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.
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.
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)