Marin Cortina AX1

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Summary of Reviews

We have read all expert and user reviews on this bike. In summary, this is what cyclists think.

10 reasons to buy

  • The Cortina AX1’s handling was said to be quick, predictable and dynamic on gravel and rutted tracks.
  • The timeless minimalism of Marin’s retro paintjob garnered attention and praise.
  • An alloy frame and carbon fork proved a comfortable combination. Aluminum ribs in the frame and fork acted as a heat sink to cool off disc brakes.
  • Attention to detail resulted in an admirable finish.
  • Schwalbe G-One tires came tubeless-ready and are reportedly easy to setup, with decent speeds reached on snow and ice.
  • The Cortina’s adaptable nature saw it performing well on gravel, roads and cyclocross proper.
  • Quick-release Naild 12-3-9 thru-axles allowed precise and replicable removal and reattachment of wheels.
  • The aforementioned thru-axles, in 15mm (front) and 12mm (in the rear), provided stiff action.
  • A myriad of bosses, eyelets and mudguard mounts accommodate full racks, full-length mudguards and accessories.
  • Generous clearance allows for tires up to 50mm wide, or 40mm with mudguards.

5 reasons not to buy

  • Even the most ardent Cortina lovers noted that it wasn’t the cheapest option, considering Tiagra kit and mechanical discs.
  • One expert said the bike felt overgeared on technical descents and spun-out on flats. On higher gears, the Tiagra drivetrain may have problems with a jumping chain.
  • The TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes were fitted with semi-metallic pads that one expert saw as being suited to mud, but too hard for general road and gravel conditions.
  • Some Cortinas were fitted with Schwalbe G-One tires, which were considered less grippy than X-Ones.
  • The Cortina wasn’t considered a lightweight. This led one expert to suggest shedding some pounds by replacing the stock wheels.

Bottom line

The Cortina was a best-selling, medium-sized family car produced by a major brand from 1962 to 1982, which is why the name might seem familiar to you. Like it’s namesake, Marin’s Cortina AX1 is a well thought-out performer that incorporates some compromises to deliver an affordable package. Handling and comfort were lauded, as were its throwback aesthetics (if you’ve ever seen a 1991 Marin Palisades, you’ll get my drift). The bells and whistles are found on its older sibling, the AX2. The AX1 isn’t the lightest or cheapest in class - but like its four-cylinder friend - it is an incredibly sound machine that will only be elevated by customization and upgrades.

Expert Reviews

83/100 based on 2 expert reviews

Marin Cortina AX1

Level 4 expert

Loads of clearance and predictable handling make for on/off-road adventure fun – but some upgrades are needed.

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Test: Marin Cortina AX 1 – CX or Gravel? [Polish]

Level 3 expert

This bike can really be a kind of 3 in 1 – it can be CX for weekend amateur racing, it can be an expeditioner and a bike for everyday commuting. Would we recommend it to a friend? With a clear conscience – yes.

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Bike Hugger

Marin Cortina AX

Level 1 expert

It has a geometry for off-road speed and stability when it gets loose on the path… You could race your category on Saturday and then a long gravel ride on Sunday.

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User Ratings

94/100 based on 3 ratings
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Compared to other bikes
#1 Best Marin Bike
Top 20%
#1 Best of All Bikes
Top 1%


In comparison to averages of categories
Marin Cortina AX1
Average All Bikes
Average Marin Bike
Average Road Bike