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Three Mountain Bike Brands Doing it Right in 2021

Which mountain bike should you buy? One of these...

The question, "which mountain bike should I buy," comes through our inboxes often. It's a legitimate question with good intentions, but the answer is never simple. Having tested a boatload of mountain bikes and products over the last decade, and because of that "which bike should I buy" question, at Vital, we're always on the lookout for bikes that provide a standout experience for riders who are spending their hard-earned (or stimulus) money.  We’ve selected a “Mountain Bike of the Year" in the past, but with so many different riding styles, riding types, price points — not to mention what may suit a rider's local trails best — picking a single bike as a “winner” for all of mountain biking may not be all that helpful in the end.  Instead, we're focusing on three mountain bike brands that are making waves in 2021 by offering great bikes at attractive prices. Riding season is fast-approaching, so let’s dig in.

We have a legacy brand, a scrappy brand with a legacy name, and a newly emerging brand name this year on our list. Based on what we’ve tested in the last year and what has been recently announced, the brands that have us most excited in 2021 are Marin, Nukeproof, and Privateer.


Marin's new Alpine Trail E2

Marin has been around for more than three decades — they’re a staple brand of mountain biking, blossoming from the birthplace of our sport. We’ve tested a number of different Marin models over the years and quite frankly, five or six years ago, Marin’s trail bikes were in the *OK* category. They had good intentions, but on-trail performance didn’t quite rival that of their competitors. Their flex-stay IsoTrac suspension design was clean and simple, but lacked pedaling prowess and the ability to really be pushed in aggressive terrain. In 2017 Marin went a bit “experimental” by using the Naild R3ACT suspension design on its Wolf Ridge models. We had a brief and enlightening encounter with the well-handling bike, but didn’t believe the complexity of the design was worth any of the performance benefits.

While the Wolf Ridge was garnering the attention of internet bike nerds, Marin was quietly refining its more affordable full-suspension bikes, like the Hawk Hill and Rift Zone. Marin also kept its hardtail game strong with focused steel and aluminum bikes. Add to that list, the new long-travel 29er, the Alpine Trail 8, and Marin was almost there. Their bikes had a filtered vision, and the prices were captivating, but that Wolf Ridge still left a blemish on their street cred for hardcore riders.

2021 Marin Alpine Trail XR

Looking at the line in 2021, the Wolf Ridge is gone. Marin’s linkage-driven single-pivot MultiTrac suspension is an effective, simple platform and serves all the full-suspension bikes in their range. In carbon or aluminum, the Rift Zone short-travel 29ers are true trail bikes. The Hawk Hill adopts the Rift Zone name with 27.5-inch wheels and alloy-only frame options. Riders needing more squish have the Alpine Trail models, including the alloy, coil-sprung Alpine Trail XR for $3,599 or the Carbon 1 at just $3,189.

2021 Marin Alpine Trail Carbon 1

Marin’s hardtail line remains just quirky enough in all the right places with mean machines like the steel El Roy. Then Marin drops the banger-of-an-e-bike, the Alpine Trail E2, for only $5,999 with Shimano EP8 motor, FOX 38 and DHX2 coil shock. We’ve been riding both the El Roy and the Alpine Trail E2 and, so far, have nothing but praise for these two completely different bikes. We’ll have detailed reviews coming soon.

2021 Marin El Roy Steel Hardtail

Sure, Marin bikes aren’t super sexy or ground-breaking with the newest this-or-that, but to us, right now, that’s what makes Marin so darn appealing. Be it for the beginner or the experienced mountain biker, Marin’s mountain bikes deliver.

.Over the last 18 months, the bikes we’ve tested from Marin have performed well and have respectable builds. There is local bike shop support through the Marin dealer network, and the pricepoints challenge consumer-direct brands. Marin’s most recent bike offerings continue that trend and they do it with appealing, modern geometry to boot. Imagine a new bike that leaves you with enough cheddar to customize along the way if you want to set yourself apart from the crowd.

Vital's short-travel 29er Test Sessions video where the Rift Zone 29 held its own against some formidable players.

Outside of a downhill bike, which they don’t offer, there’s probably something in Marin’s lineup that’s worth considering if you’re in the market for a new mountain bike…or gravel bike…or road bike… or kid’s bike…or commuter bike…

Read the full article here.

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