs

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Seat Tube Angle: 76

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Pros

DELTA Link Rear Suspension

Cons

Expensive Build Options

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Seat Tube Angle: 77

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Seat Tube Angle: 74

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Pros

Down Tube Storage

Cons

Suspension Sag While Climbing

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Seat Tube Angle: 75

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Cons

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Pros

Super Lightweight

Cons

Knock Block in Headset

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Seat Tube Angle: 75

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Pros

High Quality Components

Cons

Heavy

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Head Tube Angle: 66

Seat Tube Angle: 76.6

Reach: 470mm

Weight: 31.97 lbs (aluminum frame)

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Pros

New Rear Suspension Linkage, SWAT Bottom Bracket Storage

Cons

Price

Travel: 120mm rear/130mm fork

Head Tube Angle: 66.5

Seat Tube Angle: 74.5

Reach: 480mm (large frame)

Weight: 27.80 lbs

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Cons

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Travel: 120mm rear/140mm fork

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Seat Tube Angle: 75.5

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When the company motto is “Made for Fun,” you know you are headed for a good time. While not being like the larger bike companies such as Trek or Specialized, Marin has been creating and innovating the mountain bike world since the mid-80s. With the improved Rift Zone bikes, they continue to innovate and bring affordable, functional bikes to the market for every rider. At the price and functionality of the Rift Zone, it was our pick for the best budget short travel bike.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

The Bike

There are several build styles of the Rift Zone, which we’ll get into later but just know that they have a bike for every price bracket and, for the most part, have opted to fill their bikes with quality parts to improve the experience for every rider. This new Rift Zone all comes with 125mm of travel, which was upped from 120mm in last year’s model.

On a large, there is now a reach of 480mm with a very slack 65.5-degree head tube attached to a 44mm offset fork. The chainstay on every build is a wee 425mm to keep that back end under control on climbs and descents. These are similar numbers to the Norco Optic, for reference.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

Climbing

With a comfortable 76-degree seat tube angle, the Marin puts you in a good position for all-day climbs. Even with the slack head tube, the Rift Zone handles nimbly on climbs, and the compression levers on the suspension can firm things up to improve pedaling performance when needed. The nose can be slightly tricky to keep on the ground in steep sections, but as with most of the new short-travel bikes with more reach, they are competent climbers over the whole day.

The bike itself is heavy, over 30lbs when fully loaded, but for most riders, this will likely go unnoticed with the overall efficiency of the bike on climbs. Overall it is a good climbing bike. It is not in the same ballpark as the Ibis Ripley, but for the price, it will make most riders quite happy.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

Downhill

Poppy and playful are a few words that come to mind when riding the Marin Rift Zone down some trails. It is able to catch air off of the littlest kickers and have the MultiTrac suspension kick in to make the landing soft and ready for the next hit. Even with more aggressive tires, the bike is playful on corners and really nimble with the wider handlebars and short chainstays. Legit, taking corners aggressively was a blast.

Able to eat up terrain more often associated with long-travel bikes, the 4 pot brakes help to get you out of trouble when the geometry makes you feel invincible. Marin has gone with a beefier 203mm rotor on the front paired with a 180mm rotor on the back, both Shimano. This bike impresses and will keep you grinning to the cooler at the end of a long day on the trail.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

The two-piston brakes that come on all of the builds on the Ripley may be a bit soft depending on your riding style so just be warned that they could use an upgrade if you’re hitting long descents.

Build Options

The Rift Zone is available as frame only (carbon front triangle, with alloy rear triangle) for $1,999. From there, Marin offers two carbon frames with alloy rear triangles, the Marin Rift Zone Carbon 1, $3,399, and the Carbon 2, $3,999, are well priced for carbon frames and the Shimano components that come with it.

There are three aluminum frame options starting at $1,599 and going up to $2,599, again with smart components to keep the bike affordable but ready to hit the trail without any touch-ups.

The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

The Bottom Line

The price is right with the Marin Rift Zone bikes. They have smart components and come in a good variety of frame styles for every wallet. The bike geo is just as modern and progressive as the incredible Norco Optic, and it keeps you balanced and out of trouble on a variety of terrain. The MultiTrac suspension helps to keep small bump sensitivity while being a cushion on larger drops. Sure on some climbs, you’ll want to use the lever to lock out the rear suspension, but that isn’t the end of the world.

This bike, as the Marin motto states, is “Made for Fun,” and they aren’t wrong. With 125mm of rear travel and a 130mm fork, this bike is ready to get rowdy but won’t let you let your hair down too far. It’ll get you home after a nasty night on the town. Again, for the price, it is truly hard to beat.
The Best Short Travel Mountain Bikes: Marin Rift Zone - Gear Hacker

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We participate in affiliate programs to help us fund Gear Hacker. Some of the links in this website are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product using our link, we will earn a small commission. Don’t worry! This comes at no additional cost to you, and we will never base our reviews on whether or not we earn a commission off of a product. With that said, if you find our review helpful and decide to purchase an item we review, we would be very appreciative if you use our links to do so. It will help us bring you more awesome content in the future!