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Review Of Trek Marlin 5 (2020)

Jeff Balton

Trek Marlin 5

Photo credits: Trekbikes.com
Trek Marlin 5 is a phenomenal, trail-ready 29er that costs little and gets the job done on different types of surfaces, including paved and unpaved roads.

Beginner riders are often faced with a tough dilemma — purchase a versatile and comfortable city bike to commute or a real MTB to have fun and embark on off-road adventures.

With Trek Marlin 5, you can do both. This 29er has the ruggedness of a true trail-blazer but has the ability to double as an everyday workhorse to take on short urban commutes.

One of Marlin 5’s biggest advantages is the low price. This bike costs just $550, which puts it in the budget category. Still, there’s a lot to be excited about even with such an attractive price.

 

Trek Marlin 5 Quick Overview

Marlin 5 is characterized by an excellent off-road-ready aluminum frame, cushy front suspension, burly wheels and tires, hydraulic disc brakes and a lot more.

It’s one of the best-valued models from the Marlin series, offering multiple improvements compared to the lower-priced Marlin 4. Some of these are better brakes, better hubs, and a better bottom bracket.

It’s an entry-level bicycle, most suitable for beginner riders who plan to do a little bit of everything and too much of nothing.

Key Specs:

  • Frame: Alpha Silver Aluminum
  • Fork: SR Suntour XCE 28, 100 mm
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano Tourney TY300, 3-Speed
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano Tourney TY300, 7-Speed
  • Number of Gears: 21
  • Brakes: Tektro hydraulic disc, 160/160mm rotors
  • Rims: Bontrager Connection, double-wall
  • Tire Size: 27.5″ / 29″ x 2.20″
  • Weight: 14.59 kg / 32.17 lbs
  • See ALL specs on Marlin 5 product page

 

Marlin 5 Main Features

If you have a budget of $550 to spend on your next trail bike, Marlin 5 is pretty much the most you can get in this category.

Trek is known for bikes that have good value to money, so this Marlin series model has some worthy components and does not make too many compromises.

Marlin 5 Women's white

Women’s version also available

 

Lightweight Alpha Silver Aluminum Frame

Trek Marlin 5 has the same Alpha Silver Aluminum frame seen on all bikes from this lineup. It is characterized by a versatile head tube angle of 69.5 degrees, which is a good compromise between steep and slack geometry. That means this bike will perform well in most conditions, including climbing, descending, and cornering.

Light, durable, and comfortable Alpha Silver Aluminum frame is Marlin 5’s biggest selling point, seen on other more expensive bikes from Trek’s MTB lineup.

All cables are internally routed which makes them last longer and improves the overall appearance of the bike. Riders can mount the frame with a rear rack and a rear kickstand, which would make Marlin 5 ready for daily commutes as well.

You can get Marlin 5 in three modern and attractive colors: matte black, volt green, and teal. They’re beautiful!

 

Springy SR Suntour Fork

Marlin 5 is equipped with a low-ranked SR Suntour XCE 28 fork with a coil spring. This fork is quite heavy but beginner riders without too much off-road experience will like it because it provides plenty of comfort.

Marlin 5 Mountain bike

Marlin 5 has a SR Suntour XCE 28 entry level fork with 100mm of travel

When it comes to adjustability, just the preload function is available, so you can dial the fork to your liking and ensure a more comfortable ride and better responsiveness.

It’s important to note that the 13.5″ frame size comes with 80 mm of travel, whereas all other frame size have 100 mm of travel in the fork.

 

Best Feature: Hydraulic Disc Brakes

The feature that will make all Marlin 5 owners happy is the hydraulic disc brakes. This is the biggest improvement compared to the cheaper Marlin 4 which comes with mechanical disc brakes.

Hydraulic disc brakes present a major increase in stopping power and precision. They require less strength input from your fingers but offer more braking power output.

Trek has gone a step further and equipped the 13.5″ & 15.5″ frame sizes with short-reach brake levers to accommodate short riders with smaller hands.

 

Delicate Shimano Derailleurs

The main points of improvement on Trek Marlin 5 are its derailleurs. Namely, Shimano Tourney front and rear derailleurs are not very durable or precise. They operate a 21-gear drivetrain.

Depending on how you take care of them and how careful you are, they might last you for years and miles to come. However, if you’re not careful and you shift under tension on you fall off your bike and smash them, they might give you some headaches.

Still, that’s not something an average rider planning to take Marlin 5 out on weekend adventures and weekday commutes should worry about. Plus, updating to higher-value Altus, Acera, or Alivio groupsets is not a big investment.

Rear derailleur on Trek Marlin 5

Entry-level rear derailleur

 

Beefy Bontrager Wheels and Tires

Last but not least, the beefy Bontrager wheels and tires are some of the first things you will notice on your Marlin 5. The 13.5″ and 15.5″ sized frames come with 27.5″ wheels, whereas all larger frames come with 29″ wheels.

