The Marin El Roy hardtail is very soft, but it’s not for lazy people [Review]

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Marin says the new and improved El Roy is an enduro/all-mountain hardtail designed to tackle virtually any trail, which is a bold claim for a bike with no rear squish. Is the Marin El Roy just a tease for those dreaming of enduro riding on a hardtail budget? I wanted to find out for myself.

Frame and specifications Marin El Roy

Looking at Marin El Roy’s geometry chart, it’s clear that this is a pretty unique hardtail. Starting from the front of the bike, the El Roy stretches out with a relaxed 63° head tube angle for any tail. This is paired with a steep 78° seat tube angle that gets even steeper with sag.

Test driver profile the size: 190cm (6’3″) ballast: 72.5 kg (160 lbs) testing area: Southeast, United States

The El Roy looks long, and that’s because it is. There are only two sizes available – Regular and Large – and the Large I tested has a reach of 510mm. It’s not quite the longest bike I’ve tested this year, although that’s remarkable considering the bike’s reasonable standover height and the fact that Marin says 5’10 riders ”and more should fit perfectly. The front triangle feels particularly stretched compared to the short 435mm chainstay length.

Geometry charter Marin El Roy

Usual Big
STACK 645 645
REACH 480 510
HEAD TUBE ANGLE 63° 63°
HEAD TUBE LENGTH 120 120
SEAT TUBE ANGLE 78° 78°
SEAT TUBE LENGTH 420 430
EFFICIENT TOPTUBE 617 647
BB HEIGHT 318 318
BB DROP 65 65
BASE 435 435
WHEELBASE 1252 1282
STANDOVER HEIGHT 735 743
FORK OFFSET 44 44
SEAT POST DIAMETER 30.9 30.9
HANDLEBAR WIDTH 800 800
ROD LENGTH 35 35
CRANK LENGTH 170 170
All lengths in mm.

The frame is constructed using butted chromoly steel tubing with mounts for a water bottle on the downtube and an accessory mount under the top tube. The derailleur cable and rear brake hose are both externally routed for easy installation and maintenance, while the seat tube features an internal routing hole for a dropper post. There are no bottle mounts on the seat tube even though there is room, probably because they would interfere with the seat post mounting.

Rounding out the frame setup is an integrated headset and threaded bottom bracket. Naturally, the rear is Boost spaced and features a post mount for the brakes.

The construction kit

There is only one build kit available for the El Roy, although Marin also sells the frame on its own for $699. In my opinion, Marin has done a good job with this build, generally specifying quality parts that you would find on a more traditional enduro frame. Well, except for the fork.

Don’t get me wrong, the Marzocchi Z1 is an absolutely Bomber fork (see what I did there?) but with only 140mm of travel, it’s not the fork you’ll find on a race bike. enduro. The El Roy is a hardtail after all, and in my opinion a 160mm-plus fork tends to do checks that a hardtail just can’t cash. The result is that the Z1 is super beefy and can be set up to take really big hits without bottoming out too quickly.

Marin specs Shimano 4-piston brakes front and rear, and at the fork the brake grips massive 203mm rotors, with a 180mm plate in the rear. All that stopping power is transferred to DH-approved 2.5-inch Maxxis Assegai tubeless tires. Marin even made sure to spec the Double Down version of the Assegai in the rear to reduce the chance of flats.

The El Roy comes with a Shimano Deore 12-speed drivetrain paired with a Comet 32T FSA crankset and Marin/Shimano alloy wheelset with 29mm wide rims. The cockpit is mostly a mix of Marin branded parts, with a 780mm wide handlebar that features a 28mm rise and 35mm clamp diameter. The size Large model I tested comes with an X-Fusion dropper post that has 170mm of travel, while the regular size dropper post has 150mm of travel.

In total, the Marin El Roy that I tested weighs 15.6 kg (34.4 lb) with the pedals.

On the track

Photo: Lea Barber

All things considered, the Marin El Roy is a pretty weird bike…unique, at least by spec. I assumed it would be a fun bike to get rowdy on, but figured it would be awkward and wobbly to pedal, especially uphill. My first test lap seemed to confirm this; the steering felt lanky when handling sharp turns reminded me of driving a boat.

By lap two, the bike felt fast and capable. By the third ride, I was plotting to buy the bike from Marin so I could keep it forever. Now, after about two months and a dozen rides in my test, I’ve settled somewhere between thinking the bike is weird and thinking it’s the best bike ever. Color me respectfully impressed.

