Saracen is a name that has gone through quite the rollercoaster since its inception back in 1983. As a brand that has significant history amongst the birth of mountain biking in the UK, there are few British mountain bikers who won’t remember lusting after a Saracen back in the day. However, many of those same riders (and newer riders) will also likely associate the Saracen name with cheap department store bikes during a period of stagnation for the brand through the mid-noughties.
Since being acquired by Madison back in 2008 however, the Saracen brand is being steadily returned to its former glory. Models such as the Ariel, the Kili Flyer and the Mantra have been earning the brand much praise across the press circuit, while the downhill Myst has been enjoying plenty of podium success under the likes of Manon Carpenter. During the 2016 Cycle Show in Birmingham, Saracen was showing off several new models that look set to build on the brands recent momentum.
The Mantra 27.5in hardtails have been incredibly popular for Saracen, and continue on into 2017 as a top-value trail hardtail for new riders looking to get into the sport of mountain biking. There are new women’s specific options added to the range, with the alloy Mantra’s kicking off at £549, and the carbon models topping out at £2199. All Mantra’s come with a 120mm travel fork and geometry designed to inspire confidence and agility on the trail.
The Kili Flyer has been a real success story for Saracen. We’ve spent a fair amount of saddle time aboard the 130mm full suspension bike, and can attest to its competent trail manners and balanced suspension geometry. New for 2017 is a £2999 Kili Flyer Pro, which is helping to get the carbon frame down to a more attainable price point.
The frame itself is unchanged from 2016, with a full carbon construction for both the main triangle and the one-piece swingarm. The Kili Flyer features a tapered head tube, and neat internal cable routing.
The rear suspension design is a single pivot platform, with a dual swing link activating the rear shock and controlling the leverage ratio. Being a trail bike, the Kili Flyer places an emphasis on smooth, supple travel for eating up smaller rubble and maximising rear wheel grip. Out back, the Kili Flyer dishes out 130mm of travel to match the 130mm fork up front.
A new model for 2017 is the Zen+ hardtail. Reviving the Zen name from years gone by, the new Zen+ carries on the kicked-back trail vibe, but adds in fatter rubber into the mix to breathe some more versatility into this playful hardtail frame.
The Zen+ hardtail is 1x only, and features a dropped chain stay yoke on the driveside to help provide chainring clearance while offering heaps of room for up to 3.0in wide rubber.
BOOST 148x12mm rear hub spacing allows for an offset drivetrain that pushes the chainring and cassette 3mm outboard. Saracen has also built the Zen+ with the world’s beefiest direct mount derailleur hanger that bolts securely onto the alloy dropout.
The Ariel is another full suspension Saracen that we’ve gotten to know really well since it was first released. Compared to the Kili Flyer, the Ariel steps up the travel to 150mm on the rear, and 160mm on the front. The 2017 model features a couple of updates, both in terms of geometry and the rear end of the frame. Each frame has been lengthened in the top tube to increase the Ariel’s front centre, allowing for use with shorter stems.
A move to bearings throughout the rear suspension linkage should offer increased durability and serviceability compared to the Norglide bushing that Saracen was previously using. Apparently this was a point of major frustration for the UK company, as their manufacturer changed spec of the bushing without telling them during production, which led to the central pivot loosening up a lot faster than it should have. The new bearing system aims to deliver less fuss.