If British TV show Family Fortunes asked 100 people to name a bicycle brand, the most popular answer wouldn’t be Giant, Santa Cruz or Specialized but an old, almost forgotten force in cycling – Raleigh. Now the marque is seeking to make a mountain biking comeback after eight years of near silence, and the sleek M-Trax 4.0 is leading the charge back to dirt.
The once-illustrious road brand made its mark in mountain biking in the 1990s, with John Tomac winning the 1993 World Championships in Italy, Brits David Baker, Barrie Clarke and Caroline Alexander dominating the cross-country circuit and UK downhillers Matt Farmer and Emma Guy also leaving their mark. Yet, despite this rich heritage of building winning mountain bikes, the famous heron head badge had all but disappeared from singletrack by 2000.
Now Raleigh are back with a new range of M-Trax bikes, and if the 4.0 is anything to go by, they're onto a winner. It's a grand’s worth of hardtail that looks like a classic cross-country bike but behind the go-faster paint has broader tastes than the taped conﬁnes of a race track. This is a real mountain bike, for wild and woolly rides off the edge of the map.
Who will this bike suit? The simple answer is most of you. It’s a bike for riders who like to challenge themselves off-road and who like to smile while they ride, but it’s also for riders who don’t mind working for their successes. The M-Trax is no featherweight, and to make it sing takes effort, but it’s a rewarding experience that we heartily recommend.
Ride & handling: Do-it-all bike that makes you want to ride fast, whatever the terrain
Remember how cool it used to be to have a hardtail that felt pretty good almost everywhere? Raleigh did, so they built one. When sizing up the relatively long and low 4.0 we wanted to suit up in racy Lycra and head out on a fast loop, its narrow Continental tyres particularly making you feel athletic, even up hills. But beneath the racy exterior lies a bike that likes to be thrown about – especially with wider tyres.
We kept dipping in and out of this bike’s twin modes, one minute lancing along at race pace, the next seeking the most technical lines along rough singletrack, forcing the fork and front tyre to work hard for their keep.
The Contis’ performance varies, depending on the surface, as they can get overwhelmed by sticky clay-like soils. The supple fork takes root and rock without ﬂinching, and as soon as you want to step on the gas, you hit the bar-mounted lockout and pump those pedals.
Frame: No waif, but it handles well and is a stunning looker for the price
The gloss white and silver paint of the rangy-looking M-Trax 4.0 covers a neatly welded 6061 alloy frame with hydroformed tube shapes to resist twist and deﬂection. The ﬂared integrated head tube is supported by a beautifully shaped down tube with integrated lower gusset for extra support and rigidity.
All the frame’s joints are neatly welded, except the bonded union between the carbon seatstays and the short section of alloy lug protruding from the rear of the seat tube which, nevertheless, is ﬂawless.
It’s no waif at 25.3lb despite the carbon seatstays, but Raleigh has produced a lovely looking frame that demands a second and third look – not many £1,000 bikes do that.
The attention Raleigh has lavished on it goes more than skin deep too. The bike responds well to pedal input and relays precise feedback from the trail. Raleigh has got the detailing spot-on with zip tie cable guides and down tube-mounted Crud Catcher bosses, asserting its English heritage. This frame, and indeed the entire bike, is much more than the sum of its parts.
Equipment: An impressive package with no weak links
We had to double check that we had received a production 4.0 and not some special show-spec bike by mistake. Everywhere you look on the 4.0 there’s the reassuring twinkle of SRAM’s X9 transmission – essentially the top-end SRAM XO stuff without the bling carbon or the price tag. It’s not just an X9 rear mech either – even the front mech and shifters are X9, where many brands would opt for X7 to save a few quid.
Cranks are virtually ﬂex-free FSA V-Drive with 22/32/44 rings turning on a Mega EXO bottom bracket. An 11-34 SRAM Powerglide cassette and PC-971 chain complete the transmission. The fork isn’t cheap either – the 100mm travel RockShox Recon SL Air with remote lockout and Pop-Loc did us proud.
Quad has been quietly building an excellent reputation for no-nonsense, powerful brakes that are easy to live with, and its hydraulic Pros here are no different. We had no qualms about letting the bike have its way, knowing we could pull it up with ease.
Wheels are a key area for any bike and especially one that has visions of being ﬂeet of foot on the ups and surefooted on the way down. The M-Trax’s Quads, with 32-hole rims, mid-height ﬂange six-bolt disc hubs and 14G stainless black spokes, are shod with folding bead Continental Mountain King 2.2in tyres, giving a good compromise between width, weight and grip.
Raleigh hints at the wild intent of its new hardtail by mounting a 180mm disc rotor up front with a standard 160mm on the rear. With all this nice kit hanging off the bike already, you could forgive Raleigh’s own-brand Outland ﬁnishing kit if it was only passable, but it’s not, it’s as good as the stuff you’d normally look to upgrade to, not from. This really is an impressive package considering the £1,100 price tag.