The 4 Marin Gravel Bikes Burning a Hole in My Pockets 

The Marin Headlands 2 on a dirt trail in Aliso Woods, Aliso Viejo, CA

I’m always on the hunt for a new bike. Can you relate? Yet few brands convince me to part with my hard-earned cash. That is until I first discovered Marin’s gravel bike collection—or “beyond road,” as it’s called. 

Three years ago, I discovered Marin’s beyond-road lineup of gravel bikes, unaware of the power they’d soon hold over me, and for good reason. Each bike is designed for fun aka adventure and value. 

In this post, I summarize rider feedback from three years of meticulously observing Marin’s bikes —and list the four gravel models I want in my garage today, like, right now.

What Makes Marin Gravel Bikes Worth Riding?

At 16, I sold Marin mountain bikes like hotcakes as an REI employee. Their crafted aluminum frames were groundbreaking at the time. Hands down the best price-to-value on the market.   

And what’s crazy is the company hasn’t changed, even if the bikes and brand evolved. In 2016, Marin transitioned their tagline from “better by bike” to “made for fun,” words you’ll find on every bike they ship.

“Made for fun” is the brand’s DNA, which permeates how your bike is designed, built, and experienced. Everything from unique colors and graphics to smart components makes a bike fun. 

But Marin adds their caliente seasoning to the beyond road collection. The bikes shred the rule book of what you get for the money and category, from flat bars to high-end materials and ridiculously comfortable geometry. 

Why Riders Don’t Regret Buying a Marin Gravel Bike

For the reasons above, it’s not surprising that bike review sites and social media captured the following feedback from new and experienced gavel cyclists worldwide. Here are the top three ownership factors by volume of mentions. All validate the “made for fun” mindset.

Versatility: Marin gravel bikes can perform on a range of terrain, from paved roads to rugged dirt trails. The bikes come equipped to ride comfortably on any dirt path; however, with a few adjustments, you can improve ruggedness (tires, handlebars, and bags). Or you can dress it down for speed and weight savings (wheels and cockpit).

Comfort: Many riders appreciate the comfortable ride that Marin gravel bikes offer. Each bike’s geometry provides a stable and smooth ride, even on rough terrain. Choose from more slack head tubes and increased fork rake for predominately dirt adventures. Or start with a stiffer carbon frame paired with tire clearance, dropper seat post, and compact cockpit. 

Quality components: You can get most Marin gravel bikes with high-quality components, such as Shimano drivetrains and hydraulic disc brakes. Riders appreciate the selection of reliable and consistent performance, whether 1×11 GRX or 1×12 Deore/SLX. Because you probably don’t need electronic shifting to have a good time.  

Affordability: Marin gravel bikes are competitively priced, making them a great value for riders who want a quality bike without breaking the bank. Buyer’s remorse is real when you spend thousands on a bike, especially if it doesn’t do many things well. Marin gravel bikes with quality build kits range from $1,289 to $3,099, with the latter offering serious bang for your buck.

Durability: Marin gravel bikes last. Again, the strategic pairing of frame materials and built kits deliver nimble bikes that can withstand the wear and tear of off-road riding. You get an above-average stock ride. Period. However, you can transform the bike for speed and weight with minor upgrades.

Style: Many riders appreciate the design aesthetics of Marin gravel bikes. They are available in various colors and styles, so riders can choose a bike that reflects their personality. Marin’s brand and design team sweats the details. Browse IG and Youtube; you’ll find plenty of behind-the-scenes inspiration. The colors and graphics alone are a vibe. 

The 4 Marin Gravel Bikes, aka Beyond Road Adventure Bikes

Marin Headlands 2—if I could only have one bike

Marin Headlands 2

The Marin Headlands 2 is the priciest bike in the group at $3,099, and for a good reason. The premium carbon frame and fork provide modern geometry, generous tire clearance, and lively ride quality. 

I rode the Headlands for three months; I can’t explain the experience—it’s oozing fun.  I’m rarely comfortable on a stock bike, but I still remember smiling cheek-to-cheek on every ride.

Additionally, you get a GRX 800 group set, 700cx45 or 650Bx50 tire clearance, dropper post, and various bag mounts. 

