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Mondraker Crafty R e-MTB review

Can Mondraker’s entry-level, Bosch-powered Crafty still deliver a signature ride character? We rode it extensively to find out

Mondraker Crafty R review
(Image: © Guy Kesteven)

Our Verdict

Mondraker combines its defining geometry with a build that means business in all the right places to create a seriously grin-inducing ride

For

  • ‘Special-sauce’ handling
  • Awesome suspension communication and control
  • Excellent Kiox display
  • Bombproof wheels
  • Bosch motor and battery
  • Killer technical climber
  • Fox 38 fork
  • Maxxis tires

Against

  • Drifty tire size
  • Slightly tall
  • Underside charge point

Mondraker has fully committed to developing its version of the best e-MTB. It's embraced the electric concept to the point where the company even produces a motorized scoot bike and a junior full-suspension bike with electric assist. The Crafty family (there are six of them) is Mondraker's do-it-all 160/150mm bikes, and even this entry-level model gets a super-stout Fox 38 fork. Most importantly, it gets the geometry and attitude to really make the most of that fork and the boosted tech climbing performance of Gen04 Bosch power. So while you can find similar bikes cheaper, very few can match its efficient yet effervescent character. 

Design and Geometry 

The R is one of two Crafty models using an alloy frame. The signature hump-backed frame allows a steeply sloped, super-shallow and flat top tube. It also has a really neat split mold to the front end. This welds onto the massive down tube, housing the Bosch Powertube battery, to support the short head tube and keep the front end tied together.

The Bosch e-MTB motor sits behind a custom casing in the belly of the frame, with a straddle seat tube allowing the lower linkage to reach through and over onto the top of the motor casing. The whole casing top is open (protected with moto foam above and drain ports underneath) to help with cooling. The bottom end of the shock also connects to that linkage, with the top squeezed by a Monoblock seat tube rocker to create a fully floating ‘Zero Suspension’ system using 17mm axles and Enduro Max bearings. The one-piece back end uses mid-sized chainstays, slim seat stays and a mix of plates and vertical stays, with neat bolt through dropouts and the rear brake hidden between the stays.

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Mondraker Crafty R review

Mondraker is known for its Forward Geometry concept (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

Mondraker's Zero Suspension system mounts the shock to both the seatstays and Monoblock seat tube rocker (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

A Gen-4 Bosch motor takes care of drive (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

The pivots use Enduro Max bearings for a long lifetime of smooth movement (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The battery loads in from the top, but the recharge port is on the belly right in line with front-wheel spray which is slightly worrying, but we had no issues with any dirt getting in there in two months of very wet testing. There’s rubber armor all around the rear end, a big Mondraker logo skid plate and neat bolt-in inserts for the internal cable routing. 

It’s not an overstatement to say that Mondraker revolutionized mountain bike handling when it introduced its radical super-short stem and super-long reach ‘Forward Geometry’ on a few selected bikes. It was received with raving praise by testers and riders, and pretty much every brand has now followed the lead to some extent. That means the 65.5-degree head angle and 76-degree effective seat angle don’t seem that radical now, and the bottom bracket sits pretty high at 350mm. With a 490mm reach on the large, it’s still very long, and the steep top tube allows a short seat tube so you can size up easily to go even longer.

Components and Build 

Bars and stem are normally one the last things on our spec check, but the 30mm reach OnOff stem is crucial to the handling of the Crafty. The 44mm offset on the Fox 38 is also important to keep the front end feeling super light. The fact Mondraker have fitted a super-stiff Enduro fork, even on the entry-level bike, says a lot about how little they want to compromise the handling of the Crafty. The big volume, triple compound, lightly reinforced EXO+ Maxxis tires and DT Swiss Hybrid wheels are top of the line kit too. There’s no dumbed-down motor or smaller capacity battery to hit a price point either, you’re getting the full 85Nm torque delivery and a 625Wh capacity battery to match. Mondraker even specs the Kiox head unit, which offers a lot more feedback in a neater package than the basic Purion unit most brands opt for. You get a neat multi-button handlebar remote to operate it too. The latest SDG Bel Air saddle is a highlight, too.

The places where Mondraker has limited spending are generally where they matter less. The seat post isn’t fancy but it works fine, and while the SX chain and cassette are heavy, they’re very durable even with the extra motor power. You get a 34T chainring on the Race Face e-bike crank to match the extra power and more all-rounder character. Interestingly, while Mondraker has fitted a big fork, they haven’t extended the courtesy to stopping power. The G2 brakes are stretched at times even with 200mm rotors.

