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Which Marin Rift Zone Is Right For You?

Carbon or aluminum, 27.5" or 29" There's a Marin Rift Zone out there for everyone, but which one is right for you?


Choices, Choices...

If there was ever a ‘one bike to do it all’ in our range, it’s just got to be the awesome Marin Rift Zone. Named after those epic tectonic features that rest beneath our HQ, the Rift Zone is a bike that we designed to shake up people’s expectations of what a modern mountain bike can do, and what it should (or shouldn’t) cost. In short, it’s a whole mountain of fun but one that won’t put a huge rift in your wallet.

Tectonic puns aside, the Marin Rift Zone is an absolute blast. Available in grown-up and kid’s versions, with aluminum or carbon frame options and in various wheel sizes, it’s more of a ‘family’ than an individual bike.

Regardless of which Rifty you go for, the ‘feel’ of the bike will always remain the same throughout the family. All of our Rift Zones are designed to be fast, agile, easy to ride and tons of fun. We’ve combined shortish travel with lightish weight and long, low and slack (but not too long, low and slack) geometry to make bikes that will go pretty much anywhere you want them to.

The Rifty’s sweet spot is both on tech singletrack and flowing trails, way more capable than a skinny XC whippet but far more nimble than a hefty enduro racer. It’s versatile too - switch out a few components, like tires, to mix up the Rift Zone’s personality a little and you’ll be surprised at how far you can push it.

So which Marin Rift Zone is right for you? Do you need a carbon or aluminum frame? 29” or 27.5”? Good question, let’s break it down.

Person sitting on a wall next to Marin Rift Zone

A Wheelie Big Decision - Marin Rift Zone 27.5 or 29?

The first decision to make when you’re choosing your new Marin Rift Zone is the wheel size with options for 27.5” and 29” wheels available.

There’s a lot of debate amongst riders over the difference between wheel sizes but, let’s keep it simple.

The smaller 27.5” wheels give the bike a slightly more compact ‘feel’ on the trail. It’s playful, easy to throw around, very manoeuvrable and very agile. You’ll rarely see dirt jumpers, skate-park shredders or pump-track rippers on 29” and that’s due to the slight lack of ‘whip’ in a larger wheel. The smaller the wheel, the easier it is generally to chuck around.

The larger 29” wheels make for a bike that’s a little more capable in rougher terrain and holds its speed better. The larger wheels will feel a little smoother when riding rocks and roots and hold speed more easily when you’re charging hard. Many top XC, enduro and downhill pro racers choose 29” wheels, believing the larger size to be faster and easier to control at speed.

Eagle-eyed riders may notice that suspension travel differs between the Rift Zone 27.5” and Rift Zone 29, with a 5mm difference between the two. The term “travel” refers to how much the bike’s rear suspension moves and in the Rifty’s case this difference in travel is simply to account for the difference in wheel size. There’s no real difference between the suspension ‘feel’ of either bike, so don’t get too caught up in the travel numbers.

Does rider height make a difference when choosing 27.5”or 29” wheels? Traditionally it used to be that shorter riders would fit smaller wheels and vice versa, but that’s not the case with our bikes. Choose your wheel size based on your preference, not your body size.

Something to also consider is that our 29” bikes are available with aluminum and carbon frames, whereas 27.5” wheels are only available with alloy frames. That might make your decision even easier!

Marin Rift Zone Carbon XR in the wild

Marin Rift Zone Carbon or Aluminum Frame?

If you’re setting your sites on a Marin Rift Zone, you’ll also need to decide on your frame material of choice - carbon fiber or aluminum.

Aluminum frames are, you guessed it, manufactured out of aluminum metal. They’re made up of a combination of alloy tubes and machined components that are welded together to create strong, comfortable, good looking and great value bikes. Aluminum frames often cost a little less than their carbon counterparts and benefit from taking a little less energy to produce and being recyclable if you do ever need to dispose of them.

Carbon fiber frames are a lot more high tech. Frames are created in a mould, with carbon fiber layered-up to create very strong, very light frames with excellent ride ‘feel’. The process allows us to make more complex, custom frame shapes than with aluminum, meaning we have far more freedom to fine-tune the weight and ride characteristics to perfection. The cost is a little higher but the quality is next level.

And again, don’t forget, our 27.5” Rift Zone is available in aluminum only so if you want the benefits of carbon you'll need to go for those bigger wheels.

Rift Zone Jnr in the wild

Let’s Not Forget the Rift Zone Jnr and Rift Zone 26

We loved the Marin Rift Zone so much we built two versions for our kids - the Marin Rift Zone Jnr and Rift Zone 26.

The fun, easy-to-ride nature of the Rifty makes it a perfect bike for young riders. The Rift Zone Jnr and 26 are aimed at young guns that have been bitten by the MTB bug and need the performance of a big bike, but in a smaller package.

The Rift Zone Jnr packs in 24” wheels, an alloy frame, 120mm rear travel and plenty of quality gear that wouldn’t be out of place on ma and pa’s bike. The 24” wheels can be upgraded to larger 26” when it’s time to upgrade and the cranks can also be easily switched out for something longer. The Rift Zone 26 takes all the good stuff of the Jnr and adds those 26” wheels and longer cranks straight out of the box.

Rift Zone 275 Aluminum in the wild

So, Which Is It? Marin Rift Zone 275, 29, Carbon or Aluminum?

So should you choose aluminum or carbon for your Marin Rift Zone and should you get 27.5” or 29” wheels?

Whatever you choose, you’ll get a kick-ass, do-it-all, made for fun mountain bike. You’ll have bags of good times and either material, wheel size or combination of the two will be super capable on big days in the mountains, laps of your local trail and anything in between.

For those on a tighter budget or less concerned about top-end performance, aluminum is a great choice. If you want the best bike, you’re hunting for superior performance, the least weight and want the best possible experience on the trail then it’s just got to be carbon.

When it comes to wheel size, it’s down to your trails and your style. 27.5” is a little easier to throw around, 29” is a little faster and smoother through rough, technical terrain.

27.5” wheels may suit less experienced riders that are just learning to handle a mountain bike but equally may suit experienced, playful riders that love quick changes of line, tight corners and throwing the bike onto the back wheel.

Equally, 29” wheels may suit more experienced riders a little more and may sit more comfortably with anyone that’s already confident with moving their bike around on the trail. It’s also great for riders that are looking to eek every possible advantage out of the trail, carry speed over rough ground and just want to go flat-out. Whether you’re racing or just want to beat our mates, the bigger wheels may offer you the marginal gain you’re looking for.

Person riding a Marin Rift Zone round a corner

Need some suggestions?

The budget-conscious newbie will love the Rift Zone 29 1 and Rift Zone 29 2, both of which come with aluminum frames and cost well below $2000.

For anyone looking for a boost in performance, there’s the Marin Rift Zone 27.5 3 and Rift Zone 29 3. Our top aluminum model, the Rift Zone 3 is a buck short of $3000 with a serious spec sheet, including Maxxis tires, Marzocchi/Fox suspension and a Shimano SLX drivetrain.

If you’ve got your sights set on top performance, you’ll want carbon. The Marin Rift Zone 29 Carbon 1 or Rift Zone Carbon 29 2 come with a world-class kit list, with the ‘1’ version costing just a little more than the top alloy version. For riders looking to tame even rougher, even rowdier, even techier trails there’s the ass-hauling Rift Zone Carbon XR which brings in a high-performance Fox coil rear shock and Fox Performance Elite Float 36 fork.

You can view the complete Marin Rift Zone 27.5 family here, Rift Zone 29 family here and Rift Zone Jnr/26 family here.

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