Spanish brand Mondraker have some serious hardware in their range, and even the hot pink Play is a proper performance ride with real charisma and the potential to push your limits. The ride quality of this hardcore hardtail offsets any cost and kit comparison complaints, to make it a universal charmer with our test crew
Ride & handling: Responsive, attentive and agile
The Play 1's low-slung frame with stout square stays creates a seriously muscular back end that bursts out of corners or start gates with a proper snap. If you’re a four-cross racer, you’ll definitely appreciate the small gear jumps, and the slick tyres boost natural speed too so you can squeeze maximum speed out of any situation, although the higher bottom gear does mean you need more grunt to get it going or get back to the top if you’re pedalling.
The tyres' rounded carcass means an easy drop in and roll out of cornering angles, and the bike's low centre of gravity means it can be chopped and chucked all over the place. It naturally encourages a very mobile involved approach to any situation. The quick-release Marzocchi DJ2 fork is slightly less accurate than its through-axle equipped rivals, though.
The low-slung frame and long rear end provide a stable and settled feel when mucking about on wall tops and edges. The neutral angles are a blank canvas for whatever moves you want to try too. As a result, our testers were soon trying stuff that they’d never even attempted on their own bikes before and in many cases they were cleaning new moves the first time.
The super-low bottom bracket and similarly grounded centre of gravity means the Mondraker slides and surfs really predictably on grit or tarmac to bring out the best ‘Tokyo Drift’ in your cornering. A wider bar would really emphasise this sweetly balanced feel, but that’s a universal criticism.
The powerful brakes and compact frame mean you can put a stop to any souring situations or just bail out completely with less hesitation too. It’s a tribute to the balance and can-do attitude of the bike that we nailed pretty much every potentially painful move we had the balls to ride out.
Frame: Light, tight, compact chassis
The Mondraker has a conventional external Aheadset but the short ring reinforced head tube means the front end is still low enough overall. The top tube falls away very steeply too for maximum standover. The square section seatstays are also diagonally cut to extend right along the top tube past the seat tube. A flat plate gusset with cut out logo locks everything together behind the seat tube, while the square chainstays branch off a CNC machined yoke block.
Super-thick 3D dropouts minimise crash trauma and the wheelbase is short and snappy. There are no ISCG mounts on the bottom bracket despite a chain guide being fitted, but the deep seat quick-release collar keeps a firm grip on the post and perch. Small, medium and large sizes give different length options for different sized riders or the choice of pure play or race use.
Equipment: Average rather than aspirational, with racer transmission
The fact that Mondraker aren’t intending the Play solely for mucking about on is given away by the back end. The close ratio rear cog block is perfect for smooth spinning acceleration away from the start gate and the Truvativ Box guide keeps the chain on over six packs.
Shifts are fast from the SRAM X.9 rear mech while semi-slick Kenda street tyres give easy acceleration after an impressively snappy initial boost of speed. The 185mm front rotor on the Avid hydraulic brake means you’ll stop just as quick too.
The 50mm own-brand stem is a good match to the overall agile feel although the bars are narrower than the current wide span trend, so leverage is limited. A two-bolt seatpost keeps the logo-matched jump saddle super-secure while replaceable pin pedals are matched to the seat, brakes, stem and fork.
The DJ2 fork is a ballistic rider’s benchmark – a reasonably controlled, sturdy shock absorber. The quick-release version found here isn't as secure or stiff steering as its bolt-through rivals but it does contribute to a relatively low complete bike weight.