Marin Pine Mountain 2 Review

As I stated in my Surly Krampus Review blog post a while back, the Surly Krampus was the gateway drug that got me into both mountain biking and bikepacking.  It is a versatile machine that does everything reasonably well, but has no mountain biking/bikepacking niche where I’d say it’s truly exceptional.

Enter the Marin Pine Mountain 2.  While I’d say that the PM2 is comparable to the Krampus in terms of terrain versatility for bikepacking, it outshines the Krampus by having a few exceptional traits which I’ll mention below.  The general schema of this review will include the following: 1) Modifications I felt were necessary investments, 2) the bike’s ride quality, 3) some complaints, and 4) a general summary of the bike.  Hopefully this information is helpful for those looking to upgrade or transition to a new rig in the summer riding season.

2016 Marin Pine Mountain 2

Purpose: Mountain Biking, Bikepacking

Modifications:

Handlebar: Replaced the stock Marin Flat Top Riser (720mm) for a Thomson All-Mountain Carbon (730mm).  This switch wasn’t a necessity, but since I had the Thomson bar already, I figured I’d slap it on the bike.

Tires: Anticipating that the bike would come with the poorly reviewed WTB Trail Blazers (27.5X2.8), since that’s how it is advertised on Marin’s site, I purchased a WTB Trail Boss (27.5X3.0) to put in the front, which I hoped would counter some of the wonky cornering issues talked about in the Trail Blazer reviews I read.  However, when the bike arrived at my bike shop, it instead came stock with Schwalbe Nobby Nics, which receive great reviews.  Unfortunately, my bike shop couldn’t refund me for the Trail Boss I’d already purchased, so I simply put it on the front and now have a spare Nobby Nick for the future.

Pedals: I went with the Xpedo Spry platform pedals for this bike, mostly because they were somewhat cheap (MSRP = $80) AND they weigh in at 260 grams per set, which is WAY lighter than all the competition at this price point.  So far, so good.

Handlebar Grips: Replaced the stock Marin grips for the Ergon GP1 handlebar grips which I again transplanted from my Krampus to the PM2.  These grips are excellently suited for both mountain biking and bikepacking; the material is nice and grippy and the grip wings provide nice palm support when needing to stretch the fingers out after a white-knuckle descent.

Ride:

 

Similar to the Krampus, the PM2 can handle pretty much any kind of terrain mountain biking and bikepacking have to offer.  Whether it’s off-road dirt, fire roads, forest roads, packed snow, sand, or the various types of singletrack, the PM2 can ride pretty much anything, and ride it rather well.

One thing worth noting is the bike’s riding position.  It’s a comfortable bike that doesn’t sit as upright as many other mountain bikes, making it better for long distance riding in my opinion, because it transfers more weight to your hands and feet versus applying the majority of the pressure on the other contact point with the bike: your derriere.  Having significant road and tour riding experience, I think that this riding position is more conducive to long-term comfort, plus with mountain biking it helps keep the front wheel planted when climbing up particularly steep grades.  However, others may prefer a more upright position for aggressive downhill riding.  A personal preference conundrum, to be sure.

The bike also has a relatively slack riding geometry, with a 69 degree head tube angle and 70 degree seat tube angle.  This is a happy medium, of sorts, in the mountain biking world.  The angle is slack enough that you don’t feel like you’re going to endo every time you have a technical descent, without compromising completely on pedaling efficiency.  If this is all going over your head by the way, singletrack.com has a simple explanation of how bike geometry affects bike performance here..

The handling of the bike is also affected by the bike’s relatively short chain stay, which is 437 millimeters.  This is pretty short for a plus-sized bike, and keeps it feeling nimble and spry when riding through whoops and switchbacks at breakneck speeds.

And I’d say that the bike does feel somewhat nimble and spry overall, but perhaps I’m not a reliable source, having come from the world of the 36-pound Krampus.  Weighing in at just under 30 pounds, though, the weight is not bad at all for a steel framed, 3-inch tire gladiator.  I think that the smaller 27.5+ wheelbase helps the bike get up to speed more quickly than the 29+ Krampus.

Finally, the gear ratio on the PM2 is perfect for me.  I can pedal at over 20 miles an hour, which almost seems unnecessary for a mountain bike, and also climb up 18% demon mountains with minimal sub-vocalized cursing; and while some might complain it doesn’t have a low enough granny gear, I think it’s perfect, considering the 1X11 system’s advantage of nixing the front derailleur altogether.

