Never heard of RAAW Mountain Bikes? We don’t blame you, this new mountain bike brand launched only a few days ago. Their first model, the RAAW Madonna, is aimed at enduro riders who are looking for a hard-hitting bike that’ll stand up to the abuse. We got all the details about the bike and have even been lucky enough to put it, or at least try to put it through its paces on some rough trails.
Enduro bikes with 29″ wheels have been sprouting up everywhere, but if you’re looking for a bike with balanced geometry and a potent bump-swallowing rear linkage for high-speed hooliganism, which also climbs well and is durable, you’ll be looking for a long time according to Ruben Torenbeek, the mastermind behind RAAW Mountain Bikes. Until now, that is, because the RAAW Madonna supposedly fulfils all those requirements, making bikers’ dreams which are after a reliable enduro for the toughest tracks a reality.
The frame of the RAAW Madonna
“Aluminium for President!” Is RAAW Mountain Bikes’ motto, which should answer your question in case you’ve been wondering what the frame is made of. The four-bar horst-link frame is designed around 29″ wheels and has 160 mm of travel. Even though hydroforming allows designers to make the most intricate aluminium tube shapes, RAAW is committed to clean, straightforward design with minimalistic lines.
Despite the 148 mm wide rear boost hub spacing, the RAAW Madonna offers plenty of space for heels and ankles, thus guaranteeing optimum freedom of movement. Plenty of tire clearance, externally routed cables, and the lack of cavities in the suspension linkage has the added benefit of making cleaning and maintenance that much easier. If you don’t feel like taking a backpack, there is enough space in the front triangle for a water bottle, and you can put a small spare tube, a CO2 cartridge and a mini tool in the concaved section of the downtube beneath the shock.
The geometry of the RAAW Madonna
The RAAW Madonna didn’t set out to be the longest bike, nor has it got the shortest chainstays or the slackest head angle. The magic word regarding geometry is balance! For this reason, the length of the rear triangle also varies with all three frame sizes (M, L, XL). The relatively long Reach (475 mm in Large) combined with a slack head angle (65°) and a low bottom bracket (35 mm drop) make the bike very stable at high speed. In order to have sufficient pressure on the front wheel in curves, the chainstays tend to be relatively long at 440-450 mm. Thanks to a steep 78.2° seat tube angle you’re positioned centrally on the bike for comfortable climbing.
|Seat tube||420mm||455 mm||490 mm|
|Top tube||585 mm||609 mm||636 mm|
|Head tube||110 mm||120 mm||130 mm|
|Chainstays||440 mm||445 mm||450 mm|
|BB Drop||35 mm||35 mm||35 mm|
|Wheelbase||1212 mm||1256 mm||1291 mm|
|Reach||440 mm||475 mm||500 mm|
|Stack||627 mm||639 mm||648 mm|
The linkage of the RAAW Madonna
The linkage of the RAAW Madonna, besides being particularly sensitive over small bumps, was designed to give good feedback, have sufficient progression, provide traction during braking, and also resist pedal-bob on the uphills. This has been achieved by means of a high main pivot point as well as approx. 20% progression, high anti-squat as well as an adapted anti-rise throughout the travel. In addition, both the top and the bottom of the shock is mounted on bearings.
Clearly, durability was a priority in the design
There is nothing more annoying than a bike that creaks without end or one that spends more time in the workshop than on the trail. For this reason, RAAW has engineered the Madonna frame to run on ten large 28 mm bearings as well as two huge 52 mm main bearings. And all the bearings are sealed from the outside with a specially designed cover. The cable routing is done in a way so that there is no rubbing against the frame and nothing rattles.
The RAAW Madonna on the trail
We had the exclusive opportunity to test the first RAAW frame on the multifaceted trails around Kronplatz in South Tyrol. The over 1,200 vertical-meter-long descent has everything it takes to test the versatility of a bike. In addition to man-made berms, breaking bumps and rock gardens, there are nasty g-outs and all the roots and ruts could wish for.
Already after the first few meters, the Madonna impressed us particularly in one aspect: the rear linkage seemed to generate endless amounts of traction. The RAAW Madonna sticks to the ground in ways we’ve otherwise only experienced on proper downhill bikes with coil shocks. We were, however, riding the 160 mm bike with the FOX DPX2 air shock. Despite the plush suspension, however, the Madonna loves to be pumped through small dips.
If you love tight turns, though, you might hate the Madonna. In our review, we very seldomly managed to get the rear wheel break out on the grippy alpine terrain – the traction the rear linkage provided was simply too high. Coupled with the long chainstays, the RAAW runs as if on rails through long slow turns, but at a cost, as it requires a little more body work to force it through tight and twisty sections.
Speaking of fast: what the RAAW Madonna is really made for is high speed. Hardly any bike that we have ridden so far provides as much composure and stability. Off the brakes and hold on, the bike will take over from there. Like a magic carpet ride, it irons over the roughest sections.
The few meters that we had the pleasure of pedalling the Madonna were very promising too. Thanks to the steep seat tube angle, you sit very centrally and even without activating the shock platform, there is hardly any rocking at all. Only the relatively heavy total weight of around 14.7 kg slows down the upward momentum.
But it’s not all good for the RAAW Madonna. If you are looking for an agile, responsive bike to ride around on flow trails, the Madonna will be overkill.
Price and Availability of the RAAW Madonna
The RAAW Madonna will initially be exclusively available as a frameset in three colours (black, red, raw). The frameset for € 2,690 includes the frame, a FOX DPX2 FACTORY shock, and an ACROS headset, a DT SWISS axle, a tool bag and a strap for attaching a tube. The first bikes are estimated to be available from March 2018 onwards. In the meantime, there will also be an early bird special. Further details will follow shortly.
Our conclusion on the RAAW Madonna
Way to start with a bang, the RAAW Madonna not only impressed with its extreme composure and very balanced handling, above all, it is the many clever details that convinced us. It is definitely not going to be the perfect bike for everyone, but anyone looking for a fast machine for the gnarliest tracks in the world will find it here!
Words & Photos: Christoph Bayer