Marin Bikes Four Corners Elite
For their 30th anniversary this year, Marin Bikes released a fleet of steel bikes that revitalized classic bike making while utilizing modern technologies.
Currently categorized as ‘Utilitour’ by Marin Bikes, The Four Corners Elite (FCE) appears to be a sweet retro Randonneur, but with closer inspection yields an array of considerations. Front and rear thru-axle fork ends and wide frame clearance allow the use of MTB wheel sets with 29er tires.
The steel frame utilizes internal routing and a number of clever weight-saving techniques, while the SRAM Rival group-set and hydraulic disc brakes provide durability and reliability in tough conditions.
We tested the FCE through the Santa Monica Mountains, previewing the routes offered in this year’s inaugural Malibu Gran Cookie Dough. The bike proved to be a powerful climber and controlled descender, perfect on dirt sections, and always stable. There are no mechanical or structural weak points on the FCE, an enduring machine from pavement to grip.
The steel frame design leads to a very stable and comfortable ride. The material, Columbus Thron steel, is known for providing strength and responsiveness, while maintaining flexibility. The frameset acts as its own shock absorber, while the head tube angle and fork rake contribute to an autopilot-like stability.
Schwalbe G-One 28×1.5 tires come stock on the WTB KOM Alloy 29er rims for long-lasting durability on rough country and fire roads. The tubeless gravel tires run smoothly on the pavement and provide plenty of traction and puncture resistance off-road. The Naild 12-3-9 thru-axles install intuitively into place with a three-step locking mechanism, eliminating any error. Built for self-reliance, this bike will ride for thousands of hard miles without significant maintenance.
Marin Bikes made excellent use of SRAM’s adaptable new 1×11 Rival groupset on the FCE. The mechanical shifting is responsive and accurate, and without a front derailleur, a great deal of regular maintenance is lost. We were impressed by the mechanics of the Rival when we tested the 2×11 road version on the DEAN El Vado (reviewed in BICYCLIST #128). The Rival has the responsive feel of a classic shifter with modern accuracy and smoothness.
The 1×11 system includes the new SRAM 10-42 XG-1150 Cassette that provides a wide range of gears with very little effort and strain on components. You can install a front derailleur and multi-speed crankset for more options and even wider range. As is, the single speed front crank set complements the reliability and minimalism of the steel frame.
The Rival hydraulic disc brakes provide lots of power with the high degree of control you would expect from this system. The continuity of the disc brakes’ power makes a noticeable difference on longer rides with steep descents and dirt sections. For repeated elevation changes while hauling gear, good breaking is essential, and on the FCE, your mind will be free to concentrate on the road.
The FCE has everything you need for long distance bike touring. There are a plethora of braze-ons for mounting racks, cages, and equipment for your trip. The custom handlebar features swept-out drops for plenty of options for hand placement, and the tall head tube makes it easier to stay in the drops. The consideration for detail on the FCE means that you can focus on the road instead of your bike.
Ultimately the ride experience of this bike is smooth and steady even when faced with bad roads and dirt trails. The rider is free to enjoy their ride with a peace of mind. Why work harder when you can work smarter? Durable and steady, the FCE makes for a perfect companion to boost your confidence (and fun) on long-distance multi-surface Fondos. Take the Marin Bike challenge and put this bike to the test on the world’s toughest touring roads and routes. Wherever you find yourself, the Four Corners Elite will have your back. -VP ($2309, marinbikes.com)