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Mondraker Crafty R review

The Fox 38 up front is a stand out feature on the spec list (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

Fox also take care of rear suspension duties (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

Minion DHF tires are great although we think a smaller tire would improve handling (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

Purion head unit can display a wide range of ride metrics (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)
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Mondraker Crafty R review

A handlebar remote allows easy motor and Purion control (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

Handling and Performance

We’ve already covered the Bosch Gen-4 motor on other bikes, but the key points are worth re-emphasizing. The 10Nm torque increase this year gives it tons of grunt on the steepest climbs or when charging out of corners. On the trail, particularly on technical climbs, the ‘run-on’ feature, which gets you up to a full wheel rev surge of power for just a small crank kick, is just as important. Especially as the relatively high bottom bracket means you can get that crank turn into more places than a slammed bike. The Zero Suspension is also an inherently pedal efficient setup, with noticeable anti-squat giving a firm power kick and plenty of traction feedback, whatever power mode you’re running. That keeps the Crafty involved and aggressive on climbs rather than just an armchair to flop into while the engine does the work.

Being able to see your own wattage output and heart rate alongside the motor-assist levels is very interesting, and certainly proves that you still work hard on an e-bike. You can even upload routes and download full ride stats from the Kiox so overall information and interaction are far better, making it a significant upgrade over the more common Purion. 

The pedaling manners also leave Mondraker free to use a light compression and medium rebound tune on the Fox rear shock. It’s also got a long stroke and a very small progression spacer in there to make sure you make use of all the extra air volume. The oversized axles and top quality bearings add fluidity, too. It’s definitely not a super plushy mush, but a very poised and precise character that never goes deep into its reserves unless it has to. The Fox forks are also impressively plush off the top and right through the stroke, but crucially the damping control on the Grip damper is excellent. That means the front end follows the ground immaculately but never obviously dives or loses focus, so you get all the advantages of that super light Zero Geometry steering feel. 

The extra-long ZG reach also means plenty of stability for plowing straight through serious terrain, and the mainframe backs that up too. That allowed the 38 to really justify its size and weight when things were getting scary and blurry on loose, rocky descents. We were glad for the indestructible DT Hybrid E-bike wheels for those rim-on-rock moments too, with no dents, cracks or wobble to show despite several serious slams. 

Mondraker Crafty R review

The geometry and handling really hit a sweet spot of liveliness and control (Image credit: Guy Kesteven)

The EXO+ tires have enough extra protection to help them stay inflated, but we’d be tempted to reduce the size. While the 2.6-inch width adds more float over soft ground and comfort over rocks, even the chunky Minion tread can really start to drift around at speed. That contrasts with the Crafty’s otherwise very precise handling and suspension feel. The lack of tracking authority from the tires was definitely a limiting effect on some descents. A smaller tire would also lower the ride height and overall center of gravity. That would be a definite positive for more aggressive, gravity-assisted riding as the motor and battery aren’t particularly low in the bike. The higher center of gravity meant there were moments when it feels perched and reluctant to throw its full weight into a move unless we really forced it in with our shoulders. That contrasts with lower-slung bikes, where you make the moves through your feet for a more planted feel. The agility of the bike at slower speeds and in tighter terrain is impressive though. The Bosch power surge and relatively low weight really make the Crafty stand out in those situations, especially if your riding upwards. 

Verdict

Mondraker has done a great job of wrapping its outstanding Forward Geometry handling and Zero Suspension around the latest Bosch motor and battery. While the basic numbers might not seem radical anymore, years of tech evolution and race experience means the balance is definitely into ‘special sauce’ territory in terms of the way it comes alive in the most technical, enjoyable trail situations. Efficient pedaling, Bosch power surge and generous ground clearance mean it storms the climbs and eats up the easier sections between the highlights, too. While the brakes and drivetrain aren't amazing, the fork, wheels and head unit goes above and beyond what you’ll get on most competing bikes and in a way that’s very obvious on the trail. The Crafty was always a guaranteed grin generator whenever we rode it, and we reckon it’d be even better with slightly smaller tires.

Tech Specs: Mondraker Crafty R e-MTB

  • Model name: Crafty R
  • Discipline: Trail/All Mountain/Enduro
  • Price: $7,954 / £5,899
  • Head angle: 65.5-degrees
  • Seat angle: 76-degrees
  • Sizes: S, M, L (tested), XL 
  • Weight: 24.9kg
  • Wheel size: 29x2.6in
  • Frame material: Stealth Evo Alloy
  • Suspension: Fox 38 GRIP Evol Performance 160mm, 44mm offset/Fox DPX2 EVOL Performance 150mm.
  • Motor and Battery: Bosch Performance Line CX Gen 4, Bosch Powertube 625Wh battery and Kiox head unit 
  • Drivetrain: SRAM GX Eagle rear mech, NX Eagle shifter, SX chain and 11-50Tcassette
  • Cranks: Race Face Aeffect E-bike crank, 34T chainset. 
  • Brakes: SRAM G2 R brakes with 200mm rotors
  • Cockpit: OnOff Sulfur 1.0 780mm bar and 30mm stem 
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss H1900 Spline 30mm
  • Tires: Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR, 3C MaxxTerra Exo+ 29 x 2.6 
  • Seatpost: OnOff Pija 170mm dropper post
  • Saddle: SDG Bel Air 3.0 saddle

Test Conditions 

  • Temperature: 35-57 degrees Fahrenheit, 2-14 degrees Celsius
  • Surface: Everything from rocky mountain passes, to super steep sniper root natural DH runs, sheep singletrack and man made reds and blacks.