At its heart, Ragley’s 29in-wheeled Big Al shares much of the same DNA as its pricier counterpart, the Big Wig, although it sports an alloy rather than steel frame and is specced with a more wallet-friendly build kit.
Ragley Big Al frame
The Big Al boasts the same geometry as the Big Wig, and Ragley has aimed to create an ultra-capable trail bike for “people that ride with their saddle up as much as down”.
That translates to a slack 65-degree head angle, 435mm chainstays to balance stability and manoeuvrability, and a low, corner-carving 305mm bottom bracket height.
All of this is based around a 130mm-travel fork.
The RockShox Recon fork copes fine over most terrain. Steve Behr
If ever you were unsure what the Big Al was designed for, you only need to take a closer look at the tube shapes and junctions.
To keep the front-end feeling nice and solid, the top tube and down tube meet early, with masses of weld overlap, before making their way to the head tube.
There’s also a small reinforcing gusset between the top and seat tubes. In contrast, the seatstays are quite skinny in a bid to add a bit of flex and comfort to the ride.
Ragley Big Al kit
It’s great to see decent rubber on a bike at this price. The WTB Vigilante and Trail Boss tyres proved themselves in a variety of conditions, as well as staying puncture-free throughout testing.
The Recon RL fork uses RockShox’ Motion Control damper, which isn’t the most sophisticated unit but does the job well enough. The only omission from the spec sheet is a dropper post.
Ragley Big Al first ride impressions
Overall, the Big Al is a real blast to ride. Steve Behr
Straight from the off, the Big Al feels like a bike that costs twice the price, and its geometry encourages you to really get trucking. That’s not to say it’s perfect though.
Hit any battered trail centre section at pace and you’ll notice that the frame doesn’t offer the most forgiving ride over trail chatter, so I soon found myself dropping tyre pressures a touch to take the edge off the buzz. However, it’s not unpleasantly harsh, and really only becomes apparent at speed.
Thanks to the well-proportioned angles and well-balanced rider position, the Big Al feels very natural and easy to ride fast.
Fire it into technical singletrack and it’s in its element. The wide 780mm bar and stubby 50mm stem deliver plenty of control and leverage, while the big 2.5in front tyre lets you carve a camber and hold a line when you need to most.
Point it uphill and it’s clear the Big Al isn’t the speediest of climbers, due to those grippy tyres. I’ll take traction over rolling speed though.
The 1×10 Deore gearing favours fitter riders, especially when tackling steeper pitches. On technical descents that low-slung geometry simply encourages you to get rowdy. Pummel into big repetitive impacts and the Recon fork can get a little overwhelmed, but otherwise it does a decent job of keeping the front wheel tracking the trail’s undulations and feels supportive enough.
Overall, the Big Al is a real blast to ride. It just needs a dropper post to boost trail flow.