Words by Robert Johnston | Photos by Finlay Anderson

Since RAAW hit the market back in 2018, they’ve been firmly on our radar, thanks to their no-nonsense approach to engineering their aluminum frames and some solid looks and geometry. We were stoked to finally get the latest iteration of their enduro bike – the Madonna V2.2 – to test in the UK, and set about getting the miles in to get to the bottom of its performance. It’s true that good things come to those who wait. Let’s get into it


• 160mm Horst Link Suspension
• HTA 64.5
• STA 78.3 (effective)
• REACH 480 (Large)

Price: $2,451 /£1,870 / €2,540 – $5,108 /£3,897 /€5,295
Website: Raawmtb.com


The Madonna has been slowly improved by RAAW since it was first launched back in 2017, and is now on its third iteration, named V2.2. The basic layout and concept is unchanged, but RAAW has taken feedback and developed some of their own ideas to further refine and improve on their original design.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review


The RAAW Madonna V2.2 is a 160mm travel enduro bike manufactured from 6066 T6 aluminum, designed in Germany and manufactured in Taiwan by Genio. RAAW bikes are all designed upon the same principles, with priorities made for durability to stand up to seasons of hard abuse; considerations made to make maintenance as friendly as possible; and performance that encourages riders to push hard and “send it”. RAAW backs their frames with a five-year warranty for first and second owners, covering you should anything go wrong.

Immediately it’s clear that RAAW doesn’t mess around, with the huge main pivot; bearings on both ends of the shock, and some nicely executed external cable routing with multiple clamped guides. All of the frame pivots use the same relatively chunky 28mm bearings, aside from the giant 52mm pair that are used on the main pivot of the Horst Link suspension design; and all are equipped with “hub cap style” bearing covers to shield them from the elements and extend their service life. All frame hardware shares a 5mm Allen key to remove the need to play “guess the size”, making maintenance that little bit easier.

The rear brake is mounted on a custom 203mm post mount, removing the need for any adaptors and highlighting the “no BS” mentality of the bike. The rear axle is a custom unit that has a shape which effectively connects each side of the frame, preventing them from rotating independently and increasing the stiffness for minimal weight penalty. The rear dropout is designed to offer 10mm of chainstay length adjustment: it’s supplied with the standard “middle” position axle, but a separate unit can be purchased to allow for the adjustment to be made in either direction. Frame protection is added to the usual spots, with a custom made 5mm thick rubber guard on the downtube and bottom bracket; ribbed rubber chainstay protector and silicone protector on the inside of the seat stay. There’s room for at least a 500ml water bottle inside the front triangle on all sizes, and mounts on the underside of the top tube for a gear strap.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review


The Madonna V2.2 uses a four bar (Horst Link) suspension design to deliver 160mm rear travel, which is paired with a 170mm fork as standard but can be ran with a 180mm unit if desired. RAAW goes a step further than most with their suspension, offering two different versions of their rocker link: the Rocker 60 and Rocker 65. These both share the same 160mm travel with roughly 20% progression but are designed to use either a 60mm or 65mm shock stroke to deliver this travel. Heavier riders can opt for the Rocker 65 to reduce the spring rate needed to achieve the correct sag, whereas lighter riders can go for the Rocker 60 to ensure there’s enough leverage to overcome any friction at the start of the stroke, increasing sensitivity.

Anti squat numbers are reasonable but not ultra-high, with roughly 105% at sag in the climbing gears and climbing to 130% in the hardest gears – this gives increased support as rider weight transfer increases, which should deliver optimized pedaling characteristics throughout the cassette. The 20% progression over the stroke should play nicely with coil or air shocks, letting the rider choose their preference in feel. Braking shouldn’t impact the suspension reactivity with 30-55% anti rise that steadily increases as you go deeper into the travel but won’t help much to preserve the geometry of the bike when braking.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review


RAAW offers the Madonna V2.2 in sizes Small through to XL, for riders from 158-199cm (5’2”-6’6”). Reach numbers go from 430mm to 505mm in 25mm increments, with the Large tested coming in at 480mm. Stack heights are relatively high across the range, beginning at 621mm and topping out at 670mm on the extra-large. The nominal chainstay length grows from 440cm on small and medium sizes, through 445mm on the Large to 450mm on the XL; and all retain the ability to modify by 5mm shorter or longer with a different rear axle to tailor to rider preference. The bottom bracket sits 35mm below the axles and the head tube angle is 64.5 degrees. Seat tube angles change slightly with the size to balance the rider, with a 77-degree effective angle for the small and medium, and 78 degree effective for large and extra-large. The size large tested has a 1269mm wheelbase – fairly average for the category.


