This review originally appeared in the August/September 2020 issue of Adventure Cyclist magazine.
Gestalt is defined as “an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts.” That sums up pretty much any given bike out on the market, but in the case of the Marin Gestalt X10, the organized whole turns out to be a whole lot of fun.
At $1,300, it certainly packs a punch when it comes to value. By that I mean you’re getting a well-designed aluminum frame offering a unique ride quality with a group of components that will offer great performance while holding up well to hard-fought miles.
Coming out of Marin’s “Beyond Road” category, the Gestalt is a gravel bike that handles like a mountain bike, accelerates like a road bike, and is equipped to handle some light-duty touring. In other words, if you like your bikes to be responsive and capable, you’re going to have a lot of fun with this one.
When I first threw a leg over the top tube and pushed down on my initial pedal stroke, I was immediately impressed by how quickly the bike came to life. The ride quality could be best described as lively and nimble, and much of this can be attributed to some of the shortest chainstays I’ve ever seen on a gravel bike (415mm), along with a stubby 60mm stem.
On the road, I loved how quickly the bike accelerated. Whether I was taking off from a standstill or tackling short, punchy climbs, I always felt like the bike responded well to the power I put into the pedals. Moving onto gravel roads, the tall headtube gave me a more upright position that helped me react well to unexpected rocks and potholes.
What really sets the Gestalt apart from other gravel bikes is how it handles on singletrack trails. The steering is quick and precise, which allows you to handle switchbacks and technical features surprisingly well. How far you push on trails really comes down to how advanced your handling skills are. I certainly didn’t ride it as aggressively as I would a mountain bike, but it did breathe new life into some trails that were beginning to feel a bit too familiar.
While this bike absolutely put a smile on my face off-road, it wasn’t hard to quickly spot two pieces of equipment I would consider changing out. First would be a move over to tubeless tires. The aluminum frame with a short wheelbase equates to a ride quality that is plenty stiff, and the rigid WTB Riddler tires with a wire bead take that stiffness to another level. I was getting bounced around quite a bit on rocky trails and rough dirt roads. This doesn’t bother me too much on shorter rides, but it became an issue on big days in the saddle. Tubeless tires will go a long way in making harsher terrain feel much more enjoyable, and will help prevent some fatigue after a few hours in the saddle. They’ll also help prevent a few flat tires along the way.
The second potential upgrade is in regards to the brakes, but it really depends on what kind of riding you have in mind. The Tektro mechanical disc brakes are exactly what you would expect out of a bike at this price point, but when we’re talking about a bike that is going to lure you down some rough paths, it won’t be long before you start thinking about hydraulic brakes.
Unfortunately, hydraulic brakes are an expensive upgrade, so if that’s a deal breaker out of the gate, it’s worth pointing out that the premium model of this range, the Gestalt X11, will set you up with hydraulic brakes and a dropper seatpost to boot. If you plan on spending most of your time on gravel and paved roads, the mechanical disc brakes will be just fine.
I was really impressed with the build kit throughout the rest of the bike. Marin is able to fill out a lot of the bits and pieces with in-house parts to help keep costs in check, but that’s not to say these components are low quality. I loved the feel of the compact handlebars, and the two-bolt seatpost made micro adjustments to the saddle quick and easy. The Marin wheelset is tubeless compatible, although you will need to buy rim tape, valve stems, and sealant to complete the conversion.
At first glance, you may not be dazzled by the drivetrain components, but there’s still a lot to appreciate about them. You’re getting a 1x10 drivetrain with SRAM Apex shifters and a SRAM GX rear derailer. This is the same component group I’ve trusted on my personal touring bike for years, and I can say from long-term experience that it’s a workhorse of a component group. The advantage of a 10-speed group is that replacement parts (i.e. chains and cassettes) will be a little less expensive to replace as they wear out down the road — and easy to find.
The gearing on the stock build is a 42T chainring and an 11–42T cassette. The question of: “Is this gearing good or bad?” really depends on what you plan to do with the bike and how much power you’ve got in those legs of yours.
