Mondraker's new Neat gets a TQ motor, 360Wh removable battery, revised Zero suspension design and an all-up weight of just under 18kg.
Mondraker enters the mid-power, diet e-bike category with the Neat; a trail/enduro bike with a TQ motor and battery. I travelled to the Pyrenees to give it ride and find out how it stacks up against the best electric bikes on the market.
Need to know
- Full carbon frame and TQ system adds up to a sub-18kg e-bike
- New Zero suspension layout with 150mm rear travel
- Removable 360Wh battery and optional 160Wh range extender
- Four frame sizes and three models starting at £6,799
While the bike industry is currently battling strong economic headwinds, no one seems to have told Mondraker. Against a backdrop of demand suppressed by rapidly rising prices, and a market flooded with excess units, the Spanish brand enjoyed growth of 50% last year. For a physical manifestation of its success, one needs only look at its impressive new facility in Elche, just outside Alicante. Resembling a glittering glazed doughnut, it could easily be confused for a contemporary art gallery or a tech company HQ. And housed within are not only the white collar departments, but a substantial assembly line, a move that gives the brand greater flexibility when it comes to production, and insulates it to some degree from potential future shocks to the supply chain.
“The perfect blend of Crafty Carbon and Foxy” – Israel Romero, Mondraker
To thank for this enviable growth are rising sales of its e-bikes, and chiefly the Crafty trail/enduro model. There are other models in the range, with varying intended uses, but it’s the 160/150mm travel category that seems to be the sweet spot for the brand, and where demand is strongest. To bolster this segment, dip its toes into a growing sub-category, and hopefully attract a new audience, Mondraker is launching this brand new lightweight e-mtb. It’s called the Neat, and it’s basically a Foxy with a motor.
Sub-18kg for the top model
As well as breaking new ground, the Neat also signals a new design direction and a fledgling partnership with German motor manufacturer TQ. What it’s not is Mondraker’s first sub-20kg e-bike. Back in 2019 it built a Crafty Carbon with full-fat Bosch system that weighed considerably less than anything with a similar engine and fuel tank. Although not as light as rivals such as the Scott Lumen and Rotwild R.X275, the new Neat saves 2kg over the old flyweight Crafty, as well as bringing a ride experience that claims to be much closer to an analogue bike in terms of noise, handling, and drag.
Ground Zero: A fresh configuration for Mondraker’s suspension system
Even a casual glance is enough to tell you that the Neat gets a reconfigured Zero twin-link suspension layout. The shock still actuated by a rocker link, but it now reclines at an acute angle and is anchored at the swingarm rather than the lower link. What this does is allow Mondraker to lower the rocker link assembly without interfering with the motor, which gives the opportunity to increase standover clearance. In a similar vein, the top tube has been radically slimmed, and the wafer-thin profile gives more room inside the front triangle for bottle cages and tool mounts.
Alongside rejigging the suspension layout, Mondraker has gone for a shorter length shock with less stroke. As such it can use a higher leverage rate, which helps overcome friction within the shock. It’s also one of the reasons why the Neat gets a piggyback reservoir Fox Float X shock, rather than a lighter inline model, to better manage heat.
While I’m on the subject of the suspension, it’s worth noting that the Neat has slightly less progression than the Crafty (24% for the Neat Vs 26% for the Crafty), as well as a more supple beginning stroke and – given that leg power is more important on mid-power e-bikes like the Neat – higher anti-squat levels as well. In this respect it has more in common with the Foxy analogue bike than the Crafty.
Weight: Important, but not the primary goal
Mondraker says that weight was not the number one goal with the Neat, but that’s not to say it wasn’t towards the top of the white board. The naked full carbon frame is claimed to weigh 2.3kg in size medium, which is only 100g more than the Foxy Carbon. Add on the motor (1.85kg), battery (1.8kg), and shock (0.5kg) and you’re at 6.7kg for the chassis. Fully built bikes, according to Mondraker’s figures, will be between 17.9kg and 18.9kg depending on the spec level. Considering all models come with 200mm rotors, four-piston brakes, piggyback shocks and reinforced casing tyres, that’s extremely competitive. For example, the lightest mid-power model that’s been on our scales so far is the Specialized S-Works Levo SL, at 17.65kg, but that has a smaller capacity battery.
Fully enclosed down tube and a removable battery
TQ’s power pack is a 360Wh unit and it’s housed in the fully enclosed down tube. This keeps the weight down and frame strength high, but in an upgrade to that original lightweight Crafty, you can actually remove the battery. There’s a twist lock on the sump guard – remove that and then loosen two bolts and the battery slides out for recharging, or to slot in a freshy. As such, theoretically at least, you could remove the battery and fly with your bike, using the 160Wh range extender to power the motor. And given that an Evoc bike bag weighs around 8kg, it should actually be possible to get under the 32kg weight limit of most airlines.
One of TQ’s greatest assets is its compact size. Thanks to the concentric ‘harmonic ring’ design, it takes up so little space in the frame that it is almost imperceptible to the casual passerby. Coupled with the exceptionally quiet function, it’s arguably the stealthiest system on the market.
Three levels of assistance are offered and accessed via the remote unit on the bars, while the top tube display lets you see which mode you’re in, as well as giving a rundown on the battery remaining. At its most generous, the TQ dishes out 300W of additional power, while the torque tops out at 50Nm, so it feels strongest on gradual gradients at higher cadences. Like its rivals, the TQ system is fully customisable by connecting to the app via Bluetooth.
