It’s a well known fact that the costs of UK manufacturing 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?
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 and Orange with good numbers, and remember the YT in aluminium also comes in XL. The 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 a six-foot rider. 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 we’re largely convinced on the suspension, there was an occasion which made us want to explore it further. 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 we’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. Barr and his team have already accomplished a huge amount with this bike. We love the balance and pace to this bike rather than the material but realise it’s partly accountable for the performance.
Overall it’s fast, silent, balanced, well engineered and distinctive. Now there are not many bikes that achieve all those basic functions. This is class.