I took the RR SL out for a ride around Lausa in Portugal (where the first round of the UCI DH World Cup will be raced in 2020), testing it for one and a half days on loose, rocky, rooty and wet enduro trails. Conditions were far from ideal for testing a bike, so these are initial ride impressions only. Mondraker replaced the stock Maxxis Rekon tyres with a pair of Maxxis Minion DHF/DHR2, with an EXO Plus casing, and its MaxxTerra 3C rubber – a welcome swap
Pros: Incredibly impressive rear suspension, backed up by great geometry and very light weight
Cons: Very expensive, with compromised battery access and tyres
Mondraker’s latest e-MTB, the Crafty Carbon, comes in three rather pricey options. However, for your somewhat considerable outlay, you get what is claimed to be the lightest electric mountain bike with a Bosch Performance CX motor on the market – coming in at 19.9kg with a 625Wh battery in its priciest RR SL build.
Mondraker has used its top-of-the-line carbon for the 150mm travel frameset and tried to remove as much weight as possible from it.
Despite this, it still has most of the features you’d look for in a frame: there’s a full complement of internal cable routings, beefed up pivot hardware, a chimney system to help keep the battery from getting too warm (also seen on the Merida E-ONE SIXTY launched this year), and, fairly uniquely, cables that enter through the head tube for a super-slick look.
There are bottle cage bosses located under the top tube too.
The Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
This has allowed Mondraker to build the down tube, where the battery is housed, as light as possible. The bikes come with a 625Wh battery, but if you really want to go light (19.3kg, claimed), you can spec a 500Wh battery.
The battery itself isn’t user-removable – this functionality would add weight – which does mean that charging the battery has to take place with the battery still in the bike, and there’s no option to do a mid-ride battery swap, should you have a spare.
‘Gills’ at the top of the down tube help keep the battery from overheating.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
During our lunch stop – approximately an hour – I added around 50 per cent to the battery’s charge. The charging port is in front of the motor, on the underside of the down tube.
While I had no issues, despite the conditions, it would be interesting to see how this holds up to a full winter of use because while there’s a rubber cover, it’s in the firing line from your front wheel.
The charge port is located in front of the motor.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
As you’d expect, the geometry is as contemporary as it comes – almost. Mondraker was among the first to work with the long, low, slack theory that has started to dominate trail and enduro bike design, via its Forward Geometry concept that debuted in 2012.
A large Crafty Carbon comes with a 490mm reach, 65.5-degree head angle paired with a short-offset 160mm fork, and 350mm bottom bracket height to give slightly improved pedal clearance on technical climbs. The cranks drop 25mm below the 29in wheel axles.
Chainstays are 455mm long – this, Mondraker says, gives better weight distribution with the longer rear-end – and they could be shorter, but Mondraker decided against that. Finally, the seat angle is a fairly steep, but not as steep as it could be, 76 degrees.
Mondraker has re-worked the Zero Suspension system to give a better suspension kinematic. There’s less chainstay growth, with a more stable and firmer feel, while the leverage ratio is more progressive and softer at the start of its stroke.
The Fox DPS shock is used on all Crafty Carbon bikes.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL kit
This top-line RR SL comes in at a very high price (£10,799 / €11,999), but it is kitted out with arguably some of the best kit available.
The drivetrain consists of SRAM’s latest X01 AXS wireless gears with a carbon e13 crank connected to the fourth generation Bosch motor. SRAM also provides the AXS wireless Reverb dropper.
E13 carbon cranks help keep weight in check.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
Shimano’s XTR Trail four-pot brakes provide the stopping power, with the 200mm rotors connected to a pair of DT Swiss HXC1200 carbon wheels. From the shop you’ll get a pair of Maxxis Rekon 2.6in tyres with the EXO Plus casing.
Shimano’s 4-pot XTR Trail caliper.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
Mondraker’s own stem and carbon bar are up front, with a set of lightweight Lizard Skins grips, while a Fizik Antares saddle sits on the Reverb.
The suspension comes from Fox: there’s an e-MTB chassis Factory 36 at the front-end with the Fit4 damper, and a Factory DPS shock at the back.
Plenty of adjustment on the Fox DPS shock.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL first ride impressions
The work Mondraker has done on the Crafty Carbon’s rear suspension is apparent from the off.
While clichés are easy to write, there’s no denying that Mondraker has given the bike a suspension linkage that does pretty much anything that’s asked of it.
On climbs, the stability from the rear-end is impressive. This works on two counts.
Mondraker’s Zero Suspension lay out.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
First, pedalling forces have barely an effect on the shock, leaving it to deal with doling out plenty of traction to the rear tyre. Sure, big exaggerated efforts out of the saddle will induce bob into the system, but there are few bikes out there where that’s not the case. Furthermore, if that’s your style, there’s a compression lever on the DPS shock anyway.
Second, the stable nature of the back-end keeps it propped up, helping the bike resist slumping into its travel, slackening the seat angle and putting you into a worse pedalling position. Keeping the seat angle close to its geometry chart numbers means a comfortable, efficient place through which to turn the cranks – with the assistance of the excellent Bosch motor.
The motor, especially in its e-MTB mode is reactive, powerful, controllable and smooth in its operation, with an easily readable, data-rich display.
