ENDURO 2015 Long Term Test | First Ride: Marin Attack Trail
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I excitedly un-boxed my long term test bike from it’s postal packaging, full carbon, short, playful and with looks to compete with the finest of western full-suss bling. It was around May time and it looked the part, fully kitted with parts for potential trail slaying. I was anxious to build her up and get her out on the local tracks; initial first look here- here. These bikes had taken some fast riders through a couple of seasons of UK Enduro racing, giving them some great results too, so would it do what it says in the title, could it attack the trails?
I have put his bike through lots of different days of hard riding, Welsh trail-centres and up-lifts and long Shropshire XC rides in all manners of weather conditions. After the first few rides I realized there were a couple of changes to be made, some for a better feel and others just for rider preference.
The alloy Easton Haven bars and 70mm stem were replaced with that of the 50mm Joystick digger stem with its matching Analog Carbon bars, skinny Fabric grips attached to the ends for comfort. The E-Thirteen chain guide (as suspected from the start) ended up splitting through the plastic guide area and has been ditched for a trick little MRP carbon number. Fabric also came into play, with their comfortable new saddle, taking place of the ugly brute of a Marin version. Finally the Schwalbe Hans Dampf snakeskins had to be ditched after multiple slices and berps, these were replaced by the trusty Maxxis High Roller 2 trail tyre up front and a fast rolling Maxxis Ardent on the rear.
As for the rest of the componentry, most of it has been fine, except that is, for the KS Lev’s Southpaw lever. The lever’s clamp has zero grip on the bars, no matter how much they are tightened up, and with carbon bars this is made even worse. Tape has been added for a bit more extra grip, but still the clamp turns away from the rider; something I have just had to get used to. Also something that can be a tad annoying is the DT Swiss’s hub’s tendency to let go of its freehub body as that and the Sram 11 speed cassette become detached occasionally if ever the rear wheel is removed. Although I’m not usually a fan of the Sram Guide brakes, these ones I have to say have been faultless on their performance, even in the shit when they usually meet their limits.
After nearly 500k this bike really has served well in terms of reliability and toughness. In that whole time I have replaced one chain, one dropper cable and had to remove one ‘coming undone a lot’ linkage bolt to sort it with Loctite. Compared to some bikes I have run this is seriously impressive, the bearings and stiffness of the back end are still amazingly like new and the raw carbon is fantastic for keeping that ‘fresh outta the box’ look.
I weigh in at 85kg so decided to try 20% sag front and rear to start with. This was great up the hills, but with the suspension being very progressive and the bike being a little on the short side, then this led to a sketchy un-stable ride at speed and felt like the bike lost out on small bump sensitivity on the stutter-bump terrain. After lots of messing I decided to settle on 30% sag for a much smoother ride.
On the ups the Attack Trail’s linkage mixed with the Rockshox Monarch Plus’s climb switch makes for a very proficient climber, marred only by the bike’s short 1167mm wheelbase, slack 73.5 degree seat angle and 606.4mm actual top tube length. The shortness of the bike and lay-back of the seat tends to make the bike a little wheelie-prone on the steeper of the climbs. But with the bike sporting a 66.5 degree head angle and low 335.5 BB height it is pretty nimble on the tight turns uphill as well as down.
This is where this bike comes alive, turn the bars and it goes exactly in the direction it’s pointed. When it comes to the term ‘pop’, I think that was made for this bike. There may be a few down-sides to a short bike, but there are also up-sides too, including the absolute feeling of fun and grin-factor when chucking it into tight bermed turns. For the pics we visited Bike Park Wales’s new blue trail, the longest blue trail in the UK. This is like the biggest fastest pump track around, 9 ½ minutes of pure genius track construction, I really wouldn’t have wanted anything else on that trail; I even taught myself to get the back tyre to make that distinctive noise as the tyre hits its limit of grip in the turns. On the faster looser turns I would occasionally feel the bike struggle for grip, maybe hitting the limit of the suspension, where the initial plushness of the Fox set-up would be more effective.
The downhill capability of this bike depends on what terrain we are talking about. Tight rooty or rocky turns and she will hold her line tight offering the rider reward for turning in sharp, but occasionally on the faster, rougher stuff this is where the price can be paid for a short bike as things can tend to get a bit twitchy up-front. On the flip-side of the bike’s length again, is it’s fantastic performance at pinging off jumps, this thing pops out over stuff with the greatest of ease, you find yourself opting to jump small sections just for the fun of it after the briefest of pump from the tiniest of up-slopes.
I actually took this bike to Peaty’s Steel City DH race, which is just a quick blast down a very trail-park type stone track with jumps in. Here the bike was in its element and took me to fourth in my class, so it really proves its worth in the right conditions. So far it has been a joy to ride this bike and also one that still turns heads when pulling it out of the van at riding centres. When it comes to cleaning bikes I am not shy, always opting for the use of my powerful jetwash. So this really is testament to the quality and reliability of the bearings fitted, many VPP bikes would have paid many a visit to the local bike shop in that time for full replacements having spat their dummies out months ago! This 12.7kg (28lbs) bike came in at €6850 (£5000) so it aint cheap compared to some of your more budget internet bikes, but it’s also a lot about service, and after witnessing first hand the poor after-sales of one of these brands I would be looking more at a shop sale for my money. Winter is nearly upon us, and that’s when this bike’s reliability really will come into play, so watch this space for more info.
Words: Jim Buchanan Pics: Isac Paddock