Ragley Blue Pig £1680

Burly bruiser with trail suppleness

BikeRadar score 4/5

Ragley’s Blue Pig has been designed by Brant Richards, also responsible – in his previous On-One role – for the 456. The Blue Pig takes everything Brant learnt from developing his first steel hardtails and moves it along another step or two. The goal was to develop a steel hardtail that was strong enough to handle a long-travel fork, but with a ride quality that wouldn’t beat the rider to a pulp.

If the Blue Pig bike has a downside, it’s that it needs a confident rider aboard to get the most from it. It won’t do the work for you, but if you like to push your limits and fancy a bike that’ll allow you to ride harder and faster on a hardtail than you thought possible, it’s a tough act to follow.

Ride & handling: Genuine big-hit ability with all-day comfort and great handling thrown in

Weighing in at a shade below 29lb/13kg and with its muscular build, our test Blue Pig didn’t immediately come across as an efficient trail machine. We expected a play bike feel with handling to match. Imagine our surprise, then, when we found ourselves spinning confidently up our regular test loop’s steep, technical climbs at a more than reasonable pace.

The Blue Pig’s no whippet, but it turns out it’s not a pug either. Or a pig, for that matter. The combination of long fork, relaxed head angle, rangy top tube, short stem and uber-wide bar works surprisingly well in a variety of common trail scenarios, delivering a stable front end that’s very reluctant to wander off line.

Throw in a hefty dose of vibration-damping comfort from the mahoosive WTB tyres and a tickle of steel spring from those slender tube profiles, and the Blue Pig mostly fails to live up to its name on the pedally bits. Granted, it’s not as sprightly as some of its lighter, more trail-orientated rivals, but it’s when you get the opportunity to put the boot in that the Blue Pig really comes alive.

With the huge leverage exerted by the wide ride stance, an eminently plantable front wheel and assured tracking from Manitou’s burly 140mm-travel Minute fork, we quickly began to run out of gears from the dual-ring setup on descents.

But it doesn’t matter, because this is a bike that revels in being pumped straight through lines you’d normally ride around on a hardtail, working the front end to the limit of its travel and allowing the rear to float through. It’s no full-susser, but it’s likely to redefine your expectations of what a hardtail is capable of.

Frame & equipment: Long-travel, abuse-worthy frame plus suitably burly kit

The Ragley’s CEN-certified strength – and ability to cope with a fork up to 160mm – comes from the attention to detail at critical frame junctions. For example, the noticeably narrow top tube (at 32mm its girth is 3mm less than the 456’s top tube) is externally butted at the front where it joins the head tube.

Meanwhile a box gusset helps distribute stress away from the down tube towards the strengthened section of top tube, and an open-ended gusset beneath the down tube and head tube junction protects this vulnerable area further.

At the rear a distinctive three-finger chainstay bridge braces the bottom bracket area without impinging on either mud room – which is huge – or chainring clearance, which is equally massive. And extended dropouts, with the disc mounted on the chainstay rather than the seatstay, are strong enough to allow narrow gauge stays for a tad more of that distinctive steel zing.

Our test Blue Pig came outfitted with a long-travel setup that emphasises big-hit ability. 140mm of Manitou Minute fork travel is fastened to a bolt-through hub, a double-and-bash Shimano SLX chainset transfers the rider’s efforts to the rear wheel, and the widest bar we’ve ever seen on a trail bike (a 765mm Nuke Proof Warhead) is coupled to a 70mm stem. You could certainly build it lighter, but the frame warrants at least a 130mm fork up front.

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