If you just want a “bike” and you want it to do what most people expect a bike to do without you having to preen and polish it, this is the bike for you.
Low maintenance drivetrain
Clunky twist shifters
Backswept bars could be wider
By James Stout
If there has was one positive part of 2020, it was the bike boom. Bike shops were classified as essential businesses when COVID forced most of the economy into hibernation. With gyms closed and summer largely devoid of holidays, festivals, and group activities, the world discovered cycling and cleaned out the bike shops. For months, I would get texts asking what a good bike was for a beginner about once a week. During the summer, I was on speed dial for everything from tubeless tyre installation to gear indexing.
The best beginner bike?
But what is the best bike for a beginner? You want something that is pretty stable and predictable to ride, easy to use and doesn’t take a degree in engineering to maintain. Drop bars are probably out of the question, especially on a budget. As for gearing, 2x or 3x drivetrains have a lot of shifting to manage. A full-on mountain bike will be too slow on the road, and most beginners aren’t going to jump straight into sending the gnar.
I submit that the Marin Presidio 2 might be the perfect bike for the times we live in. It’s billed as a city transit bike, but it’s certainly more comfortable for long rides than the gym bike your buddy was using before. With slick tyres, flat bars, internal gearing, and disc brakes, the Presidio 2 can do anything a beginner would want. If the bug really bites and you decide to upgrade to a road or mountain bike, the Presidio’s reliable build will mean that it will see years of use as a town/commuter bike.
Marin Presidio 2 highlights
There are many bikes with those general characteristics, though, so what makes the Presidio stand out? For one, it has a reasonable frame and fork. At the £745/$800 price point, many brands still opt for a chromoly steel frame, which leaves the whole bike feeling sluggish. Marin has managed to include a butted aluminum frame and fork. The Shimano Nexus hub is also great; it has seven speeds and a 244% range, which gives enough gear for climbing just about anything and riding at a more than reasonable speed on the flats. Yes, you would get smaller jumps with a 2x8 groupset, but the learning curve with a bike like this is so much simpler, and the maintenance requirements are minimal.
Many bikes at this price point include disc brakes, but few are as dependable as the Shimano flat mount hydraulic offerings on the Presidio 2. I’ve lent this bike to friends and colleagues looking to get out more, try cycling, and never once had a phone call about the brakes. (I should note that I do warn them not to pull the lever with the wheel out). With rim brakes or cable discs, I would have been flooded with “I can’t stop” texts by now. These brakes stop when you pull the lever, which is the best one can expect on a bike like this.
The 700x32mm Vee tires seem fast enough on blacktop and have yet to puncture despite many trips down gravel paths and across the remains of someone’s 12 pack of lager. There’s even a saddle that I didn’t hate and a set of ergonomic grips that seem reasonably durable and comfortable. Pedals are basic flats, but they aren’t the super cheap shark bite style that often comes packaged with value bikes.
Of course, for those of us accustomed to riding bikes that cost three times as much, the shifting won’t feel quite as crisp or the wheels as light, but for our friends who grew up on disposable bikes from big box stores, the Presidio will feel like a rocket. One friend I loaned the bike to commented that he didn’t know a bike could be comfortable until he rode this one. Marin’s great dealer network tends to be very beginner-friendly, and even at £745/$800, a rudimentary fit is part of the service. My father-in-law recently purchased a Marin bike, received fit advice, basic mechanical instruction, and a free tune-up. That kind of service will go much further than a slightly lighter wheelset in making cycling fun.
What don’t I like? The Nexus twist shifter is a bit vague and clunky. I’d prefer a thumb shifter. But this one is very easy to explain and use, and it comes as a package with the excellent internally-geared Shimano rear hub. The slightly odd backswept handlebars didn’t feel very stable to me. If this were my bike, they’d be replaced with a decent set of alloy MTB bars like the PRO Koryak bars I keep several pairs of in my shed for review bikes. But these are minor personal preference grips that many wouldn’t notice.
If this bike leads you or a friend deeper into cycling and you end up parting with more money for something higher-end, the Presidio will still have a home in your shed. The frame has plenty of braze-ons for mudguards and racks, making it a perfect commuter. In the event that many of us never return to the office, it’s a fantastic bar hopper and grocery getter.
All in all, if you just want a “bike” and you want it to do what most people expect a bike to do without you having to preen and polish it, this is the bike for you. That is, of course, if you can find one in stock.
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