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We test the new Marin Verona T3 carbon road bike

Marin Verona T3Marin Verona T3
Total weight 8.74kg; frame 0.99kg; fork 0.65kg (55.5cm)

+ Understated, subtle looks
+ Very comfortable ride

– Not as stiff as the competition
– BB and headset may limit upgrades

Marin is best known for its mountain bikes but the Californian company has a small range of drop-bar bikes too. The Verona is new for 2013 and marks the brand’s first foray into carbon fibre road bikes. In the US there’s a range of Veronas but in the UK we get just one. The £1,399 T3 sits at the top of Marin’s road bike range but is very much entry-level for carbon-framed bikes. It looks like a strong contender.

Frame and fork

The Verona is pitched squarely at the sportive/endurance market, promising comfort and low weight – a good combination for triathlon training and racing, too. Marin certainly has the weight side of things sorted, at least as far as the frame goes. The 900g claimed weight is light by any standards and pretty spectacular at what’s not far off entry-level pricing for carbon, where frame weights north of 1,200g aren’t unusual. Our 55.5cm test frame tipped the scales at 990g.

Given budgetary constraints, there’s only so much that designers can do with grades of carbon and sophisticated lay-ups, so to get to that low weight Marin has opted to use a bit less material. By sticking with a conventional 1.125in head tube instead of a tapered front end and using a normal threaded bottom bracket shell instead of, say, a BB30, it doesn’t need to put as much carbon into the frame. The tubes aren’t by any means skinny but the Verona’s chassis isn’t as overtly voluminous as a lot of modern bikes. The exception is the seatstays, which look quite chunky, although in part that’s an optical illusion caused by the rest of the frame being a little less fat than we’re used to seeing.

In keeping with current trends, the cables are routed internally through the front triangle. If you wanted to upgrade to an electronic transmission in future, the routing means you could make a neat job of it. It could be argued that the straight head tube and conventional BB limit upgrade options for forks and cranks, but there are still plenty of high-end options available in the “old” standards. The fork would be quite low on the list of upgrades anyway – it’s full-carbon and does a perfectly good job.

Marin Verona T3

The kit

The Verona’s components are pretty much what you’d expect for the money, with a transmission based on Shimano’s Tiagra groupset. Tiagra may not be exciting but it’s good stuff, delivering reliable, smooth shifts. The built-in gear indicators won’t be to all tastes, though, and the exposed gear cables don’t give as clean a look as rival set-ups with concealed cables. Marin has specced a 12-28T cassette to go with the 50/34T rings on the outboard-bearing FSA Gossamer chainset, giving a usefully low bottom gear without too many big jumps between cogs.

Wheels are Shimano’s entry-level R501s, which are reasonably robust and not offensively heavy. Marin has fitted them with 25mm Continental Ultra Sport tyres; the slightly wider casing gives a useful extra dose of comfort without too much of a speed hit. Tektro brakes are unexciting but competent, although no more than that.

The ride

Out on the road the Verona lives up to its endurance billing. Marin has, entirely reasonably, focused on low frame weight and comfort ahead of ultimate stiffness, making the Verona more about the long haul than the sprint. It’s an extremely smooth-riding bike, dispatching broken or rippled Tarmac with aplomb.

The long (but not over-long) 18.5cm head tube and shallow-drop bars make for a sporty but not aggressive riding position, and it’s a similar story with the frame geometry. The angles (72º head tube and seat tube) are more relaxed than a full-on race frame, giving the Marin a touch of extra stability that’s very welcome under a tiring rider.

You can coax a bit more flex from the Verona if you start properly hauling (or if you’re particularly large or powerful), but that kind of thing isn’t really what the Marin’s designed for. That said, the best bikes at this price do manage to deliver a little more front end stiffness without taking too much of a comfort or weight hit.