Full carbon frame and adjustable reach for new and improved enduro contender

Product Overview

Saracen Ariel LT Carbon

Pros:

  • Suspension performance and variable reach feature.

Cons:

  • Brand snobs may flinch at the idea of a £5K Saracen.

Product:

2018 Saracen Ariel LT Carbon first ride

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£4,999.99

New Saracen Ariel LT Carbon has suspension and character influenced by the Myst downhill bike and it’s gained a new sense of purpose.

Written by Dan Trent

saracen ariel lt

Saracen Ariel LT Carbon

Saracen Ariel LT Carbon

Saracen’s Ariel has traditionally been a solid performer and good value for money. With 170mm up front and 165mm at the rear this is a serious piece of kit, the £5,000 pricetag reflecting the quality of the build but perhaps presenting Saracen’s biggest challenge.

saracen ariel lt

The more affordable alloy Saracen Ariel LT Elite

While there’s a more affordable aluminium/carbon Ariel Elite at £3,299 the full potential of the new design is only truly realised with the carbon LT and, most critically, the upgraded Fox X2 Factory rear shock.

saracen ariel lt

Fox X2 Factory rear shock

The shock is driven by a new carbon linkage connected to a single-pivot rear end, the Myst-inspired design tuned for the air shock. As such the leverage ratio is reduced and adopts a gently falling rate to compensate for the air-sprung ramp-up towards the end of the travel. A ‘digressive’ compression damping rate on the Fox shock helps contrive a more linear, coil-like feel.

Saracen’s Taiwan-based designer Ryan Carroll saying the fixed axle-path of the single-pivot design frees him to concentrate on tuning shock performance to deliver the “mini-Myst” vibe he was seeking.

saracen ariel lt

The result is impressive small-bump sensitivity matched with the kind of big-hit performance you’d hope for. Accordingly the Ariel tracks as accurately and precisely over rapid-fire roots as it does smother the gnarlier drops and hits, this and the stiffness of the carbon frame giving you the confidence the Ariel will hold its line.

saracen ariel lt

This is complemented with a similarly confidence inspiring performance from the Fox 36 Factory suspension fork, also Kashima coated for this flagship model.

The 65° head angle and 74° seat angle are on-trend for a bike of this type, sizing likewise conservative but in keeping with prevailing fashions. The 465mm reach on our Large test bike compares with 450mm on a comparable 650b Specialized Enduro [2017 model] or, at the other end of the spectrum, the 495mm of a Whyte G160 [2017 model].

Wheelbase likewise sits between these two extremes but Saracen has a trick up its sleeve to let you effectively adjust reach, front centre and wheelbase by plus or minus 5mm.

Generally speaking the Ariel feels agile and light on its feet considering the travel on offer, the quality DT Swiss M1900 wheels helping the sprightly feel.

saracen ariel lt

The ability to dial in a bit more length and stability, should you wish, is a real master stroke though. In general the spec is well thought out, investing in the good stuff where it makes a difference and adopting a more functional, cost effective agenda where appropriate, such as with the TranzX 150mm cable-actuated dropper and XT-based drivetrain. Builds on some rivals will give the Saracen a serious run for its money though.

Clean lines, handsome liveries (especially on the frame-only option) and excellent suspension performance all add up to a very appealing package, the ability to play with the reach a real selling point for a bike of this level.

saracen ariel lt

Clever headsets allow geometry changes

Adjustable reach system

The nifty adjustable reach system is carried over from the Myst and impressive on a bike of this level; Saracen supplies a ‘zero’ headset centred in the 56mm headtube but also an offset one, meaning while the head angle remains a constant 65° you can go plus or minus 5mm in length and effectively play with reach, front centre and wheelbase.

This is especially handy if you’re on the cusp between one size and another. We were at the top end of the Large’s size spectrum and would probably run it +5 but if you’re longer in leg and shorter in body you could go a size up and shorten the cockpit to suit. Clever stuff.

Details

Frame:Toray UD carbon fibre front/rear triangles and linkage, 12x148mm Boost dropouts, 165mm travel, supplied with additional +/-5mm headset cups
Fork:Fox 36 Factory Kashima, 170mm travel, 15x110mm Boost
Rear shock:Fox X2 Factory Kashima
Wheels:DT Swiss M1900 27.5, Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO/TR 2.3 skinwall tyres (supplied with additional set of Maxxis Minion DHR 3C/EXO/TR 2.3 tyres)
Drivetrain:Shimano XT 32T chainset, XT r-mech, SLX 11sp shifter
Brakes:Shimano XT, 180mm rotors
Components:Saracen 45mm stem, ENVE 800mm carbon bars, Kore Fuze saddle, TranzX JD YSP07 150mm dropper post
Sizes:S-XL
Size ridden:Large
Rider height:5ft 11in
Head angle:65°
Seat angle:74°
Chainstay:435mm
Front centre:791mm
Wheelbase:1,226mm
Top tube:638mm
Reach:465mm (zeroed, ±5mm via adjustable headset)
Contact:saracen.co.uk