Trek Marlin 8 Review: A Solid Choice for MTB Enthusiasts?

Trek Marlin 8 review: Marlin 8 (black/blue) mountain bike leaned against a tree in the forest.

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This review of the Trek Marlin 8. It is the highest-end bike from the Marlin family of aluminum mountain bikes.

It will help you decide whether this bike is worth it. I interviewed one of its owners and asked him about his experience.

We will discuss the bike’s features and performance and what benefits they bring. Of course, you also learn about the few shortcomings of Marlin 8.

Spoiler alert: Marlin 8 is a great-value mountain bike suitable for cross-country and adventurous riding (you can buy it here). However, due to the short fork travel of 100mm, it’s not the best choice for technical terrain and trails.

Continue reading for more info.

About Joe

I live in Northern England, and I am an experienced amateur mountain biker. I mostly ride cross country, but I also enjoy a good trail run. I have been riding mountain bikes for the past ten years. Before my current bike, I owned a Carrera Kraken 27.5er.

Trek Marlin 8 Summary

Trek currently offers Marlin 4 up to Marlin 8. The higher the number, the more high-end (and expensive) the bike. Below is the summary of Marlin 8.

Trek Marlin 8 Main Features

  • Weight (w/o pedals): 29.1 lbs [13.20 kg]
  • Wheels: Bontrager Kovee, double-wall, Tubeless Ready, 29″
  • Groupset: SRAM SX Eagle (1×12spd)
  • Brakes: Shimano MT200 (hydraulic disc brakes) 
  • Tires: Maxxis Ardent Race, tubeless
  • Pedals: VP-536 nylon platform
  • Saddle: Bontrager Arvada

Trek Marlin 8 Pros & Cons

Below, we highlighted the advantages and disadvantages of the Trek Marlin 8 bike.

Trek Marlin 8 Pros

  • Renowned brand
  • Good price-value ratio
  • Available in 7 sizes (XXS-XL)
  • Modern gearing (1X)
  • Compatible with racks 

Trek Marlin 8 Cons

  • Limited color options
  • Short travel front fork (only 100mm of travel)

Joe’s Experience with Trek Marlin 8

What other alternatives did you consider before buying the Marlin 8, and why did the Marlin 8 win out in the end?

Initially, I planned to buy a Voodoo Bizango as a budget option, but after doing more research, I discovered that Trek was the better brand. I considered the Trek Roscoe 7 and the Trek Marlin 8 with their modern geometry. 

Ultimately, I went with the Trek Marlin 8 since it had higher-quality components and was the most cost-effective choice.

Blue/black Trek Marlin 8 shot in a forest.
Trek Marlin 8 in a forest

Have you bought the bike online or in a store? 

I bought my Trek Marlin 8 in-store from Evan’s Cycles.

For what type of riding do you use this bike the most?

I primarily use this bike for cross-country riding, but I have also taken it on a couple of trails.

Trek Marlin 8 shot on a hill.
Trek Marlin 8

How would you describe its riding characteristics?

The SRAM derailleur provides a smooth gear shift, always responsive. Due to the Ardent Race tires, the Marlin 8 is one of the faster mountain bikes on smooth and dry terrain. I often pass my friends on this kind of terrain. 

However, a downside of these low-rolling-resistance tires is that they struggle to find traction during wet and slippery conditions, and I often find myself spinning the back wheel.

Does the front suspension work well?

The front fork performs well. It has a Rockshox Judy silver air spring, which offers an adjustable recoil rate and a hydraulic TurnKey lockout, making it responsive and customizable to the rider’s preference. 

However, when riding on more technical terrain, especially downhill, I have struggled to maintain control of the bike, likely due to the short travel suspension – the fork only has 100mm of travel. 

Blue/black Trek Marlin 8 shot in front of a staircase.
Trek Marlin 8 with RockShox fork

Additionally, the shock absorber makes an uncomfortable whining sound upon recoil, but I believe this to be a characteristic of most MTB air springs and is a minor detail.

Would you like to have more gears, or are you ok with the modern 1X drivetrain?

My previous bike had a 3×9 drivetrain, so transitioning to a 1×12 was a big change, and I had to relearn how to use it. 

But with more modern gear ratios, I find climbing with this bike to be much easier and more controllable than with a 3×9 drivetrain. 

Trek Marlin 8 shot from the rear with a focus on its drivetrain.
Trek Marlin 8 uses a 1X drivetrain

The only limitation I have experienced so far is on high-speed downhill runs, where I have been unable to achieve higher speeds. Nevertheless, I have still managed to hit speeds of up to 35 mph downhill.

How comfortable is it on a scale from 1 to 10?

I would rate this bike as a 7 for cross-country runs compared to other cross-country hardtails. 

However, for trails, I would rate the comfort as more of a 4, likely due to the short travel in the front fork.

What is your overall feeling from the ride?

Since getting this bike, I have been able to climb hills that used to require me to push my bike. The 1×12 drivetrain has given me a new sense of achievement by enabling me to tackle steeper ascents.

Is there something you don’t like about it?

The only thing I would change about this bike is the lack of a gear indicator dial. I have spent a lot of time in the wrong gear because of this, but I have gotten better with experience riding the bike.

What do you like the most about it?

What I like most about this bike is definitely the drivetrain. The 1×12 drivetrain has enabled me to reach heights that were previously unreachable. 

I also appreciate the Ardent Race tires, even though they can be challenging in slippery conditions. They allow me to reach higher speeds with ease.

Blue/black Trek Marlin 8 near the sea.
Trek Marlin 8 at its finest

Trek Marlin 8 Alternatives

The Trek Marlin 8 alternatives include bikes from the same family, such as the Marlin 7 or 6, and MTBs from other brands.

I recommend checking out my article on mountain bikes for under $1000 for more inspiration. 

Trek Marlin FAQ


Would you recommend buying Trek Marlin 8? 

I highly recommend purchasing a Trek Marlin 8 for cross-country and adventure use. I use it multiple times a week and often push it beyond its comfort zone, but it has never let me down. 

However, if I were to buy a hardtail for trail use, I think it would be worth spending the extra money on a Trek Roscoe. With its longer travel suspension and dropper post, the Roscoe would be much more suitable for trails.

Joe, thank you again for your time and for sharing your experience!

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