Longstanding UK-designed brand, Saracen, has been a little quiet recently. Even before the pandemic, the range had slimmed down and news (apart from of the mighty Madison/Saracen downhill race team) was hard to come by. That usually either suggests a winding-down of effort from the brand, or conversely, a lull while the brand regroups, redesigns and reappears, bigger and better than before. This certainly seems to be the case with Saracen, which had taken a year (and then two) to look at its core range and to re-design everything. And, while the downhill Saracen Myst is still the flagship bike of the range, it’s not the one that most of us will buy. Saracen is betting that its newly re-designed Ariel range is going to be the one that draws the crowds. Previously seen as an enduro/all mountain bike, Saracen has taken the Ariel name, and the same linkage-driven single pivot design that works so well on the Myst and applied it to bikes from 130mm of rear travel for the Saracen Ariel 30, all the way up to the 180mm travel of the Saracen Ariel 80. There’s even an unbearably cute kids’ model, the Saracen Ariel Junior.
The basis of the frame, is the single pivot design, with the ‘TRL’ linkage-driven shock that can trace its roots to the Saracen Myst downhill bike. The same style of suspension is used throughout the range, although the travel varies a great deal from the 130mm of the Saracen Ariel 30, through the bigger 160mm Ariel 60 and up to the 180mm bruiser of the Ariel 80. (There’s also a 150mm travel version that comes with a Shimano Steps electric, but we’ve left that for Singletrack Charged to cover).
There are some very interesting touches to the new Saracen Ariel that need closer inspection. For one thing, the bike-fit geometry is way out there. It’s as if Saracen has decided to future-proof its bikes by giving them all pretty aggressive reach figures and frame angles from the get-go. For example, a medium sized Ariel 60 features 64.6°/76.5° angles and a 480mm reach. Wheelbase is 1247mm. The large steps that up to 505mm and 1278mm.
The other thing of note is the wheel sizing. Small and Medium sized frames in the range get a ‘mullet’ 29/27.5in wheelset while the Large and XL frames get 29er wheels front and rear. Saracen says that its bikes will include links to mullet up the bigger sizes if you want to (and presumably to un-mullet the smaller sizes, but that’s not clear)
It’s certainly a big splash from the brand and we know that it has been working on the new frames for two or three years, with the help of its top sponsored riders like World Cup champion, Matt Walker.
While there are other bikes coming out (there are familiar names like the Myst, Mantra and Zenith in the mix) Saracen is focussing on the Ariel name for all of its full suspension trail bike needs.
Let’s pick a few highlights as we go up the range in travel. For full details, head over to saracen.co.uk
Saracen Ariel 30 and Ariel 30 Pro
This is the 130mm model, with matching 130mm fork. The Ariel 30 (the grey one) comes in at £2199 for the complete bike and it features a Deore/SLX mix of components and a Bomber Z2 fork up front. Still full Maxxis Minion DHR tyres on DT Swiss rims, 180/180mm Shimano M6100 brakes and a 12 speed 10-51T setup. Check the long term review on this very bike elsewhere on these pages…
The Ariel Pro (the shiny red one) is £2999 and the component spec shifts up to an SLX/XT mix, with a Fox 34 Performance Elite fork.
Geometry on the Ariel 30 is 65°/76.5°, with a medium reach figure of 480mm
Saracen Ariel 60, 60 Pro and 60 Elite
Now we’re getting up to the big stuff. The Saracen Ariel 60 Pro and Elite are the bigger, all-mountain bikes in the range. With prices starting at £2499 for the plain 60, they move up to £3299 for the Pro and £4199 for the Elite. (Funny, when we were young, the Pro race category came above Elite… but not here.) While the plain 60 gets Marzocchi Bomber Z1 forks, the Ariel 60 Pro gets Fox 38 Performance forks and a Fox Float X2 shock. The Ariel 60 Elite, meanwhile gets full 160mm Fox 38 Factory forks, a DHX2 Factory coilover shock and Shimano XT transmission and finishing kit.
And now for the £4199 Ariel 60 Elite in Khaki green:
And while you might think that that’s a pretty good selection, there’s more! There’s the Saracen Ariel 80! That’ll be the full-on, enduro ready trail muncher.
Saracen Ariel 80
The Ariel 80 is a proper fire-breathing 180/180mm travel beast. Interestingly, according to the geometry chart, it actually has a slightly shorter reach than the shorter travel bikes (460mm for a medium, 485mm for a large…) but it has the 63.5°/76.1° angles to suit its intentions. The regular 80 is £2399 and comes with a Rockshox Zeb fork, Fox DHX Performance coilover, Deore brakes with 203/180mm rotors and a shiny (well, brushed) silver finish.
Saracen Ariel 80 Pro – £3299
The Ariel 80 Pro comes in beige, er, ‘Bone’ and features more of an SLX/XT vibe, complete with Fox 38 Performance Elite forks.
Phew! So that covers the Saracen Ariel ‘acoustic’ range. Check out singletrackworld.com/charged for the Ariel E50 too. There are also frame-only versions of the frames available too (well, not for the e-bikes) if you want to build your own. And remember – size Small and Medium are mullets throughout the range and the L and XL are 29ers… Simple!
Get over to saracen.co.uk for more.