Mondraker Dusk RR
An adventure eMTB with Spanish race pedigree
Words by Julian Hardman, Images by Neil Kerr, taken from Charge Issue 2
Like a matador into the ring, Mondraker strode onto the mountain bike scene twenty years ago, and the Spanish brand has been at the forefront of progressive MTB thinking and design ever since. Even in that first year, five of the seven bikes in Mondraker’s range were dual suspension when most other bikes were still rigid.
In this, their 20th anniversary year, Mondraker is still at the cutting edge of progression in the world of mountain bikes, with 25 of their 56-bike offering being battery powered. Each of these electrically enhanced bikes are real mountain bikes—there’s not a shopping trolley with a battery in sight.
You also won’t find an e-bike or eMTB category in any of the drop-down menus on the website. Instead, e-bikes are integrated into the entire product range and don’t sit outside it like some ugly duckling. In fact, in my humble opinion, the very last thing a Mondraker could be described as is ugly.
The brand has a deep racing pedigree and consistently melds race-inspired design with pleasing-to-the-eye frame aesthetics. Having ridden a few Mondrakers over the past few years, I can say their bikes are performance driven and hold the rider accountable. Their uncompromising design elements are not everyone’s cup of tea—they’re long, slack and fast.
The crux of this is their ‘Forward Geometry’ concept, which the brand has carried into its eMTB range, giving them one of the most progressive geo charts of any pedal-assist bikes out there. If you’re used to hanging off the back of the bike when things get steep or fast, this can be challenging to adapt to at first, but if your body position is brave like a matador, you’ll be rewarded with super-precise steering, exceptional grip and confidence at speed.
The aluminium-framed Dusk RR is the top-specced Dusk model and shares the same Forward Geometry and Zero dual-link suspension design as the more race-oriented bikes in Mondraker’s range. It has 150mm travel (Fox 36 FiT 4) up front and 150mm (Fox Float DPS) on the rear and, like its analogue compadres, has a steep anti-squat curve.
It sports a slack 65.5-degree head angle, a long 490mm reach (on the large model), and a steep 76-degree seat post angle, which helps to offset the slack-and-long head angle and reach numbers. This provides front-end stability when climbing, and when combined with the short 30mm stem, makes the bike feel a lot shorter than the reach number suggest.
Stopping power is provided by four-piston Shimano Deore brakes, which, although somewhat rudimentary and lacking the subtle modulation of higher-spec models, provide more than enough power to do the job in most situations.
The drivetrain is a combination of Shimano’s consistent and ever-reliable XT and SLX ranges. Wheels are 29” DT Swiss H1900 Spline, which are also very solid. However, the stock tyre choice of Maxxis Rekon EXO 2.6” for both the front and rear is very underwhelming for this style of bike. These were particularly untrustworthy on the front and had to be swapped out quickly to complete the review. Handlebars, stem and seatpost are all Mondraker’s trusty home brand, Onoff.
The Power Plan
The Dusk RR utilises Shimano’s latest drive unit, the EP8, with a 630Wh fixed internal battery. Mondraker markets the Dusk as a ‘trekking’ e-bike, which translates to Kiwi-speak as a ‘mission-oriented’ bike. With this in mind, it has a 360Wh battery extender option that takes the battery capacity to a whopping 990Wh. Now in Europe you’re never far from nice wine, bread, cheese and power outlets. In the NZ hills these are a lot more sparse, so a range extender will be very appealing for Kiwi riders, even if it’s an additional extra.
The EP8 is a much-improved iteration of Shimano’s previous model. Although they share the same torque numbers on paper, they’re completely different beasts, with the new motor being much more subtle and progressively intuitive. Power is nothing without control, and the EP8 delivers that finesse in spades.
One of the major pluses of the EP8 is that it can be custom-tuned using Shimano’s E-Tube app. Here you can adjust power delivery—and therefore battery life – across all three Eco, Trail and Boost modes. This power delivery and tune-ability makes the EP8 perfectly suited to a backcountry-style mission bike, and I suspect this is one of the main reasons why Mondraker opted for the Shimano motor on the Dusk, when they run Bosch systems on most of their e-MTB range.
There’s little doubt the name of the bike comes from the idea that it can (and should be) ridden from dawn until dusk, and despite its race lineage, it’s a very comfortable bike to spend time on. The geometry strikes the perfect balance of climbing prowess and descending confidence. The combination of the steeper seat angle and smooth power delivery means you’re never panicking to get over the front wheel in situations where you’d expect it to wander, and there’s always a smooth pedal stroke available when you get hung up on something technical. So yes, the Dusk gets a big tick for long days in the saddle and its ease of use.
Descending the Dusk through moderate terrain is incredibly fun. It feels very solid, the suspension does its job well, and the geometry begs you to go faster. However, if you feel the urge to try and push things to the next level, the Dusk’s ‘mission machine’ characteristics begin to show and you’ll start finding its limits. While it still tracks true and tries to hold on through burlier descents, the spec starts to let it down. The suspension, brakes and tyres all start to feel a bit under-gunned, it becomes less fun, and it’s harder to hold on to, particularly at speed over rough terrain.
The Dusk RR is a do-it-all e-bike that can take you on missions to places you never could’ve imagined riding to. You’ll do it in comfort, in style, and once you master the geometry, you’ll find yourself becoming a better rider.
Being a regular Mondraker rider I really bonded with the Dusk, and once it was shod with some more aggressive rubber, I happily rode it on the majority of trails I wanted to. There’s enough bike to meet most of your needs, except for, say, the top ten percent of the gnarlier terrain and speed. However, that’s not so much a fault, but more of a ‘by design’ feature; the Dusk isn’t aimed at the rider who wants to ride rowdy bike park trails, but is targeted at the adventurous e-biker who’s looking to get off the beaten track.
If you’re a shredder who wants an eMTB to lap your local bike park and like the sound of Mondraker’s innovative geometry and race pedigree, check out their line-up of more aggressive eMTBs, such as the Crafty or the Level.