Because I could continue to talk (and have with my fellow bike nerds) for hours about the beautiful ride qualities of this bike, I’ll finish this section with a few other noteworthy observations in bullet form, to avoid being overly verbose:

Other Positives:

  • Bike/Rider Symbiosis: I feel more ‘in’ the bike than on the bike compared to the Krampus, possibly because of a slightly lower BB and smaller wheel diameter.
  • Keeping the Rubber on the Road: The stock Nobby Nic in the back is incredibly grippy in a number of conditions (I replaced the front Nobby Nic with a WTB Trail Boss).
  • Well Thought Out Specs: The PM2 feels quite ‘playful’ on downhills, and I’m able to ride at downhill speeds I’ve never ridden before, while still retaining a modicum of safety.  I attribute this playfulness to a number of thoughtful touches on the PM2, namely the more stable thru-axles, the reliable Fox Float 34 front-suspension, the already discussed trail geometry, the 27.5+ tire size, and the assortment of other pleasingly contemporary MTB technology/components that make up the bike’s kit (dropper post, 1X11 drivetrain, boost hub spacing, etc.).  These well thought out specs make it less likely to become outdated as quickly as other comparable bikepacking-oriented rigs.

Some of the Negatives:

  • Rear Tire Clearance: The back tire has poor chain clearance in the granny gear if using a 3” Nobby Nic.  Fortunately, I have a bike mechanic at my LBS who spaced out the crankset and rear cassette just enough that there is no longer automatic rub in the granny gear.  I plan on eventually switching the rear tire to a 2.8” or less in the future.
  • Lack of Eyelets: Eyelets are sadly lacking on a bike intentionally built for bikepacking.  The Krampus doesn’t claim to be made for weekend warrior trips, but the PM2 does, which is why it must be asked to account for such a treasonous decision.  I think I saw numerous eyelets adorning the 2017 version of the PM2, so hopefully this decisional quandary rights itself in the future.
  • Triangle Space: The custom look of a sloping downtube is nice-looking and all, but it does make for a slightly small-ish triangle, effectively taking away precious cargo room for a framebag.
  • Framebag Foibles: Marin is definitely allowed some design mistakes, this being their first substantial remodel of their PM2, but one thing that needs to be changed is the top tube frame bolt that lies closest to the handlebar stem; it is WAY too close to the downtube to be used effectively for a framebag, or anything for that matter, without scraping up the frame with a hex key.  I ended up utilizing their cool and innovative top tube eyelets by making a bolt-on framebag for the bike, but had to be creative with how to get the bag installed without the use of this bolt.  See my blog post on how to sew a framebag for the PM2 here.
  • Low Bottom Bracket: This is more about me adjusting to a new bike, but the low-ish bottom bracket is more prone to pedal strikes than my Krampus was, which I’ve fallen victim to a number of times.
  • Incomplete Internal Routing: I LOVE that Marin decided to utilize internal routing on the PM2 – it makes the bike look so much cleaner.  But why not make internal routing throughout, instead of partial internal routing?  This would make the ‘clean’ look of the bike even cleaner.
  • Versatility problems with the Wheelset: This is probably just a matter of preference, but I wish the bike came with rims that could accommodate slightly smaller tires.  Velocity Blunt 35 rims would have been great, for instance, because you can run a 3” tire on them, but also run a 2.8” tire or God forbid a 2.7/6” tire if some company eventually has the brains to make them.

Summary:

If looking at the ‘positives’ and ‘negatives’ lists alone, one might get the incorrect impression that I am not totally and completely enamored with this bike.  This is of course not the case.  I think this bike is as close to perfection as possible, but nobody is perfect, right?  Marin is a small company in California who just so happened to wander into the realm of bikepacking with what could quite possibly be the best suited bikepacking bike currently on the market, without compromising its ability to shred singletrack unloaded as well.  Like the Krampus, it does bikepacking well and can handle pretty much any sort of terrain imaginable, but it outperforms the Krampus in its ability to ride singletrack faster, more confidently, and more safely.

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18 replies »

  1. Thanks for the informative review. I’ve narrowed my next bike purchase down to either this or the Jamis Dragonslayer, but I haven’t been able to find a place with the PM2 or a similar Marin bike to test drive.

    • Yeah, I had the same problem Matt, and I was trying to decide between the exact same two bikes. I decided to take a leap of faith and simply go for the PM2 because I like the simplicity of the 1X11 drivetrain and I like that it comes with a dropper post, both things that separate it from the Dragonslayer.

      Now that I have the bike, I think there are other reasons to pick it over the Dragonslayer as well, but ultimately, they’re both great bikes, and if you have a local bike shop that sells the Dragonslayer, I’m sure you wouldn’t be disappointed if you went that route.

      Good luck with the decision!

  2. Yet another love letter to your bike. This blog provides way too much fodder for internet procrastination, especially considering I literally haven’t ridden a bike in over a decade (seriously, over a decade).

    • Procrastinate away; you’ve already got the introduction done for that little dissertation essay you’re writing, so really, what is there to do OTHER than look at random bike pictures and bike-affiliated love letters? 🙂

  3. Much to consider in this review… great read. The bike ticks a lot of boxes but for me I am not a fan of pedal strike so terrain like rutted tracks present an unwelcome challenge.
    I’m a bit puzzled about the last words you wrote: “God forbid a 2.7/6” tire if some company eventually has the brains to make them.”
    A 2.7 tyre – but 6″ what?
    Greetings from New Zealand…

    • Yes, the pedal strikes are a bit concerning, but remember that I’m coming from the Krampus, a bike with an abnormally high bottom bracket.

