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Gravel Unraveled: The difference Between Marin's Drop Bar Gravel Bikes

Puzzling over which drop bar Marin is right for you? Read on to get the skinny on all things gravel in our range.

Marin Four Corners with Bike Packing Bags

Get to know your Gestalts from your Four Corners.

Gravel bikes have taken the cycling world by storm over the past few years, with good reason. Combine the drop bars and lightweight of a road bike, the grippy tires and powerful disc brakes of a mountain bike, and the load-hauling capacity of an old school tourer, and you've got a magic mixture for a fun, versatile machine.

"Versatile" is probably one of the first words to spring to mind when we think of gravel bikes, because while they're not as fast on asphalt as a road bike, or as sure-footed on dirt as a mountain bike, they can cross between these two worlds with ease.

This makes them a great choice if you need one bike to do lots of different types of riding, or if you're looking for a bike that will give you a totally fresh riding experience. Here at Marin we like to say "Beyond Road" to describe these bikes. That isn't just a catchphrase, it's a great indication of what the Marin Four Corners, Nicasio, Headlands, Gestalt and Lombard models can do.

Gravel bikes are particularly good for dodging traffic on your daily commute, loading up with bags and heading off for an overnighter or a longer tour, and exploring the open spaces you can ride to from your front door.

They're comfortable to ride day in, day out, thanks to features like big tires and flared handlebars. You could even line up at the start of a local cyclocross race on one, if you fancied 45 minutes of maxing out your heart rate in the mud. If you're after an "n+1 bike," or if you're limiting yourself to just one "n," a gravel bike should be on your list.

So why, then, if gravel bikes are good at doing everything, do we have four different drop bar bikes in our range? More choice is always a good thing, but gravel bikes aren't all the same, and there are some bikes that fit a particular purpose better than others.

To give you an idea of what we mean, we're going to look at the Marin range and give you an idea who would get the most out of each bike.

Marin Gestalt X11 riding through puddle bike packing gear
Marin Four Corners 11

Want to Travel The World? Go Four Corners.

If you're setting your sights on the horizon, and want a super reliable and super fun travel companion, the Marin Four Corners is aimed at you.

Made for bikepacking and long-distance adventures (but still suitable for the ride to work), it's built around a full CrMo frame and fork which offers a combination of strength, comfort and reliability.

Steel frames have been the choice of cycling adventurers for years, often offering a comfortable ride that many feel takes the 'buzz' out of the road better than aluminum. Considered a more 'traditional' material, many also feel that steel frames have a bit more soul than alloy or carbon.

You can't take in the scenery with your head down, so the Marin Four Corners features a more upright riding position with a higher front end than, for example, an aggressive road racing bike. You can still get down on the drops when you're battling a headwind or enjoying a descent, but it's designed for comfortable all-day riding.

When you're covering serious miles, a bike that fits perfectly becomes extra important. The Four Corners is available in no less than five different sizes to fit riders 4’11 to 6’4”, with smaller wheel sizes on smaller frames. For proper fit and bike handling sizes XS and S use 650B wheels, sizes M, L, and XL use 700C.

The ace up the Four Corners' sleeve is big and comfortable tires, with room for up to 50mm rubber. Big tires means big options for your adventures and the ability to setup a surefooted, confidence-inspiring and a stable bike that'll work when you break away from the roads and onto rougher terrain.

Where old school touring bikes were definitely designed to be used with traditional racks and panniers, the Four Corners gives you some lighter weight bike packing options. Thanks to a load of extra mounts for bottles, bags and gear cages you can easily pair it with soft luggage if you prefer. Mounts on the frame and forks offer plenty of options and capacity for local camp-outs to big, multi-day adventures.

Brakes have also improved since the days of cantilevers and calipers, and the Four Corners has cable-operated TRP disc brakes for a combination of stopping power and straightforward maintenance.

Learn more about the Marin Four Corners here.

What's in a name? The Marin Four Corner's name should be obvious, it's built to roam!

Marin Bikes Nicaso 2

Want to Get Off The Beaten Track? You Need a Nicasio.

The Marin Nicasio is our take on a steel gravel bike that'll turn its hand to almost anything, from back-lane bashing to bikepacking to the daily grind. The Nicasio is a great entry into our Beyond Road range and, like the Four Corners, also uses a CrMo frame and fork.

One of our most popular bikes, the Marin Nicasio is set up for riders that want to mix up their terrains, jumping between asphalt and light off-road. We see riders grinding out road miles, off-road adventures and even racing their local cyclocross series on the Nicasio, proving just how much of an all-rounder it really is.

The base model Nicasio is aimed at newer riders who want classic looks matched with modern gear. It comes with comfortable, all-rounder 30mm x 700c tires (with room for up to 40mm) for off-road, racks and fenders for the commute, and has Promax disc brakes for clean, reliable all-weather stopping power.

The Nicasio 2 features a lighter Series 2 CrMo frame and a carbon fiber fork. Its hydraulic brakes are more powerful than cable discs, while its 2x10 drivetrain gives you a much better chance of conquering the steepest hills than traditional road gearing.

The Nicasio+ is designed for riders who want to get off-road more than stay on, making use of smaller 650B wheels but larger 47mm tires. These have almost the same diameter as a 700C road wheel and tire, but add a load more grip and cushioning thanks to their massive width. Its 1x drivetrain means no more adjusting front derailleurs, but also boasts a super-wide gear range.

For those of you looking for more of an adventure, all Nicasio models come equipped with frame and fork mounts for bottles, mudguards and frame bags and it's one of our most popular bikes for multi-day, bike packing adventures.

All the bikes in the Marin Nicasio range can be run with 650B or 700C wheels, so there's plenty of room to experiment with your setup.

