Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

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Garry Booth
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Joined: 12 Jan 2010, 11:22am

Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Garry Booth » 29 Nov 2020, 7:29pm

Does any learned member have an opinion on the quality of the old Raleigh M Trax bikes that are a hybrid of Ti tubes and steel? Was it a gimmick or is it a decent frame? Eg for use as a laden trekking bike.

Brucey
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Joined: 4 Jan 2012, 6:25pm

Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Brucey » 29 Nov 2020, 7:40pm

brilliant idea, so-so execution (esp in relation to weatherproofing for our climate), all likely to be well past their sell-by date now. So wouldn't be my first choice for what should be a reliable machine when heavily laden.

cheers
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~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jodel
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Jodel » 29 Nov 2020, 9:03pm

I still have my M-Trax 600 as my general hack bike. It has served me well although it's a bit of a 'trigger's broom' machine as many components have been replaced as a result of either wear or damage.

I think I only got about 20K miles out of the first set of wheels after the rims wore through at the braking surface. It gets used mostly in the winter, so salt / grit take their toll. The original 3 x 7 speed Exage groupset was replaced and it now has a 3 x 9 speed setup.

I've been more than happy with it though as it has been a pretty dependable machine. I don't abuse or neglect my bikes and try to maintain them to a reasonable standard. I think most of the components on it now are of a higher standard than were fitted when the bike was new!

I don't think the frames / forks on the lower end models (like mine) were anything special, but from what I can recall, some of the more expensive machines were quite respectable.

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speedsixdave
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby speedsixdave » 29 Nov 2020, 10:10pm

I'm with Brucey on this one. The bonded M-Trax and Dyna-Tech frames were Raleigh's last flowering of innovation and, in the days before commonplace moulded carbon fibre monocoques, were some of the most advanced and interesting frames available. Raleigh made bonded frames in Reynolds steel, titanium and perhaps most excitingly aluminium metal matrix tubing. Bonding, rather then welding or brazing, meant that different materials could be joined by simple lugs and their properties would not be altered by heat. The bonding process did not require the level of training and experience required by e.g. titanium welding, but did require a level of cleanliness and preparation more akin to a laboratory than a traditional framebuilder's workshop. With more foresight, confidence and leadership the bonded frames could have led Raleigh through the last years of metal frames and into the new world of carbon composites. But there we go.

As with the other common lugged and bonded aluminium Vitus and Alan frames, failures are not unknown but not commonplace either. The problem is it's hard to know whether a bonded joint is sound or not without either a lot of analysis (X-rays?) or a lot of whacking with a mallet or something, which will probably do more harm than good. In theory repairs are easy - I have repaired a broken lever boss on my titanium Dyna-Tech 725 frame with some form of 2-part araldite - but again it is difficult to know with confidence that any repair is sound. If your lever boss comes off, it's an annoyance. If your lower head tube joint comes apart at 40mph, that's a very different matter.

This would make me worried about using such a frame as a loaded tourer, even though the frame itself might prove very suitable, You might be less fearful, and your demands for a touring bike might be different to mine. If you are thinking Sustrans paths and the Suffolk coast and not heading north of 15mph much - and there's nothing at all wrong with that, I have enjoyed precisely that tour - the M-Trax will probably see you just fine and you can enjoy riding an idiosyncratic piece of British engineering history. If you want to do the Pyrenees with camping gear, you probably want the confidence of a more traditional bike.
Big wheels good, small wheels better.
Two saddles best!

Garry Booth
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Garry Booth » 29 Nov 2020, 10:53pm

Thanks guys,for your sage advice. My summer road bike is a Vitus 979 and is why my eye was caught by the Trax. But as I would be planning trekking beyond my native Suffolk sustrans routes(!) maybe something more substantial is required. More substantial as well than my winter road bike, a Condor Fratello.
Perhaps a Dawes Ranger tank like that favoured by Brucey... Any other suggestions welcome. My idea is to look for something a bit old school, ideally a triple, with 26" wheels.It seems to me that expensive bikes like Ridgeback Expeditions, Genesis Tour de Fers et al are not so different toan old school mtb or hybrid.

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speedsixdave
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby speedsixdave » 30 Nov 2020, 9:08am

In the later 1990s when I decided that mountain biking was not really my bag I slowly converted my 1992 Kona Kilauea into a loaded touring bike, eventually with drop bars and 3x9 gears, with the rather weird Modolo Morphos brake/gear levers. Here it is on Fully Loaded Touring, on the Iseran in 2001. It proved a lovely touring bike, especially in the saddle, and regularly went above 50mph on Alpine descents without worrying me at all. Only downsides were that the cantilever brakes were a bit underpowered and the back end wobbled a bit out of the saddle with full panniers. I don't know if that was a function of the frame, the SL rear rack, or the Karrimor panniers. Probably a combination of all three. I lent the bike to a friend of mine who left it outside a shop and it was nicked. If that had not happened I see no reason why I wouldn't still be riding it as a touring bike.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying I think a 1990s steel mountain bike can make a very effective loaded touring bike for not a lot of money. Unlike a lightweight road bike however, where you can tell within a few miles whether it's suitable or not, you can only really tell how well a touring bike works once it's fully loaded, it's on its chosen terrain and you've got used to its handling, by which time you may already have spent a good wodge of cash on it. But it is fun finding out and as long as you spend your cash on good peripherals - good wheels, racks, panniers etc - you can transfer these fairly easily to another cheap 1990s steel MTB frame if your first punt proves sub-optimal!
Big wheels good, small wheels better.

