Bike Test: Marin Mount Vision XM6

Secret trick: There is one add-on component that would greatly enhance the XM6’s already impressive downhill chops.

For many riders, the adventure of mountain biking is all about tackling a wide variety of terrain, and that is exactly what this bike is all about. While the Mount Vision shares its model name with many before it, Marin has redesigned the bike to be lighter, stiffer and hopefully more capable than ever.

The Mount Vision XM6 is designed for the do-it-all rider who refuses to be pigeonholed into a category. From your local trails to backcountry epic rides, the Mount Vision aims to handle it all.

The XM6’s frame is constructed from 6061 aluminum and features a 1 1/8- to 1 1/2-inch tapered head tube. The Mount Vision now features 5.5 inches of suspension travel, thanks to Marin’s Quad Link 3.0 design. Marin was able to lighten the design without sacrificing stiffness by placing pivots in locations where less material is needed. An added bonus is that the frame can now fit a water-bottle cage on top of the downtube where it couldn’t before. The frame also features cable routing for a remote lever for an adjustable seatpost.

Tires can make or break the way a bike feels on the trail. Thankfully, the Maxxis Ardent tires spec’ed on the Marin performed without a hitch. The RockShox Sektor TK Solo Air fork felt solid and had a good range of adjustability for a relatively inexpensive bike. While not a high-tech, expensive cockpit spec, the Marin-branded wide handlebar and short stem complemented the geometry of the bike perfectly.

Push it: Marin has done a nice job stiffening up the front end on the newest Mount Vision, helping keep the bike on track when pushing hard on descents or through corners.

Moving out: The Mount Vision’s rider position is upright
with a top tube on the shorter end of the spectrum and a short and wide cockpit setup. This centered position is perfect for an all-mountain trail rig and allows the rider to move his weight around quickly and easily.

Cornering: The dialed geometry and plush suspension make for a bike that corners with confidence. The Maxxis Ardent tires stuck like glue to our local trails, which feature a mix of hardpack and loose sand and rocks. The Mount Vision felt most at home while railing loose corners at our limits. However, this level of control can be a double-edged sword, as the bike seems to lack some playfulness on the trail. While the geometry numbers don’t look abnormal, the rear end feels long. When it came to throwing the rear around tight corners in a hurry, the bike needed to be muscled around rather than finessed.

Climbing: Suspension and frame designers are always looking to strike the difficult balance between pedaling efficiency and suspension action. In this case, Marin’s Quad Link 3.0 suspension seems to give up a bit of pedaling efficiency in exchange for greater small-bump sensitivity, making the bike feel a bit sluggish uphill.

There is some pedal bob when climbing, especially during out-of-the-saddle efforts. To combat this, the RockShox Ario shock features a lockout lever that essentially turns the bike into a hardtail. While effective, the hardtail feel can be harsh on the rough trails this bike is designed for. A ProPedal lever, which is available on the more expensive XM7 model, would be ideal, as it would stiffen the rear suspension without completely locking it out.

The bike also suffers a bit of chain growth thanks to the rearward motion of the axle at the beginning of its path. Hitting abrupt obstacles while climbing in the small ring leads to the suspension tugging the cranks against your feet a bit.

Descending: The properties of the Mount Vision that detract from its climbing abilities have the opposite effect on its descending prowess. The bike’s geometry and plush suspension are confidence-inspiring—even on rough, steep descents. The Quad Link 3.0 suspension resisted bottoming while remaining very active through the beginning and mid-stroke, soaking up trail chatter and mid-sized hits like they weren’t there.

Lowering the saddle for descents produces big handling gains. The front wheel became easier to lift up, and technical descents became more comfortable as we were able to get over the back of the bike with ease. While we didn’t find ourselves lowering the saddle for every descent, this was only because without a “dropper” post, we were required to stop and move it manually.

Braking: While the Avid Elixir 1 hydraulic disc brakes sit toward the bottom of the totem pole in Avid’s product line, the power and control were impressive. The 7-inch front rotor and 6-inch rear provided plenty of power, and the brakes were aided by loads of traction from the grippy Maxxis tires and the bike’s active rear suspension.

An adjustable-height dropper seatpost would be a fantastic upgrade. With the cable routing already in place, adding a dropper post would up the fun factor significantly. And with the bike already at 30.4 pounds, the benefits definitely outweigh the 1-pound weight penalty.

The Mount Vision is a testament to how good a bike can be without an ultra-expensive parts kit if the geometry is dialed and the suspension design does what it is supposed to do. At $2100, the XM6 offers an impressive ride that feels capable and confidence-inspiring beyond its price tag. While not a cross-country race weapon on the climbs, the Mount Vision will appeal to riders more concerned with railing corners and pushing it on descents.

This review originally appeared in our November 2012 issue, subscribe to MBA here.