Review: Marin CortinaBy Scott Mares | Published Oct 14, 2009
Right Out of the Box
When you first pull a bike out of the box, you immediately notice the color, graphics, and overall what it looks like. I really liked the copper color and black paint job. Marin incorporated a unique paint line that starts on the head tube and continues down to the fork. However, they did not put black paint on the fork, instead opting to partially paint the fork copper, leaving the remaining portion natural carbon.
Ease of Assembly
This bike went together fairly easily. In fact, right out of the box, the Cortina was fully assembled in less than 20 minutes, which is faster than it normally takes to put a bike together.
With the Cortina, the bling is clearly in the crank, seat post, shifters and striking copper and black paint job. You can't help but notice the FSA SLK carbon crank and seat post, both of which are very sexy.
Road Test Ride
The bike climbs decently for as big as it is. For a 60cm bike, the wheel base is a little longer than I expected, which is evident by looking at the space between the rear tire and the down tube. With a longer wheel base, the bike stability increases, which is a good thing.
No surprises here on this one. But with cyclocross, you really don't want a lot of surprises. Especially in corners. The Cortina was predictably stable in the corners. Easy going into them and easy coming out of them.
The Marin was well behaved with regards to climbing and corning. The bike was very stable in its manners, and was not twitchy or squirrelly in any way.
I bet you can see where this is going by now, but ride feel is only part of the bike behavior. The ride feel is the transmission of the road to the rider. In general, it's more challenging to get this on a cross bike as there are bigger tires that are involved with this part of the evaluation.
Dirt Test Ride
For this portion of the evaluation, the Cortina was taken on short dirt climbs. With this size, I could definitely feel the longer wheel base as it seemed a little slower on the acceleration.
The bike corners just fine on the dirt. However, it does takes a little more effort with sharper turns (anything more than 90 degrees). With turns that were 90 degrees or less, the bike was just fine and required normal input.
Again, I will say that this bike is not twitchy at all. The Cortina is very stable in it's handling and is less likely to get away from you. Additionally, the rider is less likely to over steer or over correct.
The ride on the dirt was stable and secure which allows you to focus on putting power to the pedals to speed across the Terra Firma. Put away your concerns of the bike getting away from you or your rear wheel sliding out from underneath you. The Cortina will make you feel like you could just blaze right over anything.
Trainer Test Ride
I enjoyed the way the Cortina rode on the trainer. There was a little bit of flex in the bottom bracket while pedaling, but I had to look for it. It may sound funny, but some bikes react like they don't want to get put into the trainer (i.e. trainer skewer sticking, problems with lining up, docking, and release). When putting the Marin on the trainer however, it went right in without any fuss.
Race Test Ride
In cyclocross, it's challenging to have one bike that does it all in any race situation. I raced the Cortina in one of the Cross Crusades races held out at Portland International Race Way. What a mud fest! The PIR course was flat but extremely muddy, which should have suited me but didn't. The motor, not the bike, is to blame for the poor performance. However, there are two things that I would changed on the Marin in preparation for this course. First, I would have preferred some mud tires. The stock round Vittorias are fine for dry courses, but ill-suited for muddy courses. The edging performance was awful for this tire especially considering that there were several off camber sections more than 25 meters in length. I would also recommend changing the pie plate off the crank as the big chain ring was simply too big. Marin needs to put a proper cross chain ring on there, such as a 46t vs. the 50t. After providing Marin with my recommendation, they have addressed this issue with the current model. If it was a dry course, the outcome might have been different.
There are a lot of things we appreciated about the Cortina. The group package is really nice. The FSA kit is banging with the carbon crank and seat post. The stock bike comes with a good set of race/ training wheels. The black and copper paint job gets a two thumbs up, as it looks cool without being overtly flashy. The down tube was oversized, making a stiff and stable ride.
We Didn't Like
While the FSA handle bars are nice on the tops, the curvature of the drops is too shallow for my hands. This style of drop would work for individuals with small hands, but not for medium to large sized hands. As mentioned in the Race Performance section, the 50t chain ring selection is not appropriate for a cyclocross race bike. Please put a 46t on the crank. The 44cm chainstays on the Cortina are simply too long. If Marin shortened the chainstays by approximately 2 cm on the Cortina, the overall performance would dramatically increase enabling faster acceleration and quicker cornering.
If you are racing with the Cortina, you will be much happier upgrading the cranks to a 46t. If you have medium to large-sized hands, you will be more comfortable with a different set of FSA bars with an anatomical grip. Next in line would be upgrading to mud tires.
The Final Say
The Marin Cortina is a fine platform for the first-time buyer of a cyclocross bike. It's hard to go wrong with what Marin has produced. Right out of the box, you get a 19.6 lbs. stock bike with a ton of features that need only a few upgrades, which is a great place to start. Any upgrades that you make on it will only make the bike lighter.
Share this Review
- First Impressions
- On the Road
- On the Dirt
- On the Trainer
- Race Performance
(4.333335 cowbells from 3 votes)
Like this bike? Hate it? Cast your vote and tell us why!
- 19.6 lbs, without pedals
- 52, 54, 56, 58, 60
- 6069 Aluminum, Triple butted cyclocross tubeset.
- The fork is bonded carbon. By definition, this means that the visible portion of the fork is carbon fiber and the aluminum steerer tube is bonded to the fork blades. Marin claims that this improves overall ride quality, but the trade off is that the fork is heavier.
- FSA winged Pro Compact, OS-31.8mm Aero
- Avid Shorty 4
- Bottom Bracket
- External BB FSA
- SRAM, Open Glide 1070, 12-27, 10 speed
- SRAM PC-1070
- FSA SLK carbon 50/36
- Front Derailleur
- SRAM Rival
- Rear Derailleur
- SRAM Force
- Orbit C, 11/8", Threadless for Campagnolo System
- Selle Italia XR Light
- FSA SLK, Carbon 27.2mm X 350mm
- SRAM Rival
- FSA OS 150 Threadless with carbon face plate and 31.8mm bar clamp
- Vittoria Cross XG 700X 34c with Kevlar Bead
- Mavic Aksium Race