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9th September 2018 / Comments (15)

Review: Marin Four Corners

Marin Four Corners

Sunshine day dreaming

In the early 90s Marin were one of the most exciting mainstream manufacturers. A product of the nascent mountain bike scene in Marin County, the imagery they used in their promotional material was stunning. By the standards of the time, their bikes were pretty cool too. And when they formalised their association with F1 engineer Jon Whyte, they came up with one of the first really credible full suspension bikes. The world seemed to be within their grasp but they lost contact with the pack, fell off the back and joined the ‘autobus’.

Fast forward to today, and under new management, Marin is producing probably the most exciting and relevant bike range in it’s long history.

Marin Four Corners

Value for money?

As well as mountain bikes, Marin have a comprehensive range of drop-bar bikes suitable for gravel or adventure riding. From the full-blown ‘cross-racing’ Cortina, through to the alloy Gestalt and steel Nicasio all-road bikes, they appear to have all bases covered.

The bike that most caught our eye was the Four Corners. At £850 this sits firmly in budget territory. Having said that, not everyone wants to, or can afford to, splash out thousands on a new bike. We wanted to see whether, despite the lowly price tag, the Four Corners was up to the job.

The frameset is made from 4130 Butted CrMo tubing. Sensibly, wheel size is determined by the frame. The XS and S come with 650b while the M,L and XL with 700c wheels. (The 700c option has clearance for 700×42 tyres).

There are braze ons aplenty! Enough for six bottle or gear cages, front and rear racks and mudguards. At first glance it looks very much like a direct competitor to a Salsa Vaya or Fargo. At £850 though, it is considerably cheaper than any Salsa – at least in the UK.

There is a Four Corners Elite that retails for £2000 but that is way outside the test parameters we had set.

Marin Four Corners

The heart of the matter

Marin dub the geometry Utilitour. This seems to be shorthand for multi surface, long distance,adventure geometry!

The super-long headtube (229mm on our Large test bike) makes for an upright and stable riding position.

The tubing is classic skinny steel without a hint of oversizing or fancy manipulation. Combined with the retro Marin graphics and satin black paint, it is smart looking bike. It almost goes without saying that Marin have sensibly specified a standard threaded BB shell.  Alongside the many other practical features this was almost an obvious choice. The neat welds, downtube gusset and bolt on cable guides are all smart touches, let down slightly by the rather basic stamped dropouts. The Four Corners weighs in at 13.2 kg (29.1 lbs), it’s no lightweight, but neither is it a deadweight!

The use of QR’s front and rear is a little old fashioned but no doubt help keep costs under control.

Clearances around the supplied 42c tyres are good. Fitting mudguards, or slightly bigger tyres shouldn’t give you any problems. Just don’t try and fit any full blown MTB treads.

Marin Four Corners

Unbroken Chain

Apart from a KMC chain, the drivetrain is the much improved, though utilitarian, 9 speed Shimano Sora. It isn’t fancy, it isn’t slick but it does the job reliably. Let’s face it, that is ideal on this type of bike.

Pairing a triple chainset (50-39-30) with an 11-34 cassette gives you a spread of gears from around 25″ to 127″. By way of comparison the 1×11 Bombtrack Hook EXT we recently tested with a 40 x 11-42 gives 26″ to 98″. Ironically, you might find the extra range of the triple drivetrain to be of limited benefit.

Braking is provided by the increasingly popular TRP Spyre-C brakes paired with 160mm rotors. The Spyre’s are easy to adjust and generate decent stopping power – for cable actuated discs. It is easy to see why Avid’s BB5 and BB7 have fallen by the wayside.

Marin Four Corners

Let the good times roll

The finishing kit on the Four Corners is unexciting but perfectly functional. Marin specify 70mm stems for all sizes. Along with the 12º flared bars, this combination puts you in an upright riding position. You definitely don’t feel tipped over the bars!

The handlebar tape is quite rubbery and gives you a decent amount of cushioning.

The WTB Volt Sport 142 saddle was very comfortable.

The wheelset combines black hubs, stainless spokes and unbadged double wall alloy rims. It’s a basic set-up and there’s no mention of tubeless compatibility on either tyres or rims.

The tyres are 42c WTB Resolutes. Our recent test of the TCS Light Resolutes mirrors in our experiences here. Even in the modest OEM puncture protection variety they roll well on smooth surfaces and are grippy and stable in the rough.

Marin Four Corners

Truckin’

So how does the Four Corners work as a complete package?

The utilitour geometry with its high front end instantly puts you into a comfortable riding position. Having said that, it manages not to feel too ‘sit up and beg’. Putting extra power down instantly reminds you that the Four Corners is a steel tourer. If you are content with swift as opposed to fast you will not be disappointed.

The short stem keeps handling pretty lively and the high front end keeps the drops usable for most riding situations. Hit the rough stuff and the Four Corners ‘comes alive’. The traction from the Resolutes and the low gearing means that the bike will get you up most climbs.

On open trails, the relatively large volume of the tyres, the skinny steel frame and forks combine to take the edge off the harshest bumps. On descents you start to appreciate the well balanced riding position. The only thing holding you back on rapid descents is the prospect of a snake-bite puncture or dropped chain through rubble sections.

The high front end has another helpful side-effect, it opens up space for a second bottle cage on the downtube, or the option to forego the cages and use the space for a vast frame bag!

Marin Four Corners

And we bid you goodnight

We’ve really enjoyed our time with the Four Corners, it’s a lot of fun, if not super-quick. It is ideal for touring or commuting duties.

The 9 speed road gearing has the range for adventure riding but precludes upgrading to  a clutch mech.

