Madonna V2 "Winter only?" - RAAW of the Month April
You can tell at first glance that this Madonna V2 gets ridden a lot. At second glance, you'll notice that there are some real hidden gems tucked away in its seemingly unremarkable build. However, to understand why each component was chosen, you need to know the story of this RAAW of the Month and its owner - which we'll tell you right here.
39-year-old Franz is a family man and passionate mountain biker who spends every spare minute outside of work and family life in the saddle - and has been doing so for over 30 years: "My father used to take me on his tours around the small Black Forest village where I grew up, with me as a toddler in a homemade welded child seat on the top tube. My own MTB career started a little later with cantilever brakes, rigid forks, and Ritchey Z-Max tires - it's incredible how bad the equipment was compared to today, but it's always been fun!", he recalls his beginnings. Nowadays, Franz lives in Heidelberg, where he has a vast selection of top-notch trails right on his doorstep. He regularly uses them to blow off steam after a stressful day, get a dose of adrenaline, and escape civilization for a few moments.
The journey to his Madonna, which we're introducing to you today, took a slight detour: In 2018, Franz bought a high-end carbon enduro from a Spanish brand. " With that bike, I fulfilled a little dream and was super happy with it. However, after the bearings were pretty worn out after just the first summer, I didn't want to ride it in winter with mud and salt. " In search of a robust and uncomplicated bike, specifically for the winter season and bad weather, he came across our Madonna V1, which he then purchased as a complete bike at the beginning of 2019. " I liked the frame and, thanks to the no-nonsense setup of the complete bike, I didn't have to worry about choosing individual components - it was just supposed to be my bad-weather bike after all! ", Franz explains his buying decision. But then everything changed. " The first ride with the Madonna was a real eye-opener for me; it clicked instantly! The high stack, long chainstays, and extremely plush rear end - I was thrilled. " So thrilled, in fact, that a few months later not only were the trails dusty again, but so was Franz's supposed primary bike: " After the first ride with the Madonna, I never got back on my previously purchased carbon enduro, " he admits.
Franz' Madonna, ""fresh of the line"", in the RAAW Showroom in Kempten ...
... and in its originally intended use as a winter-only bike.
It's been four years since then, the carbon enduro is long gone, and Franz is still having a blast on his Madonna. " I haven't had a bike for this long in 15 years! ", he comments. However, not much is left of the components that were initially installed on the complete bike. Maybe not so surprising, considering that an after-work ride for this self-confessed frequent rider can easily cover 1,700 meters of elevation and he goes through about four sets of tires per year. In the meantime, the frame has been updated to a V2 and has held up exceptionally well through countless kilometers on rough trails.
Signs of high milage everywhere
One could even jokingly claim that the frame has withstood the strains of the past years better than Franz himself: " In Karlsruhe, I led the volunteer trail project for five years. It was a cool time, but unfortunately, it left some marks: The hard work seriously damaged my already not-so-stable wrists and hands. Since then, I've had to take breaks from biking repeatedly because I couldn't hold a handlebar anymore or had severe pain. " Giving up was, of course, not an option, so Franz experimented a lot to find a setup that was as "paw-friendly" as possible, as he calls it - the second reason, besides replacing worn-out components, why his Madonna is now equipped completely differently than when he bought it.
At the heart of the bike is the Madonna V2 frame in size Large, which Franz rides with short 440mm chainstays using the appropriate inserts. From this starting point, Franz systematically investigated every possible issue to find the best option for his hands. At the front, after a detour with a Fox 38 ("too stiff for my wrists!"), he finally ended up with the RockShox Lyrik Ultimate with an Air Fusion air-spring upgrade: " It's not too stiff, responds very sensitively with the upgrade, and still provides good support, " Franz happily reports.
Strong brakes - in this case, the high-end Trickstuff Direttissima with 203mm discs - also help to relieve the hands and prevent cramping.
