There was a time – back in the 90s – when the Raleigh MTrax brand was synonymous with race success. The bikes were often innovative too, using novel bonded construction processes and employing different frame materials – such as titanium and aluminium – in the same chassis.
The new MTrax HT range aims to recapture that heritage in a format aimed at trail riders rather than racers. Have Raleigh succeeded?
Ride & handling: Great handling that belies its looks
Years of bike testing have taught us the perils of judging a bike from its appearance alone. But we’re only human, and – short of being led blindfold to each test bike in turn – it’s hard not to set off with some preconceptions. So we couldn’t help eyeballing the Mtrax’s uncompromisingly chunky stays and down tube and expecting a harsh, unforgiving ride. We were wrong.
Point the Raleigh up a slow, technical climb and, sure enough, the flex-free rear end skitters about while delivering every ounce of rider effort to the rear wheel. It needs an alert pilot to coax the best out of a frame this stiff, but the upside is that you can rest assured that not a drop of sweat or lactic acid is being wasted. At these speeds any hint of ‘give’ is more likely to be the slimline saddle flexing at the rails – our test sample gave the game away by creaking.
It’s when you put the boot in and give it some big ring welly that this frame really shines. The roomy cockpit and well balanced front end – with wide, wide bars – inspire enough confidence to simply stomp and go, right up until the point where the hits are simply too harsh for the fork to cope. Even at these speeds though, the rear end follows through with barely a trace of the harshness we’d expected.
Whether it’s the carbon seatstays acting as a high frequency filter or some other quirk of the frame design we’re not sure, but this bike gives both power-friendly rigidity and high-speed comfort in one package.
If Raleigh were hoping to rekindle some of the quirky individualism of the MTrax brand, they’ve definitely succeeded. If you can live with the HT2.0’s fidgety low-speed rigidity and surprisingly weighty overall build, it’ll pay you back with plenty of singletrack-fuelled highs and a ride quality that’s close to the best of all worlds. At this price, that’s a formidable achievement.
Chassis: Unique and very effective frame design, but the whole package is a bit on the lardy side
The HT2.0 sits one rung from the bottom of the MTrax ladder, between the entry level aluminium chassised 1.0 and the range-topping carbon frames. The frame material? Alu. And carbon.
No, that’s not a misprint. Harking back to the heyday of MTrax, Raleigh’s engineers have incorporated a curvaceous, bonded carbon monostay into the HT2.0’s rear triangle. The joints are so neat you’d never know if it had been painted, but the bare carbon finish reveals the fibre’s weave in all its glory.
Carbon fibre is usually the preserve of far more expensive bikes – it can be used to save weight, but it also tends to provide a ride that’s both stiff and comfortable by absorbing high frequency vibrations.
The remainder of the chassis lives up to the high tech image of the seatstays. Hydroforming gives every tube bar the seat tube a complex, form-shifting profile that’s designed to maximise rigidity and strength while reducing weight.
Voluptuously curvy stays provide generous mud clearance at the rear, while the down tube features Crud Catcher-compatible bosses on its underside – a neat touch that betrays the bike’s UK roots.
Equipment: Good kit, but it would be better with a plusher fork
There’s no doubting the frame’s appeal, but Raleigh’s product managers have managed to resist the temptation to make obvious sacrifices elsewhere.
Plugged into the front is a Marzocchi 33 coil sprung fork. It’s relatively firmly sprung – lighter and less race-focussed riders may want to switch to a lower spring rate – but it acquits itself well out on the trail.
Its steering is precise and everything from the smallest ripples to square-edged hits are taken in its stride, although keen riders will reach its limits on high speed rocky descents.
A SRAM X-5-based transmission won’t win the HT2.0 any showroom points but does what’s asked of it without fuss, while the Quad brakes provide plenty of lever feel and enough stopping power to keep all but the most aggressive rider happy.