Two saddles best!

peetee
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby peetee » 30 Nov 2020, 9:18am

Up until last year I had a mid-90’s Specialized Hardrock MTB as a courtesy bike for customers having their commuting bikes repaired. Those bikes varied enormously but nearly every owner remarked on how well the old steel Specialized rode. It was not an expensive bike in the range and I made a few changes to the components but the Tange tubing and excellent paint had given it a sound base for a long life as a dependable steed for a variety of uses.
Winter had arrived in the land of Kernow. Along with it came wet roads and cool winds.
“Oh, my wheels and coupling rods!” Peetee exclaimed.

Jodel
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Jodel » 30 Nov 2020, 9:41am

Well, here was me quite happy with robustness of my old M-Trax 600. I hadn't considered possible weakening of the bonding of the tubes - now I have something else to worry about :)
In addition to the M-Trax, I still have my early 1990's Dyna-Tech 755 race bike (lovely thing to ride BTW) which looks as good as new and I can't see any deterioration of the bonding on that either - but who knows?
I wasn't aware of any bonding failures of these bikes when they were in production, but age can certainly take its toll. I believe one of the reasons that Raleigh stopped production was the very high cost of the alloy castings (sourced in Japan) used to join the tubes together.

To add to the feeling of paranoia, I've just replaced the carbon fork on my 2011 Specialized Tricross Sport with a steel Surly Cross-check fork as I was concerned about possible impact damage / deterioration. I had an encounter with a stray dog running in front of the bike last year and although I came off a lot worse than the dog, I've never been too happy about riding on carbon forks which have had any sort of impact. Steel may be a bit heavier, but I doubt if it will suffer sudden catastrophic failure.

peetee
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby peetee » 30 Nov 2020, 10:42am

Jodel wrote: Steel may be a bit heavier, but I doubt if it will suffer sudden catastrophic failure.


It can as my experience suggests with my conventional, brazed joint Raleigh frame. When it was purchased it carried ‘Dyna-Tech’ decals. A name almost exclusively used on bonded frames. :| Somewhat ironic then that it failed at the lugs. :roll:
Winter had arrived in the land of Kernow. Along with it came wet roads and cool winds.
“Oh, my wheels and coupling rods!” Peetee exclaimed.

Brucey
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Brucey » 30 Nov 2020, 11:22am

a conventional steel frame, when it cracks, tends to flex abnormally and/or the cracks are plainly evident to the most casual examination, well before the end comes. So the most typical thing is that the frame goes all floppy/noisy and the rider climbs off the bike before it actually suffers genuinely 'catastrophic' failure. Which I believe is what happened in peetee's case, isn't it? I.e. the frame didn't actually separate before it was pretty obvious it was just about to.

The evil thing about bonded joints (and a lot of composite structures too) is that the joint/structure often still has adequate levels of stiffness even when it is mostly disbonded. What it lacks is strength, but that is something that cannot be either seen or felt until it is too late. This makes the chances of a genuinely unexpected and catastrophic failure somewhat higher. There may be no obvious sign that the joint is weakened until it suddenly fails completely.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jodel
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Joined: 27 Oct 2020, 8:19pm

Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby Jodel » 30 Nov 2020, 1:22pm

Brucey and others, thanks for your input and the information on these bonded frames.

It had not occurred to me that the joints could potentially be suspect, but it makes perfect sense. I'm really reluctant to pension off my M-Trax 600, but I'm at an age now where I really don't want to take many (any?) chances. I may investigate building up a steel frame (Surly Cross-check?) using the perfectly good components on my M-Trax.

peetee
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Re: Raleigh M Trax MTB bonded frame range

Postby peetee » 30 Nov 2020, 5:34pm

Brucey wrote:a conventional steel frame, when it cracks, tends to flex abnormally and/or the cracks are plainly evident to the most casual examination, well before the end comes. So the most typical thing is that the frame goes all floppy/noisy and the rider climbs off the bike before it actually suffers genuinely 'catastrophic' failure. Which I believe is what happened in peetee's case, isn't it? I.e. the frame didn't actually separate before it was pretty obvious it was just about to.


Well, yes and no. If you are like me and get a bit complacent about quality when the warning creaks start is all too easy to assume It’s a dry joint such as crankset to bb axle or Cinelli handlebar sleeve. That said the progress of this particular issue was very rapid and it was the noise not the flex that was obvious. The creak started and was found within the same 20 mile ride.
The other thing I am guilty of is not lavishing the same level of care and attention on my own bikes as I do on other people’s.
You live and learn and I am looking at and paying attention to my other bikes, some of which are considerably older, in a far more thorough way now.
Winter had arrived in the land of Kernow. Along with it came wet roads and cool winds.
“Oh, my wheels and coupling rods!” Peetee exclaimed.