Mullet Madonna and Jibb

RAAW and 29” Wheels

Ever since the very start of RAAW in 2016 one thing was clear, we loved the potential of 29” wheels. The grip in corners, the free speed on straights and the confidence from the in-bike BB position are all superior to the smaller wheel sizes. The downsides once manifested themselves in a bit more weight and maybe a less strong wheel, but wheel manufacturers have come a long way since the first big wheels and now there are no considerable compromises with mid-range and high-end 29” wheels from the established brands.

Wheel size is only one part of the bigger puzzle

A bike consists of hundreds of parameters that all add up to create the riding experience when you’re out on the trails. From the wheel size, geometry, suspension design and materials to the characteristics of all components bolted to the frame, it’s a massive puzzle and it’s hugely important to not make single metrics responsible for defining the overall riding-characteristics. The wheel size needs to work with the rest of the bike. 

The most common argument for a mullet-setup is to increase the playfulness of the bike. But it’s not quite as black and white simple as that. It’s not one sole metric that is responsible for the playfulness of the bike, it’s the bike as a whole. Changing the wheel size would need to go hand-in-hand with other changes to the bike. If you’d take an XL sized enduro bike and just stuff a smaller rear wheel in it, it won’t magically transform it into a BMX. It will change the handling of the bike, but in many more ways than just making it more playful. The balance from front to back, the seated position for pedaling as well as many other things will all be impacted. To make a mullet-setup work, the solution lies in a set of changes that work as a package. You need to design the bike around the mullet wheel setup from the beginning to make the most advantage from it, while minimizing the compromises.

It’s also important to be aware that different changes can lead to similar results. Your bike is full of potential to get ‘er dialed. Higher bars can make it easier to manual, which you might find is the playfulness you were looking for. Or longer chainstays might give you the perfect balance between the grip of the two tyres, resulting in all the confidence to let go off the brakes in corners and have a bike that corners better.

Making a Madonna or Jibb work with a mullet setup

Short answer, it won’t.

Just for a minute though, what would a 27.5” rear wheel do to a Madonna or Jibb? Could you just change the back wheel and call it good?

Doing this change from 29” to 27.5” would drop the rear axle by around 20mm, which in bike terms is a lot. This would in turn drop the BB by around 13-14mm, slackening the head angle, making the reach substantially shorter and slackening the seat tube angle. Your geometry would be a long way away from what we intended and dangerously close to the ground. We like our BBs low, but not that low.

You could say that all you need to do is extend the suspension to raise the BB back up and restore the geometry, and some aftermarket links do attempt just this. But in extending the suspension they also greatly alter the kinematics and risk certain parts of the frame colliding together. Our frames are designed for a certain range of movement of the suspension parts. There is some tolerance at either end, but not much.

It’s also not as simple as just using a longer shock. The Madonna, with its 205mm shock, and Jibb, with its 185mm, are designed around those exact lengths and extending the suspension too far will just result in the same collision of frame parts as we mentioned earlier.

There’s a difference between adjustability and compatibility too. Having a frame, or using an aftermarket link, to make your frame compatible with a mullet setup might fix some of the changes in geometry. But you’re left with some unavoidable changes to your bike’s fit, suspension and overall feel. It might be just one of your two wheels, but there’s much more to think about than just the wheel size.

Will we offer mullet in the future? 

Just because we make bikes with 29” wheels front and back doesn’t mean that we hate small wheels. They are always something we have in consideration when we start new developments. We’re constantly discussing bikes internally at RAAW, and mullets are something we talk about. While the Jibb, Madonna and DH bike roll on the big wheels right now, it’s certainly not set in stone that it will be this way forever.

Frame modification with aftermarket parts

Aftermarket suspension links have been rising in popularity recently, promising to extract more of the good stuff out of a frame, but sometimes forgetting to mention the potential downsides and risks. Custom links are offered to increase travel, increase progression or make your bike mullet-proof. For some specific riders in specific cases that might result in an overall improvement, but we would generally be very careful with the changes that aftermarket links bring.

The rocker link is a very important structural part of the frame. On RAAW bikes, it’s responsible for taking a lot of side and scissoring loads seeing that on our Madonna and Jibb, the seat stays aren’t connected to each other. That’s the reason we machine the rocker link from a single piece of aluminium and paid careful attention to its shape, geometry and material to make sure that it’s up to the job in hand.

Changing the rocker link to an aftermarket one might result in more side loading on the shock, causing higher levels of wear or even damaging the shock. This is the main reason why structural modification void our frames warranty. Our frames are also tested for strength and fatigue to high standards, and structural changes would require a complete re-test to make sure that the changes would stand up in the real world.

On top of this, the changes to the kinematic of the bike can’t be ignored. The directions and magnitudes of the forces as you go through the travel on a different link will be different, and might not align with how we designed the frame with our original link.