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Marin San Quentin Series Review — Aggressive Trail-Shredding Hardtail

By Jordan Grimes   /  Last updated - November 16, 2023   /  Hardtail, Marin, Mountain Bikes, Reviews

marin san quentin review

The Marin San Quentin is a 27.5″ trail/cross-country hardtail designed with the help of professional mountain biker Matt Jones.

This bike blends characteristics from Marin Bikes’ Alcatraz dirt-jumper and modern trail hardtails to create a highly capable and agile package. 

The San Quentin is available in three different builds. Each has a slightly different spec but maintains the same versatile geometry that inspires fast descending, efficient climbing, and ripping through corners. 

This Marin San Quentin review will provide a general overview of the series, break down the individual models and their differences, and finish with our verdict on whether or not you should choose this bike. 

8Expert Score
MSRP $1,099 to $2,399

An affordable 27.5-inch hardtail designed for riders who like fast and aggressive trail riding.

  • Affordable
  • Agile and stable at speed
  • Capable jumper
  • Outperforms price range
  • Powerful brakes
  • Heavy
  • Cheap plastic pedals and grips

Marin San Quentin Overview

Bikes like Marin San Quentin are among the best hardtail bikes for new mountain bikers or even for full-suspension riders who want to experience the trail fully again. 

A trail or cross-country hardtail like this adds excitement to any trail you encounter, offering opportunities to jump, thunder down descents, and improve or refresh your skills and technique without nullifying the terrain. 

What’s New for the 2022 Marin San Quentin

The Marin San Quentin adults’ bike hasn’t changed for 2022, with the brand continuing to manufacture and sell the same 2021 build. 

The major update for 2022 is the addition of two new models, one for kids and another for young teens. The Marin San Quentin 24 and 20″ options come with 100mm and 80mm travel, respectively.

These are ideal for young riders who want to explore forest trails, singletrack, cruise around the neighborhood, or ride to school in style. 

Marin preserved the slack, stable geometry in the 20″ and 24″ models, so beginner mountain bikers have a confidence-inspiring introduction to the trails. 

Dirt-Jump-Inspired Aluminum Frame and Modern Trail Geometry 

marin san quentin 3 aluminum frame

The Marin San Quentin frame gives the bike its character. This unique design blends modern trail hardtail geometry with the toughness and agility of a dirt jumper. 

The short chainstays on Marin San Quentin replicate dirt-jump frames, making it easier to pop a wheelie or manual while improving agility for cornering. 

The Series 2/3 aluminum is stiff and responsive, and small 27.5″ wheels enhance maneuverability and ensure the San Quentin accelerates fast off the line. 

Marin’s choice of modern trail geometry creates a well-rounded ride quality; the stability gained from a slack head tube angle and short front center balances perfectly with the efficient climbing position of a steep seat tube angle. 

Marin San Quentin Builds

There are three Marin San Quentin builds available. Each one performs above its price tag, making this an attractive bike for various types of riders looking for an affordable hardtail.

For 2022, Marin also introduced the San Quentin in sizes for kids (20″) and young teens (24″), as described above.

Marin San Quentin 1

marin san quentin 1 trail bike

MRSP: $1,099

The Marin San Quentin 1 is the most affordable of the three builds. At just over $1,000, this bike is ideal for new mountain bikers or riders switching from an old cheap hardtail who want something a little more capable and modern. 

This model is the only one of the three to use Marin’s Series 2 aluminum, the middle of their three aluminum grades. Series 2 has double and triple-butted tubing, QR axles, and sleek internal cable routing. This frame uses a stiff 120mm SR Suntour XCM32 coil fork suitable for pump track riding and XC trails

The San Quentin 1 has MicroSHIFT’s Advent 9-speed drivetrain, including a 32t narrow-wide chainring, 11-46t Sunrace cassette, and a clutched derailleur. This setup is reliable and shifts relatively smoothly for the price. In addition, the wide cassette provides plenty of gearing options on climbs. 

