Riding the 19.3kg Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL – First Ride Review

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Andi headed to a wet and muddy Portugal to ride the ultra-lightweight Mondraker Crafty Carbon, the world’s lightest Bosch powered e-MTB.

Before we get into this first ride review of the 2020 Mondraker Crafty Carbon, let’s quickly delve into the details that make this Bosch powered e-MTB so exciting. 

Mondraker Crafty Carbon Frame

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The world’s lightest Bosch e-MTB.

First up this is a Mondraker, so you know that it’s going to sport the brand’s famous Forward Geometry and that it’s going to have that sexy as hell Mondraker look. Those 2 points alone might have been newsworthy on their own just a few years ago, but in 2019 (2020) we need a little more excitement from our bikes to get our pulses running.

Knowing that they were going to release a carbon version of the alloy Crafty e-MTB, Mondraker’s engineers knew that this would give them the perfect opportunity to not just give an old bike a cool new carbon body, but to create something really special using new OEM parts and updated technologies.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The Crafty Carbon frame uses a new Stealth Air carbon construction.

One example of new technology comes in the form of the updated carbon layup. Mondraker fans will be well aware of Stealth but for the Crafty Carbon, we see a move to Stealth Air Carbon Technology. This new construction method ensures a strong, reliable, stiff, yet lightweight carbon structure. Mondraker uses the new process on both ends of the Crafty carbon, and connecting the two is a carbon upper link and alloy lower.

Keen-eyed Mondraker nerds will be able to point out that the links on the Crafty Carbon are the same as those on the alloy bike, but different to the rest of the Mondraker range. This is because these bikes use a new suspension kinematics designed specifically for e-MTB bikes. 

This e-Bike specific suspension system is designed to offer a stable pedalling platform, improved small bump sensitivity while retaining a progressive feel. The Mondraker team also claimed that the new suspension boosts traction, but a few of us had mixed results in this respect, more below.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The internal battery is charged from a port close to the motor.

While on their diet regime and now with the clear intention to produce the most lightweight Bosch powered e-MTB on the market, Mondraker decided on an integrated Bosch power pack located in the downtube of the frame. This is hardly new, but what is different is the fact that the battery isn’t designed to be user-removable. 

Mondraker offers all 3 of the Crafty Carbon bikes with a 625Wh Bosch battery, but the RR SL flagship bike can also be bought with a smaller and lighter weight 500Wh battery instead. With the larger capacity battery, the SL weighs only 19.9kg whereas the 500Wh battery brings the complete weight to just 19.3kg. However, because the battery can’t be removed, and because you can’t add an extra external battery to the Crafty Carbon, our choice would be the 625Wh model.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Bottle cage fits to the top tube.

Because the battery sits so close to the carbon walls of the frame there isn’t enough space for bolts to fasten, meaning that the bottle cage mounts are found beneath the top tube instead.

The internal battery is surrounded by air channels that sucks in air through vents located near the head tube. This air flows past the battery and expels any heat out of an exhaust port located further down.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Air scoops help to keep the battery cool.

We can’t tell you if the battery would generally overheat in warm conditions as we rode in cold and wet weather but it’s not exactly a unique idea, we’ve seen similar on Merida bikes too.

Something that we haven’t seen on any production bike until the Crafty Carbon though is the HHG “Hidden Housing Guide” Internal cable guide that passes through a custom Arcos ICR (Integrated Cable Routing) headset. The design relies on the Mondraker to use an oversized headtube and in addition to oversized 1.5in fork steerer tube to give the room need for internal routing.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Another new standard incoming…

Our test bikes were fitted with AXS gears and a dropper so the ICR isn’t used to its full extent but we saw it on the lower-priced bikes and it looks very neat. That said, I’m not sure I would like to be the one to maintain those cables and hoses, never mind have to change one.

More updates to the new Mondraker Crafty Carbon frame include oversized pivot thru-axles and Enduro max bearings. These are larger diameter bearings offering a longer life and are suitable for heavier bikes such as e-MTBs. Mondraker also uses an integrated dropout speed sensor that’s mounted to the inside of the chainstay too.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The Crafty Carbon is pretty silent.

Speaking of the chainstays, a new silent chainstay rubber protector comes as standard, this will come as great news to anyone who has ridden the noisy Foxy 29er. There are integrated motor covers, and the frame is of course designed around 29in wheels with Boost hub spacing.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
A good looking bike and so it should be for the price.

