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The Saracen Ariel 50E may only have 60Nm torque but there’s no way Benji would trade in this bike’s amazing handling prowess in exchange for 25 more Nm.
- Brand: Saracen
- Product: Ariel 50E
- Price: £4,999
- From: Saracen Bikes
- Reviewed by: Benji for 2 months
- Great geometry
- Great handling
- Great battery range
- 150mm travel dropper
- Overly firm grips
If you read our recent First Look about this bike… or watched the YouTube (see below)… or even entered our competition to win one of these… you’ll probably already have an idea of the likely verdict of this here review.
Well, surprise surprise, yes I think this e-bike is brilliant.
I struggled to find anything that I didn’t like about it. I honestly think that the only significant flaw is the speccing of a dropper post with only 150mm travel. Modern mountain bikes should have 170mm at least these days. Being super critical – and/or personal preferencey – I don’t like the grips.
When you read a review of a bike where the criticisms are purely about bits and bobs of the finishing kit, it’s a handy sign that the bike itself is a good ‘un. Almost all bikes have bits and bobs of finishing kit that aren’t to the testers’ liking but they’re often overlooked because we’re complaining about the more significant things wrong with the bike!
The E-lephant in the room here you’d think would be the Shimano STEPS E-7000 motor. This is an ‘old’ motor. The 7000 series denomination essentially means it’s an SLX tier motor. This can be a useful way of looking at it. Experienced mountain bikers will know what SLX means in terms of function and performance. Namely, it’ll offer pretty much the same function as higher tier groupsets (XT, XTR) but be made of less fancy materials, have slightly more ‘play’ in certain parts and will weigh a bit more.
Actually though, the SLX-ness of the E-7000 motor is not like that. It’s sort of the reverse in fact. It fundamentally has the finish and weight of Shimano’s higher-end motor, but it doesn’t have the same performance. By ‘performance’ I mean power. Newer or higher-end Shimano motors (EP-6, EP-8) have 85Nm of torque. The E-7000 on this Saracen Ariel 50E has 60Nm. In a way, this puts this bike down at the level of the New Wave of Mid Power E-Bikes (50-60Nm torquers).
Now then. A lot of folk are understandably going to take quite some convincing about a mid-power e-bike that comes in a full-weight package.
Or are they?
The other E-lephant in the room is the price tag. This is an e-bike with (in my opinion) an excellent parts list for £4,999. Good luck finding a New Wave Mid Power E-Bike (NWMPE) with great finishing kit – and a massive battery! – for £5k.
You can maybe find a NWMPE in the sales for around £5k but it will sport not-good-enough suspension stuff and brakes. And will have a battery that’s around half(!) the size of the 720Wh whopper in this Saracen Ariel 50E.
The Saracen Ariel 50E squeaks under the £5k mark by solely compromising on top-end torque grunt. It’s not an insignificant, nor irrelevant, compromise admittedly but… it’s the correct compromise in my opinion.
Out on the trail
The total truth is in the riding. And the fact is that having 25Nm less torque is way less of a performance compromise than having poor suspension, weedy brakes, permanent range anxiety and all the other sadface emojis that come with entry level e-bikes.
I have no reason to pull any wool over anyone’s eyes here. I could just have got the Saracen Ariel 50E models that come with 85Nm EP-8 motors for review and leave the Ariel 50E alone. As it turns out, after riding the Saracen Ariel 50E it is right up there on the podium of my favourite e-bikes ever. It might even be on the top step.
Would I spend £1,000 more to get 25Nm more torque? I honestly don’t know. It’s tempting. But if you’re anything like me, you’re probably coming at things from a “where have all the £3k e-bikes gone?” angle. £5k is already more than I’m prepared to go for a bike. And in my opinion this Ariel 50E is the best e-bike currently available for £5k.
I am tempted to make an argument here for having less power/torque; not being able to engage an 85Nm Boost (Beast?) mode means that the battery lasts longer. Again, it depends on your personality traits. If I have Boost there, I use it. A lot. I can’t help it. I am weak of will. Having the Beast mode unavailable means my battery lasts longer. I can ride for longer. And I don’t actually miss having 85Nm on tap. 60Nm is still quite a lot thanks.
Though I’ve spent the bulk of this review so far talking about torque and price tags – which are always the two things that people first think/talk about when armchair assessing e-bikes – neither of these aspects are why the Saracen Ariel 50E is a brilliant bike.
The Ariel 50E is a brilliant bike because of how it handles.
The important stuff
Great geometry, great suspension, great brakes, great tyres. The latter two (brakes and tyres) can obviously be purchased for any bike after-the-fact. But the first two (geometry and suspension) aren’t quite so retro-fittable. Sure, you can put a 160mm travel Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Grip fork and a Fox Float X rear shock on to any bike but the fact is they already come specced to this bike. And the two key things that the Ariel 50E has are its geometry and its TRL rear suspension design.
