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
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.
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:
- 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.
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.