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Marin’s San Anselmo Alfine city bike is a strong, well equipped, versatile piece of commuter fun. The high quality Shimano components, reassuring tyres and plush seatpost come together with a quality frame and fork package to provide a great pick me up on those morning rides to work.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is simply a short hop, get to work bike though, its equally at home on longer, casual rides on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Having ridden the San Anselmo on bridleways, riverside trails, old railway lines and tarmac I can confirm that the comfort levels make this bike a real pleasure to ride.
Marin have dipped their San Anselmo frame in Shimano Alfine componentry with the odd appearance from the Deore stable and the result is a reliable, quick shifting, relaxing ride. At the heart of this system is the internal 8 speed hub which offers wide-range gearing with an “everything inside” philosophy. The design of the hub and mounts gives the option of running disc brakes over the rim brakes on our test model. This level of flexibility sets the San Anselmo apart from some of its rivals.
This machine fits neatly into the limit for the Government's cycle to work scheme which, since its introduction, has seen a glut of bikes released of all types and brands making the £800-£1000 price band one of the most competitive in the market. Marin are an American company with American heritage and design through all of their bikes and are most noted for their range of off road machines. Design in the States and manufacture in Taiwan makes for high quality and competitive pricing.
The San Anselmo has a smooth, bare Aluminium frame with chunky engineered welds, it does come with the luxury of a Carbon fork and this has the added benefit of mudguard eyelets. The practicalities have been extended to offering a good level of clearance, even with the 28mm Continental tyres that come as standard.
Given the quality of roads around at the moment (which have deteriorated rapidly since the frozen winter) the choice to spec a suspension seatpost was gratefully received. There is only an inch or so of damping but it did make a difference. Riding along the rutted and rough Avon riverside trail just out of Bristol toward Bath is something I’ve tried on a cross bike, a GT aggressor MTB, even my old Giant TCR roadie but by far the most relaxed was this Marin. The nimble frame, the smooth forks and suspension seatpost and the reliable Shimano kit all worked in harmony. The seatpost isn’t a high quality unit though and requires you to be in the right position to get the most out of it. The test bike was a 19” and given my 5ft 10” frame this should normally be just about right for me, but this frame felt small, I felt a bit cramped and as such I didn’t initially get the best performance out of the seatpost. This really does make me feel that you need to get down to your LBS to try before you buy unless you can find a mail order test facility as used by Wiggle on some of their ranges.
Shifts are smooth and quiet from the Alfine system, and the 32-97 inch gear range should be suitable for virtually all but the hilliest cities (of which Bristol is one!), nevertheless, out of the saddle efforts saw me up Park street and Whiteladies road with ease. Don’t attempt something daft and you wont be troubled.
And for more casual, less hardcore bike riders it makes a great deal of sense. Using an internal hub is not only neater than a derailleur but you can also change gear while you’re standing still, which is handy in slow moving, traffic light controlled city traffic. Given the British weather the enclosed design should help your gearing system last more miles between services than a regular derailleur layout.
A very well equipped city bike with a few strokes of luxury that help it stand out from the crowd, just be sure to get the correct size.
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Make and model: Marin San Anselmo Alfine
Size tested: 19 inch
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Aluminium frame, chunky welds and a good carbon fork. The bike is fitted with Shimano Alfine and deore components and finished with Marin kit and a wtb saddle.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Its a city, commuter bike. Marin have aimed this at the cycle to work market which has sprung up thanks to the government backed initiative. It works a treat for this sort of thing, comfort levels set is above some other hybrids out there and while not being as quick as the Gary Fisher Mendota it isnt sluggish.
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Superb forks with mudguard holes give a sense of thought and dedication to the development of this bike. The frame, despite coming up a bit small, was nimble, comfortable and as strong as we know Marins are.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
CXR Carbon forks giove a smooth front end ride and the good quality 6061 hydro edged aluminium frame does exactly what it is meant to do while looking very swish.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The 19" test model has an effective 55.5 cm top tube which should be great for me as I ride a 56cm road bike and a smaller framed mountain bike but it felt quite cramped. I suggest getting to your local marin dealer to try it out yourself.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Height wise the bike was fine, exactly what I was looking for but it felt cramped in terms of reach. The short-ish riser stem didnt help matters but even when I used the adustment and set the stem angle lower I was still a little tucked up.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes, once I got my position right in order to make the most out of the suspension seatpost.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
No, it was spot on. I could accelerate quickly with no lag, the bars were perhaps a little wide for my liking but it did help to stabilise the bike.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes which is very important in cities where stopping and starting is more of the journey than cycling!
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? neutral, nothing edgey but nothing that made me bored either..
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It worked fine, while not being a speed machine like the Mendota it did allow me to have fun.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
In the right position the suspension seatpost was a great addition but it really does need fitting to the rider. Once working it made bridleways and riverside paths easily accessible in comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The engineered rear seat and chain stays allwoed for good handlong and power transfer, Marin have clearly thought about this.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Alfine internal hub was a revelation, this bike would be great for someone who wants to cycle but cant be doing with the hassle of servicing regularly. It stands up to a lot and in Britain that is a good thing.
wide bars didnt help me here but were good for slower speeds.
With the suspension seatpost I could relax on the ride, very nice.
The alfine internal hub gearing meant that I didnt need to worry about changing gear before a junction, I could do it while stopped.
plenty of ground clearance, I could corner at a good angle if need be,
Plenty in Bristol, I felt relaxed and in control.
Not the lightest and perhaps not the range of gehars as some others but there is enough to deal with most gradients.
Superb, I would have one.
Again, ideal for the British climate as it is more protected than a conventional system
lighter than it looks but not featherlight.
You get what you pay for, at this price the Alfine drivetrain is excellent value.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
I thought it all worked well together, the brakes were a little soft but that can be put down to it being a brand new bike..after a few miles they were improving.
Branded Shimano wheels, built very well.
Conti sportcontact tyres were superb, never let me down despite my efforts to see what I could do to them!
Cant fault them at all on this price of bike.
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
I encountered some rain and wind but it has been mainly dry so I had to find some riverside trails with mud and water and the tyres were great, grippy yet they got rid of water and mud from their tread easily too
The bars are just a bit too wide for my liking, the adjustable stem will be popular though.
Shimano specced kit here too, cant fault it.
Ergonomic v-brake levers, very easy to use.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Anyone smaller (which the frame would suggest this size is aimed at) may feel like they are reaching wide for these bars. The display on the alfine control is easy to see and the reach on the brake levers should be fine for all but the extremes.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
The suspension seatpost is a neat addition but make sure you can use it properly otherwise you will encounter forward and back flex which ruins the point of it.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes I would, for the drivetrain and forks.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes I have done already
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
A lovely machine, looks good, great kit on it. One of the best you will get on the cycle to work scheme.
Age: 24 Height: 5ft 10 Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: felt ar4 My best bike is: i like my felt and my orbea ora tt bike equally
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, triathlon