Our Fave Adventure Hardtail (Steel Too!) Is Back

A few years ago, we reviewed the Marin Pine Mountain 2, which was the 29er update of what I still think is the most fun bike I’ve ever ridden, the 27.5-plus Pine Mountain which has been discontinued. I liked the bike a lot, though I missed the smaller wheels. The only real issues I had were with the tires and, eventually, that it rode a little too upright for me.

The new version is out now, however, and while I haven’t ridden one yet, they’ve slackened it a bit and I’m super intrigued.

It’s still a 29er, still a steel frame festooned with mounting points, and still has the bedroll handlebars, which I like. Even if you don’t plan to go bikepacking, it’s still nice to have some space on the bars to mount things or even tie off a jacket you’ve shed because you’re sweating like a yak.

The Pine Mountain 2 is the higher spec model, with a Shimano SLX drivetrain, Shimano MT520 brakes (the BEST bang for your buck out there), a RockShox FS 35 fork, TransX dropper, and the same 2.6″ Vee Flow Snap tires I didn’t care for the first time around (though it should be noted, the tires never failed me). It sells for $2400, and while a few years ago that would have been eye popping for a steel hardtail, the price seems fair for what you’re getting.

Plus, it’s got a slightly slacker head tube, and slacker geometry overall, which is something I’d hoped for with the previous model.

Here’s what I said about that 2020 model:

“I’ve put just about 500 miles on the XL-sized bike so far, over a variety of trails: steep and loose, steep and rocky/rooty/terrifying, gravel roads, winding flow trails, and a combination of all of the above. Throw in plenty of in-town pavement cruising too.

My overall impressions are of a confident, stable bike that rides efficiently and can handle almost anything. On flowy trails, it’s a refined hoot, loading up energy in the compliant steel, releasing it after a bank; on punishing climbs, the steep seat angle (74.5 degrees) keeps you in a comfortable pedal position, and the relatively speaking slack (66.5 degrees) headtube angle keeps things playful when pointed down. The reach on the XL is 455 mm, which isn’t very long for an XL; I feel comfortable and ready for long saddle days in the cockpit, and riding it around town it almost feels like a commuter with super wide bars.

It’s just easy to ride. It’s fun to ride. I have a stable of bikes to choose if I want to ride to the coffee place or to grab something at the store, including an e-bike and a Public bike townie thing, and 9 times out of 10 I ride the Pine Mountain. It’s not what I’d consider a particularly rowdy trail bike, but if I just want to cruise in the afternoon on some dirt and don’t feel in the mood for shredding, I’m on the Pine Mountain. If I wanna load up with gear and ride up to a lake to fish, I’m on the Pine Mountain. If I were to be bikepacking this weekend, it would be on the Pine Mountain.
Add all that up, and that’s one bike doing a lot of things.

Right there on the headset cap it reads: Made for fun. And I think that’s exactly right. This is a $2,100 bike that is built to last, comes specced with respectable components, will take you anywhere you could ever want to go, looks great, and is fun doing it. Long term, I’m absolutely swapping the tires, rebuilding the fork (not Marin’s fault – the fork it came with felt clunky), maybe swapping out the bars for something with a little more give. I’m also absolutely having fun.”

Will the 2023 model produce those same grins? I have to imagine it will. Can’t wait to try it.

*There’s also a Pine Mountain 1 with no dropper and lower-specced components for $1,500. But I’d swing for the higher end model.*

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