With the Marin Headlands 2, the iconic US brand sent us their brightly coloured carbon bike for our bikepacking group test. Does the bike, with clearance for 700 x 45C tires and a dropper post, tick all the boxes for your next adventure? To find out, we put its mountain bike DNA to the test.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best bikepacking bike in review

Marin Headlands 2 | 9.81 kg in size 56 | Manufacturer’s website

The Marin Headlands 2 presents itself with bright colours and a modern look paired with progressive geometry. It builds on the knowledge gained from the Marin Gestalt X and, as a carbon frameset with clearances for up to 700 x 45C or 650 x 50B tires, 12 mm thru axles and numerous bolt-on points for bottle cages and gear, steps up to the bikepacking competition. The rear triangle as well as the fork have eyelets for mudguards, though if you don’t have them, the bridge on the seat stays can be removed. The frame will even accommodate racks and, thanks to a multitude of bottle cage bosses in the front triangle, it also lends itself well to using custom-made bags that bolt directly to the frame. Unfortunately the forks don’t share the same practicality, lacking the triple cage mounts that many of its competitors have.

The € 2,899 flagship model of the range weighs in at 9.81 kg in size 56 and comes with a 1×11 groupset consisting of FSA Gossamer Pro crankset, SunRace 11-Speed XD cassette and Shimano’s GRX 600 rear derailleur and brakes. Marin’s aluminium double wall rims are shod with 700 x 40C Schwalbe G-One Performance tires which look a little lost in the frame. Rounding off the build is the 105 mm TranzX YSP11 dropper post and in-house aluminum components for the cockpit. The internal cable routing keeps everything looking clean but, unfortunately, the plugs at the entry and exit ports came loose.

Adaptation is the word of the hour
The bridge between the seat stays can be used to mount fenders or removed for a cleaner look. The carbon frame also has eyelets for a pannier rack.
When the beat drops
The dropper post matches the character of the bike to a tee. If necessary, you can drop the saddle 105 mm and get it out of the way.
Out of proportion
The 40 mm wide Schwalbe G-One all-round tires look a little lost in the massive carbon fork. They should definitely be swapped for wider tires with a more aggressive tread.
Thumbs up for threads
The threaded BSA bottom bracket simplifies maintenance and is significantly more robust than the press fit alternatives.

Marin Headlands 2

€ 2,899

Specifications

Seatpost TranzX YSP11 Dropper Post
Brakes Shimano GRX RX810 160/160 mm
Drivetrain Shimano GRX RX810 42 (10–42)
Stem Marin 3D Forged Alloy 60 mm
Handlebar Marin Butted Alloy, Flat Top 440 mm
Wheelset Marin Aluminium Double Wall
Tires Schwalbe G-One Allround RG 40C

Technical Data

Size 49 52 54 56 58 60
Weight 9.81 kg
Wheelsize 700C

Specific Features

fender eyelets
rack eyelets
15 bosses on the frame in total
max. 700 x 45C / 650 x 50B max. tire clearance


Revelate Designs
Sweetroll (18 l, € 139.99) | Yakataga Dry Pocket (4.3l, € 169.99)
Tangle Frame Bag (3.5 l, € 129.99) | Terrapin System Seat Bag (14 l, € 209.99)
Size 49 52 54 56 58 60
Seat tube 440 mm 470 mm 490 mm 510 mm 530 mm 550 mm
Top tube 522 mm 535 mm 545 mm 565 mm 595 mm 615 mm
Head tube 120 mm 135 mm 150 mm 170 mm 190 mm 210 mm
Head angle 70.5° 71.0° 71.5° 71.5° 71.5° 71.5°
Seat angle 74.0° 73.5° 73.5° 73.5° 73.5° 73.5°
BB Drop 76 mm 76 mm 76 mm 76 mm 76 mm 76 mm
Chainstay 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm 420 mm
Wheelbase 1,010 mm 1,007 mm 1,008 mm 1,029 mm 1,059 mm 1,080 mm
Reach 370 mm 373 mm 373 mm 386 mm 411 mm 426 mm
Stack 550 mm 566 mm 582 mm 601 mm 620 mm 639 mm

The Marin screams at you to load it up, climb aboard and have fun!

Helmet KASK VALEGRO | Glasses Smith Wildcat | Jersey Flying Pizza Jeans
Shorts Mavic Sequence Pro Bibshort | Shoes Adidas Sneaker Sambarose

Accelerating, the Headlands 2 is very direct and picks up speed with ease. However, in direct comparison to the competition it isn’t the most efficient at carrying that speed, especially when riding long distances on flat terrain. The shifting performance is fine but you’ll notice that Marin have cut a few corners with the components of the groupset, especially when riding aggressively. The handling is lively and playful while always remaining predictable, making it a suitable choice for beginners. The bike generally remains easy to control even when you’re hauling a lot of luggage, though the front wheel tends to wander on steep, slow climbs.

The large hoods of the Shimano GRX brifters offer plenty of grip and cleverly allow the dropper post to be actuated with the left shifter. In general, the dropper post suits the playful character of the bike with just enough drop to get the saddle out of the way on steep descents. Whether intentional or not, the dropper post’s horizontal flex and the carbon fork provide a balanced level of comfort while the frame does a good job of absorbing high-frequency vibrations. Together with the braking performance of the GRX brakes and the non-existent toe overlap, you’ll always feel confident on the Marin. On off-road terrain, the bike is limited by the lack of grip offered by the Schwalbe tires.

Tuning tips: buy the frameset and build your dream bike – the frame deserves it! | more aggressive tires for better off-road performance

Conclusion

The Marin Headlands 2 is all about having fun and a great bike for short, high-intensity rides on technical terrain with minimal luggage or the occasional overnighter with sections of singletrack. Overall, the excellent frameset can’t live up to its full potential due to compromises in its components. For gravel fans who like veering off onto more challenging terrain or those with a mountain biking background, the Headlands 2 is a good starting point.

Tops

  • high fun factor
  • comfort and vibration dampening
  • lively handling and modern geometry
  • integrated dropper post
  • no toe overlap

Flops

  • components don't do justice to the frameset’s potential
  • tires limit the bike's versatility

For more info head to marinbikes.com.

The test field

For an overview of the test fleet head to the group test: The best bikepacking bike in review

All bikes in test: Bombtrack Hook 2 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail AL 7.0 SL (Click for review) | Fern Chuck Explorer (Click for review) | Marin Headlands 2 | Mason Bokeh GRX (Click for review) | MERIDA SILEX+ 8000-E (Click for review) | RONDO BOGAN (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD AXS Mullet Build (Click for review) | Salsa Cutthroat GRX 600 (Click for review) | Specialized Diverge Comp Carbon (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Epic HT AXS Custom (Click for review) | Trek Fuel EX 9.9 XTR Project One (Click for review)

Words: Benjamin Topf Photos: Benjamin Topf, Robin Schmitt, Valentin Rühl