Bike Test: Marin Attack Trail C-XT9

There aren’t many places in the world that can claim to be the birthplace of mountain biking, but Marin County is that and more. The area sits just a stone’s throw away from the Golden Gate Bridge and has beautiful rolling hills and legendary trails. It also happens to be the home of Marin Bikes.

Marin Bikes was started in 1986 by a group of passionate riders who were looking to bring the rich cycling culture of Marin County to riders everywhere. Fast forward to today, and Marin Bikes now offers a wide variety of rides to bring the love of cycling to everyone. The latest in its lineup is the Attack Trail C-XT9. This is Marin’s purpose-built enduro bike.

    The Attack Trail is for the adventurous rider who enjoys tough climbs as well as technical descents. The bike was purpose built for enduro racing but is just as happy pulling daily-driver detail on aggressive all-mountain trails and all-day epics.
The Attack’s frame is built from carbon fiber. Marin’s designers chose to use CXR 60T carbon, which is a fancy way of saying they chose a material that would yield a stiff and durable chassis. The Attack Trail also uses Marin’s Quad 3 suspension platform, with leverage curves that have been optimized for enduro racing. Up at the headtube, there are four ports to keep the internal routing of cables organized. The frame also features a downtube protector with cut-outs for optional semi-internal cable routing. Another clever design is the chainstay-mounted caliper, which keeps the caliper out of harm’s way and reduces noise coming from the brake.

The Attack Trail has an all-around solid parts spec. The travel-adjust RockShox Pike is always a favorite, and the Monarch Plus rear shock, with its open, pedal and lock compression settings, is appreciated as well. The Attack Trail also has a KS LEV Integra 125-millimeter dropper seat post that utilizes the frame’s internal routing option for hiding the handlebar remote cable. To stop this enduro machine, Marin picked the ever-so-powerful Avid Elixir Trail 9 brakes. These brakes feature a four-piston caliper for awesome stopping power but come in at a weight similar to that of a two-piston designs.

The fit:
Our Attack Trail would definitely be considered a “smaller” large. The long stock stem made the reach feel similar to that of other larges, however, once we set up the cockpit to make the bike’s handling feel more natural, the size felt closer to a “big” medium. The front-end height of the bike felt spot on, not too high and not too low. The bottom-bracket height was actually quite low, however, proven by how close our feet came to the ground while cranking on the pedals.
Enduro machines are designed to have the legs to get to the top of spectacular descents. Unfortunately, climbing isn’t on the list of strengths for the Attack Trail. We don’t typically use climb switches, but we did on the Marin. The bike is light and the head angle isn’t too slack for climbing, but the rear-end would get into an oscillating “bob” on bumpy hills that was tough to shake without using the climb switch. It’s not that the bike climbs poorly, it just doesn’t make it up the climbs as easily as we’d expect for a bike with these numbers. We suspect that the reason is the incredible suppleness of the Monarch rear shock.
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The Attack Trail felt like an agile street fighter in the turns. The front-end felt light and flickable, making line changes easy and carefree. The bike really came to life on twisty trails that had a moderate downslope with sections of rocks. The Attack Trail liked to be flicked through a tight turn, popped over a set of rocks, and snapped through the next corner. The Marin also dealt with long sweeping corners without a fuss. We took the bike to our local bike park and it did a great job of holding a line through the long man-made corners of the mountain.

The Attack Trail descended with a playful attitude, and the front-end had no trouble darting from line to line. We did notice that the bike reached a threshold where it no longer inspired confidence; however, this wasn’t until the trail became very rough and rowdy. The light and agile feel of the Attack Trail made easy work of some rough sections by allowing us to make quick line changes to pop up and over rocks. Despite its lightweight feel, the Marin jumped very well and was predictable over every jump we hit. It was a great all-around descender.
Most of the components on the Attack Trail fit the purpose of the bike quite well; however, the components missed the mark in two areas, the first being the stem and bar setup. The stock 80-millimeter stem placed us in an awkward body position for all-around trail riding. This, combined with the narrow 711-millimeter handlebars, made for a cockpit that did not feel natural to us, especially on the descents.  We ended up swapping the stock handlebar/stem combo for one with 777-millimeter handlebars and a shorter-reach 40-millimeter stem. These simple upgrades totally changed the personality of the bike and improved its handling.
The other upgrade we would look into would be changing out the cranks for ones with slightly shorter crank arms and a 1X drivetrain setup. The stock cranks have 175-millimeter arms, which had us tagging pedals on technical climbs. We would replace them with 170-millimeter crank arms if the bike is going to see a lot of rock-filled climbing. Also, we have had great luck with 1X10 drivetrain setups due to their predictable nature and simplicity. We would opt for a single chainring crankset on this bike to take advantage of these attributes.

The Marin Attack Trail C-XT9 is a great all-mountain machine, and it is a great bike for those looking for something that is at home on moderately fast trails with lots of turns. The bike does reach a threshold when the trail gets fast, steep and rocky; however, if the Attack Trail stays within its sweet spot, it will not disappoint on the descents. The Marin will not win any awards on the climbs, but the agility it brings to the trails is worth it. The folks at Marin definitely know how to make a flickable bike that brings out a rider’s creativity on the trail.□
Marin Attack Trail C- XT9
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