Borrowing its geometry from the popular mmmBop aluminium trail hardtail, the M74 swaps in some budget-conscious tubing to keep the price down and ends up ride-ready with its 1x9 transmission at a wallet-friendly £700.
Although not quite the budget mmmBop that Ragley would like us to believe, the M74 is good enough – and cheap enough – to stand on its own two wheels. It has great handling and genuine hard-riding ability, at a price that should make the competition weep, making it well worth considering.
Ride & handling: Long geometry and precise steering make for a fun ride at a low price
The M74 we rode was an early production bike and some minor spec details may change but it’s very close to what will shortly be available. The frame sticks with Ragley's usual formula of slack angles and a long top tube – an unusual take on geometry that works well, particularly for riders who actively take on the trail.
The laid-back angles are about all the M74 shares with the more costly mmmBop, though. The budget chassis build lacks the subtle ﬂuidity of thinner tube walls and a more forgiving rear triangle – it’s not at its best when you’re drifting along admiring scenery. But largely all Ragleys seem to be at their best when ridden hard and the M74 wants to be told where to go by its rider.
Ragley’s decision to market the M74 with a 1x9 setup is a bold one but we think it suits the bike’s playful character. The single chainring setup keeps gear selection simple and the long top tube and slack angles work extremely well, to keep the rider’s weight centred between the wheels, making it easy to shufﬂe between front and rear wheel-biased grip.
The ﬂy in the ointment is the unique-to-Ragley RockShox Recon Silver R fork, which, despite offering great steering precision thanks to its Maxle through-axle, has the typical over-sprung and slightly cludgy feel of a budget coil-spring unit. Still, at this price it’d be churlish to make too much of it.
Frame & equipment: Rigid frame build verges on harsh; the fork doesn’t do the frame justice
Ragley’s current line of bikes was built for typical UK-based technical trail riding. The company's slack-and-long approach to frame design works well for a number of different end uses, from cross-country to technical trail riding, giving the M74 the same versatility as its more expensive counterparts elsewhere in the range.
To keep the price down, other Ragley-speciﬁc features have been replaced on the M74 with bog-standard stays and guides. There’s still enough room to run 2.35in tyres but the bridged chainstays mean there's considerably less room for the gloop to fall through. In other words, the M74 has sacriﬁced some of the UK-friendliness in a bid to shave costs.
Still, there’s plenty of good news. Rack mounts add a dose of real-world practicality to the otherwise unremarkable rear end, while a tapered head tube combines with the Maxle-equipped fork to provide a very stiff, stable and plantable front end offering up to 120mm of coil sprung travel.
A mixture of Ragley and branded ﬁnishing kit makes up the rider contact points, while the transmission is a 1x9 affair made up of SRAM X5 derailleurs and a Truvativ Blaze Howitzer 34-tooth single chainring with chainguide up front. If you want to add a wider range of gears you just need to remove the chain guide and add chainrings, a front mech and a shifter. The bike weighs in at a big boned 13.25kg (29.21lb).
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.