Tested: Ragley Big Wig – a steel hardtail classic
This review is part of the Bike Test feature “Hard Tails for the Trails” from issue 137 of Singletrack magazine.
- Price: £1,999.99
- From: Ragley
We think Ragley is a firm believer in the idea that if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need to be fixed. The Big Wig is Ragley’s 29er steel hardtail and although it has a new paint finish and new build kit, the slim steel frame has remained unchanged over the past few years. Typically, a bike sold in 2021 with geometry from around three years ago might seem like something to avoid, but being the forward-thinking brand that it is, Ragley made the Big Wig quite long, low and loose from the start (which was back in 2013 when a 29er hardtail was still pretty niche).
In choosing the size of Ragley we would review, we decided on the bracket. While Andi would normally have opted for something with a little more reach, we wanted a hardcore hardtail to be a fun thing to ride – and also it couldn’t be so long that Hannah couldn’t take it. enjoy too. But a mid-size Ragley is actually quite roomy with a 440mm static reach, 65° head angle and 74° seat tube angle. Remember this is a hardtail and once the 140mm fork has been compressed with a ride and those numbers are measured at sag you are looking at a bike with a slightly reach longer and a stiffer seat tube.
The steel-framed Ragley has your traditional hardtail look, with a thin steel tube construction that feels tiny compared to an aluminum bike, tiny even compared to the 35mm RockShox Revelation fork stanchions plugged into the front of the bike. Although thin, the steel tubing is more than capable of surviving hardtail hooning and the triple butted 4130 Cro-Mo steel used on the Big Wig is a proven material, used for years on mountain bikes and the BMX. Being steel and benefiting from a reinforced tube profile, it also helps to keep weight to a minimum, adds strength where needed and creates that fast ride characteristic that quality steel is famous for. .
Costing £2,000, this version of the Ragley Big Wig sits just below the top end Race version it shares its frameset with. This lower model is built with a nice collection of quality components that will serve you well, but it’s worth remembering that for just £300 more the Race version packs a Lyrik Select, SLX instead of Deore fork and a pair of rims Stronger Nukeproof Horizon. instead of the Neuron wheelset, not to mention that all-important Assegai up front that suits British riding better than the DHF.
That said, it’s a good build—the Deore groupset looks amazing, runs great, and still has an SLX rear mechanism. The rest of the build spec is also good with a good mix of Ragley’s own kit and Nukeproof parts.
Andy says: Like each of the bikes tested, a medium Ragley Big Wig is great for playing in the woods, doing steep sessions, and at 178cm tall I can ride this playful steel bike on my local Peak District trails, but for the really big stuff, I’d probably size up.
Although the geometry hasn’t changed in a few years, I didn’t wish for any steeper or slacker, and getting up and down on the Big Wig is a lot of fun; however, the frame may outperform some of the components, especially this Revelation fork. The frame is very capable, and that quickly gets you looking for rougher, more aggressive lines, but the reveal is quickly overcome, especially under repeated hard knocks. If you’re riding groomed or just steep rather than rocky trails, the Revelation can cope, but as soon as it’s called upon to handle repeated hits, it holds back the rest of the package.
Keep the Big Wig away from seriously sketchy off-road and the complete package delivers an enjoyable and rewarding ride. In our photo shoot, our test bike was exceptional on the groomed trails and steep banks of Wharncliffe and Grenoside, but at home in thicker Peak District terrain, I wanted a better fork to complement the frameset .
While the Ragley is steel and has thick rubber, the bike accelerates well and climbs impressively. Winching to the top of my local descents, I appreciated the instant acceleration, but that shorter rear end that proves playful on thinner trails keeps you on your toes when the going gets tough.
On dry dusty trails the DHF/DHR tire combination is very good, but it doesn’t tend to stay dry for long in the UK and I would much prefer a front tire that offers better wet weather performance . This, along with the Revelation fork issues, can’t help but wonder if the Ragley’s price is a bit off. As I mentioned before our test bike is the most affordable Big Wig build and a Race level bike sits above that for £300 more – £300 is still a big change and I know everyone not everyone will be able to stretch to cover the extra, but if you can, I recommend it.
