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The Marin Nicasio+ is a gravel adventurer-cum-tourer that is a pleasure to be on thanks a great ride quality and its confidence-inspiring geometry. There are some noticeable compromises from hitting that price, however: it's on the heavy side, and the cable-operated brakes are poor compared to hydraulic systems.
For many the 13.1kg weight is going to be offputting, but as soon as you accept that the Nicasio+ is more adventure bike than gravel racer, it becomes much less of an issue.
On the plus side the Marin is a very comfortable bike to ride thanks to the steel frame and those large volume tyres, and the weight actually makes it feel planted at all times – reassuring when you're riding over loose surfaces or descending.
The weight means the Nicasio+ picks up speed quickly on the downhills, but that doesn't matter as it'll flow nicely through the bends as long as things aren't too tight or technical, and thanks to the neutral geometry it never feels flustered at the handlebar.
In fact, the only slight worry I had with letting the Marin go on the descents was how quickly was I going to be able to stop it. The mechanical Tektro Road calipers aren't the most powerful on their 160mm rotors, and with the weight of the bike the stopping performance is massively below par against any hydraulic system I've ever used.
I'm not saying the brakes are underpowered, or even not capable, it's the lack of punch at the lever and noticeable stretch in the cable that's the issue – it's enough to make you appreciate just how good hydraulic brakes are, especially if you like to brake late and hard like I do. Tweaking my riding style meant I could stop in the distance I could see, but I still just couldn't have as much fun on the descents as I'm used to.
That aside, the Nicasio+ is a comfortable and capable bike. On the flat and up to speed it rolls along nicely, and with the large volume tyres it easily soaks up rough terrain. This reduces muscle fatigue on a long ride, and makes it easy to handle regardless of the terrain.
There is a lot of weight in the wheels though, so acceleration is blunted; it also comes into play on the climbs. I found the Nicasio+ responds best when you climb in the saddle and tap out a solid, steady rhythm. Jumping up as you hit a steep section feels like a waste of effort – it's best avoided unless you really have to.
If you're not looking to challenge the Strava leaderboards though, there is a lot to like. The Marin feels reasonably nimble, regardless of its weight, and the head angle is steeper than a fair few gravel bikes. It has a more 'endurance road bike' feel than many and its handling is direct without being too quick, which helps boost the fun factor.
This size 56 has a 1,009mm wheelbase, so it's not as extended as some either. This means that even on technical sections of gravel track, wooded trail or byway it changes direction confidently, and it feels relatively responsive too.
On the sort of rides where I'd head off without a specific route in mind, and with no specific time deadline either, the Marin made the most sense. I could bung a frame and handlebar bag on and just head off into the distance with no need to hurry.
Spin along making full use of the wide-ranging cassette and enjoy the scenery and the Nicasio+ just rolls over anything in its way. It's a very relaxing ride.
So, if you're willing to accept the budget-induced limitations (more weight and less braking), you'll find this a capable gravel adventure bike, and one that also works on the road as a general tourer or commuter.
The Nicasio+ has a 4130 chromoly steel frame and fork, which – while not light – is hardwearing and robust. It's ideal for the rough and tumble of gravel riding and loaded bikepacking. The paintwork is just as tough as well, and I got many comments on how nice the colour is.
There are plenty of mounts on the frame, including three bottle cage positions; two in the usual places on the seat and down tubes, plus another underneath the down tube. You get twin mounting points on both fork legs for cargo, plus the necessary for full mudguards and a rear rack.
All cables are routed externally, which keeps maintenance simple, but note it's designed for a 1x groupset as there are no cable stops or guides for a front mech. The bottom bracket shell is threaded, which makes it easy to work on for the home mechanic with basic tools.
The wheels are held in place via traditional dropouts and quick-release skewers. The fork's slots are forward facing, at least, which will help slow the wheel dropping out should the quick release come undone while riding.
While most bikes now use far stiffer (and far more secure) thru-axles, for the type of riding the Marin is designed for I don't see an issue. I find the most tangible benefit over standard dropouts is reduced fork twist under heavy braking, and mostly when stopping from high speed. They are more secure, though: a thru-axle would have to slide all the way out sideways before the wheel could part company from the bike.
There are six sizes, ranging from 50 to 60cm. This 56 has a 565mm top tube, 170mm head tube and 530mm seat tube.
The wheelbase is 1,009mm, as mentioned earlier, and 420mm of that is the chainstays. The bottom bracket drop is 72mm, while the seat angle is 73° and the head sits at 72.5°. Stack and reach figures are 590.6mm and 384.4mm respectively.
To keep costs down the Nicasio+ has been specced with a microSHIFT Advent drivetrain, which we've reviewed separately before. In a nutshell it offers decent shifting quality across the wide-ranging cassette, even under load, but the shifter buttons won't suit everyone.
No matter how much time I spend riding bikes with this kit I just cannot adapt: the buttons, and in particular the upper one, never sit naturally under my fingers.
Apart from that the shifting works well, although with only nine speeds there are some massive jumps between sprockets. This isn't an issue if you are flexible with your cadence, but I would find myself at times sitting in either too high or too low a gear for what was comfortable.
The cassette is a SunRace 11-46t, and is driven by a narrow-wide 42t chainring on the 1x FSA Vero Pro chainset. The rest of the kit is Marin branded, such as the aluminum handlebar with its compact drop and 12° flare, and the 90mm alloy stem.
The seatpost is alloy too, and you get a Marin Beyond Road Concept saddle atop it. It's quite basic with no central cutout, channels or swooping shaping, but I do like the its minimal padding; I find that reduces numbness or hot-spots when riding long distances at a good pace.
