Marin Rift Zone XR Review

The Marin Rift Zone XR is an aluminum trail bike with a quality build that includes a SRAM GX Eagle Transmission drivetrain.

I’ve held onto the Marin Rift Zone XR AXS for far longer than I should have. I don’t recall the exact date the bike showed up but I do recall riding the Comet Vomet group ride on it at the tail end of 2023. Anything before that is sorta hazy. The thing is, while I love riding it, the Marin Rift Zone hasn’t been easy to pin down. Is it more flash than function? A killer parts spec at a value price? After several months of riding it pretty much everywhere, I can confidently say it’s a solid trail bike that offers a unique mix of attributes that riders won’t find from other brands.

Marin Rift Zone key specs

  reader rating (1 votes)
  • 150/130mm suspension travel front/rear
  • Geometry highlights: 65.5° HTA, 77° effective STA, 515mm reach (size XL, tested)
  • Build highlights: SRAM GX Eagle Transmission drivetrain, SRAM Code Bronze 4-piston brakes, RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork
  • Weight: 15.7kg (34.6lb) size XL as tested
  • Price: $4,899
  • Buy from Select Rift Zone builds are also available online from evo.

The Marin Rift Zone XR AXS starts with a 6061 aluminum alloy frame featuring double- and triple-butted, shaped tubing. With a 2.36:1 leverage ratio, the Rift Zone is single pivot with a rocker link, a setup the brand calls MultiTrac. Like a lot of systems, MultiTrac is designed to deliver “small bump sensitivity and the feeling of a long travel system on large drops and rocks.”

The frame sports internal cable and brake hose routing through the front triangle of the bike. It makes for a clean look up top while simplifying the routing on the back end, and that seems to be a pretty good compromise.

Rift Zone XR alloy models (the XR stands for extra rad) are UDH-compatible and include an updated and robust chainstay protector. There’s a set of mounts inside the front triangle for a water bottle and the frame uses metric shock sizing with a threaded 73mm bottom bracket.

Our test bike features a glossy finish and two-tone fade paint job that turns a lot of heads. The real metal head badge is a nice touch along with the generally subtle yellow text and graphics. Altogether this XL bike weighs 15.7kg (about 34.6lb) without pedals.

Marin Rift Zone geometry

The Rift Zone aluminum models were just updated last year so it’s no surprise that the geometry is looking pretty fresh without going too extreme. The 65.5° head tube angle is just a smidge slacker than the average 2023 trail bike and the reach is longer too. The 77° effective seat tube angle is steeper than the average while the 430mm chainstays are significantly shorter than much of the competition. On paper those short chainstays suggest a more playful trail bike.

Head tube angle65.5°65.5°65.5°65.5°
Head tube length110115125130
Seat tube angle77°77°77°77°
Seat tube length390400425430
Top tube (effective)579605632.1663.2
BB height343343343343
BB drop35353535
Chainstay length430430430430
Stand over height690.2691.2701.7700.5

Marin Rift Zone 29″ XR AXS build

Marin says the Rift Zone 29″ XR AXS is the brand’s “highest-spec, highest-tech Rift Zone alloy model ever.” Leading the way is the SRAM GX Eagle Transmission wireless drivetrain, and Marin has specced 170mm arms on the crankset. Most buyers will agree it’s a nice change from 175mm-long cranks that have pretty much been the standard for a very long time. Pair that with a relatively high, 343mm bottom bracket height and riders are sure to find pedal strikes fewer and farther between.

Then there’s the newest SRAM Code Bronze 4-piston brakes. I actually got more comments about the brakes on this bike than the drivetrain. It’s funny how such a seemingly simple tweak to the hose position on the lever gets riders excited. And it’s exciting indeed, especially if you plan to run a bar bag or just like the look of a neat cockpit.

Buyers also get a RockShox Lyrik Select+ fork up front, a Super Deluxe Select+ shock, and 29×2.5″ Maxxis Assegai tires front and rear. The Marin-branded, aluminum alloy rims are 29mm wide and the TranzX dropper post drops up to 200mm on the size XL builds. The 780mm-wide bars and 35mm diameter stem, along with the grips and saddle, are all Marin house brand.

Marin also makes a carbon Rift Zone trail bike, and those builds are priced similarly to the alloy XR bike I tested. Buyers in this price range get to decide if they’d rather invest in the frame, or the component selection. My own bias is to save money on the frame and go for quality parts. Then again, upgrading parts over time is always an option; upgrading to a lighter frame would mean buying a new bike.

