WIN THIS BIKE!
Enter at the end of this feature.
And you can win yourself one! The Saracen Ariel 50E is more than the sum of considerable parts. Great geometry, great suspension, great parts allied to a capable Shimano STEPS motor and capacious 720Wh battery from Darfon.
This particular model is the Saracen Ariel 50E. It is the entry level e-bike Ariel in a three bike range. This 50E retails direct from Saracen for £4,999.
The next model up is the 50E Pro with Shimano EP-8 motor and Fox 38 Performance fork and Float X2 rear shock for £5,999. Topping out the electrified Ariel range is the Ariel 50E Elite with a Fox 38 Factory and the oh-so-cool DHX2 coil rear shock for £6,999.
WARNING: I think I probably need to come out here and state that I am something of a Saracen fanboi. Not their 90s retro era that gets other similarly middle-aged mountain bikers’ juices flowing. My Saracen fandom is based on the modern Phoenix-from-the-flames Saracens that started sometime around 2010 with the release of their first acousitc Ariel. Modern era full-suspension Saracens are flipping well good and that’s that (check out our recent Saracen Ariel 60 Pro review). Stick a Shimano motor and decent capacity battery in the mix and… YES!
The 2023 Ariel E bike range takes the essentials of the previous Ariel E (shall we call that Ariel E the ‘Mark II’?) and slaps on new and improved finishing kit.
Now then, the MK II was a giant leap forward from the MK I Ariel E. Remember the MK I’s external battery and all the other clunky not-quite-finished articles that were on all early ebikes? As well as having the DIY-project aesthetic of early e-bikes, the geometry of the MK I was also pretty old skool.
When the MkII came out in 2021 and it was a whole new animal. Better motors, better integration, better geometry… The 2023 Ariel E bike (MK III?) range further builds on these improvements.
Let’s get back to the bike we have right here.
2023 Saracen Ariel 50E
Aluminium frame. In a particularly banging shade of Neon Red. Uses an e-bike specific version of Saracen’s much-admired TRL linkage design to give out 150mm of rear travel. This TRL layout is an oft-overlooked aspect of the new generation Ariel E-bikes. Single pivot linkage activated goodness. Super supple around sag point and quickly rising in progression to give the rider loads of support and feel.
We have a Large size Ariel 50E here, which is 29in wheel front and rear, as too is the Extra Large. The Medium and Small Ariel Es come in mixed wheel mullet configurations. Truth be told, on regular bikes I’m personally not massively sold on mullets but on full-bore e-bikes like the Ariel 50E, I must confess to finding the extra manoeuvrability and the increased arse-clearance very useful.
Up front we have 160mm travel forks. In the 50E’s case, the fork is a 160mm travel Marzocchi Bomber Z1 with some well-executed custom colour matched decals on its legs. Nice. Air sprung. Rebound adjust, ‘sweep adjust’ Grip compression damping. It’s a really, really good fork that is well up to the rigours of e-bike ragging.
The rear shock is a Fox Float X Performance unit with rebound adjustment and 2-position compression (it’s got a climb switch in other words). This is not a tinpot weedy shock. 230mm eye-to-eye delivering a full-on 65mm of shaft stroke.
It’s things like this that are easily missed on spec sheets but have a massive effect on how well – and consistently – the bike rides. Not to mention how more forgiving they are in terms of setting up. Dinky, weedy shocks suck on e-bikes. A lot. Kudos to Saracen for making the considerable effort to package proper shocks into these bikes.
Oh, the decals are colour coded on the Float X shock as well. Neat.
It’s worth pointing out that Saracen have a comprehensive and – for once – actually accurate and useful suspension setup guide for this shock on this bike. Hours of faff saved. Even the most suspension-phobic tweak-freaked riders can get a decent there or thereabouts suspension set-up. Again, well done Saracen for going the extra mile.