The wheelset comprises Marin’s 27.5″ double-wall aluminum tubeless-ready rims with 32-spoke hubs. These come wrapped in Vee Tire Co.’s Flow Snap 2.6″ tires.

Overall, this is a heavy but durable setup capable of handling light dirt jumping. However, it may be worth changing the slow-rolling tires to something faster. 

Marin San Quentin 2

2021 Marin San Quentin 2 aggressive hardtail

MRSP: $1,599

The Marin San Quentin 2 takes a big step up from the entry-level model. This version is ideal for cyclists who want to try their hand at mountain biking or upgrade from a budget hardtail to something with a dropper post and stable slack geometry. 

The San Quentin 2 has an improved Series 3 aluminum frame, the premium grade made by Marin. The Series 3 has stiffer thru-axle dropouts, internal dropper routing, and improved tubing for a lower weight. 

The major improvements for this bike are the addition of a TranzX dropper seatpost, the improved RockShox Recon RL 130mm air fork with rebound adjustment, and the Shimano Deore groupset.

The dropper post vastly improves the ability of the San Quentin on downhill sections, giving you more stability and control.

In addition, the higher-quality fork and extra 10mm travel further increase stability and comfort for a more capable ride. 

Shimano’s Deore 11-speed drivetrain offers improved performance over the MicroSHIFT 9-speed and has an 11-51t cassette, which is perfect for long, steep climbs. The brakes are reliable Deore BR-MT201 hydraulic disc brakes with two 180mm rotors. 

Unfortunately, Marin kept the same slow and heavy Flow Snap 2.6″ tires and stock rims. However, the hubs upgraded to Shimano Centerlock. 

We feel the San Quentin 2 easily justifies its affordable price tag, performing well in XC and trail scenarios. Nevertheless, we would change the stock tires for something better.  

Marin San Quentin 3

2021 Marin San Quentin 3 in orange color

MRSP: $2,399

The premium Marin San Quentin 3 is a beautiful machine with a sleek red paint finish and high-quality components. On the series’ top model, Marin made further upgrades to the fork, dropper post, groupset, and tires.

These improvements complete a comprehensive trail bike ideal for beginners and intermediate mountain bikers or full-suspension riders who want to add a hardtail to their collection for a pure trail experience. 

The San Quentin 3 offers a lot of value for the money to aspiring trail riders who seek playfulness and durability.

The groupset used here is a Shimano Deore 12-Speed with a hill-crushing 10-51t cassette and an FSA Comet crankset. The brakes are impressive downhill-ready Deore MT420 discs with 203/180mm rotors and four-piston calipers. 

For suspension, you have a RockShox Revelation RC 130mm with 35mm stanchions. This DebonAir fork delivers a smooth ride feel and rides high for more stability on steep terrain. Additionally, an X-Fusion Manic dropper offers improved performance on the San Quentin 2’s TranzX. 

Thankfully, Marin chose a much-improved tire for this bike. Vee Tire Co Attack HPL 2.5″ tires are lighter and tubeless-ready. In summary, this is a solid hardtail trail bike that sacrifices weight but excels in durability and stability

How Does the Marin San Quentin Perform on the Trail?

As we’ve seen, the Marin San Quentin is a rugged hardtail that encourages aggressive riding, charging up steep climbs, and ripping into corners.

This bike excels on fast, flowy singletrack with small obstacles to pop off, taking advantage of the light dirt-jump capability. 

Where Does the Marin San Quentin Thrive?

rider doing a wheelie on a marin san quentin

The Marin San Quentin is sturdy and has a fun, confidence-inspiring ride quality. The stable geometry, efficient climbing position, and ability to take a beating make the San Quentin an excellent choice for new or young mountain bikers who want something to hone their craft on. 

Marin San Quentin climbs well for a heavy, small-wheel bike but won’t keep up with its lighter competition. 

This bike is especially effective when cornering, thanks to the agile 27.5″ tires, short chainstays, and wide tires with deep tread. This combination allows you to shred or pump into tight corners and explode out the other side. 

Of course, hardtails are known for their climbing prowess, and the San Quentin is no different.

