Despite the rolling of years, changes in wheel size options, suspension technology improvements, the Ariel 160 Pro remains true to its origins.
- Brand: Saracen
- Product: Ariel 60 Pro
- Price: £3,499
- From: Saracen Bikes
- Review by: Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 148
We’ve always had a lot of time for the Saracen Ariel here at Singletrack. We fondly remember when the very first Saracen Ariel was teased back in 2009. From the get-go the Ariel was a fun-first progressive trail bike with capable geometry, sound component choice and a really good-feeling back end. Over the years, the Ariel has evolved. And multiplied. There are now three general types of Ariel. There’s the 130mm travel Ariel 30 trail bike range. There’s the 180mm travel Ariel 80 park bike. And then there’s the 160mm travel Ariel 60 range, of which this Pro build here is part of.
Despite the rolling of the years, the changes in wheel size options, and suspension damping technology improvements, the Ariel remains true to its origins. It’s a linkage-driven single pivot full suspension bike made from aluminium with modern geometry and a generally decent build kit. The ‘TRL’ rear suspension design features a main pivot in line with the chainring and a linkage driving the rear shock attached to the top tube. Yep, there are bottle mounts inside the front triangle and they accept 550–600ml capacity bottles. The Fox suspension is very capable and usefully adjustable. Up front there’s the excellent GRIP2 damper in the 160mm travel Fox 38 fork. Handling the rear duties is the Fox Float X2 with separate high- and low-speed adjustment for both rebound and compression. And the little blue easy-flick ‘Firm’ climb switch is there for when you’re faced with prolonged ascents back up to the top of the tracks. Elsewhere, the 203mm rotor front and rear 4-pot SLX brakes are up to the job. The modern reach numbers (505mm on this Large) and the decently steep seat angle (76.5°) both help with uphill comfort and efficiency. On the way down, the stable wheelbase and the slack enough head angle have your back when things get hairy and scary. On the dirt there’s excellent Maxxis rubbers in the guise of Minion DHR II tyres front and rear. The wheels themselves are tough DT Swiss E532 rims laced onto Shimano SLX hubs. The cockpit kit is Race Face’s appropriately dinky 40mm length stem and cut-down-if-required 820mm wide handlebars. The KS seatpost is something of an eyebrow raiser in that it only offers 150mm of drop. Another eyebrow raiser: SuperBoost 157 axle spacing.
The Saracen was far and away the biggest surprise in this test. In every sense. With a 505mm reach (size L), relatively high BB, 157 rear spacing (with wider Q-factor at the cranks too) and modest-travel dropper post, the Ariel 60 Pro is a big feeling bike upon first leg-over. As is often the case, once you’ve rolled away from the car park, the bike shrinks-to-fit reassuringly swiftly. And the largeness quickly becomes an on-trail bonus rather than a theoretical negative. Having said that, let’s just come out and confirm that the 150mm dropper is an issue. Thankfully, with the Ariel 60 Pro being the cheapest bike here, you can put the savings into a longer dropper (it would accept a 180mm OneUp V2 for example). With a longer travel dropper installed (or manually double-dropping the post down into the frame for descents) the full capability of the Ariel 60 is unleashed. And what capability it has. The largeness you feel in the car park is transformed into extra time on the bike to respond. And have fun. The worryingly high BB on paper is transformed into a bike with incredible levels of response over obstacles and, yes, around corners. Longer bikes work well with higher BBs. Another thing that the sheer length of the bike helps overcome is that relatively steep-these-days 64.6° head angle. The bike has the stability to deal with steeps.
Overall, I was seriously impressed with how amazing the suspension felt. Both the rear shock and the fork worked brilliantly. And, similarly. For a pair of air-sprung units, both offered a great sensitivity off-the-top that very quickly ramped up to a super supportive mid-stroke. This generally made the bike feel like it had even more travel than it does. And yet, look down on most rides and I’d not quite achieved full travel. Does that mean it’s overly progressive? Not in my opinion. Jumps and flattish landings achieved full travel and that’s fine by me. It certainly doesn’t ride like you’re being shortchanged of mm. The Ariel 60 Pro has one of the best feeling rear suspension designs I’ve ridden. As regards the wider than normal back-end and crankset Q-factor, I didn’t even have cause to think about it. If you ride clipped in, you may well wish to run shorter-Q pedals. As a flat pedal rider, I just didn’t notice anything unusual. The aforementioned high BB will help offset any increase in pedal strike potential of wider-set crank arms. I think it’s also worth commenting on the ride quality of the frame tubing and the wheelset. While chassis and wheel ‘feel’ is always something of a pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey game of non-science, there’s no denying that the overall package of frame and wheels (and tyres) really do seem to give this bike a real zip and zing.
Towards the end of the test period I began to think of the Ariel 60 as a Mini Myst (the Saracen Myst being the brand’s World Cup Overall-winning downhill machine). The Ariel 60 is a downhill racer’s trail bike. It has that lengthy wheelbase but not-that-slack and not-that-huge-standover that DHers seems to like. To be frank, personally I would like a slacker head angle, and a lower seat tube collar, but the proof is in the testing and, of all the great bikes in this test, it was the Ariel that I found every and any excuse to climb back aboard. There was something very beguiling and addictive and… unique about its riding character. It’s hard to pinpoint what it was exactly. My hunch is that it is a bike that rides high in its travel (giving an amazing bottomless feel to the suspension) but just has the sheer length and lateral give to the whole shebang that makes for an ideal combination of factors.
Frame // Series 3 Custom Butted 6013 Alloy, 160mm
Shock // Fox Float X2 Performance Elite, 230x65mm
Fork // Fox 38 Performance Elite GRIP2, 44mm offset, 160mm
Wheels // DT Swiss E532 rims, Shimano SLX hubs
Front tyre // Maxxis Minion DHR II, 29x 2.4in EXO TR
Rear tyre // Maxxis Minion DHR II, 29x 2.4in EXO TR
Chainset // Shimano SLX, 32T, 170mm
Drivetrain // Shimano SLX M7100/XT8100, 10–51T
Brakes // Shimano SLX M7120, 203/203mm
Stem // Race Face Chester 35, 40mm, 35mm
Bars // Race Face Atlas 35, 820mm, 35mm rise, 35mm
Grips // ODI Elite Motion Lock-on
Seatpost // KS Rage I, 150mm, 30.9mm
Saddle // Saracen Custom Cromo
BB // Shimano
Size tested // L
Sizes available // S, M, L, XL
Head angle // 64.6°
Effective seat angle // 76.5°
Seat tube length // 460mm
Head tube length // 125mm
Effective top tube // 652mm
BB height // 27mm
|Product:||Ariel 60 Pro|
|Tested:||by Benji for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 148|
Try Singletrack digital membership for only 99p for the first month.
Or only £2.99 with a copy of the latest Singletrack magazine, worth £10.