I’ve been on the quest to find my “ideal” bike commuting rig. With the Marin Hamilton 29er (2011 model) I’ve come extremely close.
Marin Hamilton 29er Features
- Sizes: 17, 19, 20.5, 22
- Frame: 4130 Cromoly Single Speed 29er, Double Butted Edge Steel Tubeset with Butted E4 Anti-Flex Seat and Chain Stays
- Front Suspension: Cromoly Rigid 29er, 1 1/8”
- Brakes Front: Forged Alloy Linear Pull
- Brakes Rear: Forged Alloy Linear Pull
- Brake Levers: Forged Alloy 3 Finger
- Pedals: Composite with Alloy Cage
- Crankset: TruVativ IsoFlow 1.0 G, 32T with Alloy CG
- Bottom Bracket: TruVativ with Sealed Cartridge
- Chain: UG51
- Cassette: 17T Cog
- Hub Rear: Sturmey-Archer Two Speed Kick Back, Alloy, 32 Hole
- Hub Front Alloy Double Sealed, 32 Hole with QR
- Rims: Alex CA-20, Double Wall, 32 Hole with CNC Side Walls
- Spokes Nipples: WTB 14 Gauge Black Stainless
- Tires: Continental Town Ride, 29” x 1.6” Urban
- Saddle: WTB Vigo Sport with Love Channel and Comfort Zone
- Seatpost: Alloy Micro Adjust, 27.2mm x 350mm
- Stem: Marin OS Alloy Threadless, with 31.8mm Bar Clamp
- Handlebar: Double Butted 6061 Alloy, OS-31.8mm, 25.4mm Rise
- Grips: WTB Street Smart with Drop Guard End Plugs
- Headset: FSA, 1 1/8”, Threadless
- Price: $599
First off, I’ve been riding the 2011 model and when comparing specs to the 2012 model, they are basically identical with some “accent” differences. With that said, here we go!
All around, as a commuting bike, the Marin Hamilton 29er is awesome. It’s steel so it can handle the abuse of the daily commute through the streets, it comes with all the attachment points for your various accessories, it’s simple in design and components, and almost most importantly, it’s fun to ride! Everything I’d expect from a commuting bike.
Taking a deeper dive…The Hamilton 29er features a more upright riding position. It’s great for around to check your surroundings, looking over/around cars, and other obstacles to your view. The WTB Vigo seat is comfortable, after a few hours running errands I wasn’t saddle sore. The bars are fairly wide. If I had the time, I’d probably chop an inch off each end. If I rode in heavy traffic or was riding between lines of cars, I’d go for shorter bars. That said, the wide bars give good control and add to the comfortable riding stance.
The Hamilton 29er does come with all the attachment points I’d expect for a commute bike: Front and rear fender mounts and front and rear rack mounts. For being a commute focused bike, Marin did miss a couple things in regards to the mounts. One, on the front fork the distance from the crown to the top of the tire is almost 3 inches! To get my fender close to the tire, I had to go buy a metal mounting plate strap from the hardware store to close the distance (photo to the right). Then the spacing on the rear was a little off and the rear fender didn’t fit quite right. I had to do a little tweaking to get it to sit just right.
In terms of components, I think Marin did a great job picking most of what went on the bike. Most all of it (exception for rear cog, more on that later) have held strong and I haven’t had to do a lot of adjusting. I’ve put about 500 miles on the bike and there aren’t many signs of wear. Sure the components are on the lower end of the spectrum but they are sturdy and I wouldn’t want expensive stuff on my commuter.
My biggest gripe with the bike is the Sturmey-Archer kickback 2 speed hub and the cog that came with the bike. I love the idea of the kickback two speed. It’s extremely handy. You still get the simplicity of riding a single speed but you have a little flexibility in terms of gearing. I love the idea. The problem was, the hub was very finicky at the start. First, a seal came loose and I was dropping grease. I got that fixed. Then it wouldn’t shift. It was almost as if something internally broke. I don’t know, I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t dare take it apart. I was given a new hub. Then twice, the rear cog stripped off of the rear axle. The cog that comes with the bike is flimsy. It is held to the axle via three small teeth. When cranking hard (from a stop) the teeth were shorn clean off. I went through two cogs before the bike shop bought me a nice Shimano cog. I haven’t had issues with this since. I also haven’t had any more issues with the kickback hub.
Now more on the kickback hub: it took a little getting use to. It was hard to get the right motion down, the right amount of kickback to change gears. Then I had times where I’d roll back just a hair (not noticing when coasting) and all of a sudden I’d be in the easy gear. Once I got the motions down though it’s been great. I mostly ride in the hard gear. The easy gear lets up just enough for hills, headwinds, or tired days.
The wheels and tires have been awesome too. Once again, Marin nailed it. Yes they aren’t expensive, flashy wheels, but you don’t want that for the commuter. You want workhorse and workhorse is exactly what you get. The Alex doublewall rims have run true over the 500 miles I’ve put them, even after hitting a couple potholes and catching curbs. The Continental Town Ride tires are more puncture resistant that your typical tire which is nice. I have flatted from a staple (you’ll flat anyway with from a staple) and a couple of goatheads though. The Town Ride tires are going to be long lasting too. 500 miles and they barely show any wear and tear. My guess is I’ll get a couple of thousand miles on them, easy.
Front tire attaches via quick release, rear features horizontal, track style dropouts with a threaded axle.
Weight wise, it’s pretty heavy. Once again though, I don’t care for the commuter bike. I’m not weight conscious, especially with the front and rear racks, slime tubes, and Mr. Tuffy Strips.
The Hamilton 29er does come with basic platform pedals, I quickly changed these out for some Crank Brothers Candy Pedals.
Overall, the Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. Yes it does have its shortcomings but the pros far outweigh the cons. This is the best commuting bike I’ve owned and I look forward to years of use out of it.
Marin Hamilton 29er Review
- Has many commute friendly features
- Sturdy/well made
- Fun to ride
- Great price
- Fender mounts are a little off, takes some tweaking to get them to fit
- Sturmey-Archer Kickback 2 speed hub was finicky at first & standard rear cog strips out easily
The Marin Hamilton 29er is an awesome commuting bike. It’s sturdy, has the features to make it versatile to your commute, and hits a great price point. You’d be hard pressed to go wrong with it as your commuting bike.
Buy Now: Pick up a Marin Hamilton 29er