The Race takes Ragley’s standard steel Big Wig 29er trail hardtail and adds a bigger fork and maximum control front tyre for those who like to really attack the trail. The result is an impressively smooth and forgiving ride that can properly shred when things get rad.
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Design and geometry
As well as triple butting the 4130 steel main tubes to keep them thin and shock absorbing in the centre but suitably strong at the ends, Ragley has also ovalised the centre sections of the slim rear stays. The chainstays are relatively skinny too, with a signature three-way split plate on the drive side giving plenty of mud and chainring clearance even with a big 2.4in rear tyre. You get ISCG chain guide tabs on the bottom bracket shell and extra reinforcing on the rear stays, down tube - head tube and slightly curved seat tube-top tube junctions. Welding is OK rather than outstanding but you get a proper metal head badge and the metallic flake paint looks awesome in real life.
The 150mm fork slackens angles slightly to 64.5-degrees at the head and 73.5-degrees at the seat. Reach varies from 440mm on the 420mm seat tube medium, through 460mm on the 460mm tall large we tested, to 480mm on the 500mm seat tube extra large. Chainstay lengths are all the same at 435mm and bottom bracket drop is 60mm.
Components and build
The enhanced-control Race models are a new addition to the Ragley range, and they’re not messing around. The fork is a full enduro strength RockShox Lyrik Select with 150mm travel and 51mm offset steering a mighty Maxxis Assegai tire in a triple compound, MaxTerra blend on a lightly reinforced 29 x 2.5in EXO+ casing. The big-block DHR II rear tire is the same compound and casing in a 29 x 2.4in size. These sit on dependably tough and sweet riding DT Swiss M1900 wheels with 30mm internal rims. Bikes are supplied with tubes for transport but you get tubeless valves included for an easy switch.
Choosing the Race over the £1,800 standard Big Wig also gets you Shimano SLX gears and 4 piston brakes on power amplifying 200mm front and 180mm rear rotors.
Finishing kit is all Ragley with a 31.8mm bar held in a 50mm stem. The Ragley crest embossed saddle sits on a basic but bombproof Brand-X Ascend dropper post in 150mm stroke on medium and large and 170mm on extra-large.
Ride, handling and performance
Fronting out a hardtail with a 150mm Lyrik and an Assegai is a real statement move but it’s clear within a couple of rock drops and corners that the Big Wig Race wears the upgrade very well. While the short headtube reduces triangulation, there’s enough girth in the tubing and extra strength from the underside gusset that communication of the crazy tire traction levels is rich and detailed.
The DT Swiss wheels give enough width and balanced ride feel to enhance the connection especially when set up tubeless. The large volume DebonAir spring in the Lyrik sucks the Assegai onto the trail before firming up enough to create a really predictable carving platform. The 780mm bars give plenty of leverage and soft ended grips letting you run your hands right to the end.
As a result, you soon get used to braking much less and leaning a lot more to try and find the edge of grip, and even then the massive shoulder tread just drifts lazily and predictably rather than suddenly slamming you into the ground.
If we’re picky, the long offset fork and 50mm stem increases the steering weight in your hands and reduces snap reaction times if you need to correct slip to grip mid-corner. Reach is middling rather than long though and with seat tube lengths increasing more on each size than horizontal stretch you need to be wary of cramping cockpit length with a really short stem. The longer fork also tips the seat angle back so you’ll need to shift forward on the saddle to create a power position and keep the front tyre down on steep climbs.
The big chunks of DHR rubber are definitely weighted for tenacious traction under braking and drive rather than easy rolling though. Those slim, shaped rear stays also add a ductility and pliable connection to the rear end that flatters the grip even further.
They also provide exactly the sort of subtle spring that steel frame builders always promise but not all manage to deliver. That means while the tyres should be a real joy-killing drag on simpler trails and the 14.3kg overall mass should torpedo morale on extended climbs or when you need to accelerate explosively, the Big Wig Race is surprisingly lively and responsive. Where the steel-feel really comes into its own is on the extended rocky/rooty sections or ugly drops where most hardtails will be hammering your ankles and choke chaining momentum to a standstill. It certainly still needs more rider skill and awareness to hop and pop or at least lift and ride light through more abusive sections, but it definitely shrugs off impacts noticeably better than most rigid rear ends. It carries speed better too and because you can hold that through corners as well, the upward spiral of velocity and confidence makes it a really rewarding and engaging bike to push hard even on properly challenging terrain where you’d normally be begging for a rear shock.
The EXO+ carcass tyres also give you more margin for rock slamming survival even at low pressures so the point where the Charger damper in the fork and the rear end leave their comfort zone is impressively well-matched. The medium reach numbers and wheelbase also flatter handling skills and bike agility at lower speeds in tighter, steeper terrain, rather than only coming alive at the kind of speeds where it’s unfair to expect any sort of hardtail to still feel composed.
Ragley’s Big Wig is a really well balanced and properly smooth-riding bike that delivers the positive increased traction and impact smoothing hype about steel frames. The Race adds a bigger fork and benchmark front tyre control to really let you attack challenging trails and the back end is still good enough to shine if you’ve got the skills to make the most of it.
In an ideal world, we’d go for a shorter stem and shorter offset fork to really lighten up the steering. Otherwise, the handling is really well balanced for the same slower-speed, technical riding where hardtails are most comfortable so it’s not a big issue. Plus if you want even slacker, Ragley’s Blue Pig is waiting for you. The smoothness when it matters more than offsets the extra weight of the steel frame if that’s what you’re after and if you’re not, then look at Ragley’s alloy Mmbop.
Add a great performance for price Shimano and DT Swiss package, max control rear tyre and quality Ragley finishing kit and you’ve got a really engaging and capable aggro hardtail at a great price.
Temperature: 10-15 degrees
Surface: Mixed local woods, man-made trails and moorland backcountry
Tech Specs: Ragley Big Wig Race
- Discipline: Trail/Enduro
- Price: £2199
- Head angle: 64.5-degrees
- Frame material: Triple butted 4130 cromo steel
- Size: Large
- Weight: 14.3kg (Large, no pedals)
- Wheel size: 29in
- Suspension (front/rear): RockShox Lyrik Select150mm travel, 51mm offset
- Components: Shimano SLX 10-51T 12 speed gearing and shifter. 30T chainset. Shimano 4 pot brakes with 203mm, 180mm rear rotors. Maxxis Assegai 29 x 2.5in front and Maxxis Minion DHR 29 x 2.4in rear tires on DT Swiss XM1900 30mm wheels. Ragley 780x31.8mm bar and 50x31.8mm stem, Brand-X Ascend 150mm dropper post, Ragley Tracker saddle.