best enduro mountain bikes

160mm Bike Test: Brit Boxed Burly Bikes

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What do you do with three bikes that are hard to pigeonhole? You ride them, a lot, and enjoy it.

We were at one point going to call this test ‘The New Wave of British Heavy Metal’, but we thought better of it. Partly because we weren’t sure if people would understand the music genre reference. Partly because we didn’t want the word ‘heavy’ to get people’s danders up, or set some sort of weight-watching sideshow vibe to take over.

We weren’t even that sure we wanted to really mention the fact that these bikes are nominally designed-in-Britain bikes. What difference does the country of design make? Is it patronising or ghettoising to group ‘British’ bikes together? Shouldn’t we just treat them as y’know, bikes?

Coily goodness

But what sort of bikes exactly? Are 160mm travel full suspension bikes still categorised as ‘enduro’? Surely enduro bikes are now all sporting upwards of 180mm these days. We don’t think we’re at the point where 160mm can really be crowbarred into the ‘trail bike’ genre.

So what genre do 160 bikes fit into now? Personally speaking, I’d like to reintroduce the term ‘all mountain’ back into the quasi tragi-comic game of pigeonholing mountain bikes. The original ‘all mountain’ er, mountain bikes were circa 140mm travel bikes, often sporting 160mm forks up front admittedly.

HockeyStick(TM) chunky stays

I always liked the term ‘all mountain’ because it had zero racing connotations. There was no timing involved. Or any judging metric whatsoever. It was about experiencing as much of what The Mountain* had to offer as possible.

So anyway… 160 bikes. Designed by people in Great Britain. All with frames made out of aluminium. We’ve got three of them here. The Bird Aeris 9, the Privateer 161 and the Saracen Ariel 60. Tested by British riders, on British hills, in British weather.

*The Mountain didn’t have to be an actual mountain. It’s a state of mind, maan.

The Bikes

The Verdict

This was a really fun test to do, even though it took place throughout the most demanding time of year (December–January in the UK). Every time I got on any of these bikes it was like “no, this is the best bike”, then it was “no, THIS is the best bike”. In the end I kind of gave up on the notion of finding a Winner. I’d happily have any of these bikes in my garage. The game then became to best describe each bike on its own terms and find a way of explaining the character and strengths of each of these great mountain bikes.

What, no head badge?

The Bird Aeris 9 was very probably the most confidence-inspiring bike of the three. Its slackness, lowness and coil sprung-ness were all things that really egged the rider on to have a go at stuff. Stuff you’ve never seen before. Stuff you just dive into without stopping to look first. Stuff that you’ve been eyeing up for years but never had the bottle to finally have a go at. If push came to shove, I think the Aeris 9 is the bike that I’d opt to click ‘Buy Now’ on. But that’s ‘just’ because it suits me and the whole what/where/how/why I ride mountain bikes. And it has a coil shock. I just love coil. Sorry (not sorry).

Bolt-on isn’t a wanderer

I’ve been waiting a long time to ride the Privateer 161. And while it didn’t disappoint, it most certainly did surprise and occasionally confound me! Looking at the bike in photos and on paper (well, on laptop screen), the Privateer 161 looks like a real bruiser. Stout. Overbuilt. Gravity fed. An enduro bike that no longer has quite enough travel to race. What a great surprise it was then to find out that the 161 is actually very much like a trail bike with a bit more escape-lane get-out-of-trouble travel. With careful set-up and a tyre change, the 161 is a total trail slayer.

Disappointing head badge

Which brings us to one of the more interesting mountain bikes I’ve had the pleasure of playing about on. I’ll be honest, the Saracen Ariel 60 Pro was the bike I was least excited to ride. Not the bike’s fault. Totally my pathetic aesthetic prejudices and geometry assumptions. I couldn’t get enough of riding the Ariel. It was a whole different type of handling to other 160 bikes that I’ve ridden over the years. A real Myst-ical combo of geometry numbers, chassis feel, speedy wheels, brilliant TRL rear suspension linkage, great Fox dampers, lovely Shimano stuff. It just needs, no… deserves, a proper length dropper post.

Review Info

Brand: N/A
Product: N/A
From: N/A
Price: N/A
Tested: by Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 148

Cotic RocketMAXer. Schwalbe Magic Mary Purple Addix front. Maxxis DHR II 3C MaxxTerra rear. Coil fan. I have been a writer for nigh on 20 years, a photographer for 25 years and a mountain biker for 30 years. I have written countless magazine and website features and route guides for the UK mountain bike press, most notably for the esteemed and highly regarded Singletrackworld. Although I am a Lancastrian, I freely admit that West Yorkshire is my favourite place to ride. Rarely a week goes by without me riding and exploring the South Pennines.

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  • 160mm Bike Test: Brit Boxed Burly Bikes
  • tmays
    Full Member

    Airdrop Edit!

    Full Member

    Airdrop Edit!

    Only comes with child size wheels.

    Full Member

    You can group them all in the very heavy grouping

    Full Member

    Nice review. I think my next bike may well be the Bird, there is talk of a carbon one at some point so it may even be that if the timing and figures work out.

    I want to like the 161 but and I cant work out why I don’t. It’s almost seems a bit unfinished, the cables are an example. Perhaps a ride on one would change my mind.

    Free Member

    When the reviewer owns a RocketMax, it seems odd not to even mention it in the comparison.

    Free Member

    It would make an interesting comparison in terms of chassis feel, but I guess the reviewer was limited in space as it was – because there’s not as much on ride feel as I’d like to see anyway.

    OK the Privateer wasn’t as stiff as feared, but how did the others stack up in that regard?

    I’ve got the Bird so I kind-of know the answer on that one, but most of you don’t.

    Full Member

    You can group them all in the very heavy grouping

    Everything that has made modern mountain bikes better has also made them heavier. I wouldn’t go back to my 26lb Stumpjumper from 10 years ago with small wheels, flimsy tyres and crap geometry.

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