Learn more about the Marin Nicasio here.

What's in a name? The Nicasio Valley is a lovely spot in northern Marin County that's popular with the roadies.

Marin Gestalt

Looking For The Classic Gravel Bike? Grab a Gestalt.

It's something of a cliché to say that gravel bikes are 'road bikes for mountain bikers', but the Marin Gestalt series certainly brings together the joys of drop-bar riding with a nod towards the baggy shorts crew.

All the frames in the Marin Gestalt family draw geometry inspiration from Marin's mountain bikes, without losing their ability to munch miles on the road. Featuring a short back end, long front triangle and relaxed angles, they offer a combination of agility and stability.

The Gestalt, Gestalt 1 and Gestalt 2 models are all aimed at riders who want that classic 'gravel bike' shape. That means relaxed, but not slack, geometry and the ability to run up to large, but not fat, tires. They're great for riders that enjoy plenty of road but still want a bike that doesn't shy away from rough terrain, a cyclocross race or even a cross-country epic.

The base model Gestalt packs in plenty of punch for just over a thousand bucks, with a Series 2 Beyond Road Aluminum frame, sturdy cable disk brakes, a 2x8 drive train and fast-rolling but grippy tires.

Upgrade to the Gestalt 1 and you'll see a great quality Shimano Sora 2x9 drivetrain and jump up to a lighter Series 3 Beyond Road frame.

The Marin Gestalt 2 steps up to a Shimano Tiagra 2x10 drivetrain while the top-of-the-tree Marin Gestalt 2.5 adds Shimano Tiagra hydraulic disc brakes for ultimate comfort and control.

Learn more about the Marin Gestalt here.

What's in a name? 'Gestalt' means an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts. It also happens to be the name of our Director of Product Development's favourite post-ride watering hole!

Marin Gestalt X11 with bike packing gear

Blurring The Lines Between Gravel and MTB? Go Gestalt X

For riders that really want to hit the dirt, there's the Gestalt X.

Designed to fit our vision of modern 'gravel', it's an aggressive and confidence-inspiring drop bar that's super capable off-road and seamlessly blurs the line between gravel and mountain biking.

Inspired by Marin's mountain bikes, the Gestalt X is designed to be more aggressive and a little lower and slacker than the classic Gestalts. It can take a dropper seat post, has room for up to 700Cx45mm or 650Bx47mm tires and a mountain bike inspired 1X drive train. It'll tackle everything from the ride to work to as much full-blown, off-road singletrack as you dare!

The Marin Gestalt X10 has a 10-speed 1X drive train, mechanical disc brakes and room to upgrade to a dropper post. The top-spec Marin Gestalt X11 has all the bells-and-whistles with a dropper post as standard, an 11-speed 1X drivetrain and powerful Shimano GRX hydraulic disc brakes.

All of this puts technical off-road trails front and center and allows you to rethink what's possible on a gravel bike. If you like your gravel chunky, you'll love this bike.

Learn more about the Marin Gestalt X here.

Marin Lombard with orange wall in background

Need a Quick Commute? Time to Land a Lombard

There are so many reasons to commute by bike: it’s great for the planet, it’s great for your wallet and it’s great for your fitness. Named after one of San Francisco’s iconic urban thoroughfares, the Marin Lombard is our take on an ideal ride-to-work machine that's not shy of a weekend ride or a detour on the rough stuff.

The Lombard's lightweight aluminum frame has wraparound reflective graphics for extra visibility to other road users, and internal cabling and disc brakes shrug off the street grime.

Tough, wide-rimmed wheels are paired with big volume 40mm tires, for shortcuts beyond road. The tires feature built-in puncture protection, and there’s even a chainring guard to keep the oil off your jeans. And, for those of you that fancy an adventure on the weekend, the Marin Lombard is great for lightweight tracking and bikepacking.

Learn more about the Marin Lombard here.

What's in a name? This one is named after a route that slices through the heart of San Francisco, becoming "the world's crookedest street" at one point.

Marin Headlands in field

Hunting for Performance? The Headlands Is Your Answer

Last but not least is the Marin Headlands, our highest-performing and highest-spec drop-bar.

Similar to the Marin Gestalt X but built with a high-tech, unidirectional carbon frame, the Headlands is made for anything you can throw it at. Multi-day adventures, off-road racing, quick blasts of the local MTB trails and backcountry epics should all be in your sights with a Headlands. Anyone that tunes in to Marin pro Juliet Elliott's YouTube channel will exactly know what this bike is capable of!

The full unidirectional carbon frame is lighter weight and with even better vibration damping than its alloy and steel counterparts, and is created to offer a super comfortable and confidence-inspiring ride on the rough stuff.

Like the Gestalt X, the Headlands takes cues from trail mountain bikes and blends them with our idea of modern gravel riding. That means shorter stays and longer top-tubes than traditional gravel frames and room for big tires (700x45mm/650Bx47mm), a 1X drivetrain and plenty of top-flight components. There are also plenty of options for accessories with mounts for racks, fenders and frame bags.

The Marin Headlands 1 comes with a Shimano GRX drivetrain, 40mm Schwalbe G-One Performance tires and a whole host of top-quality Marin gear. The upgraded Marin Headlands 2 ups the volume to 44mm with WTB Byway tires and introduces plenty of FSA Components gear for some added gains. And, for the custom-build fans there's also a frame-and-fork option to create the perfect dream build.

Learn more about the Marin Headlands here.

What's in a name? The Marin Headlands is inspired by one of the most beautiful parts of the Bay Area, where the Golden Gate Bridge meets Marin County, and the Pacific meets the rugged, rolling hills - once home to military bases protecting the bay.

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