I’ve been thinking a lot about bike packing, and the Marin Pine Mountain looked like an ideal launchpad for future excursions. Found on the Marin Bikes website under the “bike packing/ adventure” category, the Pine Mountain is a Swiss Army knife disguised as a bike. Marin bills it as “a classic steel hardtail with modern trail capabilities”. Reviewing the features, materials, and geometry, it’s obviously optimized for bike packing adventures, but also up for all-day epic rides — plus commuting, transportation, and any other sort of utility one might throw at it.
Available as a complete bike in two build packages, the Pine Mountain 1 starts at a reasonable $1,579 with the Pine Mountain 2 selling for $2,400. However, I was more interested in the Pine Mountain 2; both models share the same overall design and geometry, but the frame you get at the lower price receives a downgrade to the dropouts.
Though Marin doesn’t offer the Pine Mountain in a frame-only option, there are a few perks to writing for a cycling blog, and I was able to sweet-talk the folks at Marin into setting aside a warranty frame for our project at a reasonable price.
Marin Pine Mountain 2: chassis highlights
- 4130 Double Butted Chromoly steel frame
- This frame has a ton of mounting points
- Contemporary (but reserved) geometry, designed to accommodate full-size frame bags
- Boost hub spacing with clearance for 29 x 2.6″ tires
- 148x12mm thru axle dropouts
Pine Mountain geometry highlights (size large – rider height: 5’10”)
- Reach: 455mm
- Stack: 635.2mm
- Headtube angle: 66.5º
- Seat tube angle: 74.5º
- Top tube length (effective) 619.3mm
- Seat tube length: 482mm
- Standover height: 784mm (30.86″)
- BB height: 315mm
- BB drop: 60mm
- Chainstay length: 430mm
- Seatpost: 30.9mm
- Designed for 44mm fork offset
PNW Components Loam Post
My biggest concern in selecting the size large frame was the tall seat tube. Having a longer seat tube created a bit of a challenge when it came to figuring out the longest dropper post I could run. I reached out to the folks at PNW Components, as they have an in-depth size chart that is very helpful in determining a compatible dropper. Fortunately, a 150mm travel post was a go (I wouldn’t enjoy a dropper with less travel) and they graciously supplied a PNW Components Loam Post for the build. If you’re not familiar with the Loam Post, but not only is it reasonably priced and reliable, but it has an adjustable travel feature that is pretty sweet. (More on that in a separate post…PNW also supplied a Loam Lever and fresh grips for the build as well.)
I’m also running the PNW grips and alloy Loam pedals to complete the set. I initially was running the PNW Bars — a new favorite with the 10º of sweep — but felt the color of the Spank Oozy bars paired better with the Spank Split Stem. The saddle is an SDG Components Bel Air 3, my favorite go-to saddle.
Assembling parts for the build
Since it arrived, I’ve assembled a mish-mash of parts from previous reviews as well as upcoming product reviews and what I had on hand to assemble a solid performing, backwoods trail bike. In addition to the gear supplied by the folks at PNW Components, our friends at Shimano were also kind enough to help supply many of the key elements of the build.
- Frame: Marin Bikes Pine Mountain (size Large)
- Fork: Fox 34 140mm travel.
- Wheels & tires – currently in flux
- Brakes: Shimano XT
- Shifter / Derailleur: Shimano SLX 12-speed
- Seatpost: PNW Loam Post, 150mm of adjustable height. 30.9mm
- Crankset & BB: Shimano XT, (170mm)
- Cane Creek 110 headset
- Handlebar: Spank Industries Oozy
- PNW Components Loam Grips
- Stem: Spank Split Stem, 48mm
- Saddle: SDG Components Bel Air
The Fox 34 fork was supplied by Fox for our Evil Following project build a few years ago. Though damping technology has improved since then, it holds up and is a great match for a hardtail. The fork is in great condition, even with the basic amount of maintenance (primarily lower leg services) I’ve performed. Sadly it’s non-boost; (hence the mismatch with wheels pictured) at the time I was making a stand against new bike industry standards. (Admittedly, that was poorly thought out) I’m usually much more forward-thinking, but being a boost holdout was silly considering the ease of slapping an adapter onto the front wheel. The fork is so nice it’s lived on a few other bikes, (with its matching non-boost wheel) and has proven its durability.
