A lot of bike for the money
Saracen is aiming to recapture its glory years with its latest Saracen Kili Flyer. Will a fresh start breathe new life into this venerable brand?
Words by Dan Trent
For 2018 Saracen has assembled an attractive range of bikes, the trickle-down influence of the Myst privateer downhiller intended to unite them with a common character through adaptations of the single-pivot, linkage-driven ‘TRL’ design.
And I was impressed with the new carbon Ariel LT when I rode it for the 2018 range launch. For old-timers like myself Saracen is a name with some history, bikes like the original Kili Flyer instrumental in establishing the sport here in the UK back in the day. Saracen has since rather dropped off my radar but meeting the team, chatting with Taiwan-based designer Ryan Carroll and getting the deep-dive on where the brand is going really got me interested in the challenge of re-establishing Saracen as a force to be reckoned with.
I was keen to spend more time with one. And while I liked the Ariel it’s probably a bit much for my current riding. With a young family I don’t have the luxury of long days out to big country or uplift centres, meaning most of my riding is short, opportunist blasts on local tracks and trails. The terrain is still gnarly and tough on bikes but the need to link these hectic little sections with road or towpath means you need something you can pedal as well as shred.
Looking at the Saracen range the 650b Kili Flyer seems just the ticket. It’s got a bit less travel than my regular bike but I’m hoping the relaxed geometry means I can save a bit of energy on the pedally bits without needing to hold back too much on the fun stuff. The £3,499 carbon Elite version has obvious appeal but in true penny-pinching, no-nonsense Yorkshire style I was keen to see how its more affordable aluminium brother copes. At £1,849.99 it’s nearly half the price – is it half the bike?
I lose the carbon frame, the Boost rear end, Fox suspension and 11-speed SLX drivetrain of the Elite, my Kili Flyer getting a pretty basic Deore-based 10-speed drivetrain, X-Fusion 02 Pro RL shock and RockShox Recon RL suspension forks. The aluminium frame also loses 10mm of travel, meaning 120mm at the back and 130mm up front. There are also detail differences in some of the measurements, the aluminium bike shorter in wheelbase by 4mm.
To my eyes it still looks a lot of bike for the money though, only cheaper components like the cranks and budget-grade rear quick-release letting the side down. But I’ve got a cable-operated dropper post and a set-up that fits to a tee literally straight out of the box.
First impressions suggest more ‘progressive’ sizing than the bare numbers might suggest – at a smidge under six feet the Large is spot-on. It seems to carry its speed well too, my immediate concerns being lack of gearing for ascending the steep West Yorkshire hills and insufficient meat on the Maxxis Ardent tyres for the way back down.
I’ll have to see if I can man-up for the former. But I suspect the latter will quickly be on the upgrade list, along with a switch to tubeless to avoid pinch flats on the rocks.