At £2,300 the Ragley Big Wig Race has the same capable frame, but built with parts you can race for longer and won’t stunt your progress. The extra cost gets you a Lyrik fork, SLX drivetrain, Assegai front tire, heavier-duty wheels, and SLX four-piston brakes with tool-less lever adjust. It’s a hell of an upgrade for very little extra, and that’s where my money would be spent.
Hana says: Riding the big wig is… commonplace, but not in a bad way. It’s neither so old school that it feels small and stuffy, nor so new school that it feels like you have to throw in enduro shapes to get it to go where you want it to. It’s just… there. Reliable enough to ride wherever you want, but without any of those “oh thanks for the bike or I wouldn’t have saved that line” moments. It’s not deprecated or available – that’s just.
This centrist geometry means it’s comfortable and familiar to hop on and ride – there’s no learning from weaknesses. You’ve got a steel frame, a decent set of components, and all is well with the world. Pedal up and down and it’s not a cross-country whippet, but it’s not a reluctant tractor either. I’ve done it on some of my steepest local climbs, lungs draped over the handlebars, brain wishing to lose traction and have a reason to stop. Head down and it has all the features you would hope for in a trail bike, but without getting into the enduro side of things where aggressive body position and speed are needed to bring the bike to life. The bases are short enough to be a little nimble, but that doesn’t make me feel like I might like to head to my local pump track and jump in for a few #sickwhips (I have an active imagination…) . It’s a solid, sensible trail bike that should let you tackle all the intermediate runs you want. Head to the most specialized corners of the mountain biking world and you can always take your Big Wig with you, you’re just not going to get a free get out of jail card on a rocky descent or a set of switchbacks of enduro – although you could get away with more on the more specified Race model.
More isn’t always more, and I suspect that for the vast majority of trail audiences, there’s plenty here to make local trails and red trail centers a bucket of fun. Steer your wheels down a black track and you’ll still have fun – it’s just that it will be you and your skills that will get you there, not a pile of engineering.
If you want a bike that needs to be tamed or that will tame the trail, then this isn’t it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun – it’s a bike that works, and will work for most people who might be looking for a trail bike. Most of us aren’t Sam Hill or Yoann Barelli—most of us are just looking for a bike that works, a durable frame, and a solid set of components to see us on the trails we want to ride.
A superb and beautiful steel frame that will give you years of reliable enjoyment. The Big Wig is a proven rig that delivers that classic hardtail feel and steel compliance. It’s not as long or slack as some bikes, but your trails might not necessarily need anything more aggressive, and a DIY rider won’t find the Big Wig frame to be a hindrance. If you’re heavier, faster or like to ride a lot of rough stuff we’d recommend going for the frame only option or digging behind the sofa for an extra £300 and grab the Big Wig Race and benefit of these great upgrades for years to come.
Specification of Big Ragley Wig
- Framework Cro-Mo 4130 steel
- Fork RockShox Revelation 140mm
- Hubs Resistant to nuclear weapons
- Rims Nuclear Weapon Proof Neutron
- Tires Front: Maxxis Minion DHF 2.5 TR 3C EXO+, Rear: Maxxis Minion DHR II 2.4 TR 3C EXO+
- Pedalboard Shimano Deore
- Rear mechanics Shimano SLX 12 speed
- Joysticks Shimano SLX 12 speed
- Cassette Shimano Deore 12 Speed 10-51T
- Brakes Shimano Deore 4 piston
- Stem Ragley Stubbing V2 50mm
- Bars Ragley alloy handlebar
- Handles Ragley A20
- Saddle stem Mark-X Ascend 125mm
- Saddle Ragley Tracker
- Size tested M
- Sizes available S, M, L, XL
- Weight 15.1kg/33.28lbs
|Tested:||by Hannah and Andi for|
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