Descending prowess

The Marin El Roy has clearly been optimized for downhill, and it’s hard to imagine improving its downhill capabilities without adding a rear shock. On steep trails, the bike feels composed thanks to the slack head angle, and not at all tippy. The steering stays fluid, almost like a ski, cutting through the trail on command.

On more moderate grades where faster speeds can be maintained, the El Roy feels firmly planted, especially for a hardtail. Since I’m not a racer, I sometimes forget that suspension isn’t just for my comfort; it is also meant to provide control and keep the tires on the rocks and roots of the trail. Hardtails like the El Roy are at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to rear-wheel tracking, but this bike makes up for it with a compliant steel frame, high-volume tires and a sturdy – but not too long – fork. in the front . Overall, the El Roy does a great job handling fast, technical lines, so much so that there were times when I forgot I was riding a hardtail.

Riding Marin El Roy
Photo: Lea Barber

The Marin El Roy is a pretty long bike overall, but most of it is within reach, leaving the chainstay length towards the playful end of the scale. Once I got a feel for the bike, I was able to adjust my cornering stance to improve handling on tight trails and sharp-angled switchbacks. The result is that the bike corners well despite its length, and because it’s a hardtail it ends up being easier to style with wheels and nose pivots.

Surprisingly, I struggled with the Assegai tires. Sure, a well-regarded gravity tire, I never felt 100 percent confident in the corners, and pedaling was slow and draggy. Ok, I’m not at all surprised about the second part – it’s a gravity tire after all – and on the first point, I think the problem may lie with the specification of the Marin rims. Maxxis recommends a 35mm rim width for the Assegai Wide Trail tires, while the Marin rims are 29mm wide. In testing many tires over the years, I’ve found that even a few millimeters of rim width can make a big difference in the shape and width of a tire once it’s mounted.

At one point during testing I broke a spoke on the rear wheel, right at the nipple. I don’t know when or how it happened, and it’s not really fair to read too much into a single broken spoke anyway. Hardtails, and especially hardcore ones, tend to be hard on the rear wheels, and luckily the Assegai rear tire with Maxxis Double Down casing withstood my abuse without a single burp or flat.

I know I sound like a record breaker when it comes to dropper post travel, but then again: I wish I had a longer dropper post than the 170mm X-Fusion included. To be fair, it’s more of a “me” issue based on my height (I know, tall people issues) but the El Roy would handle the descents even better if I could go lower on the bike. Luckily, dropper posts are cheap these days, and the included remote is decent enough that I kept it to save money on the upgrade.

Escalation

When it comes to enduro bikes, product designers usually go out of their way to make sure the bike doesn’t totally shy away from hill climbing. If a bike really sucks at climbing, then it’s a downhill bike, I guess. Well, I can say with confidence that Marin El Roy doesn’t shy away from climbing. It’s actually a pretty decent climber, and it probably does the job better than most full-suspension enduro bikes.

Going back to my first impressions, it took some getting used to the way the El Roy handles tight trails, but the front end never felt unweighted or wandering on the climbs thanks to the steep seat angle. Seriously, I’m sure a lot of full-suspension enduro riders look at the 78° (non-sag!) seat tube angle and feel envious. Needless to say, the Climbing Rig is solid, although at over 34 pounds, this is a heavy bike to climb.

I found plenty of traction on technical climbs mostly from the high volume tires. The El Roy doesn’t feel super bouncy on the descents or climbs, staying planted much like a race-tuned full-suspension enduro bike.

On the flats, the Marin El Roy rolls slower than other hardtails I’ve tested and takes more effort to roll – and stay – rolling. Obviously, the tires are a contributing factor in terms of weight and strength, as are the presumably heavy wheels. I suspect the front geometry also plays a part, with a slight forward bias that weighs the bike down even on relatively flat terrain.

Final impressions

The Marin El Roy is about as dialed as a hardtail can get for descending fast, or descending steep, or both. The flip side is that the El Roy doesn’t climb as well as less aggressive hardtails. Aside from the wheels, the build kit is perfect for its intended use and offers a ton of value at this price point. I also give points to the El Roy style for its steel frame construction and bright blue and red paint.

party towers

  • Very efficient descender, especially for a semi-rigid
  • Sleek frame and construction kit
  • Good value for money

Advantages and disadvantages of the Main El Roy

dirty naps

  • Heavy for a hardtail
  • The rims are too narrow
  • Slow pedaling
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