Finally, this bike is a solid descender, comfortably handling fast, flowy trails. When things get a little rougher, drop the speed and utilize its agility to get up and over larger obstacles. 

What Can Be Better?

This bike most likely won’t win any races, but that’s not what it’s for. The San Quentin is an inexpensive trail hardtail, and it’s not trying to be anything more. 

The main issues we identified with it are the pedals and grips. Replace these cheap plastic touchpoints if you want to improve ride quality significantly. Additionally, the heavy weight of this bike may turn some riders off as it will make steep climbs a bit of a struggle. 

Marin San Quentin Sizing

The Marin San Quentin frame is available in four sizes, S to XL, fitting riders from 5’2″ to 6’2″. 

  • S – 5’2″ to 5’5″
  • M – 5’5″ to 5’8″
  • L – 5’8″ to 5’11”
  • XL – 5’11” to 6’2″

If possible, riders that fall between two sizes should test-ride the two models at a local Marin dealer. Otherwise, compare the reach and stack of the two bikes to another 27.5″ trail hardtail that you owned or rode before. 

People Also Ask

Where are Marin bikes made?

Marin bikes are made in Asia but are designed and warehoused in their headquarters in Novato, California. Interestingly, their HQ is the old building of the band The Grateful Dead, which they used up until 2007, three years after Marin bought it.

Can you put 29-inch wheels on Marin San Quentin?

No, you cannot put 29-inch wheels on the Marin San Quentin. The geometry is designed specifically for 27.5″ wheels and would be negatively impacted by putting larger wheels on even if they fit. Enjoy the San Quentin as is, a versatile and agile small-wheeled bike.

Is Marin San Quentin good?

Yes, the Marin San Quentin is good. Marin produces a range of excellent off-road bikes that are carefully designed using decades of experience and innovation. This bike performs above its price tag and would make a great companion for any hardtail rider. 

How heavy is the Marin San Quentin?

The Marin San Quentin weighs between 34.4lbs and 30.2lbs. Although slightly heavy, this San Quentin weight isn’t far off the other bikes in this price range. Marin chose to use more durable components with this bike instead of lighter ones, which wouldn’t last as long.

Is the Marin San Quentin 1 Tubeless Ready?

No, the Marin San Quentin 1 isn’t tubeless-ready as it is sold. The rims are tubeless-ready, but the Vee Tire Co. Flow Snap tires are not. The most expensive model is the only San Quentin that is tubeless-ready as sold.

What type of bike is Marin San Quentin?

The Marin San Quentin is a hardtail cross-country/trail bike. It’s a 27.5″ wheel model that is perfect for aggressive trail and light dirt jump riding. The low to moderate price range and stable geometry make it suitable for new mountain bikers.

Bottom Line: Should You Buy a Marin San Quentin

rider doing tricks on a san quentin bike

Overall, the San Quentin is a well-rounded 27.5″ hardtail that outperforms its affordable price tag

If you’re a new rider who wants a versatile bike to practice the skills of mountain biking without worrying about the bike taking a beating, then the San Quentin 1 or 2 could be perfect for you. 

The premium model of Marin San Quentin is ideal for intermediate riders who want a more plush ride quality, smooth-shifting drivetrain, and powerful brakes for more aggressive riding.

No matter which one you choose, the Marin San Quentin is a satisfying bike that is thoughtfully designed and well built. Add it to your shortlist if you’re in the market for a new trail hardtail MTB. 

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About the Author

Jordan Grimes

Jordan Grimes is an avid cyclist who loves to travel and has found his bike to be perfect company on road trips in the USA, through national parks, and in countries such as Canada, Ireland, and Spain.
His passion for travel and work in the tourism and hospitality sector has allowed him to live in incredible places like Ireland, Canada, the USA, and the Cayman Islands. He has since relocated to southern Spain, where he works as a freelance writer, practicing Spanish and cycling in the famous Sierra Nevada mountains. He specializes in writing cycling blog articles, health and performance-related topics, and other informative pieces. You can contact him on Linkedin.

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