Bosch’s latest motor is excellent.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
On the loosest, scrabbliest trails, the rear wheel struggled to fully hook up at times, and I would suggest that this would be accentuated by the stock Rekon tyres, which should have been fitted. However, in general, the rear-end is spot on when it comes to climbing.
With the suspension doing its job well, the rest of the package complements it. The seat angle is fairly steep and the roomy reach, while not overly stretched while seated, means there’s plenty of room to move over and around the bike on technical climbs.
My test bike had had the steerer tube cut short, so the bars were particularly low, helping me place the front wheel where I wanted it, but at point of purchase there will be a number of stem spacers available so you can get the right height for you.
Cables neatly disappear into the head tube – but, with SRAM AXS, there are even fewer cables to hide.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
This is a bike that doesn’t just rely on its climbing capabilities, though. Down a hill, on first impressions at least, the Crafty Carbon is incredibly competent.
A lot has been written about the merits of longer geometry when it comes to descents, and this holds true with the bike. It’s stable, confident and capable of hitting pretty much anything an enduro track can throw at it.
Likewise, the weight of an e-MTB further enhances the stability that the geometry provides.
Where the Mondraker really stands out is the suspension. The Zero Suspension system is fantastic.
Supple over small, repeated hits, there’s lots of traction for braking, especially when set up with a fairly fast rebound, as recommended by Mondraker. It’s not supple in the way of giving a truly disconnected, sofa-like ride, either, but one that deals with trail noise very competently.
Mondraker says that the FIT4 damper is a better fit for its customers.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The support that helps on the climbs is ever-present on descents, allowing you to pump the bike where needed and prevent it falling through its travel over consecutive mid-sized hits – the composure it showed through rock gardens and down long flights of steps through Portuguese villages was impressive.
It’s not a bike that’s bottomless in its travel, but it really feels like the bike’s progression starts nice and early in its stroke, leaving it entirely capable of softening the biggest blows.
While I’m no fan of dropping to flat, I’m perfectly happy pointing a bike towards the end of a chunky line, and at no point did it feel like the bike slammed into the end of its travel or wanted to blow feet off pedals.
Plenty of rear-end support helps cornering performance.Mondraker
One slight downside of the build is that the DT Swiss wheels felt fairly harsh. Their carbon construction helps keep weight low, but at the cost of feel. The second tier RR model gets an alloy wheelset, which I reckon would be no bad thing here.
A word on kit
Mondraker pitches the Crafty Carbon as an enduro-focussed bike, but it’s also gone for the super-lightweight approach in places to hit that sub-20kg weight, and I feel this has lead to some compromises.
The non-removable battery means longer rides with a battery swap are out of the question, even if you can carry along a charger and take a long lunch.
There’s also the use of the Lizard Skins grips, which aren’t great in my opinion. They’re held on with tape rather than a collar, which is frustrating, and don’t have the purchase of a rubber grip, especially when wet.
There are also the Rekon tyres and the fairly harsh DT Swiss wheels – light though they are. For my test ride, Mondraker swapped the Rekons for a pair of Minons, which was a good decision considering the weather.
EXO+ casing tyres blend the line between trail and DH casing options.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
There’s also the Fox DPS shock. Mondraker, perhaps fairly, says that it feels better and more supple than the piggy-backed DPX2 shock that might otherwise have been specced. However, for a bike of this ilk, and with the support the Zero Suspension system provides, I feel a Fox X2 Air or Coil would be a better fit.
While on my cold, wet test rides the shock never got so hot as to feel uncontrolled, while testing other bikes on long alpine descents the shock can feel under-gunned.
It is a similar story with the Fox 36 fork. It has the more basic Fit4 damper with a three-position compression switch and when I asked why the ‘fancier’ GRIP2 damped 36 wasn’t fitted on such an enduro-focussed and expensive bike, Mondraker said that it believed the Fit4 offered better damping for the customers this bike is designed for.
Mondraker says that the FIT4 damper is a better fit for its customers.Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
Finally, throughout the test, the SRAM AXS drivetrain worked perfectly, with swift, accurate and consistent shifting.
Mondraker has used a shifter mount that hangs off the Shimano XTR brake levers, and this combination of SRAM and Shimano works, but doesn’t give quite the adjustability that either a full Shimano or full SRAM brake/shifter combo would.
Mondraker Crafty Carbon RR SL initial verdict
Mondraker’s aim to create a super-light, enduro-ready bike seems to have paid off. The bike rides very, very well and I would love to ride one in the UK to get a truer impression on home trails.
However, the model comes with a number of compromises borne out of the desire to get a bike well under 20kg. The inability to remove the battery could be a frustration to those who want to benefit from the longer potential range that a removable battery can offer.
Were it my own bike, the Rekon tyres would be removed immediately – for a bike this capable, grippier, more resilient tyres are a must. I’d also look at fitting softer wheels and a burlier shock.
Getting the bike under 20kg is a significant milestone and I’d love to conclude whether it’s worth it in the coming months, so stay tuned.
Riding since the age of 13, Technical Editor Tom has ridden hundreds of bikes over the past few years, from aero race bikes to EWS-ready enduro rigs, with a fair few others in between. Most likely found in the woods practicing his scandi-flicks.