by Wil Barrett
December 14, 2016
Chipps has had plenty of time to get to know the Kili Flyer - Saracen's 120mm carbon trail bike. Read on for his longterm review.
Rewind back to Issue #107 of Singletrack Magazine for Chipps’ review of the Saracen Kili Flyer Carbon X.
I’ve been a fan of the ‘new world’ Saracen Kili Flyer since it was introduced in 2013 (hard to believe that such a short time ago it was one of the first, if not the first, 27.5in wheeled full suspension bike into the UK). The straight lines of the alloy frame lent it a mean, purposeful look and the 120mm suspension was right in the sweet-spot of light trail bikes at the time.
Moving on a few years and the Kili is still slap bang in the Saracen range. It has gained an extra 10mm travel since then, but the biggest news was the appearance of a full-carbon version last year, and the disappearance of the alloy framed model. I’ve been riding around on this bike since the end of last year and it’s been my go-to trail bike for riding and product testing.
The bike is available as a frame-only, or an XT-equipped £3,699 full bike. This frame has been home to everything from SLX and a Fox 34, to its current guise as a mostly SRAM-equipped bike with XX1 and a RockShox RS-1.
Thankfully, being non-Boost, threaded BB and with nothing too radical, it has helped me swap bits and pieces over with relative ease. Take that, the future! Talking of which, there is a front mech mount that will unbolt if you’re going one-by (though we hear it won’t fit a Di2 front mech due to clearance issues).
The Carbon Kili ‘X’ frame only comes in this colour scheme, which is a ‘You get it or you don’t’ mix of blues, whites and red stripes that will instantly recall M-Sport/Martini Racing paint jobs to some people, and draw blank stares from others. (Complete bikes come in a more Germanically-striped theme.)
Even though the Kili model is barely four years old, the geometry figures aren’t as on-trend as some other bikes, with 68°/73° angles and a 23.5in top tube on the 17in model. I got round that by sizing up from my usual medium and going for a large frame with a suitably short 45mm stem. This has given a very comfortable, roomy bike that works well when ‘bossed’ over the front wheel.
Internal cable routing makes for a very neat look, despite the one-off headache of fitting the rear brake hose. Cables stay neat and are kept tidy at the bottom of the downtube where the Stealth dropper cable (if you use it) breaks cover and heads for the seat tube. Disappointingly there are no bottle bosses anywhere, which might put off some. Oh, and if Saracen is listening, more rustproofing on the top shock bolt please.
One great advantage over the previous alloy frame is that the top rocker assembly either side of the top tube is far narrower than before and no longer bangs knees on every leant corner. For 2016 too, the bike gains a Fox EVOL air can, which has a larger negative air spring and gives the bike a much more supple feel on the smaller bumps.
Unchanged is Saracen’s slightly odd quick-release thru-axle at the back, complete with easy-to-lose nut. Once done up, though, it’s unnoticeable and there’s a Shimano thru-axle dropout for 2017 that will retro-fit.
That’s all the dull stuff over, how does it ride?
The Kili Flyer is a great, modern-feeling and versatile bike. I’ve run it with a mix of components from cheap to top shelf and it’s fitted them all very well and in every case has given back a lively, engaging ride. The ‘single pivot with clever shock linkage’ gives enough confidence for black-trail drop-offs and yet I’ve never needed to bother the rear lockout for anything short of an Alpine climb. The 130mm travel (especially with a fork like the Fox 34 up front) seems to be perfect for my version of trail speed and aggression and I feel that I can ride the bike near to its limits every time I go out, whereas a bigger bike has me barely registering on the scales.
With many carbon frames topping the £3K mark, the Kili Flyer offers a lot of fun and performance for the money. Either built as a map-crossing, endurance trail bike, or a weekend trail centre ripper, it copes well under many different situations. With the alloy Kili gone, this is my go-to trail bike these days.
The Saracen Kili Flyer X Carbon Specifications:
- Frame // 24/30T Toray UD Carbon, 120mm travel
- Fork // RockShox RS-1, 120mm travel, 110x15mm Maxle
- Shock // Fox Float DPS EVOL
- Hubs // SRAM Rise 60, Predictive Steering front & 142x12mm rear
- Rims // SRAM Rise 60, carbon, tubeless ready
- Chainset // SRAM XX-1, 32t X-Sync direct mount
- Front Mech // N/A
- Rear Mech // SRAM XX-1
- Shifters // SRAM XX-1 1×11
- Cassette // SRAM XG-1199 10-42t
- Brakes // Shimano M506, 180mm Shimano XT rotor front & 160mm rear
- Stem // Spank Oozy Trail, 45mm length
- Bars // Truvativ BlackBox Jerome Clementz Carbon, 750mm Wide, 20mm Rise
- Seatpost // Fox D.O.S.S, 125mm travel, 30.9mm
- Saddle // WTB Rocket V
- Size Tested // 19in
- Sizes Available // 15in, 17in, 19in, 21in
- RRP: £1999 (frame only). Complete bikes start from £2999