The term ATB or All Terrain Bike is starting to get thrown around quite a bit – and for good reason. There are a number of bikes out there that aren’t really gravel bikes, but not quite mountain bikes either.
Using the term ATB as a call to action, Marin gives us the Larkspur 2.
And it may be the ATB we all need.
How ’bout Some Quick History
Marin Bikes was born in 1986 by Bob Buckley in, you guessed it, Marin County, California. In the early days, Mountain Bike Hall of Famer, Joe Murray helped Bob with product design. Working together, Marin designed and sold their first bike, The Madrone Trail, a $199 mountain bike. A decade later, in 1996, they went on to be the first bike company to win the XC National Championship on a full-suspension bike.
2008 rolled around and Marin Bicycles has been growing. Still owned and run by its founder, Bob Buckley, Bob made the decision to move into the Grateful Dead’s old 32,000-square-foot rehearsal spot to help accommodate the growth of the company.
In 2012 Bob, at 66 years old, sold Marin Bikes to a private holding group. Marin is still headquartered in Marin County California. In 2011, a long-time employee of 25 years, Tom Herington took the role of CEO before moving in 2012, to the COO position and bringing over the current CEO Matt VanEnkevort from Full Speed Ahead (FSA).
Unboxing the Larkspur 2
The Larkspur 2 came 80% assembled and went together easily enough. Small parts and pedals were tucked away in the typical smaller box. When assembling it, the gears were way out of adjustment, I spent some real time on this until I noticed that the derailleur hanger was a little bent. After I straightened it, the bike shifted great.
The color, Gloss Copper/Turquoise was really eye-catching when mixed with the black components. Throw in the gum wall tires, and it’s a really handsome bicycle.
Marin Bikes are actually calling this bike an “adventure mixte”. Unlike traditional mixte frames that had dual top tubes that allow the seat tube to run between them as they run all the way back to the rear dropouts, this frame uses a solid top tube that drops down to the bottom of the seat tube, with twin ‘mixte’ rails starting out lower on the top tube.
Step-through frames are the dominant frame of choice for most urban cyclists on a global scale. But here, Marin has done something different with the Larkspur frame. With its unique step-through frame, the Larkspur 2 offers a visible difference from most modern step-throughs that I’ve seen lately.
And the cool horizontal, double tubes that cross the seat tube down at the lower part of the down tube, made for a great handhold for carrying it up some stairs, or when loading and unloading the bike on and off my rack.
With the Larkspur 2, Marin Bikes has also blended some really useful qualities from the mountain bike world with some highlights from the commuter world to create an All-Terrain Bicycle that meets both worlds head-on.
How is it Spec’d?
The Larkspur 2 frame uses a butted CrMo step-through frame and has 27.5 wheels, rack, fender, and kickstand mounts as well as an integrated headset. The rear dropout is QR-specific and spaced at 135mm.
The frame comes in small, medium, and large.
The Fork is also CrMo with a curved blade and is disc specific. It has fender and rack eyelets. It is QR-specific and spaced at 100mm.
The cockpit uses a house-branded Marin alloy sweeper bar, a 31.8mm stem, with an FSA Orbit CE no. 8P headset. The bars are equipped with Marin County grips. And the saddle is a Marin Adventure Plush.
The wheels are built with house-branded aluminum, double wall rims with an internal width of 27mm. The front and rear hubs used are alloy, quick-release, house-branded, disc-specific, 32-hole with non-sealed bearings and 14g stainless spokes and nipples.
Tires include the VEE Tire GPVee in 27.5×2.35″ with a wire bead, puncture protection, and a combo, mixed terrain kind of tread.
Drivetrain duties are handled by a wide-range Shimano Deore 1×11 rear shifter and clutched rear derailleur, with a generic, non-branded forged alloy crank using a narrow-wide 38t chainring. The rear 11-51t, 11-speed cassette is by SunRace.
The Seat post is a TranzX YSP38J, 70mm/110mm travel with a Shimano I-Spec EV Lever.
Both front and rear brakes are Shimano Deore hydraulic with a 160mm rear rotor and a 180mm front rotor.
How’d it Ride?
I ordered the bike in the biggest size available, the size large. You can check out the full geo chart here.
After assembling the bike and riding it around the block, the cockpit felt a little cramped, but it seemed manageable. by the end of my first mixed terrain 20-miler, I was very uncomfortable. It is my humble opinion that the large size should come with a longer stem of at least an additional 10mm. Just to put it in perspective, my wife is 5’5″ to my 6’1″, and with the dropper post dropped all the way down, she was very comfy on this bike.
Other than that easily remedied stem swap issue, the bike was very comfortable. It rolled smooth, and the tires were perfect for both the road and the trails around my neck of the woods.
Putting my Roadrunner Bags medium Jammer on the front made it the perfect errand bike.
While out riding the Larkspur 2 on light to moderate trials, I found that the bike handles really well. The tires were adequate for most dirt surfaces that I rode, minus the dreaded loose-over hardpack. The bike’s longish chainstay helped the bike descend really well, feeling nice n’ stable. Letting some air out of the 2.35″ tires made it feel more plush on some of the more technical stuff than the rigid build would suggest.
With the wide range mountain bike gearing and a 20.5 gear inch granny, this bike was very pleasant to trudge uphill. On one of my favorite trails, there is an exposed root section that can be challenging. I usually need to attack it seated while pulling the front wheel up and over the obstacles. On the trail mentioned and others that were similar, I found the seat post feeling a little flexy at times.
I also found that on this bike the way it’s set up, the 180mm front rotor was too grabby and really a little overkill in the front brake dept. In my opinion, dual 160mm rotors on this bike would provide plenty of stopping power.
Where this bike really shined while off-road, was on the semi-groomed fire roads and buffed singletrack. The Larkspur 2 was fast, comfortable and a really fun bike to ride.
Marin Bikes has produced a versatile, handsome, and fun bike to ride. It’s fun and easy to pedal, and it’s geared properly for anything that you might want to throw at it. The factory tires that come on the bike are great for comfortably commuting or riding around town and just aggressive enough to take the long, dirty way home.
The sweep of the bar is perfect for an upright, and relaxed ride. Besides the obvious, more common uses for the dropper post, I also found myself using it as an easy way to stay seated while waiting to use the crosswalk. Overall, it’s a winner of a bike.
That being said, there are a few things I would change if I were to buy the bike. I would add another 10-15mm to the stem length on the large-sized bike and I would swap the front 180mm rotor for a 160mm rotor. Also, being that there is only one spot for a water bottle cage (besides the fork), a spot under the down tube for another water bottle cage would be welcomed.
I believe that this bike is a great value for the parts spec that was used, not to mention the built-in versatility of the bike… you get a lot of bike for the retail price of $1149.
Find a dealer to get your own Larkspur 2 or check out other offerings from Marin Bikes by hitting the link below.