Ragley Marley review

Slacked-out budget hardtail with serious downhill prowess

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
£900.00 RRP

Our review

Slack angles and smart spec for the money make the Marley a ton of fun on the steepest, sketchiest trails
Buy if, You're more about the downs than ups and want maximum bang for your buck now, with upgrade potential for later
Pros: Slack front end confidence; well-balanced frame with short back end keeps things lively; accurate Manitou thru-axle fork
Cons: Basic brakes and fork will flex in the rough stuff; radically slack steering and low BB can interfere with climbing
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Ragley has always had a great reputation for hardcore bikes at high-value prices and the new Marley has been worth the long development wait if you’re after an affordable aggro machine.

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A cheap but classy chassis

It may be the cheapest bike that Ragley does but there’s still a decent level of detailing on the Marley. The tapered head tube gets a metal head badge and the multi-shaped 6061 alloy tubes are externally braced and internally butted for reasonable weight and a relatively forgiving ride quality.

With good details and dialled geometry the Marley’s chassis is a match for many boutique frames
With good details and dialled geometry the Marley’s chassis is a match for many boutique frames: With good details and dialled geometry the Marley’s chassis is a match for many boutique frames
Steve Behr

With good details and dialled geometry the Marley’s chassis is a match for many boutique frames

The controls all run under the top tube and there’s an ISCG mount on the conventional screw-in BB shell. The swerved-and-curved chainstays with a split ‘finger bridge’ plate behind the crankset give room for 2.4in tyres and the seat clamp’s QR cam gets a brass insert for long-term smoothness. While the top tube isn’t super-long the rest of the geometry is state-of-the-art slack-and-low for flat-out riding, and you can buy the frame on its own for £249.

Ragley have made sure the componentry backs up the ballsy handling as much as possible. The 130mm (5.1in) travel Manitou Minute fork gets a 15mm thru-axle and the WTB rims are fitted with sticky front/fast rear tyres to match the rad front, rapid rear handling character.

The Manitou Minute fork is better than most at this price once you’ve worked out the bayonet axle technique
The brakes are pretty basic: The brakes are pretty basic
Steve Behr

The Manitou Minute fork is better than most at this price once you’ve worked out the bayonet axle technique

The Deore gearing includes a clutch rear derailleur and is driven through a FSA double crankset with a polycarbonate bashguard for rock and log protection. The Deore brakes are definitely basic in feel but Ragley’s own-brand seating and steering kit is all decent stuff.

Slack-angled swagger

In typical Ragley style, the 65.5-degree head angle is radically slack unloaded, but takes into account the fact that only the front end of a hardtail sags when you sit on it, steeping the steering angle. Together with a 50mm stem it gives the Marley a serious amount of swagger for pushing your luck on technical trails. While the 740mm bar is a handy enough width for decent control without having to stop to squeeze between trees in your local woods, we’d be tempted to go even wider to maximise the power steering potential of the geometry.

A short stem and super-slack head angle give the Marley serious gravity confidence, with a through-axle wheel and sticky tyre for maximum front end control
A short stem and super-slack head angle give the Marley serious gravity confidence, with a through-axle wheel and sticky tyre for maximum front end control: A short stem and super-slack head angle give the Marley serious gravity confidence, with a through-axle wheel and sticky tyre for maximum front end control
Steve Behr

The short stem and slack head angle give the Marley serious gravity confidence

Once you’ve worked out how to get the half-turn Hex Lock axle on the Manitou fork consistently connected and tight, it adds an obvious edge to front-end accuracy compared with the QR forks on many similarly priced bikes. It also means you won’t have to change the front wheel if you decide to upgrade to a fatter-legged, stiffer and more consistently damped fork (such as Manitou’s own Mattoc) later.

The sticky-compound ‘High Grip’ version of WTB’s Vigilante tyre up front means you can make the most of that accuracy and short-stem steering agility even in the sketchiest conditions. Even with the stock mid-width bar, having the front wheel way out front and the BB slammed low means the Marley rips and rails corners like a maniac, so long as there’s nothing big hidden in them to buck the back wheel off line.

The short back end and low-slung top tube mean easy hop-and-pop agility for keeping the unsprung rear wheel out of trouble as much as possible too. We didn’t have any trouble with the QR rear hub, but it’s worth checking the skewer for tightness regularly because the Marley’s ‘have a go hero’ character means you’re likely to be taking every part of the bike to its limits and yours on a regular basis.

The low bottom bracket means your bashguard will be seeing some service
The low bottom bracket means your bashguard will be seeing some service: The low bottom bracket means your bashguard will be seeing some service
Steve Behr

The low bottom bracket means your bashguard will be seeing some service

The ‘Fast Rolling’ Trail Boss rear tyre keeps the Ragley lively through the pedals too, and it’ll trundle between your favourite technical bits reasonably efficiently all day if that’s your plan.

Inevitably there are downsides to such a downhill-focused ride if you’re more of an XC rider. The super-low bottom bracket means regular pedal – and occasional crankset bashguard – contact on uneven/rocky/rooty terrain, and the super-slack head angle will wander all over the place on steep climbs until you’re used to it.

The basic Shimano brakes also lack finesse on a bike that’s otherwise bred for the most mental trails, and the Manitou fork flexes noticeably and occasionally chokes when pushed to the max. Like any hardtail that encourages flat-out riding, the rear wheel and tyre are always at more risk than on a full-suspension bike too. At least the back end is forgiving enough that you can leave pressures high to help pneumatic survival.

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If you’re up for a ton of fun for your money, then the Ragley is right up there in the ready-to-riot ratings.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Marley
Brand Ragley

Available Sizes XS S M L
Weight (lb) 29.7
Saddle Ragley Tracker
Seat Angle 72
Seatpost Ragley (rigid)
Shifters Shimano Deore M610 (2x10)
Stem Ragley, 50mm
Weight (kg) 13.47
Spoke Type 32, single butted, stainless
Rear Wheel Weight 2870
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 11.81
Chainstays (in) 16.73
Seat Tube (in) 18.11
Standover Height (in) 24.02
Top Tube (in) 24.02
Wheelbase (in) 44.69
Rims WTB SX23
Rear Tyre WTB Trail Boss Comp Fast Rolling 27.5x2.25in
Bottom Bracket FSA MegaExo
Front Derailleur Shimano Deore M616
Brakes Shimano M396, 180/160mm rotors
Cassette Shimano HG50, 11-36t
Chain Shimano HG54
Cranks FSA Gamma Drive MegaExo, 38/24t
Fork Manitou Minute Comp, 130mm (5.1in) travel (air sprung)
Frame Material Custom-butted 6061-T6 aluminium
Front Hub Novatec D811
Rear Hub Novatec D812
Front Tyre WTB Vigilante Comp High Grip 27.5x2.3in
Front Wheel Weight 2480
Grips/Tape Ragley lock-on
Handlebar Ragley Riser, 740mm
Head Angle 65.5
Headset Type FSA
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore M615
Frame size tested L