The Marin Bobcat Trail: The best bang-for-your-buck hardtail mountain bike going

The Marin Bobcat Trail might be the best affordable hardtail mountain bike in the biz - let's find out exactly why we think it's the best hardtail mountain bike under $1000.

Marin Bobcat Trail Hero Image

Bang For Your Buck

Here at Marin, we’re proud of all our bikes, but there’s a special place in our affection for our more affordable, lower-priced tag models. As the first step in someone’s mountain biking journey, they’re just as crucial as the flashy dream builds we put together for our pro riders.

There are a few essential ingredients to making a great value bike at a keen price point, and we think the Marin Bobcat Trail range has all of them. Let’s take a look at why, we reckon, the Bobcat is the very best bang for your buck, affordable hardtail mountain bike going.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 13

Bring on the Bobcat

The heart of a hardtail mountain bike is its frame. If this bit isn’t good, the bike won’t feel right, no matter what we bolt on to it.

The Marin Bobcat Trail family features lightweight Series 2 alloy frames which are designed to hit a sweet spot between strength and comfort. They’re packed full of neat little details. The curved Fastback seat stays add a bit of give when the going gets rough, and we’ve even added rack mounts should you want to load up for a bikepacking tour. Internal headsets and internal cable routing keep things looking clean, and you can add a dropper post to the bike as a simple first upgrade if that’s your bag.

The frame of a bike has a huge effect on the way it rides, and a lot of this is down to geometry. ‘Geometry’ basically means the shapes and angles that we’ve built the bike around - how long or short, tall or small, slack or steep it is.

Over the past 30 or so years mountain bikes have evolved, morphing from slightly chunkier road bikes with flat bars into something much more capable. Bikes nowadays are more relaxed at the front end, which helps them roll over rough terrain without stalling. But thanks to some clever design tricks, they climb much better too. Old school mountain bikes often felt like they wanted to pop a wheelie when tackling a steep hill, but newer bikes like the Bobcat Trail put the rider’s weight further forward to stop this from happening.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 07

Size Wisely

Bike fit is important. Ask anyone who started riding on a bike that was too big, thanks to parents assuming we’d grow into it.

So we’ve made the Bobcat Trail available in a range of five sizes, from small up to XL. Great for riders of all sizes.

Larger riders generally get on well with larger wheel sizes, so L and XL models come with 29er wheels. If you’re in the middle size-wise you can choose between 27.5 and 29-inch hoops. A sloping top tube gives you loads of standover and lets you get your weight down low when you need to. All our frames have a generous reach, which puts your center of gravity in the right place for confident cornering.

There’s also a women’s-specific sister model, the Marin Wildcat Trail, that features lower frames with shorter reach.

Hand-Picked Parts

A nice frame on its own would just be a cool thing to hang on your wall, so what about the parts that make it a bike? We have a product design team who are constantly seeking perfection at a price point to keep our builds as good as they can be.

Take handlebars for instance - often they’re an afterthought on complete bikes. Narrow bars can make your bike feel skittish on proper mountain bike terrain, so ours are a generous 780mm width - but you can still ask your local bike shop to cut them down if you prefer something narrower. We’ve matched these with a short 45mm stem to keep the handling sharp and precise. We’ve also made sure that the contact points of the bike - your saddle and your grips - are quality items which bear our own seal of approval. Pun definitely intended!

Add a set of fast-rolling, grippy tyres with a cool retro tan wall colour option, and you’re ready to shred. On the Bobcat Trail 5, we’ve used the extra budget to add tubeless-compatible wheels. Pick up some tubeless tires and sealant and you’ll benefit from lots of extra grip on the trail, plus punctures will be a thing of the past.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 14

Braking Points

Brakes can be a weak point on budget mountain bikes. If they’re underpowered or unreliable, it can really kill your confidence.

We only spec hydraulic disk brakes on the Marin Bobcat Trail range, and they’re from big-name manufacturers like Tektro and Shimano, meaning they have a reputation for solid performance, plus widely available spares and support.

Hydraulic brakes are easier to pull, maintain their performance beautifully and provide even and confident braking. You’ll love ‘em.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 03

Suspend Disbelief

Just as frame and wheel sizes have changed, bikes now have slightly more suspension than back in the day. Old school mountain bike hardtails had forks with just 80mm or even 63mm of suspension travel (defined by how much the suspension can compress under load). Modern hardtails like the Bobcat have nearly double that, with 120mm of bump-eating capability. That really helps add loads of comfort, confidence and control when the going gets rough.

The reason that suspension travel has increased is simple: modern suspension forks are much stiffer and more controlled than their forebears, giving you a more predictable ride on rough trails. The Bobcat Trail 5 also features forks with a thru-axle for extra stiffness and strength.

The whole Bobcat Trail range is also compatible with the latest generation of forks with tapered steerer tubes, meaning you’ll be able to upgrade in the future if you want.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 10

Single Is Simple

Look at a new high-end mountain bike and you’ll almost certainly see that it only has one front chainring. Front derailleurs and double or triple chainrings are still specced on many budget bikes, but if you go for a 1x setup there’s less maintenance, one less thing to think about on the trail, and more space on your bars for a dropper seatpost control.

Dropper posts are slightly beyond the budget of most bikes at this price point, but we’re confident that as many of our riders develop, they’ll probably want to fit one. So the Bobcat Trail 4 and 5 are fully dropper-ready, with no front shifter control to get in the way, and the necessary internal cable routing to upgrade later.

The Bobcat Trail 5 has Shimano’s industry-benchmark Deore rear derailleur, while the Bobcat Trail 4 uses Microshift’s innovative wide-range 9-speed derailleur. Both feature a super-low bottom climbing gear that’ll make easy work of the uphills.

Marin Bobcat Trail Best Affordable Hardtail MTB 02

The Marin Bobcat Trail - Ready to shred

The Bobcat Trail range of bikes are all ready to hit the trails. You can buy one as a bike to upgrade when your budget allows, or you can ride it as is. It could be your first proper mountain bike, or the last one you need.

Marin Bobcat Trail 5

The Marin Bobcat Trail

Super capable, super fun, super value. The Marin Bobcat Trail is your perfect gateway to mountain biking, combining quality components, a lightweight aluminum frame and trail-ready geometry. The Bobcat is available with 27.5” and 29” wheels, depending on frame size, and all models feature hydraulic disc brakes and wide-range, trail-friendly drivetrains.

Learn more about it here on or visit your Marin Bikes Dealer.

The women's-specific version of the Bobcat Trail, the Marin Wildcat Trail is made for our female riders, suiting everyone from for-the-fun-of-it, recreational explorers to those looking to go further and faster on the off-road trails. Super fun, super value and super well-specced, the Wildcat Trail is the perfect gateway bike into mountain biking, made 100% for female riders.

Learn more about it here on or visit your Marin Bikes Dealer.
Marin Wildcat Trail 3

You Might Also Be Interested In