Great fun, but a little short
A cursory glance at the Bigwig’s geometry speaks volumes about its intended use. With a super-slack 65-degree head angle, ultra-low 300mm bottom bracket height and ninja short 427mm chainstays; it’s pretty much got the same numbers as the best 650b enduro bikes at sag. We say pretty much, as it falls short on one key measurement: reach.
At 420mm on the size medium (18in) the Bigwig is almost 40mm shorter than the Whyte 905 RS. And with only one size above the medium, it’s fair to say that the Bigwig isn’t err… big! Being a 29er however, makes it inherently more stable, thanks to the increased BB drop. So the bike still handles well, even if it feels too cramped for epic days in the saddle.
It’s not just the 29in wheels that make the Bigwig unique in this test however. It’s also the only bike here to get a steel frame. Don’t think for a minute, though, that you don’t get the same features as the aluminium bikes in test. The Bigwig still sports a XX44 head tube for improved steering precision, while the 142x12mm dropouts ensure that the rear wheel tracks the front end perfectly.
The obvious drawback to using steel is it’s much heavier than aluminium: At 14.1kg, as a complete bike the Bigwig is almost 1.5kg heavier than the Whyte 905 RS.
The extra steering precision and security that the 35mm RockShox Yari brings to the table is long overdue, and it’s a total game changer on mid-price bikes, like the Bigwig here. With any luck, forks with 32mm upper legs will now be relegated to XC bikes once and for all.
The action of the Yari is every bit as slick as the Pike and you really need be going some to appreciate the superior damping of its pricier brethren. In fact, the only real drawback with the Yari 29 is that it’s not available in the shorter 46mm offset, like the Pike.
Given the extra weight of the Bigwig, the wider gear range afforded by Shimano’s 2×10 SLX drivetrain was a wise choice. Shifting is just as slick as Shimano’s flagship kit and the stiff, hollow-forged SLX crankarms ensure that none of your leg power is squandered on flex. The SLX brakes also deserve a special mention; they are simply the best in the entire Shimano range.
So the groupset is solid, but the contact points on the Bigwig feel raw. While the saddle has a scooped tail that gives you something to push against on the climbs, the central ridge offers a fast track to numbness. Also, Ragley’s in-house grips are hard as nails and the knurled finish could quite easily file the skin clean off your hands if you ride without gloves.
Thanks to the WTB tyres, we had no complaints about the rubber on soft ground. The Vigilante and Trail Boss combination proved to be a way better do-it-all option than the set-up on the Whyte, which runs a Trail Boss front and rear. Also, with so much clearance, there’s more than enough room to run a bigger volume rear tyre for improved comfort or added grip.
For a steel-framed 29er, the Bigwig feels reassuringly direct. The geometry puts you in a commanding position on the bike and the slack head angle and low BB means you never feel like you need to tip-toe down descents. It’s a really fun, capable bike — the 29in wheels and 130mm Yari fork allowing you to ride roughshod over rocks and roots.
There’s no escaping the hefty weight of the Ragley on the climbs however, and combined with the less than generous reach, it does makes the Bigwig feel a little hamstrung.
We’re big fans of 29ers at mbr. So when the Bigwig showed up there was a race to ride it first. That initial excitement was short-lived, however, as one by one each of the riders on the mbr test team discovered that the medium size Bigwig was too short. Yes, Ragley also makes a size large, but its 20in seat tube would undoubtedly be restrictive. Also, should riders of average height really be riding the largest bike in the range? We think not, because it leaves taller riders with nowhere to go. So as much fun as the Bigwig is, it would be so much better if it were longer.