Trek Marlin 6 Review: Best Mountain Bike for Beginners?

The Marlin 6 from the bike brand, Trek, is one of their popular Marlin models. The bicycle is an excellent cross-country bike that can take on both uneven trails and flatter terrains.

Despite praise for its versatility, however, the Trek Marlin 6 also has some cons – a major one being that the bicycle doesn’t handle most advanced trails as well.

The biggest contributor to this is the makeup of some of its components, including a stiff frame, an undamped fork, and rims that aren’t tube-ready.

These features are why the Marlin 6 is considered a great entry-level bike for beginners, but not a good choice for experienced riders.

Features of the Trek Marlin 6

The Trek Marlin 6 is a versatile bike with features that put it between a hybrid bike and a mountain bike. 

If you want a good bike to get to work with, the Marlin 6 is ideal. It’s light enough and efficient enough to handle smooth roads as well as dirt paths.

If you need a good bike to go trail riding on less technical terrain, the Marlin 6 also offers a good riding experience. It’s classified as a mountain bike, so it’s specifically made for trail riding and other similar activities.

The one big caveat is that it doesn’t excel in both of these situations. It doesn’t have the speed and performance levels to take on asphalt, and it’s not strong enough for serious off-roading. 

All this is down to the features and components of the mountain bike.

1. Frame

The Marlin 6 is available for both men and women. A major difference between the two designs is that the women-specific models have a frame with a slight drop for easier control when riding through mountain trails.

The Marlin 6 has a lightweight aluminum frame—Alpha Silver aluminum to be specific. 

This is a high-density but delicate metal. Most of the strong but expensive bikes from Trek aren’t fitted with the silver aluminum alloy; Alpha Gold aluminum and carbon fiber are more commonly used.

This is one of the reasons you won’t have a comfortable ride if you plan to do any serious mountain biking. With a frame that’s prone to damage, your trip is set to be cut short sooner than you expect.

The smaller frames feature a top tube with a drop providing better standover clearance for shorter riders.

Along with the Alpha silver aluminum frame with internal routing, the bicycle also features other components like a rack, a kickstand mount, and a Bontrager Evoke 1 saddle.

2. Brakes

The Marlin 6 is fitted with powerful hydraulic disc brakes. 

The dual-piston brakes are great in offering you quick adjustment and efficient control. They’re also durable, meaning you don’t have to worry about your brake system wearing out quicker than usual.

The Tektro hydraulic disc brakes are highly responsive and adaptable to different weather conditions; it’s rare for the brakes to work on a smooth road and then jam on a rocky surface with routine bumps.

This consistency is a sign of a good-quality braking system. An additional point is that the disc brakes are fitted with 160mm rotors, both at the front and the rear of the bicycle.

3. Lockout Suspension Fork

The Marlin 6 is a hardtail cross-country mountain bike, meaning it has a front suspension but lacks rear suspension travel. Couple this with the beginner frame and stiff handlebars and you can see why the bike can cause some trouble on specific terrains.

It’s also not best to use this bicycle when going on a downhill ride. It’s not designed to handle all that shock at one time.

It’s easier to point out the flaws, but the suspension system of this bike does have some high-tech features. Fitted with a coil spring, the SR Suntour XCT 30 is still a step up from the forks used in previous Trek bikes.

With 100mm of travel, the bicycle also has a suspension lockout mechanism. This helps eliminate your suspension if you feel like it’s causing problems when you ride the bike.

4. Gearing System

The Marlin 6 has a gear system that is one of the most sound features of the bike. It features multiple gears (24 speeds) that allow you to shift smoothly when cruising through tricky terrains.

The bike features a rear derailleur Shimano Altus M310 and a front derailleur Shimano Altus M315. They’re not the best, but they sure are some good-quality derailleurs for a beginner bike.

The bike also features a 2×8 drivetrain that is well-calibrated to eliminate all the gears you don’t normally use. This also helps with the efficient transmission of power from the rider to the wheels.

