Whether you need something to act as drop bar commuter, gravel adventurer or just a hugely versatile road machine, Marin's Gestalt 2 is likely to win you over with confident handling, even if the frame and fork can be a little unforgiving at times.
The Gestalt 2 is the middle bike in Marin's 'Beyond Road' range, hitting that all-important £1,000 Cycle To Work scheme price limit on the head, making it an attractive prospect as a standalone do-it-all machine or to supplement a mountain or road bike. Note, this is the 2017 model; it's relatively unchanged for 2018, though it is £150 more.
The bike comes with 700C wheels shod in 30mm rubber, though there's decent enough clearance to go a bit fatter if you want. The butted aluminium frame is disc brake only and the fork has carbon legs but a straight 1 1/8in aluminium steerer. If you want a tapered steerer and thru-axles, you'll have to spring for the more expensive Gestalt 3. There's a full complement of mounts for racks and guards though, while the smooth welds and satin paint finish make the bike look like a higher dollar machine than it really is.
As befits a bike that straddles the divide between road and mountain biking, the kit is picked from both camps. The drivetrain is a rather clever mix. SRAM's 10-speed X7 mountain bike mech, with a clutch to help prevent the chain falling off, is paired to a no-name aluminium chainset with an external bottom bracket and single 42T ring with a narrow-wide tooth profile to keep things secure at that end. The cassette is a neat, wide-range 11-42T item from Sunrace and the shifting is via SRAM's Apex Double Tap levers.
It took a bit of tweaking to get the setup shifting as I wanted, with special attention to the B-tension screw on the mech being the secret to smooth gear changes, and once sorted it proved reliable.
Getting the gearing right for both on and off-road use is always going to be extremely tricky, but the ratios were about as good as you could expect. On the road it felt a touch gappy and I'd sometimes be hunting between ratios to get the right cadence. It's also fairly easy to spin out the 42T front ring once you start descending. Off-road, that's all much less of an issue, with the lowest ratio making some really rather steep climbs possible, provided you don't mind getting out of the saddle and stomping a knee-grinding cadence.
Less impressive are the TRP Spyre-C cable-operated disc brakes. Even with 160mm rotors, performance is best described as gutless and the lack of initial bite was rather unnerving at times. With a hefty enough pull, they would haul you up fairly well, and while most rim brakes would give a more positive feel, at least the discs were consistently average no matter the conditions.
Much more of a highlight was the performance of the lightly dotted tread of the Schwalbe G-One tyres, rolling quickly on hardpack with a decent amount of grip in the dirt. At 30mm wide, they offered decent cushioning, though I'd suggest sizing up as much as possible if you intend to do a lot of off-road riding. I reckon you could squeeze a 35mm in there without any clearance issues, and maybe even bigger.
The wheelset is functional and unflashy, with tough double wall rims laced to cup and cone bearing hubs. The rear one needed a bit of adjustment love as it came loose fairly early on in the test, but after getting tightened back up it was fine from them on. Neither rims nor tyres are tubeless compatible, but it'd be easy enough to replace the rubber and convert the rims with a kit, something that would make a lot of sense to give greater comfort and security off-road.
Marin's experience in the world of mountain biking comes through in the geometry. At 172cm tall, I rode the 54cm frame and the reach of 373mm was spot on, with the fairly small stem and slightly flared 420mm bar. The head angle of 72.25 degrees and seat angle of 73 degrees vary with sizing, but they felt felt just right to me, striking a good balance between feeling lively on the road but not too nervous when you take it off the tarmac. In fact, I was pretty impressed with how steep and technical the terrain got before the Gestalt felt out of its depth.
In fact, the main criticism of the Gestalt 2 that I can offer is that it's a pretty unforgiving ride if you're in sustained rough and washboard gravel roads. The skinny 27.2mm seatpost and Marin's own 'Shock Absorbing Microfibre' bar tape do their best, but the pretty stiff frame and fork plus fairly narrow rubber still give you a kicking, which makes itself known on a long day out off-road riding, though it's fine if you stick to road or smoother trails.
Being realistic, it's roads and cyclepaths where the Gestalt will see the majority of use and it's a great bike for city centre riding or back road carving, with a little off-road detouring thrown in.
Viewed through the lens of a versatile do-anything machine rather than a hardcore gravel racer, the Gestalt 2 is a great bike at a good price, with handling that'll be instantly familiar to mountain bikers, and confidence-inspiring for road cyclists who want to get off the beaten track once in a while.