The wheels are Bontrager Connection. They have 32 spokes, so they are quite strong, and they’re double-walled which means they can withstand some beating.

The Bontrager XR2 tires are 2.20″ wide on 27.5″ wheels. However, when it comes to 29″ wheels, the rear is narrower at 2.0″.

These wheels and tires are a bit heavier than ideal, but once you get them going, they’ll take you wherever you direct the handlebars.

 

Is Trek Marlin 5 the Right Choice for You?

suggestedNow you’re probably wondering if this bike will make you happy or not. If you’re purchasing it as your first mountain bike or you don’t have very high aspirations when it comes to trail riding, Trek Marlin 5 should meet your demands.

We especially like it because it’s good at more than one thing.

Trek Marlin 5 is not strictly a trail-specific bike that would feel sluggish in all other settings — it’s equally efficient on both paved roads and dirt roads.

However, its wide tires, massive wheels, and capable hydraulic disc brakes still make it more suitable for riders who plan to spend more time in forests and on mountains than on smooth city streets.

 

Other Marlin Models

Trek Marlin Series Bikes

  • Marlin 4MSRP $490- Has a lightweight aluminum frame, 21 gears, 100 mm of front suspension, and strong mechanical disc brakes.
  • Marlin 5MSRP $550 – Combines a light aluminum frame, plush SR Suntour suspension, entry-level 3×7 Shimano drivetrain, and powerful hydraulic disc brakes in a good-looking trail package. Men and women-specific models available.
  • Marlin 6MSRP $650 – This model is built with an Alpha Silver Aluminum frame, a 2×8 mid-range Shimano drivetrain, burly tires, and comes with 100 mm of front suspension travel with lockout. It’s available in men’s and women’s versions.
  • Marlin 7MSRP $800 – Trek’s race-worthy model with an Alloy frame, superior RockShox front suspension, quality 2×9 drivetrain, Shimano components, and improved Shimano hydraulic disc brakes.

 

Verdict: Worth the Money (or Not?)

To the right buyer, Trek Marlin 5 is definitely worth the money. This is a lot of bike for just $550, specifically when it comes to the components. The hydraulic disc brakes increase the value of the bike, as well as the high-quality aluminum frame.

However, if you value every cent and you don’t intend to tackle steep hills or ride in wet weather, you can save $60 and get Trek Marlin 4 with mechanical disc brakes and slightly lower-ranked hubs and bottom bracket.

Get Directly From TrekBikes.com
Or see best Trek bikes

Trek Marlin 5 (2020)

$550
8.5

Components

8.0/10

Price

9.0/10

Weight

8.0/10

Quality

8.5/10

Durability

9.0/10

Pros

  • Alpha Silver Aluminum frame
  • Powerful hydraulic disc brakes
  • Good price-to-value ratio
  • Attractive colors

Cons

  • Heavy fork

27 Comments

  • BoKnows says:

    lol “my son doesn’t abuse his bike he just broke all of the most easily abused parts of it”

  • Camilo says:

    Very helpfull!!! , thanks dude!

  • Jayden Chester says:

    I am 15 and got my trek Marlin 5 a couple years ago. I have ridden some insane tracks on it and haven’t really had any issues. The only thing I’ve broken so far is the derailer hanger but apart from that nothing. I use it for riding on streets, dirt roads and mountain bike tracks of different difficulties including black diamond tracks. It is still working great and I would think of it as a good bike. I found that the seat post was originally at my good pedaling height when I got it at its lowest point but have now upgraded that to dropper.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Jayden,
      Have you tried getting a regular maintenance check with your local bike shop? Regular maintenance check can help prolong the life of a bike 😉

  • Doug Triebelhorn says:

    I bought a 29″ blue Marlin 5 for my son’s 14th birthday 16 months ago and initially I really liked it. But, it’s been a flaming pile of broken parts since then. My son doesn’t abuse this bike (no downhill or big jumps) and mainly rides a few miles into town and occasional wheelies. Since new here’s the things that have broken on it: rear shifter cable, rear axle, right pedal stripped out of crank arm, left pedal stripped out of crank arm, rear axle again, right pedal stripped out of crank arm again and the chain broke (which pulled the rear rerailer into the spokes and ruined it). Our closest Trek dealer is an hour away so running to the bike store is a real issue but they have been pretty good about helping me out. I’m a metal fabricator and part time motocross bike mechanic so I have a good background in metals and how they should operate. I honestly feel Trek has build a cheap bicycle with metal parts using allows that aren’t appropriate and as thin as materials as possible to save weight at the cost of reliability. I just called Trek directly and we’ll see where that goes.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Dough,
      Sorry to hear about your experience. It looks like your drivetrain and the whole groupset have issues. Usually these are the most abused parts of the bike and an upgrade to better parts will do better. However I am curious as to what they will tell you. Let me know about it. Cheers!

