Tested : Pete’s 2023 Marin Rift Zone 29 XR Review.

Pete headed out to the Dolomites for Bike Connection Summer to swing a leg over the updated Marin Rift Zone 29 XR that’s inbound for 2023.

Based on feedback from their athletes, Marin have given their venerable Rift Zone a tune up to bring it up to speed with modern geometry and suspension. Pete had a chance to give the 29″ version of the XR model Rift Zone a run out in the Dolomites to see what it’s made of.

Photos courtesy of Bike Connection – Roo Fowler.

Key features:

  • Marzocchi Bomber Z1 140mm fork
  • Fox Float X Performance shock
  • Shimano SLX/XT 12-speed drive
  • Shimano MT420 4-piston brakes
  • Marin alloy wheels
  • X-Fusion Manic dropper
  • £2,995.00 RRP
  • MarinBikes.com

We first got eyes on the new Marin Rift Zone at Bike Connection Summer 2022 in the Dolomites and while it retained a familiar silhouette of the Marin family, it had been gone over extensively to produce a very different feeling bike.

This bike was influenced heavily by Marin’s athletes, retaining the good from the outgoing model and improving on what wasn’t so great. For starters you get the Series 3 alloy frame that has new tubes and forgings, and crucially, clips seat tubes across the board. Braze-in cable entry and exits aim to produce a rattle and zip tie free setup.

Travel has grown to make the bike more capable too. 10mm on the front and 5mm on the rear may not sound like much but there’s also changes to the kinematics that use that travel differently.

The range been made with a focus on bang for your buck, with the XR model topping the range at under three grand, there’s no bikes here that you could swap for a very nice new van or second hand Porsche Boxster.

The Rift Zone Range is four bike strong, kicking off with the Rift Zone 1 at £1,695.00, rising to the Rift Zone XR seen here at £2,995.00 RRP. There’s also a kids’ Rift Zone at £1,695.00 too.

Geometry

The Rift Zone is available in Small, Medium, Large and XLarge.

Reach on the Medium is 460mm with a seat tube of 400mm. Head angle is 65.5 degrees with a seta angle of 77 degrees. Chainstays are 430mm across the sizes with a wheelbase on the medium of 1205.1mm.

I’d be handed a size Small Rift Zone 29 XR after the Marin chaps very kindly set my sag for me. It wasn’t long before at least one of them was beckoning me for laps on the hill. Perks of the job, right? The flow trail at Dolomiti Paganella bike park was a solid spot to get the bike set up, with nothing particularly frantic or challenging beyond the morning’s glassy berms.

From the get-go, the Rift Zone was happy being slung wherever I pointed it, and my usual nemesis, large jumps, seemed to be dispatched with a lofty ease that caught me very pleasantly unawares. From there, the bike handled manualling through rollers in a manner that seemed alarmingly easy, and I found myself eager to go for another lap.

With the park laps suitably hammered and the bike feeling very balanced indeed, I headed to the ‘XC/ebike’ loop as it mirrored what I’d ride at home and was a better indicator of how the bike handled to me. Some terrible map reading meant that I actually went up the descent, but the Rift Zone handled it admirably. Sat down or out of the saddle, any power was instantly translated through the Maxxis Assegais and into grip.

The descent here was one I’d come back to multiple times as it was a better test of what a bike can and can’t do. Lots of root, lots of rock and enough trees to make corners obligatory. I’d spend much of the day lapping this trail as I had a gap in meetings that meant ride time was high on the agenda.

From the off, the Rift Zone made light work of the wide range of hits coming thick and fast on this trail. Everything from rooty chatter to clipping a rock to a big old compression off a roller, the bike stayed composed throughout, always asking for more, something you might think a bike this short on travel might not do.

From there it was simply a case of trying to see if the Rift Zone couldn’t do anything. At a five short of three grand, you’d expect something to be amiss, a corner to be cut somewhere, but I for the life of me would be splitting hairs to do so. My concern over the EXO casings getting shredded by the limestone never happened, I didn’t feel the need for high and low speed damping, the brakes, while they’d likely struggle on longer, Alpine descents, were every bit the quality anchors.

The only bikes I can compare this ride feel and price point to is the Vitus Escarpe and Sommet I tested earlier in the year. Both were heavy on kit and speed without breaking the bank. Marin seem to have taken that concept further with the Rift Zone, providing an all-alloy frame that feels just as good as the pricier carbon fibre options.

A direct comparison with the Vitus isn’t entirely fair as the Rift Zone is much shorter in travel though, but the Rift Zone still brings plenty to the party.

What do we think?

In the Rift Zone XR, Marin have done the basics very well indeed. At just under three thousand pounds, the Rift Zone XR gives you a ride feel that you have had to pay far more before now in order to experience.

We love:

  • Value for money
  • Lively, engaging ride
  • Dialled suspension
  • Solid spec

Could do better:

  • Not very much

You can check out the new Marin Rift Zone on their website here.


  1. My criticisms (purely from a spec perspective) would be –

    Double Assegai would be a bit draggy for pedally and technical riding styles.
    175mm cranks need to go. 170mm maximum!
    32T chainring maybe could be a 30T for a bike like this.
    430mm chainstays might be a bit too short/lively for XL riders.

    I’m guessing this would compete with the upcoming Norco Fluid FS range?

    1. I thought the double Assegai was going to be a hindrance too but all it gave me was grip, especially on more technical climbs. Braking grip was also excellent. Positives definitely outweighed the negatives. Norco Fluid also comes with a 175mm crank. Never felt like they were too long on this bike. Again, 32t chainring didn’t feel like too much. Easy enough to change, but you could also just make your legs better, which would also offset the Assegai drag problem. Chainstays *might* be too short on bigger sizes, but surely you’d try and demo one first before buying rather than speculate?

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