Sports a ride quality that puts it head and shoulders above most of the bikes in this category
The Saracen Mantra has become something of a stalwart in our annual hardtail bonanza. It hasn’t changed much from year to year and slinging a leg over it once again reminded us instantly how Saracen nailed the Mantra’s vital stats first time round.
The top tube length is rangy and the sensible stem length and 720mm handlebar put you in a very commanding position on the bike.
Once again it’s where the rubber meets the trail that’s the real deciding factor on the Mantra. While the shallow, closely spaced block tread of the Rapid Rob tyres roll effortlessly, the front tyre is somewhat out of sync with the Mantra’s modern trail riding remit.
So when push came to shove, it was the front tyre, not the frame, fork or components that left it wanting. This is a relatively easy, and inexpensive, fix.
With three chainrings up front and nine cogs on the rear the Mantra sports standard trim for the best £500 bikes. Less common are the shorter 170mm crank arms, which reduce leverage.
Bike manufacturers normally do this to improve clearance and prevent constant pedal strikes, but given that the Mantra doesn’t have a low bottom bracket height, it seems a strange choice.
Some basic housekeeping is also in order, as the cables rub the fork crown. Saracen isn’t the only brand guilty of this, and while it doesn’t sound like a big deal, after a couple of rides the cables will start to rub through the fork crown.
Nit-picking aside, the Saracen Mantra sports a ride quality that puts it head and shoulders above most of the bikes in this category. With a better front tyre and few tweaks it could easily give the Vitus a run for its money.