      What I meant by the 2.7/6″ tire comment was that I’m hoping some tire companies come out with a 27.5X2.7″ and 27.5X2.6″ tire at some point in the near future, in order to provide even more options for 27+ riders.

      My complaint, in reference to the rim size of the bike, is that when you have a 50mm wide rim, smaller tires such as these can’t be used, but a smaller rim like the 35mm Velocity Blunt could used for such tire sizes. I can see how my write-up of this concept is a bit confusing though, so thanks for asking for clarification!

  4. Hi there, what kind of seatpost rack do you use? Is it heavy and do you like it? I am considering the Blackburn central seatpost rack but its 4lb. I have a small bike with limited clearance between the seat and the back tire.

    • Hi dddayz, I honestly am not exactly sure what rack it is I’m using; it’s an old Trek rack that my friend gave to me. It weighs about 1 pound and has done the job so far, so I’m happy with it, but if you’re interested, you could probably simply look up various trek rack options and see if one would work for your bike.

      I’d personally avoid a rack that weighs 4 pounds if its primary used for bikepacking, simply because it likely is overkill. Most people put the least amount of loaded weight in the back of their bike as it is already loaded down with the majority of our body weight. Adding an additional four pounds with a giant rack wouldn’t be ideal.

  5. Great review and I have yet another bike to think about!!

    As I will be doing a bit of on road/gravel,I was wondering if the 27.5 plus could be swapped for 29 ers?

    Fyi, I think its between the Krampus and the Pine mountain..

    • Hey Allan, not to complicate the situation, but if you’re looking for a bike truly made to swap 29er and 27+ tires, as you probably already know, there are a number of bikes already out on the market advertising just that, like the Orbea Loki and the new Salsa Woodsmoke, to name a few. However, while the PM2 is not specced for tire swapping, I think it could be done no problem, as they provide almost identical diameters.

      But you have a tough decision to make. The new 2017 Krampus has some pretty cool upgrades for sure. If you’re on the tall side and/or don’t think you’ll be doing much singletrack-oriented riding, I’d probably recommend the Krampus. If you’re average height and/or will be doing some technical singletrack riding on the bike, I’d probably lean towards the PM2. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but you probably have scoured the interwebs for information already, so good luck on the decision, and speaking from experience, I promise you won’t be disappointed with either of those decisions.

  6. Hi Ben,as I am 6’4″ and not looking to do aggressive off road riding,it sounds like the Krampus may be the better fit. Is it the difference in geometry or the wheel size that favors the larger rider on the Krampus?

    Thanks in advance!

  7. Hi Ben,
    As I am 6’4″,I am curious as to why the Krampus may be a better fit.Is it the geometry or the 29+ wheels vs the 27+? Thanks in advance

    • Hi Allan,
      In terms of geometry, the Krampus I rode was very similar to the Marin PM2, so the geometry would be a wash. However, I’m not sure about the specs on the new Krampus.

      But most people on the interwebs say that 29+ is better for taller people, and from my personal perspective, the 29+ makes rolling over obstacles much easier than the 27+, so if you don’t plan on riding technical singletrack (which means you probably don’t need the front suspension of the PM2), you’re probably right to lean towards the Krampus, although you’d be happy with either bike.

      Good luck with the decision!

  8. Wondering what if anything has changed since writing this review? I have an opportunity to get a PM 2 @ a great price. But now we have “super boost 157″…

    • Hi Richard,
      I agree with you about the stupid hub standards forcing riders to constantly ‘update’ their rigs; it’s so frustrating when you invest in a quality product only to have it become obsolete within a year or two. Still, I think that the 148 boost spacing will be available for a long time, and I DEFINITELY stand by my review of the bike. The 3″ rear tire chain rub in the granny gear is my major complaint (and would honestly be taken care of if they would use the super boost spacing in the back…), but this is easily remedied by using 2.8″ tires, which are widely available now.

      The bike’s relatively light weight (for a steel frame), updated and bombproof component spec, reliable dropper post, aggressive yet comfortable geometry, are all major selling points if you’re looking for a do-it-all hardtail. You won’t be disappointed if you pull the trigger as long as you don’t get caught up in the newest and shiniest MTB trends.

  9. I find myself so “on the fence” between a few bikes, including a 29+ option but I really like my Pine Mountain 1 & I can get a PM2 right now for under $2k.

    • I feel your pain Richard. Choosing which bike to settle on always leaves a bit of buyer’s remorse in retrospect. I rode the 29+ Krampus for a while and loved it (wrote a review on that one too if you’re interested), but realized I wanted something with a bit more capability on technical terrain, hence the hardtail PM2. Just know that whatever bike you choose, it’ll work great and last you for years. It’s hard to go wrong, really. Good luck to you!

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