Impressions: on the trail
The geometry of the Pine Mountain is in line with a lot of the bikes we’ve seen utilized for bike packing. Frame geometry in mountain bikes has been trending towards an “enduro-influenced” design, with long, low, and slack becoming more mainstream. I find the middle-of-the-road hardtail geo puts it in a good spot, as this is a bike designed for riding all day, and not just up a road to session jumps going down.
The Pine Mountain is a solid handler on the trail. Being a stoutly constructed steel bike, its not a rocket on climbs, but it gets there. It’s worth noting that once I load it up with camping gear, I won’t be thinking about trying to race up the trail, but enjoying the process of getting there.
I also found I enjoyed the riding position. I’ve been experimenting with longer frames and short stems, but I have to admit, it’s not always the experience I’m after. I used to alway run a 50mm stem and really enjoy that feel.
It’s a hoot going down though, and knowing it’s durable offers a certain peace of mind when trying technical lines (and bailing). It’s the all around versatility of the Pine Mountain that makes it stand out though
There are a lot of options for hardtails these days, but finding something with this many options for mounting accessories can be challenging. And good luck finding a frame that can hold three water bottles. Having all these mounting points is a treat for a geek like me that like to change things up and experiment.
Chain stays are getting lengthy for stability over maneuverability on a lot of bike packing rigs, and in comparison, the 430mm chain stays are relatively short. (though they’re longer than my Kona Honzo hardtail) I personally prefer them shorter, which makes bikes more fun and easier to move around at slower speeds.
The Pine Mountain doesn’t feature overly aggressive geometry, but its 66.5º head tube angle is a degree and a half more slack than my first generation Kona Honzo carbon, which was considered progressive for its time. With the longer reach and chain stays, it does descend better than the Honzo. I’ve also over forked it, with the Fox 34 fork currently set at 140mm of travel. (its worth noting an updated version of the Pine Mountain 2 was recently released; the most notable changes are a longer reach/front center and the head angle is now 66º.)
That said, compared to typical modern dual suspension bikes it’s not anywhere as long, with the reach of the size large comparable to many medium-sized frames. That works for me, as I’m finding myself gravitating back from long front centers on bikes, preferring a bike that is more playful in its handling.
The top tube isn’t as sloped as other options which leaves more space for a larger frame bag, which makes sense given its intended use as a backpacking/adventure rig. Blackburn supplied a full compliment of their Outpost Elite bike packing bags to test on upcoming bike packing adventures, and the size large Outpost Elite Frame bag squeezed in nicely.
The bulk of my hardtail rides – aside from my future bike packing adventures – take place on mixed terrain. A lot of riders prefer gravel bikes these days, but when I head out, I’m seeking dirt, and enjoy trying any of the silly lines I come across, including those fall line cuts I probably should be on. The Pine Mountain comes equipped with 29″ x 2.6″ tires from Marin, but I’m my initial setup was with lighter duty 2.35″ and 2.2″ tires. I’m used to lighter bikes, so I was looking to give it a lighter feel. However, the Pine Mountain was never intended to masquerade as an XC bike, so I’ve since seen the error of my ways and added a 2.6″ front tire and a 2.5″ rear.
I’ve also swapped out the rear wheel for a 27.5″ to give it a bit of additional maneuverability. (plus I have to try to mullet everything obviously) I’m still in the testing phase, but my first impression is that it plays surprisingly well with the 27.5″ rear. I’m running a 27.5″ x 2.5″ tire to raise the bb as much as I can.
My plans to get out and bike camping last summer didn’t quite pan out, but I’m already making plans to get out there, and I’ll be doing fit tests with a number of bike packing bags in the upcoming weeks.
While one can technically go bike packing on anything they have, if you’re a rider looking for a solid all-arounder with great value (and enjoys bike camping), the Pine Mountain is definitely worth looking into. Learn more at MarinBikes.com or support the site by shopping for Marin Bikes at retail partner JensonUSA.