Range with the internal battery
As with all lightweight e-bike systems, range is the key metric for most prospective consumers. “How much riding can I do in a single charge?” is what everyone wants to know. Of course, it’s not that simple, as there are so many variables, but when we tested the TQ against the Fazua, Specialized SL 1.1 and Forestal/Bafang, it came midpack. We got 802m of climbing and 20km distance using the highest power mode. In comparison, the Fazua Ride 60 gave nearly 1,100m of elevation and over 28km distance using its most powerful mode. On the Neat launch, I managed 944m of climbing and 27km distance using a mix of all three power modes and had 9% battery remaining. In short, it’s safe to say that the 160Wh TQ range extender will be an essential purchase for most Neat owners.
Three models on offer, all with carbon frames
Given the weight penalty, Mondraker says that it makes no sense to offer an alloy frame option, so all three Neat models use the same full carbon frame. At the top of the range is the Neat RR SL with Factory-level Fox suspension, SRAM’s XX Eagle T-Type Transmission and Mavic E-Crossmax Carbon XLR wheels. It costs £10,499 and weighs a claimed 17.9kg in size medium. The bike I rode is the Neat RR. Again, it comes with Factory Fox suspension but gets SRAM’s GX T-Type Transmission and Mavic’s alloy E-Deemax SL wheels. Finally there’s the Neat R for £6,799 with Fox Performance suspension, SRAM GX cable-operated drivetrain and all-up weight of 18.9kg.
How it rides
I almost turned down the opportunity to ride the Neat. Why? With all of the size large test bikes spoken for on the launch, initially it looked like I’d been squeezed out. After reading Bike Test Editor Muldoon’s comments on the Crafty sizing from his review in the E-Bike of the Year test, I didn’t think a medium frame would work. However, given the respectable 470mm reach, I thought it was worth a shot. I’m glad I took a punt on the smaller size, as even with the 30mm stem the Neat RR didn’t feel cramped. For reference, the smallest frame gets a 450mm reach, the large sits at 495mm, and the XL grows to 515mm. Mondraker has kept the seat tube lengths short, too – only 420mm on the medium – which leaves lots of room for a longer dropper post and absolutely acres of standover clearance.
Notes on the numbers
If we run a finger across the geometry chart, there are a couple of other figures that stand out. One is the BB height, which, in typical Mondraker style, is higher than average at 348mm. Of its main rivals, the new 150mm travel Specialized Levo SL has a 344mm BB height, but the 140mm travel Trek Fuel EXe is significantly lower at 332mm (both measured in the low position). Mondraker’s decision pays dividends if you live somewhere chunky, where the reduced chance of pedal strikes will be a big benefit. But on smoother terrain, it could definitely be lower in order to gain cornering stability. One way to make it work in both scenarios would be to fit a flip chip, but the Neat geo is not adjustable in any way.
The other interesting metric is chainstay length. Although the brand has dabbled with adjustable chainstay lengths in the past, it keeps things simple on the Neat with a constant, and fairly neutral 450mm rear centre measurement throughout the size range. In making that choice it has had to balance sufficient length to give good climbing traction against the snappy, lively handling of a short back end. Then there’s the need to keep a good weight balance across the four frame sizes, given that front centre measurements change by 65mm from small to XL.
One problem with the revised Zero suspension design on the Neat is that setting sag is tricky. There’s no easy way to get a tape measure in the shock tunnel, so I had to get roughly into the 30% ballpark and then fine tune the shock pressure on the ride. Not ideal, and it would be nice to see Mondraker come up with some kind of tool to help in this crucial set-up step. As such, I went from 180psi in the shock and 80psi in the fork to 185psi and 75psi respectively by the end of the day. This gave a harmonious response and great balance, particularly with the compression dial in the mid setting to add a bit of pedalling support when climbing.
On those ascents it’s easy to keep the cranks spinning thanks to that high BB, which keeps the motor in the sweet spot. Even with a tiny 30mm stem, the steep 76.5º effective seat angle and relatively long chainstays help keep the front wheel on the deck and the rear wheel biting into the dirt. As with most lightweight e-bikes, it also feels utterly natural to get out of the saddle, whether to force over those cranks or simply for a change of position. The only fly in the ointment is that I clipped by heels on the seatstays on several occasions.
Friction in the TQ system is minimal, so Eco mode is entirely usable on the climbs without eating into biological reserves. The same can be said for undulating singletrack, where the Neat changes pace with minimal effort and rapidly responds to accelerations. That same reactivity applies to changes of direction, too. Little effort is required to flick the Neat through tight chicanes and jackknife hairpins, but when the trail opens out into sweeping, bike park berms it just hunkers down and finds a steadfast groove.
Mondraker has done a great job with the suspension, giving the Neat a light touch over small bumps but plenty of progression on big jumps. And it never hung up, or got wedged, on really chunky rock sections. Better still, with a single 0.4 spacer in the shock, you can adapt the spring curve as you see fit by removing it altogether for a more linear response, or packing it out for more progression.
Fast, fun, and silent, the more I rode the Neat, the more I got into it. And therein lies the only real rub with this bike; the range. While the TQ system is a great package in terms of weight, noise, and power, to prevent going home for an early bath, most riders are going to have to invest in a second battery or a range extender. Not the end of the world, but certainly something to factor in when pricing up options.