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