The off-roading ‘dirt’y bug seems to have bitten the country, and seems to be the next big thing. As Aninda told me, ‘We’ve been fighting for good roads for the last 70 years and now that we’ve been getting a pretty decent stretches of good ones, everybody wants to go off-road.’ No we are not confused, we want more. We want to commute, ride or drive over the weekend to a distant place and give ourselves a quick shot of adrenaline on demand, all on the same set of wheels, be it on road or off-road. Yeah!
I think the native idea of ‘kitna deti hai’ is getting re-baptized, maybe ‘aur kya deti hai’. Really! Are you wondering why we are talking about this here? Well, the bike in question, the Trek’s Marlin 4, is exactly what it promises to be. Looking at the pictures one might guess that it can go off the road with all the confidence that a rider needs and can be ridden on black top with all the speed one might expect. However, looks can be deceptive, or is it? Let’s find out!
The Trek Marlin 4 is a sight to see. It is sleek, eye catching, rugged and like a bike (read bicycle) version of Triumph, looking at how beautifully they’re made (especially those subtleties in chassis). But at the same time, at 14.15kg, it feels really light, especially for an entry-level bike in its segment which does not lose on class-leading fit and finish. The Alpha Silver Aluminum frame with semi-integrated head tube gives way to a lot of adjustability in bar height. The 31.8mm Bontrager alloy handlebar is fit onto the adequately-wide riser, flanked by two rubber grips which also offer brilliant support to the thenar, a part of your palm. That adds to the G2 Geometry of the frame that shows Trek’s experience in ‘29ers. Speaking of which, a set of go-fast Bontrager XR2 on the front and rear shod on the Bontrager Connection 32-hole double walled rims offered good amount of grip on black top, not that they did not off the road, but because the bike allows to do mild off-roading, the grip was compromised as soon as the tires threw some dust. But hey! Tip the Marlin 4 into a corner and the aforementioned grip level along with the grippy Wellgo nylon platform pedals inspired confidence to take corners at a steady pace.
The G2 Geometry of the long seat tube angle, short 31.8mm stem at 7° and thinnish forks, the SR Suntour preload adjustable front suspension with 75mm travel (that gulped almost everything from the tarmac) and the chunky Bontrager Satellite Plus grips made for a good handler, be it at slow speeds or high speeds. This contribution of this geometry could be felt during steering the bike, both off and on the road. The steering character felt energetic and light, eradicating the thought that 29ers act a bit slow on terrain that demands a lot of foot movement, off the road of course, on rocks and loose surfaces.
However, when it comes to the posture on the Marlin 4, it might not offer a flat backed posture when seated, which we believe most of the riders would prefer, but doing short distances for a person like me who has not ridden much shouldn’t be a hassle. The handlebar provided a decent spread of arms for short distances and posture during climbs more efficient. The seat, though, could’ve been wider. Another limitation was the short head tube that couldn’t go hand in hand with the seat height I’d preferred, I had to keep adjusting the seat height while hitting the trails. On the bright side though, the slick-shifting trigger on the 21-speed Shimano Altus (crankset, front mech and cassette) felt smooth, it’s just that it takes a couple of shifts to get used to it, than the outgoing conventional rotary shifters.
To sum it up, the Marlin 4 is essentially the jack of all and master of none. The Marlin 4 is an entry-level mountain bike that can commute with comfort and take on those kerbs on your way to the office. It is a decently well built bike, a basic offering from the American manufacturer in its MTB range that offers best of both the worlds. The Marlin 4 takes cues from its lighter and faster sibling, the XC range. The perfect wheel size for each frame, its performance parentage and an unmatchable ride feel makes it a perfect trail for riders of all sizes as well. When you are ready to take a bike off the beaten path and for some good wind-in-the-face experience on longer days, you are ready for the Marlin 4.
words by Vishal Joshi