You need a thick skin to design bikes!
When we posted our first impressions piece about this bike, there was an onslaught of comments about how ugly it is. In an era when most frame designs are becoming rather homogenous, we’re always happy to see something that breaks from convention. After all, it’s not a modelling contest, it’s mountain biking, and this calamity of carbon happens to be very good at that. If you’re a rider who wants something unconventional, with unique cutting-edge design, look no further than this 150mm-travel nugget. It’s funky, and it’s fast.
A few of the fundamentals first.
Wheel size is 27.5”, travel is 150mm at both ends, and there are two price points for this bike, both using the same full carbon frame. This model, the Mount Vision 9, is $6799 or you can get the Mount Vision 8 for $5499 with few slightly less glam parts.
The Mount Vision is Marin’s second bike to employ the Nailed React suspension system, found previously on their Wolf Ridge, which we’ve also ridden. With 29″ wheels and 160mm travel, the Wolf Ridge might seem like the big-hitter of the pair, but as we discovered, it’s the Mount Vision that’s more of a shredder while the Wolf Ridge is better for longer days in the saddle.
But more on the suspension.
This system is super different to everything else on the market, just look at it! The massive swing arm, which pivots off two linkages, is also guided by a slider that’s housed within the bottom bracket junction. That slider doesn’t have any damping properties, it’s purely a structural element, supporting the swing arm and guiding the wheel path in conjunction with the linkage.
The whole ethos around damping is different too. The premise of this system is that damping is wasted energy, inhibiting the bike’s momentum and stopping the suspension from working optimally. We interviewed the suspension designer, Darrel Voss, a while back and he explained that the system is all about letting the rear wheel move away from impacts as freely as possible and to stick to the ground as much as possible – the term he used is ‘ground tracing’.
So, I wound off all the compression damping, turned on just four clicks of rebound, and that was it. I wasn’t particularly fussy with the sag either, getting it in the ballpark of 25-30% and then hitting the trails. On other bikes, such a lackadaisical approach would be disastrous, but on the Mount Vision it just worked. After a quick carpark test, I put the shock pump away and didn’t touch the adjusters again.
Oh Delilah, does it work!
The rear wheel follows the ground brilliantly, and if the aim of a suspension system is to keep you in contact with the terrain, then you can’t beat this bike. There is so much rear wheel grip with this bike, and that comes into play constantly, especially in loose corners or when you’re climbing. The frame is stiff too; we found that the Wolf Ridge had a tendency to flex and then suddenly loose rear wheel grip, but the Mount Vision just keeps tracking through rough corners.
No lockout, but very efficient.
On the subject of climbing, if you’re on the gas, then you’ll be blown away again by how efficient it feels. There’s no lockout to stiffen things up, but when you look down at the shock it’s incredibly stable when you’re climbing. And thanks to the system’s sensitivity all those little impacts that normally rob you of momentum just get ironed out.
Still, as good as it is, you can’t hide the fact you’re on a 16kg bike (one you’ve added pedals and a water bottle). Nor can you ignore the chain growth – when you’re pedalling over bigger rocks out of the saddle, it’s easy to feel the tug of the chain throughout your pedal stroke. It’s not a deal breaker, but it is noticeable.
The bike has a super short rear centre measurement (just 420mm) which would normally mean it’s hard to keep the front wheel down when climbing, but thanks to the way the rear end lengthens as the suspension sags, it’s not too much of an issue.
How’d it do that?
There are times when this bike just boggled our mind. One particular instance that stands out; we were carrying speed into a long gully in the trail, and the steep uphill exit out of the gully was covered with chunky, small rocks. The Marin just flew up the other side, carrying way, way more speed than we’ve experienced before.
It’s also incredibly good at pumping speed out of the terrain. Because the rear wheel tends to track down the backside of any impacts, rather than skipping over them, it feels effortless to pump more pace out of every compression.
A little unstable in tight manoeuvres.
To match the rear end feel, we opted to run the fork a little faster than normal and with less compression damping too. With the suspension so free and open, we did notice that really slow speed manoeuvres could feel a bit unstable. In those awkward moments – lining up a tight descending switchback, or slotting into a slow-speed rock chute – the hyperactive feel of the suspension did make things less composed. It’s fair to say then, this is a bike that’s happier when things are moving quickly and the suspension can do its work.
We’d like to be able to comment on the durability of the bike, but we simply haven’t done enough riding on it. With the slider nestled down low in the bottom bracket area, make sure you heed Marin’s warning not to remove the rear mudguard, as we can imagine grit and dirt could easily build up there and damage the slider’s surface and seals.
It’s great, so will there be more bikes like this?
If you can’t get past this bike’s looks, then you’re missing out. Much like the Polygon XqaurOne, it’s hard to convey the unique attributes of this bike without being able to offer a test ride. That’s a challenge for the distributor too, because Bicycles Online only offer these bikes through their website, though admittedly they do have a 14-day test ride period.
We’re eager to see if more brands will jump on board with the Nailed suspension in the coming years. We hope so, because as the Mount Vision shows, when you bundle it up with good geometry, a stiff frame, and sensible components, the end result is a weapon.