Marin’s Headlands 2 Gobbles Up Gravel and Singletrack

RILEY MISSEL of Bicyling.com shares his experience with the Marin Headlands: the fast, smooth dropper post-equipped all-road bike that's begging for adventure.

Takeaway: A fast, carbon all-road bike and stellar parts package for a great price.

  • Modern parts package: 1x drivetrain, dropper post, and hydraulic disc brakes
  • Super lightweight, vibration-damping frame
  • Rolls smooth and fast on grippy 40mm Schwalbe tires

Back when I used to race ’cross (RIP), people were always reminding each other: “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” Well, skip the slow part—this bike smooths everything out so you can just go freaking fast on rough surfaces.

The vibration-damping carbon frame and 40mm Schwalbe G-One Performance tires let me bomb through rough trails and gravel sections so much faster than I would on a road bike (and without my teeth chattering around in my skull).

The wide rubber felt fantastic on the gravel paths I was riding, and pretty great on the smooth dirt singletrack, too, but they began to lose grip on loose, steep climbs where I needed to stand out of the saddle, getting a little skittery. But on fast, windy descents, they surprised me with how they surely they gripped the ground and kept me feeling in control.

 

The full carbon frame feels lightweight, which made it easy to hop over logs and rocks. And when trail got technical, I found that the proprietary aluminum rims can take really a beating—which I gave them (poor things) on some rooty, rocky singletrack. As usual, I took it to the edge of its comfort zone on some slightly technical singletrack, and it hit its limit (or rather, mine) climbing uphill through loose or rooty stuff.

 

5 Things We Love about the Headlands 2

Sleek Dropper Post

The left brake lever is also the dropper button

Wide Tires

Grippy, 40mm tires, with room for up to 50mm (650b).

Wide Cockpit

Upright handlebar with a broad, flat top

Ready for Mounts

Load it up with racks, fenders, bags, and bottles

Carbon Frame

Smooth-riding, lightweight, and comfortable

 

The Headlands 2 comes with a dropper post that Marin seamlessly integrated into the left brake lever—since the drivetrain is a 1x, the “shift” motion you do with the left-hand lever activates the dropper. I test-rode a size 49—the smallest Marin offers—and the seat post hit its maximum insert height at a little taller than my saddle height, which is 64cm (I’m 5-foot-3, for reference). I could just shrug the dropper down to where I could reach the pedals comfortably, but shorter riders should note the minimum saddle height.

Aside from the saddle height issue, the Headlands was super comfortable to ride. The handlebar is wider than a road bike set up (42cm to my road bike’s 38) and also a bit higher up to give you a little more control in an upright, open position. Plus, the wide tires and carbon frame smoothed out the gravel road beneath me so well that I was no less comfortable than I am riding on pavement.

If you’re looking into bikepacking or touring, the Headlands 2 is ready for that, too. The removable seat stay brace and tons of bosses on the frame (15 on the front triangle alone) can be decked out with fenders, racks, bottle cages, and frame bags. And if you’re coming to gravel from mountain biking, you’ll love the Headlands 2’s ability to conquer light singletrack, gravel, and pavement.

 

Read the full review here.


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