On the trail

I rode the Marin Rift Zone XR pretty much everywhere and every way you can imagine. It’s a trail bike after all, and not some kind of delicate flower. I loaded it up with handlebar and frame bags for some rides, attached a rear rack for others, and then took everything off again for riding at the local bike park.

Reviewer profile height: 190cm (6’3″) weight: 72.5kg (160lb) testing zone: Southeast, USA


At some point during one of my flow trail rides I blew the O-ring off the shock. That’s certainly not unusual, but the thing is that I never felt a thing. The leverage curve for MultiTrac suspension on the Rift Zone 29 shows a distinct leveling off toward the end of the stroke that I found really does reduce the effects of bottoming out. The Rift Zone feels composed upon landing three-foot jumps and hucks-to-flat, that is aside from the one time I landed directly on a large rock.

I enjoy descending technical trails even more than riding jump trails, and here the Rift Zone is a solid performer as well. I was able to dial in the RockShox Super Deluxe Select+ exactly where I wanted it, with the rear wheel sticking to whatever line I chose. I suspect the Assegai tires play a big role in the Rift Zone’s ability to track the ground courtesy of the quality Maxxis rubber that absorbs noisy trail chatter. With 150mm of suspension travel up front it’s easy to smash rocks and roots without losing too much control.

In the corners, the Rift Zone XR gets the job done thanks to the tire spec and also the shortish chainstays and long travel dropper post. The high bottom bracket and shorter cranks are welcome here as well, though that’s mitigated to some degree by the large platform Marin flat pedals I was testing which dragged the ground at the most extreme angles.

As I mentioned in the geometry section above, the short chainstays suggest a playful ride, and while they do play a role, I’d argue the part spec and overall weight play just as much of a role, if not more. With all of that in mind, I wouldn’t describe the Rift Zone XR as a playful bike. The bike is heavy so it takes a little extra effort to pop off roots, and while that didn’t stop me from doing so, I probably chose to pop off fewer roots than I would have if the bike was lighter. Here again the tires color the ride feel, excelling at keeping the bike glued to the trail as opposed to urging it to float just above the dirt.

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Overall the Rift Zone descends more like an enduro bike than say a dirt jumper or freeride bike, or any bike that’s been optimized for riding-style points. It wasn’t until I started drafting this review that I realized how similar the Rift Zone feels to my own full suspension alloy bike, a custom-specced Canyon Neuron. I’ll be the first to admit that my bike isn’t the most nimble, or playful, but it is more than capable (and definitely fun!) for 90% of the riding I want to do. And because both bikes are alloy I have no problem using them to absolutely plow the trails.

Photo: Leah Barber

Pedaling and climbing on the Marin Rift Zone XR

The Marin Rift Zone XR is well supported for pedaling with nice small bump compliance that delivers good traction without sapping power. Pedaling out of the saddle does start to feel bouncy, but no more than most of the other trail bikes I’ve tested lately. However the knobby tires and overall weight felt draggy whenever I had to traverse long, flat sections.

When it’s truly time to climb, the Rift Zone XR punches above (or should I say below?) its weight. The steep effective seat tube angle puts the rider in a comfortable position for delivering power to the rear wheel and the front tracks straight and true, even on the steepest pitches. The GX Eagle Transmission derailleur adds an assist in the climbs too with its ability to shift under load. Unlike a few bikes in this category, I didn’t totally dread the climbs on the Rift Zone.

Last year I had a hard time finding a good fit on the XL bikes I tested, and most left me hunched over the bars. The size XL Rift Zone proved to be comfortable overall and tempers a generous reach with a nice stack height. Looking at the geometry chart I might also be able to pull off a size large which I suspect would feel more playful, though slightly less efficient and comfortable on the climbs.

Circling back to the question of whether I’d rather own this Rift Zone XR or the similarly priced carbon version, I’m pretty much sold on the aluminum alloy XR. At least for now, the alloy Rift Zone delivers more rear suspension travel, the frame colors are way more fun, and the component choices are tough to beat.

Pros and cons of Marin Rift Zone


  • Great parts spec for the money
  • Frame finish is hotness
  • Tough and dependable frame


  • Heavy
  • Not very playful

Bottom line

Is the Rift Zone XR more flash than function? I’d say it’s both flashy and functional, though perhaps not quite as playful as the paint job might suggest. Does it deliver a killer parts spec at a value price? Absolutely.

The Marin Rift Zone 29″ XR AXS trail bike looks great and comes with a nice parts spec that promises solid performance for everyday rides.