  • Belle Chen says:

    I am not too thrilled about the color options in Marlin 5 women. Can you tell me the difference between Marlin 5 and Marlin 5 women?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Belle,
      Good question. I was wondering about that but then I noticed something. If you look at this link you will notice the top tube. That’s your indicator.

  • Raquel says:

    Hello!!
    My son has joined a trail cycling team. He’s using and old bike too small for him.
    He is obessesed with buying a Trek Bike.
    His instructor recommended us a bike with at least 9 speed on the back tire, but he is in love with the colors of the Marlin 5. (The Black, Aqua and green)
    Would it be a mistake to buy the 5 and change the speeds, or should we buy the 7. I am afraid it will be of lower quality the 5
    Thank you

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Rachel,
      Any Trek MTB is a good bike. Never mind the speeds. Your son will catch up when it comes to gears as long as he is riding often. A recommendation is good but then again bike quality is also important. However, the Marlin 5 has higher gearing, while the Marlin 7 has a better fork. Go with the Marlin 5.

  • Raymond says:

    I’m 5’5” and looking for a inexpensive hard tail. I ride a lot of fast and technical trails with a lot of bumps. And possibly something I can hit jumps on

  • Prasanna Premkumar says:

    I am looking at mountain bikes under the 600$ price point and am a high schooler who is looking to use it to commute to school and have some fun with it on light trails. I am looking at the marlin 5 as well as the Giant Talon 3. As far as I can see, they both have almost identical specs but the Giant offers the Acera derailleurs. What do you recommend?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Prasanna
      It is hard to decide which one is the best but, your budget will decide in the end. Have a look at our best mountain bikes under $500 first and see if your can also find something that will interest you. I suggest you look at YouTube videos of each MTB to see the pros and cons. If you ask me, I like them all 😉

  • Jake says:

    I saw a Marlin 5 XS at a local shop and the salesman really tried to get me to buy it for my son. He is 8 yrs old and currently rides a Giant Liv 26″. It seemed very large for him but the salesman told me it was perfect. He can just barely stand over the frame, but he loves it and was able to ride it fine. The problem is that it is nearly impossible to find a 26″ bike anywhere right now. Would you recommend going with the Marlin or a 24″ Salsa, Cannondale, etc? Basically, would it be better to go bigger or smaller? We just ride around town and some dirt trails.

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Jake,
      Both are good brands. It would be bigger to make sure he is riding the right size. I do have a question since I am confused about what’s going on. Is he currently riding his own bike? Are you looking for another bike to add to his collection? Did you buy the one you saw earlier?

  • Peter Dzvachen says:

    Would you recommend this over the cannondale trail 8? mostly for daily commuting and some slight trails

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Peter,
      That is a hard question because these are all good bikes. They have strengths and weaknesses. It really depends on personal preferences.

  • Dilsher says:

    Hi there,
    I wanted to know how much speed could this bike achieve on paved road compared to hybrid commuter bike.
    Thank you

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Dilsher,
      Generally, for bikes like the Trek Marlin with 21 speeds, people have reported that they can go as fast as 20 to 31 mph on paved roads. But these are extreme cases because most of the time, it’s not the bike but your legs 😉 We can use the same bases (21 speeds) for commuter bike.

  • Jay says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I’m a beginner and just recently bought a Marlin 5. I’m looking to upgrade its fork and possibly its group set. I plan to ride it on the weekends on paved roads and probably light trail. Do you have any suggestions? TIA

  • Mike says:

    Hey Jeff, its Mike again, I had another question. Can any water get inside the frame due to the opening for the internal routing, if so then can it damage the frame or anything inside if it?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Mike,

      Yes water can get inside especially when you ride for longer periods under the rain. It is not going to be an issue as long as you clean your bike after every wet ride. Mountain bikes are built for riding in all conditions so I don’t think you should worry much. Check this video out about MTB rain riding: Wet Weather Mountain Bike Hacks | MTB Tech Tips For The Rain

  • Mike says:

    Hey Jeff, I like your review on the Marlin 5 but I have 2 questions.
    1.) I’m about to get my new Marlin 5. Do you think it will do fine in some light trail riding and in some dirt and gravel?
    2.) And how long do you think the bike will last with normal light trail riding?

    • Jeff Balton says:

      Hi Mike,

      I will try to answer all your questions.
      1. Marin is a good brand. You will get great reviews when you go to YouTube or Google. Marin will handle all the kinds of riding you mentioned.
      2. If it is light trail riding, then it will last as many premium brands out there. Have a look Marin Trail 5

      You can also check our list of trail bikes here: Best Full Suspension Mountain Bikes For Trails

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