The e-bike stuff
Motor is a Shimano E-7000 on this entry level Ariel 50E. Whilst this motor ‘only’ has a top grunt of 60Nm of torque – compared to its siblings’ EP-8 85Nm – this is the key item that helps bring this bike in at under £5K. It’s something of a gamble by Saracen to spec a middling motor with decent dampers and finishing kit, but I think it’s a gamble that pays off handsomely on the trail. I’m more than happy to trade in 25Nm in exchange for proper suspension, brakes, wheels, tyres and all the other Good Stuff.
And hey, to look on the considerable bright side, 60Nm is still quite a lot of assist. And it is certainly significantly less battery-draining. And let’s be honest, a lot of 85Nm motor-ed e-bikes often don’t get used often in BOOST mode because of just how much it can rinse a battery.
Speaking of batteries, the Saracen Ariel 50E contains a big ol’ 720Wh battery inside its down tube. No more 504Wh range-anxiety specials that came with the previous Ariel E-bikes. More is more. You’ll be doing many, many more miles of mountain biking with the battery and motor combo.
Buttons, screens and apps
The main power switch is neatly integrated into the top tube (there’s a USB-C power port just below the power button too for powering GPS device or even smartphones). There’s the simple bar remote near the left hand grip and the display sits besides the stem and gives you all the info you really need. Shimano’s remote control and dinky screen combo offer the best balance of discreteness and useful info. Other systems either give you too much info on a too-big screen, or give you next-to-no info on a screenless set-up.
You can connect via Bluetooth to the bike via Shimano’s actually good phone app – called E-Tube – to do some tweakery. You can tweak the motor’s power levels and you can also change what stats and info the display shows.
Geometry is key
Geometry talking time. Sorted geometry is Saracen’s other secret weapon (alongside their TRL rear suspension design).
In a word, the Ariel 50E is… long.
It may not be hugely slack up front – 65° head angle – but the bike sure is long. The reach on this Large is a magnificent 505mm. The chain stays are an excellent 465mm length. Yes, I said ‘excellent’. Am not a fan of short chain stays on any bike but especially an ebike. Maximise your climbing capability to a ridiculous degree – it’s an ebike! Insane climbs are now actually fun.
To counter – or to work with – these lengthy rear stays is a relatively high bottom bracket height (a modest 25mm of BB drop). Healthily high BBs are actually great for a bike of this wheelbase and reach. Lowslung BBs often aren’t so great on long bikes. They can leave you a bit ‘lost’ and overly stuck-to-the-ground. Bringing up that BB height adds shedloads of dynamism and control back into the mix. This BB height is another easily-missed – and misconstrued – sign that Saracen know what they’re doing with geometry.
That 65° head angle may get some folk’s eyebrows a-raising – we’re getting used to bikes with head angle a degree or two slacker up front – but that Z1 fork comes into play here. The Z1 has masses of support and is well placed to be set up to ride nice and high in its travel whilst still allowing the full travel to be accessible – even if it means lighter riders may need to remove a few volume spacers from its stock configuration. That’s what volume spacers are for – fine tuning things to work best for you. E-bike forks don’t need loads of sag to be plush. Run your e-bike forks with less sag, remove some volume spacers if need be to get at full travel, and reap the benefits of a better handling front end.
Finishing off kit
Let’s finish things off with a quick rundown of the finishing kit of this Saracen Ariel 50E.
Shimano Deore brakes with 203mm rotors front and rear. SLX 12-speed drivetrain with 165mm length XT cranks.
DT Swiss HX552 wheelset features a 30mm internal width, ideal for supporting the 2.4in width tyres such as the excellent Maxxis Minion DHR II tyres that are specced.
Up front the handlebar is from RaceFace and is 780mm wide with 35mm of rise, paired to a suitably stubby 40mm Race Face stem.
Finishing off the package are a pair of proper ODI lock-on grips, a KS Rage dropper post with Westy remote and Saracen’s own e-bike specific saddle.
We’ll have a full review of this Saracen Ariel 50E up on site very soon. We’ve already been putting a load of miles through it. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that it’s a really good performer. How could it not be?
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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