Mondraker Crafty R review£2,799.00

Big-wheeler with serious max speed, max control potential

BikeRadar score3/5

Mondraker’s Forward Geometry equipped Crafty R stretches 29er handling to the radical max, but can the rest of the bike match up?

    Frame and equipment: stiff frame carrying some spec compromises

    The main feature of Mondraker’s Forward Geometry designs is the ultra-long top tube, which allows a super short stem to be fitted as standard. The Zero suspension system drives the shock back and down through the split seat tube onto a small lower linkage, and the rear triangle is stretched to accommodate the biggest 29er rubber.

    Despite a deliberately lightened ‘Stealth 2.0’ tubeset the frame is adequately stiff for full-gas riding, with slight rear flex only obvious during low rev, high torque efforts. It’s lifetime warrantied too, leaving only the easy-to-lose rear axle plug to grumble about.

    A 1x upgrade or chain device are essential considerations if our chain-shedding experience of the crafty is anything to go by:
    A 1x upgrade or chain device are essential considerations if our chain-shedding experience of the crafty is anything to go by:

    A 1x upgrade or chain device are essential if our chain-shedding experience is anything to go by

    Unfortunately the kit list – not for the first time with a Mondraker bike – gives plenty of grumbling potential. The Evolution spec Fox 34 fork is extremely heavy and not particularly smooth, the DT Swiss 1900 rims aren’t wide enough to adequately support the 2.4in Maxxis Ardents wrapping them and even with a clutch derailleur, the 2x10 transmission seems determined to ditch its down-specced chain every time the Crafty gets into its stride.

    The cassette is a heavy ‘hidden’ downgrade too, and contributes to a leg-crushing overall weight. Despite a dreadful reliability reputation, the X-Fusion dropper post is still running after several months though.

    Ride and handling: Forward Geometry bruiser that needs careful coaxing

    Mondraker’s extended geometry always makes for big bikes. Add big wheels with big tyres and you’re looking at a proper beast. At 14.49kg (31.95lb) the Crafty is seriously hefty and its wheelbase at the immense end of the spectrum. It’s so big that even the 760mm bar feels like a bare minimum for coaxing it around slower, tighter trails, and steering it is a serious chore.

    The trick is to avoid steering at all. That’s not as suicidal as it sounds, because the Crafty comes alive when you stop trying to lever it round conventionally and use the 30mm stem to snap the front wheel off line and ‘trip’ the bike into corners. Once you start treating every turn like a bar dragging competition this previously stubborn beast roars into raging life.

    The 760mm bars feel like the very least you need in terms of leverage:
    The 760mm bars feel like the very least you need in terms of leverage:

    The 760mm bars feel like the very least you need in terms of leverage

    The huge wheelbase and 29in wheels provide outrageous levels of stability that you’ll struggle to believe and properly commit to at first. Force yourself to leave the brakes untouched though, and the micro stem and relatively steep 68.5-degree head angle mean you actually have a surprising amount of traction tweaking, line adjusting control within the surging flood of flow that’s rushing you down the trail.

    The faster you go, the more Forward Geometry makes sense, but that has consequences for the rest of the bike. We can see the logic of easy rolling, low tread rubber in terms of offsetting overall weight. Big volume also provides extra pneumatic protection. The skinny rims mean you have to keep pressures high for stability though, and the front tyre washes away earlier than you’d want.

    The high-speed compression damping of the fork really struggles to cope with the amplified impacts the extra entry speed of the Crafty generates on rocky terrain. Because the bike is so long and heavy, it’s hard to lift or manual. This can leave the Fox 34 chattering and choking when it feels like the bike still has way more to give.

    The lengthy wheelbase and 29in hoops make for an insanely fast and stable ride – but some of the kit can't hold its own:
    The lengthy wheelbase and 29in hoops make for an insanely fast and stable ride – but some of the kit can't hold its own:

    The lengthy wheelbase and 29in hoops make for an insanely fast, stable ride – but some of the kit can't hold its own

    The heavy rear wheel can also hang up and batter around behind you on sustained staccato rock and root sections. The overexuberant speed you need to get rid of and the hammering fork front put a lot of pressure on the brakes, and a 200mm front rotor upgrade is recommended if you don’t want a cramped right hand halfway down a big hill. The Crafty also throws the chain off its 2x10 transmission with irritatingly regularity, so fitting a chain guide to the ISCG mounts or going single ring (or both) is an essential move.

    The 130mm (5.1in) of multi-link Zero suspension travel is impressively controlled and balanced in terms of sucking the bike onto the ground while still feeling stable and responsive. The Mondraker pedals very well too, letting you concentrate on navigating the extra bike length up more nadgery sections.

    There’s no escaping that hefty complete bike weight though, and a fair amount of rear end flex under power means you need to be a strong rider to get the Crafty going fast enough to ignite its potential and then keep it there.

    This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

    Guy Kesteven

    Freelance Writer, UK
    Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
    • Age: 45
    • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
    • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
    • Waist: 76cm / 30in
    • Chest: 91cm / 36in
    • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
    • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
    • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
    • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
    • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
    • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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