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I was looking at a few bike company's websites and I still can't figure out what the difference is between the two. Is it durability , weight , components or frame geometry? I know the frames are slightly different but what is the real reason why there is two different categories. If anyone knows the real reason , please explain.
 

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local trails rider
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Basically, marathon bikes are more designed for "not making you tired" and XC bikes are designed to help you go faster for a while.

A marathon race is longer than an XC race.

If the manufacturer makes the distinction, it is the endurance vs. speed thing.
 

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One thing to note is that these are just labels, and that there may not be consistency across manufacturers, so one company's XC bike may be another's Marathon. I think the most important thing to do is pick a couple that you think you like and are in your price range, and get out and ride them.
 

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local trails rider
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I think you'll mainly find differences in riding position and how quickly the steering responds but, yes, trying some bikes is generally the surest way to get one that you like.
 

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Exactly...

For example, Rocky Mtn Marathon bikes have 5" travel for all day riding, with XC-ish geometry; their XC bikes are generally all hardtails, and in or example Specializeds' case, can have up to 3" travel in the rear, but it's stiff for racing, not comfort, with race geometry (twitchy fast steering, not so great descents).

Rocky says this about Marathon: Ride up, ride down, ride up, ride down, ride all day long. With its first in its category Straight-Up geometry and patented SmoothLink suspension system, Altitude is a super efficient climber and a wicked descender. Put this bike in your quiver and you might find it's the only one you ever pull out to ride.

So Marathon is all day comfort/endurance, whereas XC is fast & stiff to transmit power to the ground and get some speed.

As the poster below validly points out, each mfr. can be different, and often marketing gets in the way of true usage needs. (name on bike can be misleading, or even false, like the Walmart Mongoose Blackcomb)

Jim
 

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One riders marathon bike very well could be another riders xc ride and vice versa .
 
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