5. Wheels

The Marlin 6 has quite a heavy set of wheels. Depending on the size, the mountain bike is fitted with 27″ wheels or 29″ wheels.

Fitted with Bontrager Connection double-wall wheels, some mountain bikers struggle picking up speed due to the weight. This is especially so on a tricky trail ride as the wheels sometimes lack the responsiveness to maneuver through corners.

A positive here is that the tires are puncture-resistant. The Bontrager rims also have durable spokes to endure some of the stress that comes with mountain biking.

If you want good wheels, however, it’s best to upgrade to a durable, tubeless tire set. You will also need to upgrade your rims to suit the new tires.

User Reviews of the Trek Marlin 6

Many users are happy with the color and size options the bike offers. It comes in an alternative orange paint job which is a rare feature for mountain bikes in this price point.

The bikes also come in a range of sizes so you can choose a bicycle that suits your riding style.

In terms of wheel size, bikes with frame sizes of 13.5 to 15 have 27″ wheels. Other bikes with a frame size of 17.5 to 23 have larger 29″ wheels.

That said, many users have also had some unfortunate experiences with the bike. Due to how undamped the suspension fork is, a single collision with a big obstacle causes so much interference you’ll think you’ve damaged your bicycle. 

The bike also features under-width handlebars that keep you from exerting efficient control. This takes away a lot from the bicycle as a requisite feature of a good mountain bike is proper stability and control.

Many users have found that the bike works well on streets and paved roads, so if you usually commute on roads, you won’t have too many problems with the Marlin 6. 

Some mountain bikers upgrade several components of the bike to suit their needs, including the wheels, grips, and pedals, etc. 

One thing to note is that these upgrades cost a good sum. If you find that you’ll need to upgrade the bike, do your research first—ensure there aren’t other well-priced bikes for the same amount you’re about to spend on both the Marlin 6 and the upgrades.

The bike does respond well to heavy customizations though.

At a great price point of $650, it’s an affordable bike that’s worth the cost; however, there’s a reason why most good mountain bikes are above the $1,000 mark. 

As long as you buy it knowing what you’re getting, you’ll be fine.

Alternative Bikes to the Trek Marlin 6

If you want a bike with different features to those found in the Trek Marlin 6, here are some alternatives to check out:

1. Kona Blast

If you’re ready to dish out a bit more money, the Kona Blast is a great bike with more advanced features. At about $900, you get an immediate upgrade in the suspension department with the 100mm RockShox Solo Air offering a much smoother ride.

It also has a stronger aluminum frame, acting more like a pure mountain bike than a versatile crossover bike. If cycling through rocky mountain trails is your ultimate thrill, you’ll get more out of this bike.

2. Trek Marlin 7

The Trek Marlin 7 is a +$250 upgrade from the Trek Marlin 6. It’s a well-spent $900 too as this bike offers a much better riding experience.

Similar to the Kona Blast, it’s a fantastic bike that features the RockShox suspension system to help minimize trail vibration. It also has a 2×9 drivetrain for smoother gear changes when cycling over uneven surfaces.

3. Specialized Pitch

At a price similar to the Trek Marlin 6 (at times even less), the Specialized Pitch is a fearless alternative to the Trek Marlin 6. 

Though the Marlin 6 is sensitive to aggressive riding, the Specialized Pitch encourages you to push it to the limit. If you’re a mountain biker and can’t afford the above two, this is one you should check out.

Conclusion

To sum it up, the Trek Marlin 6 is a great bike, but only for three specific types of bikers: beginner riders, riders on a tight budget, and people who need a bike for their daily commute.

If you’re looking for a real mountain bike to take on the trails, one of the above alternatives will suit you better.

Though it does have a dedicated fanbase, the Trek Marlin 6 will only please a specific set of people, which can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on where you fall on the scale.