The Marin Toscana is one of a growing breed of 'cross derived urban bikes. It isn't pretending to be an actual cyclocross machine and as such it's only really fair to mark it on how it performs on road and path duties, which it handles with a good deal of assurance. It's well built, reliable and versatile. What it isn't, at £999 though, is cheap, especially when compared to similar machines.
Built around a an extensively hydroformed Aluminium frame the Toscana has a fairly long chassis and feels roomy for the stated size. The frame is married to a Carbon fork that's a pretty heavy duty affair, with inset low rider bosses for touring. There's bosses at the back too but only one at each dropout and because the Toscana is running Avid BB5 disc brakes you may need to do some fettling to get your rack to fit. Transmission is taken care of by Shimano's Sora kit, wheels are Deore hubs and Mavic rims, with Maxxis Overdrive tyres that are more town/touring than trail. Overall weight at 11.55kg (25.4lb) is about what you'd expect from a big beast.
Head off into the lanes and it's easy to see why the Cyclocross platform inspires so many commuting and general purpose bikes these days. The Toscana feels comfortable and rangy, the shallow, long-bottomed drops offering an alternative hand position that's easy to reach and very comfortable. I've never been a big fan of Sora shifters with their huge sweep and fiddly release but shifting performance is fine across the 9-speed rear cassette and FSA Vero triple at the front. Head off onto unsurfaced trails and the bike is well behaved on towpaths and the like, only finding its limits on more technical terrain where the tyres don't perform and the bike feels a little leaden.
Through town the bike isn't as manoeuverable as a tighter, shorter urban machine but it's happy enough on the city streets and the big tyres can deal with plenty of road debris and kerb hopping. The disc wheelset isn't the lightest, dulling acceleration from the lights but you'll be glad of the excellent BB5 discs when it comes to stopping at the next red. Handling is predictable and loading up the bike with a child seat and a cargo trailer didn't fluster it, suggesting that touring is well within its capabilities.
So far so good, but at £999 the Toscana looks a bit overpriced. Okay the Kona Dew Drop only gets Shimano's 8-speed 2300 kit and a steel fork (albeit the legendary P2) but it's much the same kind of thing and even scores the better BB7 discs, for the best part of £400 less. If you do have a grand to spend you could spend it on a Genesis Croix de Fer, which is a genuine 'cross bike with a steel frame and full Tiagra groupset. There are other options out there too. A quick search on Google throws up plenty of discounted 2009 Toscanas and no doubt you'll soon be able to pick up the 2010 bike for a bit less than RRP too. At full whack though it's a little hard to recommend.
A well-built, versatile commuter that'll turn its hand to touring and a bit of offroad too. Scores better for preformance than it does for value, where it looks overpriced compared to similar bikes.
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Make and model: Marin Toscana
Size tested: 58cm
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame 6061 Aluminum, Triple Butted Hydro-Road Tubeset E4 Anti-Flex Seat and Chain Stays, Disc Specific
Fork RFE Carbon
Headset FSA Orbit C
Rear Hub Shimano Deore, 32 Hole Disc
Front Hub Shimano Deore, 32 Hole Disc
Spokes WTB 15 Gauge Black Stainless
Rims Mavic CXP-22S, 32 Hole
Tyres Maxxis Overdrive, 700 x 35c with Kevlar Bead
Shift Levers Shimano Sora STI, 9 Speed
Front Derailleur Shimano Sora
Rear Derailleur Shimano Tiagra
Cassette SRAM PG-950, Power Glide II, 11-26, 9 Speed
Chain Shimano HG53
Crankset FSA Vero Triple, 50/39/30
Bottom Bracket Sealed Cartridge
Seatpost Alloy Micro Adjust, 27.2mm x 300mm
Saddle Marin Plush Road
Bar FSA Vero Compact, OS-31.8mm
Stem Marin OS Alloy Threadless, with 31.8mm Bar Clamp
Grips Cork with Plush Gel
Brakes Front Avid BB5 Disc Brakes with 6" Rotor
Brakes Rear Avid BB5 Disc Brakes with 6" Rotor
Brake Levers Shimano with Integrated Shifters
Pedals Composite with Alloy Cage
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?
Urban Cross means more urban than cross: this is an all purpose bike for the commute and beyond. You could go 'cross racing on it, but you wouldn't
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Nicely put together, good attention to detail. Fine on the road but a bit unforgiving beyond that
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Triple butted Hydroformed frame with Carbon fork
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Our 58cm model has 72/72 angles and a 585mm effective top tube, with a fairly high front
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
It fitted me very well, felt quite roomy for a 58cm
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It's happy enough on the road with the big tyres coping well with fire roads and towpaths. Beyond that the chassis is a bit unforgiving, so you wouldn't want to do much actual 'crossing on it.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too felxible?
It's plenty stiff, fine for the places you'll normally find it
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The frame transferred power very well
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
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
The bike is very stable and happy loaded up with a child seat too
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, a decent all-rounder
Would you consider buying the bike? Not at a grand, there are similar bikes available for a lot less
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they could find it cheaper than the RRP
Age: 37 Height: 190cm Weight: 96kg
I usually ride: whatever I\\\'m testing... My best bike is: Genesis Equilibrium with Ultegra 6700
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling, track
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.