Marin County, California, a hop and a skip away from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, is famous as the birthplace of mountain biking, which is said to have been invented on the slopes of Mount Tamalpais. And Marin Bikes has mainly been known for its off-road machines since it was founded – in Marin County – back in 1986.
British distribution has been patchy recently, but it has a new distributor and a range of machines that includes the Lombard, which it describes as ‘part adventure bike, part urban warrior’, designed to be able to take in a spot of gravel racing and cyclocross. But we think it’s more likely to be put into service as a tough commuting all-rounder – enough for poor, potholed tarmac – with the ability to take in longer rides and even some touring.
The Lombard's angles and clearances make it a fine go-anywhere machine
The frame angles are reasonably steep and aggressive, but the top tube isn't that long and the wheelbase from the smallest to the largest model is over 1m, which lends itself more to extended riding than to the more dynamic thrust of cyclocross racing. Marin’s designers must have had non-competitive riding in mind when it came to the mounts too – the Lombard has front mudguard eyelets and separate rear mudguard and rack mounts. Clearance, even with the super-comfortable 35mm tyres, is massive, so there’s plenty of room for those mudguards too.
The tyres also suggest more of an urban than competitive DNA, the gumwalled Schwalbes bearing the Road Cruiser name. They have puncture protection and are good for rough roads, potholes and gravel tracks, though we wouldn’t want to ride ’cross on them. The narrow 27.2mm seatpost and rubbery bar tape are also comfortable.
The 35mm tyres are very comfortable but they weigh 625g each
Commuting on the Lombard is a joy. It’s not quick, and you will lose a couple of minutes compared with a full-on road bike, and it’s even more ponderous uphill, where its portliness counts against But it climbs in a steady, statesmanlike and dignified manner, helped by the wide spread of gears from the Sora triple chainset.
It’s not a lightning-quick descender either, though the brakes are very decent. At first the mechanical discs lacked bite and power, but after a few days the pads start to bed in and they come into their own – they’re not as powerful as hydraulic discs but are better than calipers and should drastically improve rim life too. They contribute to a genuinely versatile machine that will be equally at home commuting, riding for leisure or just performing day-do-day cycling duties – with the ability to tackle touring when the call of the wild beckons.