The final pieces of the carbon puzzle are the Generation 4 Bosch motor, sporting 75Nm of power, and 4 rider support modes, though EMTB mode is perfect for 95% of riding conditions. An enduro friendly 160mm front and 150mm rear suspension travel and on-trend enduro/gravity geometry finish of this “no compromise” e-MTB.

Mondkraker Crafty Carbon RR SL Specification

Out of the box, off the shelf or from the store, the top of the range Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL comes with an SRAM AXS X0 drivetrain and matching AXS Reverb dropper post. These high-tech wireless systems add to the high-tech nature of the bike and will mean you don’t need to worry about those cable or hoses.

These aren’t complete XO AXS builds though, for example the chain is a more affordable GX 12-speed chain, and the chainset is an carbon e*13 unit that measures in at 165mm.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Lightweight and powerful.

SRAM doesn’t provide breaking, instead, you get powerful Shimano XTR M9120 brake levers and callipers front and rear that clamp down on a set of 203mm rotors.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Carbon DT Swiss wheels on the flagship build.

Those large Shimano discs are bolted to a pair of carbon DT Swiss HXC1200 Spline 29 wheels which connect to the earth via Maxxis Rekon 29×2.6in EXO+ tyres. It’s obvious that Mondraker has gone for the faster-rolling Rekon to save some weight, but at least they haven’t skimped and you get full on EXO+ rubber, that said we all breathed a sigh of relief when we found our test bike would have DHF and DHR rubber, a much better tyre for our wet and muddy conditions.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Not exactly mud friendly.

More weight saving is found in the form of a 780mm wide carbon handlebar and the stick on Lizard Skin grips, yes every ounce seems to count when building a super lightweight Bosch e-MTB.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
FIT 4 not GRIP 2.

On the suspension side of things, it’s unsurprising to see Fox 36 Factory 36 front and a Fox shock on the rear with classy Kashima coating. It was a surprise to discover the fork is a FIT 4 model and the rear shock is a Float DPS rather than a more capable shock with piggyback.

The Mondraker chaps claimed that the choice was made because they prefer the feel of the FIT 4 fork and DPS, but could it be to also bring down the weigh to make this a world-class weight weenie e-Bike? We suppose it also helps to reduce the cost of the build too.

Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL First Ride Review

As is the case with a first ride review that takes place during a launch event, this whole ‘review’ is based on riding the new Mondraker for a day on unfamiliar terrain. Also, due to the amount of climbing, we put the bikes through and the fact we had a mid-ride re-charge, it’s not possible to give you an idea of range. For that info please keep your eyes peeled for a full review coming in the future.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
So much light…

The trails we rode around Lousã in Portugal were experiencing some torrential weather. Heavy rain, fog, wind and even thunderstorms! It actually made for a refreshing change to be on a launch and ride in the same conditions we have at home.

Being an e-Bike launch the day of riding consisted of lots of fire road climbs to gain as much altitude as possible before hitting a mixture of cut and natural trails for the descents.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
That’s a lot of £10,000+ bikes!

Before heading out for our day of riding we spent the morning setting the bikes up to our prefered preferences and swapping our brakes around to the “correct” way around. With the rain pouring outside we were all glad we had the none-stock tyres on the bikes, but we worried about Lizard Skin grips and how they might become slick after a few coats of mud.

Set up of the Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL was simple, but many of us wished for a taller front end. The riser that comes as standard has just 25mm of rise and the steerer is cut as short as possible so there was no way to raise the front without swapping bars, and there weren’t any. Still, it took just a few descents to become familiar with the lower front end.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Ok so it was sunny on day 2 but we didn’t actually ride, instead we shot convincing climbing photos…

With our bikes dialled in, we attacked the first climb with gusto to test out Mondraker’s claim that the rear suspension offered plenty of traction, but there was a 50:50 split on if it did or not. Myself and a few of the French riders found rear traction to be good, but not as exceptional as the Orbea Wild FS is. The Crafty Carbon certain get’s up and over terrain very well, but it’s not got the same point and climb ability as the Orbea does.

Whereas a climbing on the Orbea often resulted in searching around the trail for an even more difficult route, the Mondraker was happier to sit and spin up in the direction you were meant to go rather than looking off-piste for more challenging climbs.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
I’ve started to ride with my tongue out for 2020.

On the flip side though, and perhaps more importantly, the Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL is far more energetic and lively on the trail. The lighter weight certainly improves the ability to throw the bike around more like a standard bike. Direction changes are effortless, and you have more control over either charging through terrain or skipping across it.