RAAW doesn’t currently offer any complete bikes, letting the customer build up their Madonna V2.2 to their dream spec. The frame only is available for $2,451 /£1,870 /€2,540 in a choice of black or raw (tested), and a choice of coil or air rear shocks from Ohlins and Fox can be added for quite reasonable extra costs. There’s the option to add a fork to this for a reasonable surcharge also, or opt for one of the “Rolling Chassis” builds with frame, suspension and a wheelset, which tops out at the $5,108 /£3,897 /€5,295 Fox Factory Rolling Chassis. All of these include free international shipping currently, though import duties may be incurred.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review


BUILD IMPRESSIONS | Since RAAW doesn’t offer full builds, they provided me with the Madonna V2.2 in size large with both the air and coil Ohlins shock offerings – the TTX2 air and TTX22m.2 coil. This would allow me to fit components that I’m familiar with, and experiment with both shock options to add further insight into the performance. I built it up with the same selection of components I’d fitted to the Kavenz VHP16 I tested recently, ensuring I felt comfortable and familiar with everything apart from the frame (and e*thirteen Helix Race Alloy crankset) and could quickly identify its performance traits. Unfortunately, the Madonna V2.2 didn’t allow me to use the 240mm OneUp Components dropper post I’d have liked as there’s not enough straight seat tube to allow it to fit. A 210mm unit went in no problem though, so I still had an acceptable amount of drop. My no-nonsense build with burly tires tipped the scales at 37.5lbs, which may seem high on paper, but gave me little to complain about on the trail.

Building up the RAAW Madonna V2.2 was a pleasure. It’s clear that they have covered all of the details very well, and the quality of finish is excellent. Full external cable routing (aside from the final portion of dropper cable) ensured it was stress-free getting things routed and ready. That said, there are so many separate clamping points for the cables that it still takes a little while to get them all setup and dialed in. It means that once they’re set up though, they stay put really well, and there was no rattling or issues of any sort throughout the test. The frame protection is all well considered, apart from the lack of covering over the gear cable on the underside of the chainstay – ideally I’d like some form of rubber over this to keep chain noise to an absolute minimum and to protect the gear outer from unnecessary wear.

The bearings on both ends of the shock hardware are excellent to see, offering a very refined interface between the shock and frame, and reducing the friction as the suspension cycles. The hardware all went together reassuringly solidly and easily with good alignment during shock switches. I’d go as far to say that it’s the nicest setup I’ve seen so far for mounting a shock on a mountain bike. Over the testing period, which has included some classically Scottish wet and muddy rides, there’s not been a single spec of dust or drop of water that’s found its way behind the bearing covers on the shock mounts, so they’re clearly doing a stellar job at sealing them and I’d imagine those bearings are likely to last a very long time without needing to be switched out. If they stand the test of time between their weather sealing and remaining free from play, then they’re truly the ultimate solution.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review

CLIMBING | The seated climbing position on the RAAW proved to be very comfortable. The high stack; fairly high-rise OneUp bar; and relatively steep seat tube angle combined to give a nicely relaxed position, well centered between the wheels. The climbing platform came as a bit of a surprise – when standing up to sprint at least – with less support than typically found on similar bikes these days. That’s not to say that it’s overly inefficient to pedal, but it’s not quite as firm as many in the category, and you should be very careful not to let this put your pedals in the danger zone. When seated the balance is spot-on – the centered seating position prevents you from needing so much support from the suspension when you pedal, and instead the slightly reduced anti squat in the climbing gears means the rear end is able to conform better to the terrain, finding traction to keep you moving forwards. Regardless of the gear selected, pedaling performance feels quite consistent when standing, since that anti squat figure rises slightly as you get into the harder gears where your weight transfer is typically more aggressive.

Though the pedaling platform isn’t as firm as some, steep terrain can be tackled without too much issue as the geometry puts plenty of weight on the front end and prevents it from lifting under power, yet it’s not overly long to the point that it’s a problem to lift the front end up. Pedal clearance with the 180mm Ohlins fork and 165mm cranks I was running was acceptable, if not great, so I’d be concerned for riders with the standard 170mm fork and a longer crank – if you’re going to be climbing a lot of technical chunky terrain, it’ll pay to be mindful of your setup. The slightly higher weight than some skinnier carbon fiber alternatives is notable if you’re trying to get off the line at record speed, but the comfort and ease of riding the Madonna is likely to save energy in other ways, and produced no real qualms when it came to getting up the hill.

