Review: The Raaw Madonna is a Boutique Beauty
which Ruben calculated would give 172mm travel, over the standard 160mm. I'm all for more travel as it essentially weighs nothing, and my usual trails often ask for downhill capabilities. The bike is named after the 'Madonna Della Guardia' trail, a stalwart in the Finale Ligure riding and racing scene, so it was appropriate to put this bike through its paces on home turf.The frame kit (frame, Fox DPX2 Factory shock, headset, axle and frame protection) is available for €2690, with the option of having a Fox Float X2 or DHX2 shock for a €150 surcharge. Now, two complete bikes are also available, both are built using a 170mm Fox 36 GRIP2 fork, DPX2 Factory shock, Stans Flow rims and Maxxis tires. €4990 for the 'Factory build' and €6490 'XTR build.' These prices include German VAT at 19%, so purchases from outside the EU will be reduced, but local taxes will apply. Currently, the Madonna can be shipped worldwide, with the exception of the USA and Canada (this should be an option in the very near-future).
|Overall the Raaw is an awesome machine that really can do it all.— Paul Aston|
To some, this might 'only' be an expensive aluminum frame, but it is a very well thought out piece of design, with more features than you can shake an aluminum tube at. Rather than solely thinking about performance and weight on paper, Raaw were aiming for durability and functionality as well. These durability goals are obvious when taking a look at the bearings and pivot hardware that RAAW chose. Large 52mm bearings are used at the main pivot, which is the same size that is used in the lower cup of a tapered headset. For the rest of the pivot bearings, 28mm bearings are used, including at the upper shock mount, in order to reduce friction (this also means one spare could fit any pivot). In addition, with the exception of the main pivot, all other hardware only requires a 5mm hex key to work on. These decisions are something that aggressive, high mileage riders who slap a lot of turns will approve of, as changing bearings every month or two soon becomes wearing.Integrated storage was something else Raaw were aiming for, similar to Specialized's SWAT system, to make it easier to carry everything you need without a bag. There is space for a bottle cage and full-size water bottle, along with a recess in the down tube for shock clearance and spare tube storage, with a strap also provided. Due to the way the top tube is constructed using two separate aluminum tubes, there is also a hidden pocket in the top tube and specially made pouch with press-stud for easy access. This is big enough to hold cash, keys, spare chain links, zip ties, and CO2 inflator.Other details are the hollow forged frame parts, which reduce weight without leaving external pockets for mud to gather. A threaded bottom bracket, external cable routing and differently sized brake mounts that do away with adapters.
Weight: I'm expecting many Pinkbiker's to read the weight figures in the details box at the start of this article and go straight to the comments to moan about the 37 lb weight of this bike, saying that 'X-bike weighs 27lbs and can be raced blah blah blah.' But this needs to be put into context. First, this machine has been hammered for months and has not missed a single beat, and it survived a brutal EWS race where I passed rider after rider with mechanicals issues. I do not believe there are many racers that finish one of these events with a complete, race ready bike that weighs less than 33lbs, but am happy to be proven wrong. The weight includes all alloy parts, 29" x 2.5" DH casing Maxxis Minion tires, a coil shock with a lockout, chainguide, mid-range GX Eagle, 170mm dropper post and the OneUp tool. The frame weight of 3.8kg is around a kilo more than a Scott Ransom for example, so if you wanted to, you could get this bike down around the 30 lb mark. I prefer to pedal a few extra pounds and not carry the bike down the trail.
DescendingThere's barely anything that got in the way of the Raaw on the way back down the hill. Big wheels and lots of travel meant it could take on everything with ease and I would be happy to take this bike to many full-on downhill tracks. The coil sprung suspension was superbly supple off the top, giving great traction and a smooth ride. The rear suspension had support in all the right places and plenty in reserve for the biggest of hits.The low bottom bracket gave a secure feeling and placed me in the bike, rather than on top of it. This also helps to carve corners but being so low does slow down the switch between directions somewhat. The downside of a steep seat angle, which becomes clear after riding downhill bikes with more relaxed or set-back saddles, is that the seat is getting in the way between your thighs more - the longer 170mm Reverb helped to get it out of the way, but I wouldn't say no to 200mm of drop.Overall, the Raaw is an awesome machine that really can do it all. If I was nitpicking I would raise the bottom bracket slightly. I proved this was my preference by running a 500lb spring to raise the dynamic ride height, giving more breathing space when descending and climbing through rock sections, and sped up changes of direction; the Raaw has plenty of stability so raising the bike a little shouldn't have any negative effects.
Storage: It was really useful having the little storage pockets on the bike, the OneUp EDC, and a bottle cage mount. I really like having everything on the bike, so that you can grab it from the shedand just get straight on the trail without checking that you have everything you need in a pack.
OneUp EDC: This tool stored away in the steerer tube was used many times, and it's quick and easy to use for small adjustments and repairs. Threading the steerer tube seems like a faff, but once done it does away with those silly star-nuts for good. If I had a collection of my own bikes, I would thread the steerer on each one and use the lockring headset cap (includes stem spacer and the lower steerer bung) which costs €20, then the tool can easily be transferred between bikes in seconds.
Double-sealed bearings: Even after months of use, racing, washing, riding in bad conditions, I popped off the double-sealed bearing caps to be presented by completely clean and smooth running bearings.
GX Eagle: I'll never be convinced that hanging a derailleur off the back of a bike is the final solution for the type of (careless and often imprecise) riding I do, but, in this drivetrain's defense, it performed smoothly throughout the duration of the test. Months and months of riding only resulted in a few tweaks being made to the cable tension and limit adjusters.
RockShox Suspension: The Super Deluxe and Lyrik also performed without issue. There may be dampers that can give you marginally better performance, but these units are the best set-and-forget on the market. Despite the limited adjustment, they do everything that nearly anybody could want with no fuss and great reliability – perfect for riders who want to shred more than tweak dials.
|The Madonna is a solid speed weapon that will fly you up and down mountains with ease, smash through the roughest terrain and put up with neglect. It's a great option for people that care more about getting on with riding and trail performance than double-checking grams on a spreadsheet.— Paul Aston|