The wheels feature Marin's own double-wall aluminium 650b rims with a 25mm inner width, alloy hubs, and 32 stainless steel spokes front and rear. The result isn't light, but did stand up to plenty of abuse out on the trails. In the long term I'd maybe upgrade to something lighter, but if you want reliability over all else then these should serve you well. The hubs spin smoothly and stayed that way throughout very dry and dusty review period.
The tyres are WTB Horizons in a 47mm width, but while any Horizon you buy in a shop will be tubeless ready, these 'original equipment' (OE) versions are not. Noticing the lack the usual Tubeless Compatible System (TCS) branding and imagery on the sidewall, we checked with Marin and they do indeed require tubes. The same goes for the wheels, and it's in order to hit that price.
That aside they roll well and grip on the road is impressive. Their supple feel aids comfort, and their width means they float across even the smallest aggregate, so their lack of tread isn't a problem on many surfaces. If it's muddy though, obviously grip is compromised.
The Nicasio+ is £1,045, and in the current climate that's impressive; we really aren't seeing that many bikes at or below the thousand-pound mark. Speaking of which... while £1,045 is correct as we publish this review, it's actually set to drop £80 to £965 on August 1. So maybe wait a little bit...
Alpkit's Sonder Santiago which I reviewed a few years back is a similar kind of bike with a steel frame and fork, although it uses Reynolds 631 tubing. The current cheapest build is a SRAM Apex 1x with hydraulic brakes for £1,299. The build I tested was a 2x Rival22 Hydraulic and came in at 11.8kg; a fair bit lighter than the Marin.
The Genesis Croix de Fer 10 is built from Mjolnir Chromoly steel tubing and is the cheapest in the range, coming with a Sora groupset and mechanical disc brakes. It costs £1,499.99.
If you want to keep costs as low as possible then Halfords sells the Voodoo Nakisi for just £650. Matt felt there were compromises with its build, but on the whole it's a decent enough bike for the money.
The Nicasio+ has its own compromises – it's heavy, and braking performance is poor. But on the flipside it has a great ride quality and geometry that works well both on and off the road. If your main goal is to ride and enjoy the scenery, then this is the bike for you, especially with a few tweaks to the finishing kit. Don't buy it if you want something responsive in terms of acceleration, though.
Heavy, and the brakes are mediocre, but a comfortable bike for rides on and off-road
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Marin Nicasio+
Size tested: 56
About the bike
List the components used to build up the bike.
Marin Aluminum Double Wall, 25mm Inner, Disc Specific
Forged Aluminum Alloy, Disc, 32H
Forged Aluminum Alloy, Disc, 32H
14g Black Stainless Steel
WTB Horizon, 650Bx47mm
microSHIFT Advent, 1x9 w/ Clutch Mech
microSHIFT Advent, 1x9 Specific
FSA Vero Pro, Narrow Wide, 42T
Sealed Cartridge Bearings, Square Taper
SunRace 9-Speed, 11-46T
Tektro Road Mechanical Disc, 160mm Rotor
Tektro Road Mechanical Disc, 160mm Rotor
Marin Butted Alloy, Compact 12 degree Flared Drop
Marin 3D Forged Alloy
Marin Comfort Tape
FSA No.8D, Sealed Cartridge Bearings
Marin Alloy, 27.2mm
Marin Beyond Road 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, "The Marin Nicasio+ is our Nic' with a modern twist, switching in big-volume 47mm rubber, 650b wheels and a sleek and simple 1X drivetrain. We also specced a microSHIFT 1x9 drivetrain, powerful Tektro mechanical discs and plenty of Marin components. Those WTB Horizon 650Bx47mm tires not only provide a cloud-like ride, but also look super dreamy with tan sidewalls."
It's a comfortable bike to ride, and handles well too. I'd rather pay a few hundred quid more for hydraulic brakes, personally.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
This is the only model in the Nicasio+ range with two colour options. Marin also sells the 'regular' Nicasio models, which start at £865 and finish at £1,555. Both come with 700C wheels.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a well-built frame and fork finished in an eye-catching colour.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Series 1 Double Butted CrMo Beyond Road, 650B Wheels, Beyond Road Geometry, Fender and Rack Mounts, Disc Mount
CrMo, Fender and Rack Eyelets, IS Disc Mount
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The geometry is somewhere between an endurance road bike and a gravel machine.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are comparative with many other bikes of this size.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Comfort is good thanks to the high-volume tyres, and with them pumped up for road use you can feel the steel quality of the frame and fork.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness throughout the frame and fork is fine, especially for the type of riding the Nicasio+ is intended for.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
It's efficient to a certain degree, but the weight and gappy cassette does limit acceleration and climbing performance.
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 steering feels neutral on the whole, but it's still quick enough to have fun with on the road or trails.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The wide tyres provide a huge amount of comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The FSA crankset feels stiff enough for hard efforts out of the saddle.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The large gaps between sprockets can upset your cadence, especially if you can't quite find the right gear to be in.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
The gears shift well, but I don't get on with the shape of the shifters or button position.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
It's a solid set of wheels that seems unflustered by anything.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
A good set of tyres that work on a whole range of terrains thanks to their width. You'll need something with tread for the winter months.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
This has a good range of basic components that works well. The shallow bar allows you to use the drops without the position being too extreme, and the flare aids control.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, especially when riding steadily and enjoying the scenery
Would you consider buying the bike? Possibly
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There are other full-steel gravel bikes which are a few hundred quid more expensive, but they get a higher spec finishing kit – and in most cases are much lighter too.
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's difficult to hit this price point and still deliver a quality bike, but the Nicasio+ offers a frameset with a great ride quality and a competent build – though the spec is not exactly exciting. The brakes could do with upgrading, but other than that it's a good all-rounder.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!