Unloaded, I had no issues climbing forest service roads and tackling moderate mountain bike trails. Packing the bike up for an adventure is where things got a little iffy on steeper inclines. The good news is that it’s pretty easy to slap a smaller chainring on the crankset to expand your lower end of the gear range. I found that a 38T chainring could get me through just about anything. It’s worth pointing out that this is, and will always be, a 1x bike. The shape of the seat tube and lack of a front derailer braze-on mean you won’t be able to add a front derailer.
If a second wheelset is in your budget, one consideration would be to grab a 650b wheelset. With the stock 700c wheelset, you can run up to 42mm tires, but with 650b hoops, you can bump that clearance out to 47mm. With two wheelsets, you can get two distinctly different rides from road to trail. That doesn’t make this a quiver killer by any stretch, but it can give the impression of two bikes in one.
Making this bike relevant for the touring cyclist are eyelets for fenders and a rear rack. With that said, let’s go back to those short chainstays and point out some traps you’ll want to avoid falling into with loaded touring.
The first thing to keep in mind with short chainstays is that you may run into some clearance issues between your heels and panniers. In my case, I had to use smaller front panniers on the rear rack to keep my heels from scraping against them on every pedal stroke. Since this bike is geared more toward lightweight weekend/credit-card–style touring, this issue isn’t critical.
The second thing to keep in mind is weight distribution. This is always true for loading up a bike, but even more so with the way this particular bike handles. Because the bike really wants to accelerate quickly, it can be very easy to lift the handlebars up into a wheelie if you load too much of your weight over the rear wheel. With only eyelets for a rear rack, it’s without a doubt easier to throw most of your weight in the back, but do your best to resist the temptation. While there are no rack mounts on the carbon fork, the 12° flare on the handlebar drops does provide a little extra real estate for a wide handlebar roll bag.
If bikepacking with framebags is more your jam, neither of these two issues will arise, and you’ll be happy to see that all of the cables are routed internally, meaning there are no exposed cables to work around when strapping bags down to the frame.
What kind of cyclist is going to fall for a bike that doesn’t quite fit the mountain, touring, or gravel molds? If your cycling style is rooted in responsive road bikes and/or XC mountain biking, you’re going to feel right at home with the Gestalt X10. It has what it takes to freshen up some local rides you previously had on autopilot, as well as the potential to venture out into the unknown.
(For 2021, Marin has updated the Gestalt X10 drivetrain to MicroSHIFT’s new Advent X 10-speed brifters and derailer. It’s still 1x only, but now with a massive 11–51T cassette from SunRace.)
Price: $1,300 (factory spec)
Sizes available: 50, 52, 54, 56, 58, 60cm
Size tested: 56cm
Weight: 22.6 lbs. (as tested, without pedals)
Head tube length: 170mm
Head tube angle: 71.5°
Seat tube length: 510mm
Seat tube angle: 73.5°
Top tube: 565mm (effective)
Bottom bracket drop: 80mm
Fork Offset: 50mm
Standover height: 714mm
Frame: Marin Gestalt Series 3 Beyond Road, 6061 aluminum, internal cable routing, two bottle mounts, rack and fender mounts
Fork: Marin full carbon, fender mounts
Handlebar: Marin butted alloy, 12° flare, 440mm width
Stem: Marin 3D forged alloy, 60mm, 31.8mm clamp
Derailer: SRAM GX
Brifters: SRAM Apex DoubleTap
Brakes: Tektro MD-C500 mechanical disc
Rotors: Tektro 160mm
Crankset: Forged Alloy, 42T, 175mm
Cassette: SunRace MS 10spd, 11–42T
Bottom bracket: External sealed cartridge bearings, threaded
Seatpost: Marin Alloy, 27.2mm
Saddle: Marin Beyond Road Concept
Hubs: Forged aluminum, 100 x 12mm front, 142 x 12mm rear, thru-axles
Rims: Marin aluminum double wall, 32h, tubeless compatible
Tires: WTB Riddler Comp, 700c x 37mm, wire bead
Contact: Marin Bikes, 1450 Technbology Lane, Suite 100, Petaluma, CA 94954, marinbikes.com