Marin is a bicycle manufacturer based in Marin County, California that was established in 1986. It specializes in mountain bikes but also has a variety of other types of bicycles. All of their 66 different bicycles are named after locations in and around Marin County. For instance, the Sausalito is a lightweight hybrid bicycle for bicycle commuters with a carbon fiber fork, racing gears, and straight handlebars with thumb shifters.
Since the late 1990's Marin has manufactured a range of full suspension mountain bikes. Working with Jon Whyte, a British Engineer who worked with Benetton Formula One racing cars, (though in the areas of gearbox design, not suspension), Marin developed a simple but highly effective single pivot rear suspension system that broke new ground in terms of pedalling efficiency, low weight, and general rideability. Marin's FRS system is used in both leisure and competition riding, from heavy weight "down hill" rigs to mainstream bikes designed for cross-country and trail riding.
Subsequent innovations including their "TARA" (Travel And Ride Adjustable) and "quad link" suspension systems have lost some of the purity of the original concept but still prove to be reliable, and highly rideable bikes that have maintained their popularity as competition in the full suspension sector has intensified and a plethora of different design solutions have come to market.
Another noteworthy feature of Marin's mountain bike lineup is their continued support of steel as a frame material for conventional "hard tail" bikes. With the ascendancy of aluminium and other "advanced" materials (such as titanium and carbon fibre), high quality steel framed bikes are now something of a niche market. Steel might be slightly heavier, but it retains a loyal following because its inherent springiness gives a more comfortable ride. It is also potentially more durable than aluminium, (which has a limited "fatigue life") and is easier to repair if it does break. Marin's steel frames are most comparable to other steel bikes (e.g. Orange P7 and the Trek 930/950 - now defunct). The most noteworthy variants are the Pine Mountain and the recently discontinued Bear Valley.
The Pine Mountain is aimed at the competitive cross-country racer. The frame, manufactured by the Italian frame builder Columbus, is as light as many aluminium frames. In the UK the Pine Mountain is available only as a frame to be custom built by the individual. This can be an expensive way of getting a bike, but Marin still market the Pine Mountain as a fully built up bike in the USA, and in the UK 2nd hand Pine Mountains appear on Ebay from time to time.
The Bear Valley is a little less puritanical than the Pine Mountain, and therefore arguably a better all-rounder. The frame is a bit heavier, but it features seat stay bosses (for mounting a luggage rack) and a full set of brake mounts (giving the choice of rim brakes or disc brakes - the current Pine Mountain frame is strictly for disc brakes only). Although not available in Marin's current lineup, Bear Valleys appear quite frequently on the 2nd hand market, e.g. Ebay.