Raleigh has followed up it's successful introduction of the XXIX single speed with this geared only hardtail in steel called the XXIX+G. (What is this? Some kind of new math?)
The bike comes in a very nice shade of Mr. 24 approved black. (Honestly, I worry about that guy some times. Black, black, or black, I'm thinking he needs to expand his horizons a bit!)
While the graphics seem to be a very subtle affair at first glance, you get a whole different picture when you step behind the bike. It's a unique take on the traditional downtube branding. While I find it appealing as it is, it's a bit of a buzzkill when you mount your bottle cages, as they obscure the font
This is the other end of the spectrum, graphics-wise. Here we have the model name done up in an almost "beer bottle-like" band around the top tube. I like that it's small and out of the way, (probably not the greatest for brand recognition!). Too bad the "Raleigh" decal wasn't done in a similarly subtle and functional fashion
Okay, enough about the looks of the bike, how about the hardware? Well, it's a pretty solid package. Keeping in mind that this is a work horse type of trail bike, I thought Raleigh did a great job. The drive train consists of the ever more common SRAM parts. X-7 rear derailluer is shifted by SRAM X-5 trigger shifters. The front derailluer duties are performed by a Shimano Deore unit. The crank is a TruVativ Firex outboard bearing, two piece type. In the test ride right after build up, the shifters were almost silent and felt stealth-like in comparison to the pronounced "ker-chunk" you hear and feel with X-0 or X-9 stuff. Still, they seemed to work just fine out of the box. The brakes are Avid BB-5's activated by Avid levers sans leverage adjustment. It's a nice setup that should be trouble free. Wheels are spinning on Joy Tech disc hubs laced to WTB rims that have eyelets and are disc specific. Nothing flashy here, just stuff that'll last and do a good job out on the trail. Tires are the ubiquitous WTB Exi Wolfs. While they will be fine for 90% of the folks just getting into 29"ers, I'd have liked to have seen a lighter, snappier set of shoes spec'ed like the Maxxis Ignitors, which would have shed some serious weight off this machine and made it feel alot better to test riders. Not to mention the fact that Ignitors pretty much beat Exi's performance-wise just about anywhere for your average trail rider. Anyway, tires are an easy upgrade, so no big deal here. Up front the shock duties are handled by the excellent Rock Shox Reba, which I felt really makes the bike a great value.
I should also mention that the frame is an excellent double butted steel affair that is very similar to the XXIX single speed, only better. It's better because it's designed around a suspension fork, which the XXIX single speed isn't. (To me, one of the major downfalls of the single speed version of this bike) It also shares the modular driveside aluminum drop out insert, albeit with a derailluer hangar. The lack of an EBB on the XXIX+G means that SS'ing this bike would require a tensioner or an ENO rear hub, if you were so inclined to ditch the drive train.
The rest of the parts spec is pretty solid with the exception of one nit that I also had with the single speed XXIX. The seatpost is too short! These 29"er designs need at least a 400mm seat post to accomodate riders properly. This isn't just a Raleigh problem, but an emerging faux pas that the industry is committing concerning seat post length for 29"ers. Take a cue from the British and spec 400mm seat posts in your 29"ers, please!
This should be an excellent everyday, reliable, smooth riding hard tail, geared specific design for the average trail rider. It also should be an easily upgraded platform for those looking to throw some bling at a nicely designed steel geared specific XC bike. The price is right, and it looks pretty nice, even with the slightly goofy downtube decal. I'll have a full on ride report coming in the next month or so, weather permitting. Stay tuned!
Thanks to the Raleigh Guys for the XXIX+G!! I'll be logging some serious mileage on this bike, so stay tuned for some feedback in the coming months!