Just pipped at the post by the VooDoo Bizango in our £600 Hardtail of the Year test, the Saracen Mantra Pro is still a bike with heaps to recommend it
From the very first pedal stroke, it was clear that the Saracen Mantra Pro was the only bike in this test, other than the VooDoo Bizango, that could attack, rather than simply survive, the tougher trails at Bike Park Wales.
With the widest handlebar and shortest stem in test boosting control, good length in the cockpit aiding overall stability as well as the extra bump-munching ability that a 120mm-travel fork provides, we instantly gelled with the Mantra’s thoroughly modern trail-bike attitude.
The ride quality was every bit as forgiving as the geometry and we quickly found ourselves blasting down every trail at breakneck speed looking for jumps to hit, rollers to pump and corners to slash. Truth be told; after being shackled to the less impressive bikes in the £600 category for days, when we finally jumped on the Saracen it felt like being set free to ride the trails for the very first time. The Saracen is so responsive to rider input you can’t help but play around and have fun on it.
Point it uphill and the new 650b Mantra with its faster-rolling tyres is equally well mannered, and the top-notch WTB saddle pushes your weight forward to help keep the front-end of the bike down and pointing in the right direction.
The Suntour XCR fork comes with a lockout feature we never used, and given the Mantra’s ability to slay the descents we would have preferred to see a fork that plays to this bike’s strengths. In fact, if Saracen had fitted a fork with rebound adjustment, or at the very least, stiffer bolt-through lowers, the Mantra could have won this test rather than settling for second place behind the Bizango.