On heavier e-MTB’s you tend to ride them more like a downhill bike, hitting everything hard and allowing the suspension to soak everything up. The Mondraker’s rear end still has that plough-ability, but it’s also easy to hop over and skip across roots and rocks too.

In the wet and muddy terrain, the Crafty RR SL offers incredible levels of grip and confidence. Slick rocks and roots are gobbled with precision, drops despatched with ease and corners are sprinted from with no bob from the back end.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Thank god for the blue shorts….

On flow trails, and descending the new e-MTB specific rear suspension performed amazingly. Mondraker promised traction, progression and a stable pedal platform and I would say they have succeeded, it just doesn’t offer as much climbing traction as other bikes.

During our day, all riders noted how quickly the battery seemed to drain. Again this is very difficult to judge as we were using the motors heavily to gain elevation and the colder conditions could drain the battery faster too. We can’t imagine that the lighter Mondraker with the same battery and motor as other bikes on the market shouldn’t offer as much range, if not more range, but our day of riding did take it out of the battery.

Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL Durability

This is a glossy, high-class carbon frame so after our day of muddy riding those beautiful finishes were dull. You would certainly want to wrap your Crafty Carbon to keep your investment looking fresh for longer.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The glossy finish will need protecting from UK trail conditions.

Our RR SL likes with Bosch motor use a Bosch display, but it doesn’t have the adjustable mount we have seen on other bikes. This means the colour display sticks out from the bar like a unicorn horn. It doesn’t look like the best position for it and it looks like you could snap it off if you were to go over the bars.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
Yes, that screen can be broken off in an OTB.

I can confirm that this is exactly what will happen as I did go over the bars, snapping the mount and losing the display! If I hadn’t been at a launch that would have meant no assist for the rest of the ride as the motor needs the screen to function and a very expensive repair bill.

Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL Overall

My first impressions of the Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL are good, but I have got a lot of questions that a fuller review and more time would answer.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
A good looking bike at a hefty price.

I love how lightweight the bike is and how easy it is to ride more like a ‘normal’ bike and how it retains its nimbleness on downhills, but I wonder if all e-MTB riders will have the same feeling or if they will miss the straight-line speed and plough of a heavier bike?

I also wonder about the battery life. I have no doubt in my mind that a 30km ride is possible with a single charge, but what if I want to double that? With another e-MTB, I can take a spare battery or add a piggy-back power source, but the Crafty Carbo RR SL won’t allow that. This means factoring a ride charge which might not always be possible.

mondraker crafty carbon rr sl review
The mid-range RR.

I love what Mondraker has done with the Crafty Carbon range of bikes, and I applaud them for building the lightest Bosch bike on the market. When in attack mode, the Crafty Carbon RR SL could easily be one of the fastest e-Bikes on the market, but it comes at a cost.

The flagship Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL costs £10,799, and that’s a lot of money even if it is the world’s lightest Bosch bike.

We hope to get a Crafty Carbon in for a full review early next year, so keep an eye out for a full review in 2020.

2020 Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL Specifications

  • Frame: Crafty Stealth Air full Carbon, e-Bike Optimized Zero Suspension System, Carbon Monoblock Upperlink, 150 mm travel, Forward Geometry
  • Fork: Fox Float DPS Factory Kashima, 205×65 mm
  • Rear Shock: Fox 36 29 Float FIT4 EVOL Factory Kashima, 160 mm, e-bike tuned
  • Headset: Acros custom
  • Stem: Onoff Krypton FG 30 mm
  • Handlebar: Onoff Krypton Carbon 0.5, 780 mm
  • Grips: Lizard Skins DSP
  • Dropper post: RockShox Reverb Stealth AXS
  • Saddle: Fizik Antares R1 Large
  • Front Brake: Shimano XTR M9120 203 mm
  • Rear Brake: Shimano XTR M9120 203 mm
  • Wheelset: DT Swiss HXC1200 Carbon Spline 29, 30 mm
  • Tyres: Maxxis Rekon 29×2.6 tubeless ready, 3C MAXX TERRA, EXO+ Protection, 60TPI, folding bead
  • Motor: Bosch Performance Line CX system Gen4, 625 Wh PowerTube battery, Kiox computer / 500Wh optional
  • Chainset: E13 TRS Race carbon, 165 mm, Sram Eagle 34T
  • Chain: Sram GX Eagle, 12s
  • Rear mech: Sram X01 Eagle AXS, 12s
  • Shifter: Sram Trigger Eagle AXS, 12s
  • Cassette: Sram XG-1299, 10-50T, 12s
  • Sizes: S / M / L / XL
  • Price: £10,799

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