A week or so ago, Barney spent a couple of days over in a (slightly rainy, slightly dark) Northern Ireland chatting to the folks at Ragley. And happily for him, while he was there he spent a couple of days in some fine trail-centre type places, riding Ragley’s all-new 29er hardtail, the Bigwig. Just for you, you lucky people!
There’s not actually all that much that it shares with the old one
The Bigwig is a 29er – one of the newer breed of 29er hardtail, designed for fun and frolicks rather than nose-down speed. ‘Twas ever thus with the Bigwig, but this current iteration has been comprehensively redesigned, metamorphosing into the thoroughly modern Millie you see before you. There’s not actually all that much that it shares with the old one. Apart from the ‘steel hardtail’ thing, natch.
As is usual in these cases, it’s low and it’s slack. Not colossally long, though – a 620mm top tube with a 435mm reach on my ‘Large’ sample is by no means short, but the BigWig is comfortably in the roomy-but-not-enormous category (more on this later). Incidentally, the Large is the biggest size for now (sizes range from XS through to L), although I’m told an XL is in the works, which is good news for the ‘ganglies’ among us.
But the Bigwig is most certainly slack: a 65 degree static head angle translates to 66.5 degrees with a sagged 130mm fork. And a 305mm bb height keeps things low and planted. Seat tube is 72 degrees static, which corresponds to 74 degrees sagged. Ragley say that these numbers correspond pretty well to a sagged full-suspension bike, and their thinking seems to make sense.
The frame also comes complete with replaceable dropouts (142×12 thru-axle back end or QR, it’s up to you), and it’ll accommodate 2.4in tyres – or 27.5+ tyres with a minimum of fuss. The back end runs to 435mm, and there are ISCG mounts on the BB – less essential perhaps than in the past, with clutch mech and thick-thin chainrings, but many will appreciate the extra security.
And then there’s the kit on the complete bike, which seems pretty well though out. SLX shifting (with Deore front and XT rear mechs) was precise and as exemplary as expected; SLX also handled braking with aplomb (really, it’s hard to justify anything else). Ragley’s excellent 50mm Stubbing stem, and 760mm wide bars gave immediacy to the steering, and NukeProof’s OKLO dropper post kept my arse at an appropriate height above the back wheel both going up and down.
And what of the ride? Well, I liked it a lot, as it happens. The new breed of properly long bikes seem to require a certain upper body riding technique; the Bigwig will accommodate that sort of riding very well, but it’s not so very long that you need to muscle it into things at all times. Sure it’ll reward a bit of pep in spades, but it’s well-behaved enough to be happy with a spot of view-enjoyment too. But if you want things to get a little spicy (so to speak), it’ll happily reward a bit of effort.
The front end feels slack enough that I felt confident riding drop offs and technical steep sections, and the seat tube is steep enough that the front shouldn’t get too far away from you when climbing. I was only riding trail centres, with little in the way of arduous climbing, but it felt pretty capable going up.
But it’s on the descents where this bike really seems to shine. Once you’re used to the fact that you’re not riding a full-suspension bike (so your weight is a tad further forward, you’re a little more aware of the back end, you have to use your legs to absorb a little more, and you’re choosing your line with a little more care) you can hammer along at a frankly startling rate.
The fork was particularly worth of note. RockShox’s 130mm Yari fork is essentially a Pike with a Motion Control damper, which worked beautifully. 35mm stanchions and a 15mm bolt-through axle keep the fork on the straight and narrow, and the damper seemed capable enough to get me out of any scrapes I found myself in. I didn’t get properly out of shape, so I couldn’t explore its limits, but I came away very impressed nonetheless.
Overall, on this initial flirtation, I like the Bigwig. It gives every impression of being a great little do-it-all hardtail 29er, which has enough pep to enliven the most dull trails and enough stability to tame much more gnarly ones besides.