Trail and Enduro Bikes

ARBR Saker Tested

Going in for the kill. British made 160mm raptor

Straight out of Surrey comes a company utilising some of Britain’s finest skilled engineers, designers and manufacturing techniques. The new Saker (meaning a species of Falcon) is a bike fashioned by a collaboration of bike enthusiasts with a sizeable amount of knowledge behind the numbers.


What does this young company bring to the table? Well it has 25 years of combined motorsport knowhow from F1 suspension management to super high end carbon fiber FEA, harnessing those skills to make a bike which they believe to be a bike that allows riders to push the limits. With a suspension characteristic that is supportive, progressive, and a frame they believe to have just the right balance of compliance and stiffness, it’s a grand start. After a brief test, and at a very base level they have delivered a bike that is plain and simply fast.


It takes huge belief to launch into the bike industry with one of the most expensive 160mm travel frames on the planet when an almost faultless Trek Remedy carbon frame is available for nearly half the money. Clearly there’s a bit more involved on this bike when you go into the detail, but even when that and the small scale production numbers are considered, this really needs to be one polished bike to command such a hefty price tag.

It’s a well known fact that the costs of UK manufacture are considerably higher than those of Asian built equivalents but more than this Robert Barr (founder of ARBR) points out is that they “could not get the manufacturing process benefits or control by going off shore to Asia.” They say the reward for digging so deep in your pocket is that it comes with the exclusivity of small numbers, has a close connection between design and manufacture and that the level of engineering, the individuality of each frame is, as Barr says “built to a level of detail and craftsmanship like no other.” But is there a performance advantage?


Just over a year ago I remarked that this 160mm bike was not shy of wanting to be a bike for all occasions. It weighed in just over 30lb, offered a progressive suspension design that’s easy to ride, settling well in corners, generating good drive out of the terrain, and giving a stable ride when booting it hard into deep breakers. It was however, horribly noisy.

So what’s changed? Well the Surrey based company is about to open shop for orders of the new frame. Let’s have a quick look at some of the numbers and see how it compares with some top performers in this category because in terms of travel it goes head to head with bikes such as the YT Capra, Specialized Enduro, and Giant Reign. Here are some comparative figures of of our favourite carbon 150-160mm bikes:

Immediately it’s noticeable that there’s very few carbon bikes that offer this amount of travel that really stand out. There’s actually more aluminium 160-170 offerings – including Radon, Nicolai, Commencal, Whyte, Orange with good numbers, and remember the YT in aluminium also comes in XL.

You’ll notice that Trek and Giant have the closest (and in our opinion best) reach figures for a size large bike although Mondraker, Nicolai and Whyte take matters much bigger. For example a ‘large’ in the Whyte G160 is 495mm reach and a carbon XL Remedy comes in at 483mm. All these numbers are relative but the message is that if you want a real XL bike head down the aluminium route or if you want a mass produced XL carbon bike, one of those mentioned above.

Ultimately the larger of the two ARBR bikes is in between L and XL. For most riders a few inches either side of six foot our large will be a very good fit but don’t forget there’s the shorter bike also available.

Some incredibly precise detailing in the swingarm/pulley area


That first version of the Saker had good angles, an appealing Honda like line to its chassis and that aforementioned sizing which luckily wasn’t far off for my six-foot frame. But it was noisy, the pulley wheel wasn’t perfect and the suspension whilst being smooth in the first half had a tendency to stiffen harshly on occasion somewhere past fifty percent.

Those issues have now been resolved and although I’m largely convinced on the suspension there was an occasion which made me want to explore it further. It could well have been me falling into the wrong part of a root section at the wrong time, but I’d just like a bit more time on it on some different terrain just to be sure. I’m just talking fine detail. On fast rough terrain the bike generally skipped through, generating drive in an instant, there’s a genuine pace to the bike, the bike dances lightly over the tops of the collisions rather than getting tangled up in them.

Uphill the ARBR drives with an impressive tightness to its chassis on climbs and although I’d like to have had a damper lock out, the steep seat tube angle didn’t result in too much rearward bias. A lock out damper would definitely add to the experience but the 100%anti squat characteristic plays its part well. Overall the weight and riding position allows for comfortable extended rides.

Where it really matters – direction changes between corners – the angles on this bike are as good as it gets, the balance point is bang on, with very little weight distribution changes to deal with. There’s exceptional damper/chassis balance to the bike and a low slung top tube which allows for acute changes to body position when trying to maintain flow.

Rob and his team of experts have dealt impressively with the noise issues and this bike is almost silent, that’s both within the frame and also on the chain line. The detailing of frame protection is exemplary. The idler is now improved, larger and features narrow/wide. On my test bike there was little noise from the drive system, no cable rattling inside the frame or no unnecessary clanging that we experience on so many bikes. Some big, big points scored for the Straker.

Finally whilst the flex/stiffness balance appears to be good we did have an issue with what appeared to be a slightly tight 36 fork, we’ll have to get more info on that as its certainly not common, and a fork we love riding most of the time.


The integrity of the angles is unquestioned, the purity and precision of the build quality and reliability is something we’ll not fully find out until the bikes start hitting production. Have no doubt though, these guys will be agonising over the build quality having already spent considerable time getting the finest detail correct, and remember these bikes have now been real world tested for a few years.

Many will buy into the low volume, exclusive golden ticket but don’t go thinking it’s a whole new level in performance. Whilst it might be special on the inside, in the detail and construction methods, it would be imprudent to be dismissing Asian build as second rate, and similarly short sighted to believe that carbon is really so much better than aluminium. Yes carbon takes longer to construct and whilst there are horrible inconsistencies between design and manufacturing with some of the big brands you cannot tar them all with the same brush. But this is no such mass produced bike.

Robert Barr and his team have already accomplished a huge amount with this bike. Overall I love the balance and pace to this bike rather than the material but realise it’s partly accountable for the performance. ARBR’s real test will be how well it is received once the boys go live in two days time.

Overall its fast, silent, balanced, well engineered and distinctive. Now there’s not many bikes that achieve those basic functions. This is class.

£4390 Made to Order


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