MARIN Toscana, £999,


With its esteemed mtb heritage, it's no surprise Marin has come up with a versatile two-bike platform squarely aimed at commuting and light trail-riding duties. Unlike the others here, the Toscana's made from aluminium — triple-butted 6061 no less — which makes it the lightest on test by several pounds. It also makes it the fastest by some distance too.

The frame, with its curved top-tube and down-tube, is married to a carbon fork, which again helps with vibration damping on less than perfect surfaces, though it has induced a few winces as it’s hit the far edge of hidden potholes. The bike comes with extremely reliable 32c Continental Contact tyres (which we’ve rated before for their puncture-proofing) and there’s clearance to fit something fatter or knobblier if you’re heading off-road.

Transmission is a combo of Shimano Sora and Tiagra, while the FSA triple chainset and 9-speed cassette provide a range that will take you anywhere in the UK. Again the Avid cable disc brakes have given standout performance. Elsewhere we rate the WTB perch for comfort, but found the bars a tad narrow. 

We’d recommend this bike as a lightweight all-rounder, though the fork pegs back its hardier off-road desires. Five sizes (50-62cm).  

PROS lightweight, nippy
CONS bar shape/width