Dave Noakes Reviews the Headlands 2

Included upgrades over the base model:

  • Shimano GRX RX810 drivetrain & FSA Gossamer Pro crankset
  • TranzX dropper post

So it’s no surprise to see multiple gravel and MTB media sites label the Headlands as a “Best of” to “5-Star” rating. 

Visit Instagram to see how riders worldwide transform the Headlands 2 with a carbon post, wheels, and longer stem. According to all parties, the bike rips either way. 

Marin DSX 2—If you want a flat bar (and you do!)

Marin DSX 2

The Marin DSX 2 is the mountain biker’s gravel bike with familiar hand positioning, reliable Deore 1x drivetrain, 700cx45 or 29×2.1 tire clearance, dropper post routing for control on the rough stuff, and on-road descending stability. 

The 12-speed Deore kit, combined with Marin’s Series 3 aluminum frame and carbon fork, make the DSX 2 tough to beat for $1289. I’ll admit, I’m team flat bar all the way. I enjoy having command of the front end on the dirt and climbing power on all terrain.

The Gravelist Marin DSX 2 Review

Included upgrades over the base model:

  • Shimano Deore 6100 1×12 drivetrain
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes

Quality flat bar gravel bikes are limited. And you can easily spend over 3k for a bike eerily similar to your hardtail mountain bike. Thus, Marin’s latest design is compelling. And how about the uniform brown with stripes of color? Not something you see every day.  

See the Marin DSX 2 in action.

Some called it a Rigid hardtail because of its stability on the trail. Others upgraded wheels and the cockpit for commuting or fitness. Regardless, the bike is moldable to you without costing a fortune.

Marin Gestalt XR—you want something different 

Marin Gestalt XR

The new Marin Gestalt XR is a premium, extra off-road capable version of the Gestalt X10 released earlier. The bike looks different to the naked eye, and its khaki/tan paint blends with its natural environment—the dirt. 

The Gestalt XR brings an all-new frame with mountain bike-inspired geometry, featuring 10mm longer chain stays and a 67.5° headtube angle for a more stable ride when getting off the beaten path. Tire clearance accommodates tires up to 700x50mm or 27.5 x 2.1”.

The Marin Gestalt XR EXPLAINED

Included upgrades over the base model:

  • Shimano GRX 11-speed drivetrain
  • Shimano GRX BRX400 hydraulic disc brakes
  • TranzX dropper post

Marin Nicasio 2—Everyone needs at least one steel bike

Marin Nicasio 2 Gravel Bike in blue
Marin Nicasio 2

The Nicasio 2 is classic yet modern in a pretty blue package. It uses traditional steel construction with clean lines and smooth joints. The Series 2 CrMo frame tubes have the soul of a classic bike with the geometry and 700C x 30mm-40mm or 650B x 47mm tires to let riders handle any surface.

Included upgrades over the base model:

  • Series 2 Beyond Road double butted CrMo frame w/142x12mm thru-axle dropouts
  • Marin full carbon fiber fork
  • Shimano Tiagra 2×10 speed drivetrain
  • Shimano hydraulic disc brakes
  • WTB Riddler Comp 37mm tires

The Nicasio is global, with cyclists enjoying the predictable and forgiving ride quality for years. It’s also the only bike on this list that isn’t a true gravel bike. Reviewers applaud the bike for being ultra smooth on roads and hard pack dirt. Leave the rest for the bikes above. 

According to social media (where opinions matter), the Nicasio 2 is most at home with 650B wheels attached. It’s reliable, comfy, and responsive when you need it to come alive.

Before You Go

Riders enjoy Marin gravel bikes for their versatility, comfort, affordability, durability, and style. Everyone has their preferences regarding gravel bikes, so what works for one rider may not work for another. However, Marin’s balance of capability, performance, and affordability is tough to argue. 

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  1. says: Nathaniel

    I have the Nicasio + and love it. The parts spec is not fancy but it works. The stability on rough terrain is my handling is favorite thing. I put 27.5 x 2.0 at tires on it and it makes a great ride to the trail, ride through the trail and ride home workhorse.

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