Mondraker’s Forward Geometry equipped Crafty R stretches 29er handling to the radical max, but can the rest of the bike match up?
Highs: Incredible high-speed stability and confident control; impressively balanced and consistent suspension
Lows: Narrow wheels and notchy fork; high weight means strength or gravity are needed to keep the Crafty awake
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 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 2×10 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 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, 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 2×10 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.