Big-wheeled, short travel ripper for those able to look beyond numbers
Saracen Traverse 29er sports a modest 100mm rear travel via a pivotless ‘Flex Stay’ carbon rear triangle, this combined with an aluminium front triangle
Saracen Traverse Elite need to know
- Fast-rolling tyres and short-travel 100mm suspension combined with progressive set-up and spec
- Carbon fibre rear end saves weight while ‘Flex Stay’ design uses the material’s trail-buzz isolating effects to take edge off short travel design
- Hydroformed and butted aluminium front triangle meanwhile maintains stiffness and strength up front while keeping a lid on the price
- Shimano SLX/XT 1×11 drivetrain
Saracen Traverse Elite: first ride review
For those who only consider a bike’s potential for fun in millimetres of suspension travel a new generation of big-wheeled, short-stroke rippers is ripping up the rulebook. And more manufacturers are now thinking outside of the box with fast, short-travel machines combining raw, XC speed with a more progressive approach to geometry and intent.
Accordingly the Traverse Elite is a blend of materials and influences from Saracens in the range. There’s a pinch of Saracen Myst downhill bike in the linkage-driven suspension, a hint of the Saracen Ariel LT’s attitude and a pared-back, shorter travel interpretation of the Saracen Kili Flyer’s all-mountain ambitions. It all comes ready to rip with on-trend angles, Boost hubs, a short stem, wide, low-rise handlebars and a dropper post.
Priced at £2,999.99 the considered spec has Shimano SLX foundations, garnished with an 11-speed XT mech. Rivals like the £2,750 Specialized Stumpjumper Comp 29 offer more travel and 12-speed SRAM, the £2,499 Giant Trance 29 2 closer in spirit and also benefiting from Eagle’s extra ratio. A part-carbon frame explains some of the premium but, with ground to make up on price, spec and cachet, Saracen needs to come out fighting.
Punchy brochure shots of it bagging some serious airtime on the Woburn trails are a suitably bold statement of intent. But it’s fair to say this bike feels built for a more wheels-on-the-ground crowd, hunting trail centre KoMs on both climbs and descents.
You sense that from the choice of fast-rolling Maxxis Forekasters, where many rivals ship with chunkier rubber as standard. It’s a tyre-swap away from bolder ambitions but, out of the box, the Traverse is clearly intended to work best on groomed trails. Size-wise the Large we tested measured up a little short; even those under six foot might want to consider XL where angles, wheelbase, reach and front-centre are comparable with Larges in those equivalents from Giant and Specialized and similarly-pitched (but considerably more expensive) Orange Stage Four Pro. With standover to spare going a size up shouldn’t be a problem for most riders.
Fundamentally though the Traverse feels well sorted, the bars feeling wider their 760mm measurement suggests while a short stem and slack head angle for a bike of this travel shout intentions beyond pure XC. The character of that rear suspension is, unsurprisingly, less about swallowing the bumps and more about taking the edge off them. So the Traverse rockets out of the blocks like a carbon hardtail and then uses the natural flex engineered into the stays and a progressive shock tune to help fire you off rocks and roots for even more speed. That nature can sometimes bite you on really rowdy terrain. But the confidence-inspiring geometry sees you through and the Traverse feels fast everywhere.
If you want a comfy perch for sitting and spinning the Traverse isn’t for you but if you’re willing to work with it and use that return energy and big-wheeled momentum for free speed it’s a hoot, the Saracen ready to respond to fast and aggressive riders capable of looking beyond suspension travel as a measure of thrills.