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Frame, Fork, Rider: Charlie X Marino

Cyclist posing

First, tell us about yourself and your cycling history; how did you get started? What keeps you going? What’s your go-to post-ride burrito joint? You know, all the important things!

Well, for the history, you gotta go way back. My love for cycling really began when my parents gave me my first BMX bike. I grew up in a little neighborhood outside Redmond, Washington. In that neighborhood, the homies and I would spend our days riding around, smashing through the ditches, making obstacles out of anything we could. Once we were done riding around the neighborhoods, we would spend hours stacking dirt for jumps and berms in someone's yard. Alongside riding bikes in the neighborhood, I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the mountains on foot. Hiking and Backpacking were staples for our family outings.

I, unfortunately, lost the obsession in High School and College, getting too distracted by all the other stuff going on. Then, I rediscovered my passion for cycling in 2007 when my brother invited me to join him on a bikepacking trip in Japan. That trip changed my life, and cycling has been a part of it ever since.

My current love for cycling is a sorta hybrid combination of my childhood passions. Shredding around the neighborhood and hiking through the mountains. Exploring new paths, discovering new zones, building new features, and finding excitement.

I'm actually more of a post-ride burger type of guy, and The Lighthouse in Linnton is THE go-to joint for that.

cyclist riding

Now tell us about the bike; what's the story?

I have always been a big fan of hardtails. Before embarking on this bike project, I had a Surly Karate Monkey — excellent bike. But it wasn’t perfect, and I had a few gripes that kept holding me back. Then the pandemic hit, and I figured it was the perfect time to build my first custom bike! I really wanted to build something that was capable everywhere, slightly adjustable in case I ended up not knowing anything and needed to change something.

So you got the bike during the pandemic, and it turned into a bike-build project; what was your inspiration there? Or was it just an “as you go” type of project? I mean, that paint job is rad!

The inspiration was to build a bike with the ideas rolling around in my head. I wanted to make a playful and shreddy bike that would climb really well. It needed to have enough mounts where I could fit everything on the bike for longer full-day rides, and it needed to look the part. I discovered this small frame builder in Peru, Marino Bikes, and I got to work with their order process.

I am a sucker for really long droppers, so the first order of business was pulling the bottle bosses off the seat tube. I had always wanted to run two bottles parallel to each other, one on the downtube, one on the top tube. Then I wanted to add some mounts for a frame bag in front of the bottles. Really maximizing the storage inside the triangle. It turned out to be like 90% awesome. You do need to strap in the top bottle, or else it has a tendency to eject on the rough stuff. For the geometry, I knew that I loved how the Karate Monkey rode, but I also knew that I liked more progressive features like a slacker head angle and a steeper seat tube.

I picked through all my favorite hardtail numbers and decided to go with a 76º seat and 65º head angle. Not too crazy, but also aggressive enough to get wild. I also had to add clearance for 3” tires because I have a weird soft spot for 27.5+ tires. They are so goofy but have excellent traction and add some squish for the rigid rear end. Sliding dropouts were a great solution for not knowing exactly what chainstay length I wanted to run. Their dropouts offer over 30mm of adjustment, which is enough to really change the ride characteristics of the bike. Threaded BB and ISCG mounts were necessary. And to top it off, they engraved my personal branding into the headtube. After 11 months of waiting, the frame finally showed up, and it was glorious! Except for the paint, I stripped it and went to town with Spray Bike :) Her name is Pachamama.

mountain biker

You got the bike and built it up; what was the first ride you tested things out?

I live right next to Mt. Tabor, so anytime I finish a build or change a part, I am doing laps on Tabor to test things out. After a successful test, I headed out to Rocky Point to test out the capabilities lapping my favorite trail, Coastal (RIP). The first ride where I really pushed the idea of a bike was a big lollipop out in the Tillamook State Forest.

What & how has this build helped you in ways that your other builds couldn't?

Hardtails are adventure machines. I think this bike has opened up my mind to what’s possible for on-bike storage, what a hardtail is capable of, and how weird you can get with bike geo and still have fun!

cyclist jumping

In addition to your passion as a cyclist, you’re also on the board at Northwest Trail Alliance; what’s that experience like, and how has it impacted your cycling experience?

I love building trails. I have been doing it since I was a kid, both in the backyard and with trail organizations — like WTA. Being on the board is a lot of unglamorous work. Lots of emails, planning meetings, and spreadsheets, but it is all super necessary work that needs to get completed for our trails and for our community.

I love helping people find the community that we have built. There’s nothing better than leading someone new to town on a dig day. Watching their stoke build as they put in work and learn the trails. Then taking them out for a ride on the same trails. The Portland area has so much to offer people, and I have made many great friends through trail building.


Any last thoughts?

Free Forest Park.

cyclist riding

Full Build Specs:

Frame: Custom Marino Hardtail (Peruvian Chromoly)

Fork: DT Swiss F535one

Shifters: Shimano XT M8100 (ispec -> hope mount)

Brakes/Levers: Hope Tech3 E4

Rotors: TRP r1 2.3mm (180/180)

Rear Derailleur: Shiano XT M8100

Crankset: White Industries M30 (165mm)

Chain Ring: Wolftooth CAMO 30T

Cassette: Shimano Deore M6100 (10-51)

Chain: Shimano XT M8100

Headset: Chris King InSet7 (matte slate)

Bottom Bracket: Chris King Threadfit30 (Fitkit#3)

Stem: Burgtec Enduro MK2 (35mm/35mm)

Handlebar: Tag Metals T1 Carbon Risers (35mm/35mm/800mm)

Seatpost: Oneup Components v2 (31.6/210mm) Seat Clamp: Hope Seatpost Clamp

Saddle: Ergon Enduro

Pedals: Chromag Dagga or Crank Brothers Mallet

Hoops: Whisky No.9 50W Carbon Hubs: DT Swiss 240s

Tires: Depends on my mood, Specialized Butcher Grid (27x2.8), Teravail Coronado (27x3), Schwalbe Nobby Nic (27x3)

I like to change things, so the above list is ALWAYS in flux :)


You can follow Charlie on Instagram @Charkoal

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