Marin is by no means the best road bike manufacturer out there. But, if you do not have interest in racing, you want a dependable, American brand, and plan to use the bike primarily for fitness and exploration, the Marin Argenta and the Marin Ravenna are reasonable options.
The Marin Brand
Marin is a small bike manufacturer out of California. They are primarily a mountain based company as the brand grew up in Marin County, California, a major mountain bike hub. But, they have been making road bikes since 1991.
Currently, they have two true road lines on offer—the Argenta and the Ravenna—as well as the Four Corners and the Gestalt, bikes designed for both asphalt and gravel. All four will be discussed in this article and we will consider their pros and cons.
Keep in mind throughout the article, that none of these bikes are designed for pure top end speed. That is, do not expect to see any of these in the Tour de France. All four are designed with endurance in mind, finding a balance between speed and comfort.
The Argenta and Ravenna are two lower cost road bike options available from Marin. Both are designed exclusively for road riding with a focus on commuting and touring.
Marin’s niche in the road bike market is comfort on a budget. After exhaustively research, it seems Marin is the most affordable brand for what it offers. Both the Argenta and the Ravenna are reasonably priced options and are on the low end of cost considering the competition.
The geometry of both models—as well as the Gestalt and Four Corners— are designed for comfort. Therefore, they do an excellent job of keeping the rider comfortable for very long rides. Both of these bikes are ideal for longer commutes and Gran Fondos and we’ll discuss some of the reasons why.
Both the Argenta and the Ravenna offer a solid component system in the Shimano Claris They are also priced lower than most of their competitors offering the same quality. The Claris both have great drive trains so changing gear should not be a problem. The components are not perfect, however (see cons).
External Cable Routing
This allows you to easily adjust your gears and replace your cable-wiring if need be with the barrel routers. Again though, this comes with some cons to be discussed later.
A longer head tube creates a more upright position, adding comfort. It also welded together well. The Argenta and Ravenna frames are by no means the lightest constructions on the planet, but they do not have undue weight for a touring bicycle.
Both of these bikes offer plenty of room for attaching just about anything you can think of. Want more bottle cages? A fender? What about a kickstand? Both frames offer a significant amount of versatility. The Argenta also offers a comp version that features compact components that will help make riding easier in hilly or mountainous areas.
Stable and Smooth
Both options are stable. They are built with an aluminum frame and a carbon fork to absorb the vibrations from the road. They could have made the top tube a bit longer and adjusted the geometry there to improve stability, but both frames still offer a good amount of comfort by how they position the rider.
Marin advertises being able to accommodate a 700Cx35 or 32mm tires with fenders on both frames. We think they have accomplished this quite well. Both the frame and fork on the Argenta and Ravenna offer plenty of room for larger tires to clear with ease.
Gestalt & Four Corners
The Gestalt and Four Corners are both a bit more expensive than the Argenta or Ravenna, but offer more versatility in road options and better specs. We are not entirely sure they are worth the extra money.
The hallmark of all Marin’s road bikes, the Gestalt and Four Corners do not disappoint. While both frames are relatively stiff, the rest of the features are designed for comfort. In the Gestalt, a longer head tube and clearance for wide tires will allow for the right set up to absorb a good amount of impact from the roads.
In the Four corners, the bike is built with a “heads-up bar position and generous braze-ons” as the Marin website describes. This does a good job of keeping the rider very upright which, will certainly sacrifice speed, but will help immensely with comfort, especially for riders who plan to be in the saddle for many hours at a time.
Both the Four Corners and the Gestalt are highly respected in their gravel riding/comfortable but speedy commute. Both are built to absorb the impacts of tougher surfaces and keep stable on the road. They are also more than capable of handling roads with a decent amount of speed. So, if you have a lot of asphalt between home and work for our daily commute, these bikes will be just fine.
There is one major issue with the Gestalt frame, which will be discussed in the cons section, but other than that, the frame is well made. The welds generally look smooth and the paint job is nice. Furthermore, the frames are ready made for a plenty of attachments, including a kickstand and front derailleur if you desire to replace the crankset (another major con).
Rear Derailleur Lock
The rear derailleur from SRAM has a lock feature that allows the rear wheel to be removed very easily. This will be especially beneficial to individuals who have to take their wheels off for transport.
Like the Argenta or Ravenna, the forks are carbon, which allow for lighter weight and good absorption of gravel or other non-asphalt surfaces on the road.
Marin is also releasing the Four Corners Elite this year, which will feature SRAM Apex components, a solid upgrade on the Shimano Claris. Meanwhile, the Gestalt already features Shimano Sora as standard, which is a step up from the Claris in the Argenta and Ravenna.
These are both bikes capable of handling dirt roads and rougher riding. Both the Gestalt and the Four Corners features fender and rack mounts, helping riders prepare for any pavement. They also both feature disc brakes—these have some cons as well that will be discussed later—that offer excellent stopping power in all conditions.
All Four Bikes
Not Ready to Race
Because the geometry is designed for comfort, this is not a bike you will want under you in a race. You will certainly outstrip touring bikes on your daily commute, but none of these bikes will make it easy to keep with a race peloton. But, you will probably be fine on your local bike shop’s coffee ride.
Marin has had a history of product recalls. To the best of our knowledge, none of this has included the four models we have discussed, but they have had four stem and fork recalls on their mountain bike models in the last four years. We’re not sure whether or not this will trickle into their road bikes anytime soon.
Argenta & Ravenna
While most of the components, most delivered by Shimano in their Sora package, are excellent, the crankset is not quite up to snuff. The 2017 version of the Argenta had the Octalink crankset instead of the Sora crankset, which is much less stiff and creates a problem switching between the large and small cog. However, It seems Marin will soon be replacing this crankset with the FSA Tempo Compact in both the Argenta and the Ravenna.
External Cable Routing
While it is easier to adjust external cable routing, as mentioned in the pros section, this makes the bike not only less attractive, but a touch slower as well.
Too Tall to Ride
Also, if you are a taller rider, do not get your heart set on the Ravenna. It is only built up to a 54cm size which may be a problem for taller riders. We’re not sure why this is, as the other three bikes are built up to a 60m (XL).
Gestalt & Four Corners
The tubes used to make the Marin frame do not have as much flexibility as one may like in a bike designed to handle off road conditions. The frame makes it seem as if it may be an asphalt only bike, but this is contrary to many of the other specs as well as the advertising.
The crankset in the Gestalt does not have a name brand, which for the price, may present a bit of an issue for some riders, who would prefer more tried and true options. The Gestalt also only one cog, which limits the range available in the Gestalt.
The Four Corners also only has a single cog, which reduces the versatility of this bike. This crankset is at least named, however, with SRAM. Both bikes do have frame options for a front derailleur, but that would require the additional purchase of a different crankset as well.
Open Down Tube
We are not sure why they did this, but Marin built the Gestalt with an open space between the seat tube and the down tube. Especially for a bike advertised as gravel/off road, this is very strange. On this part of a bike, a good amount of mud and dirt will be kicked up into this space and it will be a nightmare to clean. We’re not sure why Marin did not decide to simply weld the bottom of the down tube into the bottom bracket shell, but we’re not happy about it.
If you want an entry level-touring bike for asphalt only, the Argenta and Ravenna are excellent options.
If you are looking to add multiple surfaces, however, you may want to consider other brands before considering the Gestalt and the Four Corners. The components don’t quite match up to the price.