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Gravel is still just coming into its own, but we’re seeing markedly different approaches to this emerging discipline. Some bikes simply add clearance for 40mm (or more) of rubber and match the geometry of a traditional road bike as much as possible—perfect for ripping over non-technical gravel. On the other spectrum, we’re seeing bikes with a more upright geometry built for adventuring and exploring new roads, capable of descending mountain fire roads and packing along ample gear. The Headlands 2 from Marin is squarely in the latter camp.
Featuring a long top tube paired with a stubby 60mm stem and a slightly relaxed head-tube angle (71.5-degrees in size 54), the Headlands 2 geometry provides more control when rolling through gravel roads or zooming down off-road descents. And it goes big on clearance, too, with 420mm-long chainstays making room for 700×45 or 650×50 tires.
This unidirectional carbon frame features gear mounts galore. You can fit four bottles on the frame if desired (two in the main triangle, one under the downtube and one on the top tube), and even opt for a bolt-mounted frame bag thanks to mounting bolts underneath the top tube. And with standard rack and fender mounts, it’s easily outfitted for any trip.
Marin got creative to keep the Headlands 2 build out under $3,000 by adding a SunRace cassette and a Marin-branded cockpit and saddle holding the price to the “possible” category for aspiring gravel riders. Then they doubled up on the creativity by running Shimano GRX rear derailleurs and shifters, the left one of which, in the absence of a front derailleur, controls a dropper post with 105mm of travel.
As built, the Headlands 2 delivers a fun, versatile package that is reasonably fast on the road, and which could be used for normal gravel roads or big bikepacking adventures. This bike is at home in areas where going off road means lots of uphill and downhill. Partially thanks to a dropper post, it confidently navigates trickier descents.
We were so impressed with this bike out of the box that it inspired us to dream up some eventual modifications to make it even better. If we were to use this bike for longer adventures we’d consider a 40-tooth chainring to squeeze in an even wider gear range and we’d probably opt to go with 45mm tires or even 650b wheels with 47mm or larger tires to see how far the Marin Headlands 2 could take us into the backcountry. As tested however, the Marin Headlands 2 at $2,850 is a bike we’d keep on our like-to-buy list.
$2,850; 21.57 lbs/9.8kg (size 54 w/o pedals or cages); Shimano GRX mechanical 1x (42T FSA Gossamer Pro crankset, 10–42 SunRace cassette); Marin handlebar and stem; TranzX YSP11 dropper post with 105mm travel; Marin saddle; Marin wheels; 40mm Schwalbe G-One Performance tires. marinbikes.com