by Richard Lane
August 15, 2014
A hardcore 29er hardtail? What were they thinking?
Over recent years I’ve shied away from hardtails, with the most recent light weight, short travel XC machines there just didn’t seem to be any point to them. This was mainly due to not wanting to lose long ride comfort, and downhill speed for the slightly better climbing ability and pedalling efficiency that is attributed to some hardtails. So it was interesting to get the opportunity to test the Ragley Big Wig.
The Big Wig’s frame is constructed from triple butted, heat treated 4130 chromoly steel, with a chain stay mounted brake calliper. Our test bike was fitted with 140mm Manitou Towers, which were more that capable to deal with everything I could throw at them. Stopping was taken care of by, the ever reliable, Shimano XT brakes, the drive train was SRAM’s X7. Wheels were Sun Ringle Black Flags shod with WTB 2.3in Vigilante.
With a quick inspection of the build I started to question my initial preconceptions.
140mm fork? – check, dropper post? – check, wide(ish) 740mm bars?- check, burly 29er tyres? – check. It was clear that the Big wig is a hardtail with a decidely gnarly mission; it seemed to have it all, even a Blackspire chain guide.
The build of our test bike said it all – ‘pedal me up with reasonable efficiency, then point me down, smile, and have a damn good old time.
Sag, erm, sagged, tyre pressures tweaked and cockpit adjustment done, it was time to hit the trails. Given it’s somewhat hooligan hardtail outlook a prolonged testing session in the valley seemed the natural choice. Decision made – go hard or go home!
With typical Calderdale rides taking on a classic sawtooth profile it turned out that climbing on the Big Wig was straight forward enough, not as efficient as an XC machine, but with a double chain ring and 71 degree seat angle power transfer was easy and it proved to be a very sociable climber. Steady enough to keep up with the pack and have a chat while gaining altitude.
It’s once pointed down though that the Big wig comes into it’s own, I was instantly impressed by how easy it was to maintain speed through rock gardens and stutter drops. The Big Wig screams to be pumped through any sets of small compression. Lines that I hadn’t noticed before were jumping out from nowhere and the Vigilante’s offered more than enough grip to attack anything with confidence.
In steeps and on technical terrain any fears were quickly forgotten, the Big Wig felt planted when needed with plenty of pop to boost over root sections. A low BB drop and longish wheel base makes cornering the Big Wig a blast. Manoeuvring in tighter turners would be aided by running slightly wider bars, giving you a little more leverage. It would also of helped keep the Big Wig on some of my chosen lines through the more chattery carpets of roots.
All in all, the Big Wig is a hardtail that’s ready to attack any technical trail you care to put in front of it, more or less straight out of the box. It gives you a good base for future upgrades too.