Tubeless-specific rims should really be standard nowadays. This offsets the plus points such as the WTB tyres and saddle, gel padded bar tape and Spyre brakes.

Lets not forget the asking price. Marin are offering you a complete bike for the price that some brands would charge for a 4130 steel frameset alone!

If you’re on a budget and want a bike to get you out there and back again, you should have a long hard look at the Four Corners.

Marin Four Corners

£850
7

Bombproof long distance fun

7.0/10

Pros

  • Value for money
  • Long distance comfort
  • Fun in the rough stuff

Cons

  • Weight compromised by cost
  • Groupset makes upgrades difficult
  • Non-tubeless wheel system

Last modified: 10th September 2018

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Charles H
Charles H
1 year ago

Can you elaborate on how the Sora groupset makes it difficult to upgrade?

Thanks

Nigel Leech
1 year ago

Hi Charles,

The upgrade issue, as I see it, is that the FC uses “new” road-spec 9 speed. Upgrading to Tiagra, etc. couldn’t be done in stages as it’s 10 speed so isn’t compatible. It also means it isn’t compatible with MTB 9 speed either.

If you wanted to upgrade gearing it’ll have to be done in one go.

marcus
marcus
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel Leech

I have changed my Four Corners gearing. Swapped in a 9 speed 11-36 cassette and changed the chainset for an Alivio 26-36-48. No real problems, had to use some BB spacers I got from a BB52 to space the chainset appropriately to the sora front mech as the Alivio has a longer axle by about 5mm, but with some delicate adjustments…it works – near the limit for sure. The Sora rear derailleur coped OK with the 36T fine, and so far I havnt had to drop the height of the front mech to allow for the 2T difference on the… Read more »

Nigel
1 year ago
Reply to  marcus

Top experimentation there! Please keep us updated to how you get on!

Marcus Rivers
Marcus Rivers
1 year ago
Reply to  Nigel

In the name of science…..The XT rear mech worked fine…I have about 10000km on this so its far from new, but shifting was good. The issue is that this mech has no barrel adjuster, so setting it up was a major hassle using the inline adjusters fitted to the Sora brifter, but it was possible. I have no doubt that the ratios of this new triple sora set is the same as 9 speed MTB, at least as far as the rear mech goes. Have not a suitable MTB front mech to test at the moment…..Now i have a 11-36… Read more »

macias
1 year ago
Reply to  Marcus Rivers

The FD swap from MTB world does not work out of the box (of course for the basics I assume you have correct crankset, correct FD). You need also to have cable converted — I use JTek, it looks maybe funny but does the job. So now I have both RD and FD from MTB and I am pretty happy (i.e. I am unhappy that Shimano refuses to set one standard, but it is another story).

Use google translator to read my story: https://przypadkopis.wordpress.com/2019/04/21/nabiraj-oboroty/

Darren Page
Darren Page
1 year ago

I recently got a Muirwoods for towpath commutes – it too has plain black rims with no mention of tubeless compatibility. I asked Marin tech support if the rims could be used tubeless and the answer came back as yes (with tape/valves) and that’s actually how they set up their test fleet for demo events

Nigel Leech
1 year ago
Reply to  Darren Page

Hi Darren,

Thanks, that’s handy to know! Hope you’re enjoying your Marin. 🙂

macias
1 year ago

“The 9 speed road gearing has the range for adventure riding but precludes upgrading to a clutch mech.”

Do MTB RDs have clutch by your definition (like Shimano Deore XT RD-M772)? I assume yes and since I upgraded with no sweat it is very possible to “upgrade”.

marcus
marcus
11 months ago
Reply to  Nigel Leech

Hi Macias, did you try the fitted sora derailleur with the Alivio chainset? I got mine to work, but I am thinking of fitting a 22-32-42 for a tour and I am not sure the FD cage profile of the Sora will suit. I have a lot of trouble getting theAlivio FD-T4000-DS3 in Norway, so I may have to order from overseas, but not keen if I need JTek adapters. I was under the impression that the sora 3 speed front was still the same as MTB and it was only the 2 speed that changed, but this info is… Read more »

Austin Hind
Austin Hind
2 months ago
Reply to  marcus

Hi, I have fitted a 22-32-44 from my old (2013) Giant. It works absolutely fine with the Sora shifter and mech. So, l lose a bit of top end and chain slacks in small-small, BUT I now can ride both road and trail fully loaded and not have to get off and walk unless it’s vertical. For a bike aimed at touring and leisurely I can’t understand why Marin didn’t go down this crank combo as standard – it’s hardly radical, and works a treat!

Al Hardy
Al Hardy
7 months ago

I love my Four Corners. After 18 months commuting daily in mix of road/off road, I have only changed the chain. It all works so fine and the medium fits my 178cm frame perfect.
The more you load it up the better it handles.

Fred
Fred
4 months ago
Reply to  Al Hardy

I installed a Sunrace 9 speed cassette with a 40 tooth low gear using the stock Sora Derailleur on my 2018 Four Corners. It works perfect with the stock 30 tooth up front, nice and low now! With a shark tooth installed in conjunction with the derailleur it might even take a 42 tooth or greater. Id like to try that. I believe cost was around $35 or so and a quick install. I love the bike but it is heavy!!! I wish they would have used the “Elite” frame and bumped the price up a little or make the… Read more »

robert
robert
3 months ago
Reply to  Fred

hi fred,

was it the sunrise Csm980 or which casette?

did you simply mount the sunrise 40t casette or did you have to adjust any cables?

how is it in general are the gear changes fairly smooth etc?

just got the bike but need lower gets for touring and steep gravel!

hope you reply as confusing info around.

thanks

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