Trek Marlin 5 vs 6 (Read Before Buying)

If you’re looking for a head-to-head comparison of the Trek Marlin 5 and the Trek Marlin 6, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve got a side-by-side spec list below that shows the full list of components that you get with each of these MTBs. I’ll give you a brief overview of the highlights of each of them and then I’ll take you through some of the standout features of these two bikes and how they stack up against each other.

I know how hard it can be when you’re looking for a new bike. You’ve narrowed down the long list of possibles to the final two, but how do you choose between these and make your final decision? It’s not easy. I feel your pain and hope that this write-up is going to make the job easier for you.

Here’s the topline, both the Marlin 5 and 6 are fantastic mountain bikes and my guess is that you’d be happy with either. You’ll see both referred to as ‘entry level’ and, whilst that’s certainly true to an extent, they definitely punch well above their ‘entry level’ category.

Let’s dive in and see how they compare.

Component

Product

Current price

Frame

Alpha Silver Aluminum

Alpha Silver Aluminum

Fork

SR Suntour XCE 28; 80 or 100mm travel

SR Suntour XCT 30; 80 or 100mm travel

Front hub

Formula DC-20

Formula DC-20

Rear hub

Formula DC-27

Formula DC-22

Rims

Bontrager Connection

Bontrager Connection

Spokes

14g, stainless steel

14g, stainless steel

Tires

Bontrager XR2 Comp; 27.5x2.20''/ 29x2.20''

Bontrager XR2 Comp; 27.5x2.20''/ 29x2.20''

Shifter

Shimano Altus M315; 3 / 7 speed

Shimano Altus M315; 2 / 8 speed

Front derailleur

Shimano Tourney TY300

Shimano Altus M315

Rear derailleur

Shimano Tourney TY300

Shimano Altus M310

Crank

Shimano Tourney TY301

Shimano M315

Bottom bracket

VP BC73

VP BC73

Cassette

Shimano HG200; 12-32, 7 speed

Shimano HG31; 11-34, 8 speed

Chain

KMC Z7

KMC Z8.3

Pedals

VP-536 platform

VP-536 platform

Saddle

Bontrager Arvada

Bontrager Arvada

Seatpost

Bontrager alloy; 31.6mm

Bontrager alloy; 31.6mm

Handlebar

Bontrager alloy; 690mm/720mm width

Bontrager alloy; 690mm/720mm width

Grips

Bontrager XR Endurance Comp, lock-on

Bontrager XR Endurance Comp, lock-on

Stem

Bontrager alloy; 50-90mm length

Bontrager alloy; 50-90mm length

Headset

Semi-integrated, 1-1/8''

Semi-integrated, 1-1/8''

Brakes

Tektro hydraulic disc; XS/S: HD-M276; M-XXL: HD-M275

Tektro hydraulic disc; XS/S: HD-M276; M-XXL: HD-M275

Bike weight

M: 31.84 lbs (14.44 kg) 

M: 31.97 lbs (14.50 kg)


Trek Marlin 5 review

Pros: Lower price
Cons: non-locking front suspension fork

The cheaper of the two bikes, the Marlin 5 is a heap of fun to ride. I’ve been using one recently as my usual bike is somewhat incapacitated and my wife made the mistake of lending hers to me. She may never get it back…

If you’re dipping a toe in the water of mountain biking, or going out on weekend family bike trips on gravel terrain, or even looking for an all-rounder that will work for weekday commuting and weekend trail riding, then the Marlin 5 might well be the perfect bike for you. It’s light (at under 32 lbs / 14.5 kg) and handles like a dream. The wide handlebars give great control round tight corners and the hydraulic disc brakes allow you to slow down and stop quickly – ideal for switchback trails or mean city streets.

I love suspension, but unless you’re looking to spend serious coin on a top-end MTB, then you should steer clear of full-suspension bikes. Budget rear suspension can be niggly and you won’t appreciate the extra weight it adds. Front suspension is another matter entirely though. The SR Suntour forks that the Marlin 5 is fitted with are great for soaking up all the lumps and bumps in the trail. Gone are the days when trail riding would leave your hands, wrists and forearms feeling like they’d been digging up roads with a pneumatic drill for the day.

If I had a complaint, then it would be the 3×7 drivetrain giving 21 gears to play with. There’s a trend with mountain bikes towards simplifying the drivetrain with many of the top-end bikes now having a single cog at the front and no front derailleur. There’s good reason for this as it reduces weight and does away with components that might otherwise stop working. It’s only a small complaint though as I’ve found that the gears work very smoothly and give plenty of assistance on the uphills, whilst still allowing grin-inducing speeds on the downhills.

The men’s/unisex model comes in three colorways (of which my favorite is the Factory Orange/Lithium Grey) and the women’s in two.

If you like the look of the Marlin 5, but want a more wallet-friendly option, then take a look at my article on the Trek Marlin 4. A great all-rounder for pavement and light-duty trails.


Trek Marlin 6 review

Pros: Lockout fork, 2×8 gears
Cons: More expensive

Take a look down the side-by-side feature list above and you’ll see that the Marlin 6 shares most of the same components as the Marlin 5. Retail pricing puts the Marlin 6 around a $100 higher than the Marlin 5, so what are the differences between the two bikes to justify the price difference?

Well, there are two main points worth highlighting: drivetrain and forks. In contrast to the Marlin 5 with its 3×7 gearing, the Marlin 6 has a 2×8 system. This is a nod towards the high-end bikes with their single cog and gives a simpler front derailleur setup.

My favorite feature of the Marlin 6 is the locking front fork. For me, front suspension on a MTB is an essential. Great for soaking up the unevenness in the trail surface as you’re going downhill. It can be a different matter though when you’re going uphill. A non-locking fork can make the ascents more of a struggle as some of the power from your upper body ends up being dampened by the suspension rather than helping you climb. Compare this with a locking fork, where all the power goes into climbing, and you can start to really feel the difference. This feature alone will justify the price differential.

The Marlin 6 is available in two colorways for the men’s/unisex and two for the women’s (of which my favorite is the Matte Mulberry).


Standout Features of the Trek Marlin 5 and 6

Let’s have a detailed look at some of the features of these two bikes.

Internal cable routing
Both the 5 and 6 have internal cable routing. It’s neater than having cables draped everywhere and also means that there’s less opportunity for them to snag on branches or bike racks

Hydraulic disc brakes
It’s difficult these days to find a mountain bike without hydraulic disc brakes and, once you’ve tried them, you’ll really see the difference vs V-brakes. There’s a vast improvement in responsiveness and they aren’t impacted by oily or muddy rims in the way that v brakes are. Perfect for getting out of trouble when you encounter that enraged squirrel on the trails.

All-day comfort saddle
I’ve found the Bontrager Arvada saddle that the two bikes ship with to be very comfortable (as does my wife, when I let her ride her own bike…). There’s good support right where your ‘sit bones’ are (the perfect spot) and the channel down the center is ideal for eliminating pressure on your perineal area.


Conclusion

I often think that the hard part in choosing a new bike is narrowing the list down from ‘all the bikes in the world’ to the final two. When those final two are the Trek Marlin 5 and 6 though, even this stage is tough.

So the choice comes down to budget, color, and whether you want 16 or 21 gears, or a locking front fork.

Both bikes are great. Both have some great features in common. I’m certain that you’d love both bikes.

Happy cycling.