From dirt issue 153
SARACEN ARIEL 152 Review
Words: Steve Jones
Photos: Steve Jones and Ben Winder
What has it been now, a handful of years since Madison re-launched the Saracen brand? And in that time they have accomplished… what is it? Downhill World and World Cup Championships firsts. Not bad going mind. Early Ariels were a bit lumpy, a bit sticky in suspension, possibly a touch ugly. Work-like bikes, the delivery was not as polished as it could have been. As a first try however it was good, very good. It came on the early wave of enduro but now the Ariel finds itself in the rip of the action and during a time when so many companies are producing good kit at the right
price this bike was one that needed to have raised its game. And it has, for visually, and more importantly the detail, is now on par with anything out there. But does it work?
Andy Ayres and Simon Wild, key characters involved in the brand, were beating themselves up slightly about the fact that the Ariel doesn’t come fi tted with a Fox 36 fork. It’s not a problem. And I can now say that after about two years, with total confi dence, that the Fox 34 fitted on this bike is a good one and does the job well. OK the bigger 36 will pack a bit more punch but this bike is knockout in so many other ways. The Float X on the rear is nicely worked through a neat and unobtrusive linkage that is free from trouble and mud, and is located just in front of the seat tube. Matters are then taken to the swingarm off a lowish pivot. CTD off ers good lock-out and the tune is very much on the same wavelength as the suspension design and the business of
what it is meant to do. So far so good.
A few own-brand bits and pieces, including hubs laced to Kore Mega rims, are all solid, as too is the venerable Shimano Zee chainset and XT derailleur and shifter. Shimano Deore brakes will never let you down, although the WTB Vigilante tyres probably are not to be trusted fully. Good tread pattern just a touch plasticy. There’s possibly no real need for the QR seat clamp but the adjustable seatpost is an ace card for it does the job and it does it with eliminating unwanted messy cables and the maintenance that often comes with
them. Love the super neat cable routing and the nicely fi nished swingarm that’s made from carbon.
Yes I’d ride an extra large but whilst size is clearly of importance to a bike it has to have good steering and a suspension system that backs up what the numbers say on the box. 150mm should feel pretty plush in most terrain, yet how often we are let down by junk? There seems to be a movement to push enduro bikes into 165mm territory and for some world level events this is a good thing. But I still believe there to be room for a lively 150mm travel bike for most riding. The Ariel is that bike through and through. The new Fox 34 is great, the rear damping is superb, the bike can be moved around instantaneously and the general simplicity of it is refreshing. OK the tyres are the weak point but it is simple to upgrade those. Yet overall for a bike of this money it’s considerably better than many bikes double the price, especially in terms of handling.
I still believe there to be room for a lively 150mm travel bike for most riding. The Ariel is that bike through and through.
The new Fox 34 is great, the rear damping is superb, the bike can be moved around instantaneously and the general simplicity of it is refreshing. OK the tyres are the weak point but it is simple to upgrade those. Yet overall for a bike of this money it’s considerably better than many bikes double the price, especially in terms of handling.LIMITATIONS
If you are working in the tenths of seconds that differentiates a bar mounted seatpost dropper then maybe a RockShox Reverb will be a benefit, but I think I’d still take the time difference for a bike that’s going to be used less against the clock and more on the weekly ups and downs of your local ride. Angles are excellent although the large is more suited to riders six foot and under rather than six foot and plus. Its numbers are slightly smaller than a Kona Process, which features similar travel, but in terms of weight they are about the same at around the 31lb mark. Some might make direct comparisons to the Kona, which is about seven hundred pounds more and now features the SRAM X01 gearing which has a lower gear for those tougher banks. Err, and that’s about it. Oh yes the seat tube gusset is slightly out of line and there’s a touch too much clatter from the rear.
So apart from some minor niggles this is all going pretty well for the Ariel. What’s the catch? There is none. It would obviously be lighter with X01 and better wheels but it is lively as it is. The X1 spec’d Kona is a good bike to compare yet many of the local riders have commented that whilst they prefer the SRAM gearing it is more costly to replace than Shimano kit. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.
And that’s pretty much it. The price is good, the ride is good, the components are reliable, there’s no false hype or bullshit, it’s simply a solid, reliable and very fun bike to ride. Highly recommended.
Frame: Saracen Ariel 152
Shock: Fox Float X CTD
Fork: Fox 34 CTD 150
Stem: Kore Durox
Headset: FSA Orbit
Grips: Saracen Lock ON
Bars: Kore Mega
Shifter: Shimano XT 10 speed
Derailleur: Shimano XT
Brakes: Shimano Deore
Seatpost: Kind Shox, 125mm adjustable
Saddle: Kore Durox
Crank: Shimano Zee
BB: Shimano Zee
Ring: Shimano Zee 34t
Chain Guide: Gamut
Cassette: Shimano HG 50
Chain: Shimano HG54
Wheelset: Kore Mega rims, own brand hubs
Tyres: WTB Vigilante