Bike Test: Marin Mount Vision 9
Marin Mount Vision 9
It is not very often that you will find us here at MBA at a loss for words, but after our first ride on the Marin Mount Vision 9, that is exactly what happened. We put in a call to Darrell Voss, the designer of the Naild R3ACT 2PLAY suspension, to find out more about this extremely innovative design. The first thing that Darrell told us was, “Start with a white sheet of paper. Forget everything you think you know about suspension, and ride this bike with an open mind.” This was the best advice we could have been given, because you cannot set up this bike traditionally. Here is why: Damping is a simplified word for oil restriction in suspension, and restriction on the bike equals energy loss. The R3ACT 2PLAY suspension is designed to detune the rear shock and create less resistance between the tire and the ground without affecting the pedal efficiency.
The Mount Vision is a uniquely designed carbon frame with 150mm of travel, combined with the R3ACT 2PLAY suspension from Naild, on a 27.5-inch wheelset. The suspension is guided by a telescopic sliding cylinder at the bottom bracket and attached to the frame with a four-bar linkage. The carbon swing arm is extremely stiff and keeps torsion flex to a minimum. Isaac Newton’s third law states that all forces between two objects exist in equal magnitude and opposite direction. This is the whole premise of the R3ACT 2PLAY suspension and why the “E” is replaced by the number “3” (a nod to Newton’s third law) in the name. Marin has worked closely with Voss, who is a huge admirer of Newton and his laws, on a frame that challenges the current philosophy of mountain bike suspension. Voss states, “Someone has to be first.”
The Mount Vision 9 came with our editor’s favorite spec of a SRAM X01 drivetrain and Shimano XT brakes. It also has equally impressive branded parts that we’ve come to expect on a bike at this price. With huge 2.6-inch wide WTB tires mounted to Stan’s Sentry hoops, we had as much traction as we could ask for but paid a price in rolling resistance. The Deity bar and stem pairing have a great feel, eliminating the need to upgrade in the future. The contact points are super comfy, with a WTB Volt saddle and Marin lock-on grips. For this bike in a size large, however, we would have prefer a longer dropper post than the stock 150mm length.
As stated at the beginning, you have to keep an open mind. The R3ACT 2PLAY suspension is totally different from any other suspension setup on the market. The recommended sag is 25 percent, which is 15mm of the 60mm stroke, with the compression setting completely open. The rebound dial was adjusted to the middle. On our very first ride we set up the bike with traditional compression settings, which made the platform seem fully locked out and non-responsive. Again, you have to trust the advice given to you by the manufacturer. We were told that the Fox Float X2 Performance shock compression was de-tuned 60 percent from the factory, and they are hoping for even less in the future. This technology keeps the rear wheel in constant contact with the ground so that it tracks every root, rock and rut without skipping. The best way to describe it would be to imagine a tire with minimal air pressure contouring the obstacles that it comes in contact with without the risk of rim damage or having the tire bead burp off of the rim. The difference is, the tire is inflated. You don’t have the sloshy, sluggish feeling of a flat tire, but it very seldom loses contact with the ground under pedal pressure or rebound. That makes the Mount Vision equally capable of climbing and descending. The technology is designed to balance the rider’s weight and pedal force while maintaining traction at the rear wheel at all times. The suspension and drivetrain work in harmony, yet are independent of each other.
Our setup on the Fox Performance Elite 36 fork was the manufacturer standard of 20-percent sag, but it took an additional 10 pounds above the Fox-recommended settings to get the sag dialed. We set the rebound at 10 clicks from slow and the lowspeed compression right in the middle with eight clicks. We came back later and added two additional volume spacers for a total of four and were able to drop the air pressure. This allowed the bottom of the stroke to be plush and match the rear suspension while ramping up harder towards the end of the stroke for bigger hits. This is a huge benefit for heavier riders.
Cornering with confidence on Naild’s R3ACT 2PLAY suspension system. This bike is an actual game changer and will open the eyes of the entire industry.
DOWN AND DIRTY
Unloading this 33-pound beast had us mentally prepared for a grueling day in the saddle. Before dropping in at the trailhead, another rider even asked if it was an e-bike. The tires create a slow and heavy sense of acceleration, but once we got them rolling, things started to have a more natural feel. The Mount Vision pedals more like a shorter-travel trail bike than the 150mm aggressive bike that it truly is. This bike is well-balanced, and the geometry is consistent with the evolution of the sport. The head angle allows you to avoid dabbing in switchbacks but still gives you confidence in fast, sweeping turns. It rolls over rock gardens without fear of dropping the front wheel and carries momentum well.
Climbing: There is a myth that big-travel bikes can’t climb well. This is not the case whatsoever with the Mount Vision. In fact, it is one of the more efficient bikes we’ve climbed with. The rear wheel traces the ground effortlessly and rarely loses contact or traction due to the ultra-low compression. Pedaling forces propel the bike forward with minimal restriction. The feeling is one that you have to experience yourself, as it is difficult to put into words because the physics lack a practical translation. While pedaling, the rear wheel is extremely active, completely opposite of what we have been told is efficient for the past three decades. The Mount Vision is as advantageous on washboard stutter bumps as it is on steep, rocky and technical sections. The negatives are weight and tire friction. You will quickly realize that this is a 33-pound bike with 2.6-inch tires, and there is no masking that. There were no complaints about bottom bracket height. The center of gravity felt nice and low, and we experienced very few pedal strikes. From the perspective of a taller rider on a size large, we’d have preferred a 175mm crank over the stock 170mm arms, but that is personal preference.
The Mount Vision is an aggressive trail bike that climbs remarkably well.
The flow: When you look down at the front end of the bike while riding, it looks like a trail bike. The head angle doesn’t give you the feeling that you are on a 150mm bike, yet it earns your confidence quickly. The most notable thing we experienced was how well this bike sits in the corners. It allows you to enter a turn way faster than you would expect without losing your line. The suspension settles in and stays steady, allowing the turn to be completed without that springy rebound that typically deflects you out of the line at the exit of the turn. Entering the turn, you can set your front wheel in the rut or line and track all the way through to the exit without any recoil sensation. Sure, those are fundamentals, but this bike allows you to execute this strategy with less effort and thought. Another surprise was how responsive this bike felt.
With low compression, you would think the bike would feel bogged down, but it doesn’t. The R3ACT 2PLAY suspension is extremely active while descending. It has a unique coil-spring shock feel. It is very comfortable in the air off of fast boosters, as well as in technically rough terrain. We pushed through the entire travel multiple times and never had the sensation of bottoming out. Once again, the low compression defied logic. The bike felt extremely balanced, with the front and rear suspension working in harmony. The 2.6-inch tires worked on the steep and rough terrain and were another advantage diving into corners.
MODS AND UPGRADES
In light of where we tested the Mount Vision 9, we would have chosen different tires, but you will find this to be a zip code-specific concern. Wherever you live, tire choice will be dictated by elevation and terrain. For us a 2.3–2.4-inch would be a more efficient rolling size without giving up much on the descents. Every bike has to come with some stock tire branding and sizing, and a lot of riders, especially at resorts, will embrace this stock option. Another helpful switch would be to change out the dropper post. At over 6 feet tall, our testers prefer a 170mm or 180mm post.
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