We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Read More...
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Now 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.
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.