The Rift Zone XC8 is a capable & adaptable trail bike.
The XC8 sits at the top of the alloy Rift Zone line of 100mm travel 29er models. The frame features similar tube shaping to that of Marin’s other hydroformed models, with an attractive swooping top tube and robust down tube. The bike comes with an admirable two water bottle mounts. Paint finish is an understated matte grey with green highlights- a “blend in with the surroundings” sort of look. It hits the register at an MSRP of $3799
First glance component highlights include a full Shimano XT 3×10 drivetrain, Fox CTD fork & rear shock, Easton EA70 wheels, Formula RX brakes, and Continental X King tires. Of note, the build package sports a 7″ front rotor for more power, and the clutched rear derailleur which reduces drivetrain chatter and noise to nil.
I’ve had opportunities to ride this demo bike several times over the last few months, most recently on a ride up Thomas Mountain and down the Ramona Trail. The ride starts with a few miles of pavement followed by a dirt road climb (couple thousand feet of gain) finished with a long technical descent.
This has become a good test loop for me as it gives plenty of opportunity to fiddle with suspension settings and feel out a bike in a wide variety of conditions.
On the trail
The Quad Link suspension is not finicky about suspension sag setup, as some linkage type systems can be. The Marin doesn’t seem to be any dictated sag “sweet spot,” and I mean this in a good way. Run less sag for a more efficient feel, or more sag for a more active suspension and the mechanics of the bike will give you no negative feedback either way. The Fox CTD damping settings work great, and the “Trail” setting feels just right for fire road climbs.
On singletrack, the suspension feels linear and bottomless in “Descend” mode. The Rift Zone takes on a very capable trail bike feel here- tracking straight and loading low & predictable in corners. This smooth suspension loading/corner carving came to be one of my favorite traits about the bike.
On the flats, the Rift Zone zips along with a lively feel. The Easton wheelset spins up fast and the Continental tires roll smooth. The WTB saddle fit my medium-width sitbones nicely. I am curious to ride it more over longer distances; I suspect it can be an all-day comfortable bike.
Complaints include a less inspired paint scheme compared to other models. I’d like to see a drop shadow on the down tube logo… but that’s nitpicking. I didn’t get along well with the Ergon grips, though I could be in a minority opinion there. I think the bike packs a lot of value at $3799 (often seen at $3499) and walks a great line between race bike and trail bike.