Marin Nicasio 2: Tested
When it comes to bikes, I’ve had almost every type. From hardtails to single-speeds to road bikes, duallies and all in between, I’ve bowed to forces of marketing more often than I should have. Until I didn’t. A 12-month riding hiatus was only broken after I decided a return to basics was required. My riding; pavement with a splash of graded dirt. My budget; modest. My care factor about industry buzzwords; zero. The result? A Marin Nicasio 2 gravel bike.
The Marin Nicasio 2 is made from double-butted cromoly steel and sports build specs that were popular when U2 still topped the pop charts. This 700c-wheeled gravel grinder is built around a cromoly steel frame with forged dropouts, external cabling routing and a threaded bottom bracket shell. With old-school build techniques like that, you’d be forgiven for thinking the Nicasio 2 is more throwback than back-country. However, its carbon-fibre fork, modern geometry and roomy front triangle point to a bike that’s been borne of experience… and a cheeky disdain of the rules.
While internal cable routing and press-fit bottom brackets are almost the norm now, there is nothing wrong with the Nicasio’s old-school ways; it makes things simpler for the home mechanic, and repairs in far-flung places easier to execute. The humble 10-speed drivetrain has made a bit of a comeback thanks to Covid-induced product shortages, and while Shimano Tiagra might not be ‘cool’, it does the job smoothly and with less fuss than 11- or 12-speed setups.
FSA provides the functional dual-ring crankset, while Marin-branded kit furnishes both the cockpit and the 700c alloy wheelset. The stock WTB Riddler 700x37mm tyres were swapped by this reviewer to Panaracer Gravelking SK 700 x 38mm tyres, to provide the last point of contact (the Nicasio can take up to 40mm tyres, or even 650b+ wheels), while Tiagra flat-mount brakes clamp 160mm rotors front and back.
In the field
At a shade over 10.6kg, the Nicasio 2 is on average a kilo or more porkier than alloy- or carbon-framed rivals with similar specs, but once up to speed, the weight disadvantage ceases to matter. The ride quality is typical for a mass-produced steel frame; muted, comfy and predictable, with the ability to filter out road and trail buzz that puts alloy and carbon in the shade.
It pays for that compliance with a less rigid pedalling platform when pushed, and road bike riders will immediately note the more relaxed, benign handling of a bike that’s designed to be ridden all day, not in the middle of a pack. It manages paved dirt roads with absolute aplomb, too, though the stock WTB Riddler tyre can be caught out in damp dirt. (An early swap to the Panaracer Gravelkings proved the right one for additional traction across different surfaces.)
The only marks on the Nicasio’s copybook are minor ones. A third set of water bottle mounts underneath the downtube would be handy, while the external cables are routed untidily from the factory. I also experienced some brake flutter through the fork, though this eased with a switch from resin to metallic sintered brake pads.
The final word on the Marin Nicasio 2
The no-nonsense build and smart specs leave nothing behind in comparison to gravel/bikepacking bikes that cost thousands more when riding. Ignore the marketing hype, and the Marin Nicasio 2 jumps from the pack as a wallet-friendly do-it-all bike that’s easy to care for and a real joy to own.
RRP: $1899 See Bikes Online for more info on this and other Marin bikes.