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review

DESCENDING | This RAAW had me screaming its name from the first day I got the setup dialed in – Madonna means “My Lady” in Italian and is often used in reference to “Mother of Jesus” – and I was in some form of disbelief of how easy it was to get immediately up to speed on RAAW’s enduro machine. With the fork already in a happy place from my previous testing, it was simply a case of getting the rear end balanced – which proved to be close to the baseline setting for the Ohlins TTX2 air shock – and I instantly felt at home. For me the biggest compliment you can give to a bike is that it’s easy to ride, and the RAAW Madonna V2.2 proved to be as intuitive as they come, with an excellent blend of geometry characteristics; smooth, sensitive and predictable rear suspension; and excellent flex balance with a healthy amount of stiffness in that rear end. The rear end is one of the stiffer feeling aluminum rear ends I’ve ridden for some time, and though it’s not always a desirable thing, there’s no denying the confidence a direct response from the rear wheel to your feet can instill when pushing the bike hard.

Integrated deep into the bike thanks to the low bb, with that mid-length rear end and slightly steeper head tube angle than many; the Madonna is inspirational when turning, whether it be flat or off camber loose turns or tire-ripping hardpack berms. While the low bb may not be ideal for tech climbs and necessitates care when pedaling across traverses, it does feel reassuring to be integrated into the bike in such a manner. The head angle is not crazy slack, so you’re not left with a front wheel that sits miles in front of your hands and goes light if you’re not careful. While this does mean it’s not quite as stable in a straight line as it could be with a head angle a degree slacker, it finds a nice balance where you retain a little more agility and directness to the handling for tighter terrain.

The braking influence is one element that for my personal preferences was a treat, but some may find unnerving in steeper terrain. With such low anti rise, it’s down to the fork setup and rider input to prevent the bike from pitching forward excessively when braking hard, which is a tradeoff I’m happy with to ensure the rear end is unhindered by braking forces in rough terrain. You can dip your heels when you’re braking hard and sit off the rear of the bike a touch to counteract it in rough terrain, which is a perfectly fine approach unless you’re riding steep terrain at the highest speeds you possibly can, at which point it’s perhaps not the most effective setup since you can begin to lose front wheel traction. There’s a bit of give-and-take for every suspension kinematic setup, and while the geometry preservation isn’t excellent on the Madonna, the smooth and sensitive rear end that you’re given regardless of when and how you brake is not a terrible tradeoff.

Balanced handling makes for a bike that jumps well, however it’s not the most poppy and playful machine, instead preferring a little more of a race-focused mindset with plenty of speed. This is in part due to the weight, which is on the higher side of things, but also due to its beautifully sensitive suspension which robs you of a little “pump” when you hit a lip or go through a compression. You could likely obtain a compression-heavy setup that improves this, but its overall relatively lengthy wheelbase and low bottom bracket are always going to point towards the faster end of the spectrum. The air shock did provide some improved pop and general reactivity, but the calm nature and ultimate traction that the coil shock provided was my preferred setup. Regardless of the shock choice though there was seldom any notion of harsh bottoming out, with good control of the use of travel and no weird sensations produced by either unit.

The Wolf’s Last Word

Though we haven’t put thousands of miles on the RAAW Madonna V2.2, it’s safe to say it’s a bike built to stand the test of time, and its performance would leave the majority of enduro riders very happy for this time. Balanced and predictable, the RAAW Madonna V2.2 is an enduro bike that is very easy to ride, letting you focus on the trail ahead while it goes about its business and provides you with a solid base upon which to charge.

Price: $2,451 /£1,870 / €2,540 (Frame Only)
Website: Raawmtb.com

Raaw Madonna V2.2 Mountain Bike Review


Frame: RAAW 6066 T6 aluminum | 160mm
Fork: Ohlins RFX38 M.2 | 180mm
Shock: Ohlins TTX22 Coil

Brakes: Hope Tech 4 V4 | 200mm 2.3mm rotors
Handlebar: OneUp Carbon 35mm | 800mm | 35mm Rise
Stem: Race Face Aeffect R 35mm | 50mm Length
Seatpost: One Up V2 210mm
Saddle: SQ Lab 611 Ergowave Active | 14cm

Rear Wheel: SILT Carbon AM
Front Wheel: Nukeproof Horizon V2 alloy
Front Tire: VEE Snap WCE | GXE Core | FULL 40 | 29″ x 2.5″
Rear Tire: VEE Attack FSX | DH Core | FULL 40 | 29″ x 2.4″

Bottom Bracket: e*thirteen threaded
Cassette: Shimano XT Hyperglide+ | 10-51T
Cranks: e*thirteen Helix Race Alloy | 32T | 165mm
Shifter: Shimano SLX | 12spd
Derailleur: Shimano Deore | 12spd

We Dig

Very well engineered
Balanced geometry
Traction rich suspension

We Don’t

Not the peppiest machine


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