The Bottom Line
Choose your terrain wisely and you're in for a fast, fun ride. Very different than my everyday full-suspension geared rig, the XXIX is a rigid singlespeed. I find it uses less of my brain as I never have to worry about when to shift--letting me focus on what's important: the ride. Riding this bike is sure to increase your fitness level, as it is a full-body workout--a workout that will ultimately make you a better mountain biker.
- Easy on the wallet
- Responsive on the right terrain
- Will likely improve your riding
- It's not light
- Brakes aren't the greatest
- 2011 model has the following specs:
- Frame - 4130 Butted Chromoly w/CNC Dropouts
- Fork - 4130 Chromoly w/Disc Tabs, Suspension-Corrected
- Brakes - Avid BB5 Mechanical Disc
- 28T Gates Belt Drive
- MSRP: $1,100
Guide Review - Raleigh XXIX
The Raleigh XXIX has a lot going on for a simple bike. For starters, it’s a singlespeed. It's also got 29-inch wheels.
Standard mountain bikes have had 26-inch wheels for as long as it's mattered, but 29ers are increasingly becoming popular for a variety of reasons. They ride well in rough conditions, roll more easily over obstacles and offer tall riders a more natural-feeling geometry. Shorter riders may not feel as comfortable on the XXIX due to frame geometry compromises (though this 5’2” rider felt just fine).
Full suspension or hardtail? It’s the great debate many mountain bikers face when purchasing a new bike.
How about no suspension?
Out of the box, Raleigh’s XXIX comes with a rigid front fork and no rear suspension. Depending on the trail, it can be a bumpy ride. But somewhat surprisingly, I only feel uncomfortable on long rocky/rooty descents. Log crossings can be a bit difficult with a rigid fork as well since there is no extra give before you pull up on your handlebars to clear the obstacle. Why, then, am I fond of it? Because it’s probably lighter weight than the suspension fork I'd put on, offers great response when climbing hard and doesn’t leak, creak or flex a great deal.
When choosing where to ride my XXIX, I make a conscious effort to stay away from trails littered with gnarly obstacles. I am fond of the extra help suspension gives me in the skills department. And this bike, as mentioned, has none. Also, it may be obvious--but I'll point it out anyway--trails with excessive climbing can zap my energy pretty quick atop this singlespeed steed. However, if I rode a singlespeed on a regular basis, or even a tad more than I do, I doubt this would be an issue.
The XXIX comes with Avid BB5 mechanical disc brakes. To be frank, they aren’t the best. They don’t provide that much stopping power, which makes me nervous on long descents and fast, winding singletrack (where a sudden stop might be necessary). My solution to the less-than-ideal brake setup? Plan to upgrade if you plan to use the bike often and on longer rides. A common trend is to jump up to the Avid BB7s. Do some research—there are plenty of brake systems that will give you more power and less fade than the BB5s. Of course, if you don't take this bike on long distances, there is no reason to upgrade, in my opinion.
I find the XXIX to be most enjoyable on smoother trails without an excessive amount of elevation gain. In fact, places such as Kingdom Trails in Vt. and Allegrippis Trail System in Pa. are where the bike shines. I’ve ridden my XXIX at both places and appreciate the ride--speedy and responsive. I'd wager that if I rode this bike more often than I do, I would greatly improve my bike handling and overall fitness.
*My older bike doesn’t have this, but it's worth mentioning that the 2011 Raleigh XXIX comes stock with a 28T Gates Belt Drive.