SARACEN ARIEL - BIKE TEST
Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Saracen are on a real charge at the moment with the new addition of Danny Hart to the downhill team. The looming addition of a 29” Myst and this, the new Ariel 27.5 long travel trail bike.
With the slick looking matte finish to the new bike, this will most definitely turn heads.
The new Ariel has some fairly big shoes to fill with the old model being a huge hit in the past. This much anticipated bike seems to have the build and look to keep up the Ariel name.
Shape and Fit
With four sizes on offer from small to XL, the guys at Saracen have really tried to keep everyone happy. The addition of the reach adjust headset is also a good idea. This is the same thing you will find on the Myst DH bike. Offering 5mm plus or minus reach making the feel totally customizable for every rider. With the XL bike for this test, the reach numbers of 490mm with no reach adjust (was not supplied) sounded larger then it felt. Not massive but most definitely a large bike. Overall the size does come up on the smaller side of the XL bracket with a wheelbase of 1259mm and short rear stays. A similar bike of a different brand in this size has an extra 515mm reach and a 1274 mm wheelbase.
Suspension and Chassis
This really is a Myst that has been shrunk. With the same design on the rear linkage, the Saracen TRL Design has been utilised to its fullest. With the 165mm of rear travel coming from a fully carbon linkage and chassis driving a Fox Float X2 rear damper. This offers a stiff and light design with large bearing construction for extra longevity and stiffness.
Upfront the Fox theme stays with the 36 Float factory Fit 170mm Kashima fork keeping the performance high on this top level build.
This Army colour themed bike is the top build, with parts coming from Fox, Shimano and DT Swiss. I was fairly shocked to find an Envy Carbon DH bar bolted to the Saracen stem when there is a Shimano SLX shifter mated up to it. All in all, a top class build.
FRAME; 24T/40T/3K Toray UD carbon blend / Toray UD carbon swingarm / adjustable front centre plus-minus 5mm / 165mm rear travel FORK; Fox 36 Float Factory / Kashima / 170mm travel / FIT HSC/LSC/ Boost SHOCK; Fox Float X2 Factory / Kashima / EVOL / 3 position adjustDRIVETRAIN SHIFTERS; Shimano SLX M7000 Rapidfire Plus 1x11 speed REAR MECH; Shimano Deore XT M8000 Shadow PlusChainset / Shimano XT M8000 32T / Boost / 170-175mm
BRAKES; Shimano XT m8000 WHEELSET; DT Swiss M1900 Spline 30 / DT Swiss Double-butted
TYRES; Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/ DHR II/ EXO/TR / 27.5 x 2.3" front / rear with custom tan walls HEADSET; Saracen off-set headset / 0mm / 5mm BAR; ENVE DH carbon bar / 800mm wide / 23mm rise. STEM; Saracen 6061 CNC alloy / 45mm / A-head / 0 degree rise / 31.8mm clamp SEATPOST JD YSP07L dropper post / 150mm travel / internal cable routing / 30.9mm (125mm on S size)
With the size XL being chosen for this tes,t there is not the feeling of a big bike that was expected. But this is the same throughout the range of bikes. This being said, with the 800mm Envy bar there was plenty of room for me, but anyone over the 6 foot mark may struggle.
The Ariel has a very stiff chassis. Now this can be taken as a plus or a minus when riding different terrain. On the more bike park/jump orientated tracks the bike really pops. With a good suspension feel and plenty of playful manoeuvrability. This may be what most people are after in a bike. When the trail gets rough this is where the chassis does get a little harsh. It is bearable but not easy. Bikes like the Production Privee, being steel and flexible, or even the Canyon Torque, with the aluminium rear stays, have far more grip when the terrain gets wild.
The Ariel does have a good shape though. A low bottom bracket and relatively slack head angle are factors that make this bike really fun. With the modifications to tyre choice being made, it did create a good fast ride. Saracen also provide an offset headset with the bike to increase that all important reach by 5mm. This was not supplied to me with the bike but would have benefited if it was. With the new reach of 495mm, it could have improved the stability on the fast rough sections with the larger chassis.
The first and main thing has to be the tyres. Now they look rad it has to be said, but has it come to looks over performance on this model? With a poor Compound and 2.3” construction the bike feels a little lost. After recently riding the 2.5 Maxxis WT tyre on most bikes, this narrow Minion with the tan walls did not hit the mark. The hard compound gives little grip and the skinny width had little damping. A swap of tyre gave this bike a totally different feel.
The full carbon chassis matched up with the large bearings and carbon linkages makes for a very stiff bike. Almost too stiff at times. If you are off out playing in a bike park it will compliment this chassis feel. However when you are riding all day there are relatively high levels of fatigue to take into account. This can be aided but fitting a higher volume tyre to add some extra cushion will help when getting onto the high frequency bumps.
Fast and fun, maybe not perfect but a good bike nonetheless. When you think of what you get here for the money, it is a full package. Get that reach adjust headset in and make sure the rubber is to your taste and it will make you smile. Given the bikes travel, aim it at climbs and it does well, so you would easily be able to take it out all day. Make sure that damper is set up correctly and this long travel trail beast should look after you all day.
PRICE: 2018 bike shown can be found for £3400
2019 build £4999
WORDS - Ieuan Williams
PHOTOS - Ieuan Williams