Geometry first then. Gleefully flying in the face of various received wisdoms of the bike world, the Ariel 50E has a high bottom bracket and long chainstays. 25mm BB drop and 465mm respectively. The bike can ‘get away’ with such numbers because it is long. And it really is long. This Large size has a 505mm reach (the XL goes up 525mm).
With this much wheelbase the bike doesn’t need any help with stability and bringing up BB height adds dynamism and agility back into the mix. It also clearly helps reduce pedal strikes on awkward terrain/climbs too.
It’s the sheer length of the bike that also makes the 65° head angle work just fine (the ZS44-ZS56 headtube will accept angle-adjust headsets if you’re ‘worried’). I had no issue with the 65° head angle. And that’s coming from someone who likes 63° head angles typically.
The set-up of the fork comes into play here. Essentially, I tend to run less sag on e-bike forks. Due to the increased weight of the bike, and the whole unsprung/sprung mass thing, forks don’t need the usual amount of sag to perform effectively when on e-bikes. I’m often running sub 15% sag. This has the side effect of keeping your front end up a lot more when riding and thus offsetting the relative steepness of head angle.
The whole geometry package just works effectively everywhere. Up, down, along, across, whatever, wherever. Balance, control, involving, fun.
Rear suspension then. As with its normal un-assisted Ariel bikes, Saracen uses its Signature TRL linkage design to control the 150mm of rear travel. And as with its normal un-assisted Ariel bikes, the TRL system on the Ariel 50E is exceptional. It just everything you want rear suspension to do. It gets traction, it gives support, it gives out the ‘right’ amount of travel no matter what’s thrown at it. I never felt it bottom out, yet the O-ring was oft found at the end of the shaft. Just totally sorted.
Nearly forgot. This is not a mullet. This is a full 29in wheel e-bike. Which is very much my preference. But then, I am 185cm tall. The bike ships with a 27.5in linkage option in the box if you are mullet curious (you’ll still have to fork out for a new rear wheel and tyre though!)
Finishing with finishing kit. Because finishing kit is really very, very important when dealing with ‘entry level’ types of bike (yes, £5k is sadly now entry level for full sus e-bikes)…
DT Swiss H552 rims on KT hubs wheels: fine and fast-rolling. Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4in EXO TR tyres: you can’t really ask for better OEM rubbers. Shimano SLX/Deore 12-speed/10-51T drivetrain: boringly brilliant. Shimano Deore M-6100 brakes with 203/203mm rotors: teeth-sucky on paper, totally great on trail. RaceFace Chester bars and stem: fine. ODI Elite Motion: not a fan of these. KS Rage I dropper: 150mm is not enough drop for a bike this capable (I frequently ended up ‘double dropping’ it into the seat tube to get more clearance of techy descents). Saracen Custom CRMO E-MTB saddle: excellent.
So, is this the best e-bike for under £5k then? I think it is, yes. To paraphrase the old “strong, light, cheap: pick two” legend, when it comes to entry level e-bikes you have to choose between handling, power or range. While you can seemingly not have all three of these aspects for £5k, I think the Saracen Ariel 50E offers the best combo of two of them: handling and range. I’d also say that 60Nm torque is still a fair amount of power in the real world. There’s certainly no way I’d trade in this amazing bike’s handling prowess in exchange for 25 more Nm. This bike has its price tag priorities right.
Saracen Ariel 50E Specification
- Frame // Series 3 Custom Butted & Hydroformed 6013 Aluminium
- Shock // Fox Float X Performance 230 x 65mm, rebound, 2-position compression
- Fork // Marzocchi Bomber Z1 Grip
- Wheels // DT Swiss H552 rims on KT hubs
- Front Tyre // Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4in EXO TR
- Rear Tyre // Maxxis Minion DHR II 29 x 2.4in EXO TR
- Chainset // Shimano XT E-8000, 165mm, 34T
- Drivetrain // Shimano SLX/Deore 12-speed, 10-51T
- Brakes // Shimano Deore 2-pot, 203/203mm
- Stem // RaceFace Chester 35, 40mm
- Bars // RaceFace Chester 35, 780 x 35mm
- Grips // ODI Elite Motion
- Seatpost // KS Rage I, 30.9mm, 150mm
- Saddle // Saracen Custom CRMO E-MTB
- Motor // Shimano STEPS E-7000, 60Nm
- Battery // Darfon 720Wh
- Size Tested // Large
- Sizes Available // Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
Geometry of size Large
- Head angle // 65°
- Effective seat angle // 76°
- Seat tube length // 460mm
- Head tube length // 125mm
- Chainstay // 465mm
- Wheelbase // 1,304mm
- Effective top tube // 665mm
- BB height // 25mm BB drop
- Reach // 505mm
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