A versatile and confidence-inspiring do-anything machine that's decent value too
road.cc test report
Make and model: Marin Gestalt 2
Size tested: Medium
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Series 3 6061 Aluminum, 700c Wheels, Relieved Head Tube and BB, Internal Cable Routing, Post Mount Disc Specific Forged Dropouts
Front Fork: Carbon w/ Alloy Steerer, Post-Mount Disc
Crankset: Forged Alloy 1x10, Hollow CrMo Spindle, Narrow-Wide 42T
Derailleur Rear: SRAM X7 Type 2.1 w/Clutch
Shift Lever: SRAM Apex 1x10-Speed
Cassette: Sunrace 10-Speed, 11-42T
Bottom Bracket: External Sealed Cartridge Bearing
Chain: KMC X10
Hub Rear: Formula, 6-Bolt Disc, 32H
Hub Front: Formula, 6-Bolt Disc, 32H
Rim: Maddux FR240, Double Wall, Disc Specific, 19mm Inner
Spokes Nipples: 14g Black Stainless Steel
Tires: Schwalbe G-ONE Performance, 700x30C, Kevlar Puncture Protection, Folding
Brakes Front: Tektro Spyre-C Road Mechanical Disc, 160mm Rotor
Brakes Rear: Tektro Spyre-C Road Mechanical Disc, 160mm Rotor
Brake Levers: SRAM Apex DoubleTap
Handlebar: Marin Compact 12 degree Flared Drop, Flat Top
Grips: Marin Shock Absorbing Microfiber Tape
Stem: Marin 3D Forged Alloy
Headset: FSA No.8B
Seatpost: Marin Alloy
Saddle: Marin Endurance Concept
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?
Marin says: "Looking to get Beyond Road? The all-new Gestalt 2 can take you there, whether the road is paved or not. Our lightweight, butted aluminum Series 3 frame is matched with a lightweight, vibration-damping carbon-bladed fork. Drivetrain duties are handled by a dependable SRAM 1x10 drivetrain with a wide-range 11-42t cassette. Tektro mechanical disc brakes provide confidence-inspiring stopping power, while Schwable's sublime G-ONE folding bead, 30c tires roll smoothly on road and provide a surprising amount of grip on dirt. Integrated rack and fender mounts also help to make the Gestalt 2 an excellent choice for commuting or light touring."
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The matt finish paint is really nice and the smooth welds help it look clean too.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Aluminium butted main frame, fork has carbon legs with alloy steerer.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
It's a fairly relaxed machine, with geometry that's aimed to be stable and confident off-road rather than lightning sharp on it. Mountain bikers will feel instantly at home.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The front end is pleasantly high for a good position when off-road and there's decent reach in the frame to go with the shorter than average stem.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's not bad on the road, but you can definitely feel a fair bit of stiffness in the frame and fork when you take it off-road – it'll beat you up on a long day in the dirt. It's perfectly fine elsewhere, though.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The fork isn't the most forgiving, though it is pretty accurate when steering and under braking. The frame isn't bad but there's a limit to the compliance that an affordable aluminium frame can give.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It was efficient and direct.
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, but in a good way.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
I'd go for larger volume tyres for off-road use and convert to tubeless too.
Pretty good and direct.
Slightly muted by the weight but it's still pretty sprightly.
It's nice and direct when you stamp on the pedals.
Fairly relaxed geometry makes it a pleasure at speed, on or off-road.
It's a pleasant and untwitchy bike that won't catch you out.
It's a bit gappy for pure road use but spot on for gravel and the like.
Wheels and tyres
Nicely flared bar is spot on for a comfy feel on the hoods or drops.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, it's a fun and versatile machine.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, definitely.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yup, if they had a grand to spare and needed to do more than just road riding.
Use this box to explain your score
The frame and fork can feel a bit harsh when off-road riding and the TRP brakes aren't very good, but for the money it's still mighty impressive for anyone who plans to turn their hand to anything.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: mountain biking, touring, general riding, fun
Jon's been riding bikes for ages and has been involved in the bike industry for most of his working life too, starting out as a Saturday boy at Harry Hall Cycles before moving into the world of media via the odd stint as a mountain bike guide. He's worked at Singletrack, headed up What Mountain Bike magazine and been tech ed at BikeRadar before arriving at the helm of road.cc's knobbly tyred sister site off-road.cc.
He mostly rides mountain bikes up and down things as fast as possible (not always that fast to be honest) but isn't averse to riding drop bar bikes either, whether that's on gravel or tarmac.
He goes all funny at the mention of rubber compounds and shim stacks.