When it comes to rear shocks, Franz has almost tried the entire market: " I've tested nearly all models from A to Z and was quite surprised at how strongly the different rear suspension performances could be felt in my hands. " His long-time favorite was the Fox DPX2 in the RAAW tune - he was particularly impressed with its perfect climbing behavior and the remarkable downhill performance for such a small shock. However, the currently installed EXT Storia, which he rides with a relatively stiff spring and little damping, has managed to surpass the DPX2: " Thanks to the quasi-lockout, the bike climbs superbly, and downhill, the shock virtually knows no limits! ", he shares the experiences with his goto shock.
Another area of focus for ride comfort was the wheels. Here, Franz has been relying on a Pi-Rope wheelset with Newmen aluminum rims for over three years - and with great success: " This combination not only significantly reduces vibrations and is not too stiff, but it's also incredibly lightweight and highly durable. No 29" wheelset has lasted this long in tough use for me - the only thing I have to regularly replace are the hub bearings. "
Complete Spec List
|Madonna V2 Large, 440mm chainstay inserts
|2021 Lyrik Ultimate 180mm with Luft-Fusion Air-Spring-Upgrade
|EXT Storia V3 65mm stroke or DPX 2 Performance Elite, Madonna Tune
|PI-Rope RL-A 30mm - Newmen Alloy Rims
|Conti Argotal DH Supersoft front / Kryptotal Enduro Soft rear
|Syntace 40mm 31,8mm
|Syntace Vector Superlight 20mm Rise 31,8mm
|ESI FIT XC
|203mm front and rear
|SRAM 12spd X01
|SRAM 12spd X01
|SRAM GX DUB alloy 170mm
|SRAM 12spd X01 10-50t
|SRAM X01 12spd black
|DMR Vault chrome (color because of a good deal)
|Vecnum Nivo 212mm
|Sqlab 611 Ergowave Active 14cm
For us, April's RAAW of the Month represents the optimization of a build down to the smallest detail, tailored specifically to the individual needs of the owner. We're especially delighted that our frame has not only made the transition from a mere winter bike to a loyal companion for so many years but also plays a central role in enabling Franz to continue pursuing his passion despite his wrist problems. We tip our hats to such perseverance and enthusiasm for experimentation and congratulate him on winning the 100 Euro voucher!
3 Questions for Franz
How many kilometers and elevation meters have you ridden approximately with your Madonna?
Since in my 'real' life I already deal with too much electronics, numbers, and data, I don't record my rides - so honestly, I have no idea. But it's a lot! On average, I go through at least four sets of tires per season, not counting lift and shuttle operations (which I hardly do at the moment).
What would you like to change or try out with your Madonna?
To be honest, there's actually nothing that seriously bothers me anymore. But there's also not a single screw on the bike that hasn't been chosen for a reason. Utopia: Maybe someday there will be a derailleur with a cage damping that doesn't cause issues, textile-spoke-compatible hubs with decent bearings, and brake pads that last longer. But in the end, that's just high-level complaining when you ride a lot. Bikes have already improved so much compared to the old days.
Are there any special experiences or challenges you've overcome with your bike? Is there something you're particularly proud of?
I've spent so many very, very happy hours on the bike. The biggest compliment might be that it just fades into the background and doesn't annoy me. I can have a great time in the woods with my wife, friends, or alone, whenever I want and my everyday life allows it.
Does your bike have what it takes to be "RAAW of the Month"?
Since we founded RAAW, one thing has given us a lot of pleasure: seeing where, how and by whom our bikes are ridden all over the world and how you use our frame kits to create different, individually optimized works of bike art. That's why from now on, every month we'll choose a particularly successful and exciting bike build from the community as "RAAW of the Month" and present the bike and its rider in detail on our website. In addition to glory and Insta-fame, a 100 € voucher for our online store awaits the lucky winner. Does your bike have what it takes to be "RAAW of the Month"? Check out this page to find out how to apply.