Saracen are on a real charge at the moment with the new addition of Danny Hart to the downhill team. There are also other looming additions with the 29” Myst and this, the new Ariel 27.5” long travel trail bike.
The new Ariel has some fairly big shoes to fill with the old model really impressing us here in the past. The slick looking matt finish to the new bike will most definitely turn heads and it seems to have the build and look to keep up the name. Let’s get stuck into it.
Shape and fit
With four sizes on offer from small to XL, the guys at Saracen have really tried to keep everyone happy. The addition of the reach adjust headset is also a good idea and the same thing you will find on the Myst DH bike. This offers 5mm plus or minus reach and makes the feel totally customizable for every rider.
The XL bike supplied for this test had 490mm reach without the reach adjust (that was not supplied) but it sounded larger than it felt. Overall the frame does come up on the smaller side of the XL bracket with a wheelbase of 1259mm and short rear stays. A similar bike of a different brand in this size has an extra 515mm reach and a 1274 mm wheelbase.
This really is a Myst that has been shrunk. The Ariel shares same TRL design on the rear linkage and it has been utilised to its fullest. The 165mm of rear travel comes from a fully carbon linkage and chassis that drives a Fox Float X2 rear damper. This offers a stiff and light design with large bearing construction for extra longevity and stiffness.
Upfront the Fox theme stays with the 36 Float Factory Fit 170mm Kashima fork keeping the performance high on this top level build.
Saracen Ariel spec
Frame 3K Toray UD carbon blend / 165mm travel
Shifters Shimano SLX M7000 Rapidfire Plus 1x11 speed
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT M8000 Shadow Plus
Front Derailleur MRP 1x
Chainset Shimano XT M8000 32T
Cassette Shimano M7000 11 speed cassette 11-46T
Chain KMC X11EL
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB-MT800B
Calipers Shimano M8000 180/180mm
Levers Shimano M8000
Fork Fox 36 Float Factory
Rear Shock Fox Float X2 Factory
Rims DT Swiss M1900 Spline 30
Hubs DT Swiss M1900 Spline 30
Spokes DT Swiss Double-butted
Tyres Maxxis Minion DHF 3C/EXO/TR / 27.5 x 2.3" front/rear
Headset Saracen off-set headset
Bar ENVE DH carbon bar / 800mm wide / 23mm rise
Stem Saracen 6061 CNC alloy
Grips Saracen lock-on
Saddle Kore Fuze II
Seatpost JD YSP07L dropper - 150mm travel
This Army themed bike is the top build with parts coming from Fox, Shimano and DT Swiss. I was fairly shocked to find an Enve Carbon DH bar bolted to the Saracen stem when there is a Shimano SLX shifter mated up to it. But all in all top class build.
The size XL did not give the feeling of a big bike that was expected and this is the same throughout the range of bikes. This being said, with the 800mm Enve bar there was plenty of room for me but anyone over the 6 foot mark may struggle.
The Ariel has a very stiff chassis. Now this can be taken as a plus or a minus when riding different terrain. On the more bike park, jump orientated tracks the bike really pops with a good suspension feeling and plenty of playful maneuverability. When the trail gets rough the chassis does get a little harsh - it is bearable but not easy. In the past 12 months, we’ve ridden bikes like the steel Production Privee or even the Canyon Torque, with aluminium rear stays, that offer far more grip when the terrain gets wild.
The Ariel does have a good shape though. I liked the low bottom bracket and relatively slack head angle, both of which factor in making this bike really fun. Start with a modification to the tyre choice and create a good fast ride.
Saracen also provide an offset headset with the bike to increase that all important reach by 5mm. This wasn’t supplied to me with the bike but would be benefited if it was. I feel like the new reach of 495mm could have improved the stability on the fast rough sections with the larger chassis.
The first and main thing has to be the tyres. The skin walls look super rad it has to be said but it came to looks over performance on this model. With a poor Compound and 2.3” construction, the bike feels a little lost.
After recently riding the 2.5 Maxxis WT tyre on most bikes, the narrower 2.3" Minions with the tan walls did not hit the mark. The harder compound gave little grip and the skinny width had little damping. A swap of tyres gave this bike a totally different feel.
The full carbon chassis matched up with the large bearings and carbon linkages makes for a very stiff bike. Almost too stiff at times. If you are off out playing in a bike park it will compliment the ride well but when you are riding all day there is a relatively high fatigue to take into account. This can be aided by fitting a higher volume rubber to take at some extra cushion when getting onto the high frequency bumps.
Fast, fun maybe not perfect but a good bike nonetheless. When you think of what you get here for the money it is a full package. Get that reach adjust headset in and make sure they rubber is to your taste and it will make you smile.
Given the bike’s travel and aim, it climbs well too, so you would easily be able to take it out all day. Make sure that damper is set up correctly and this long travel trail beast should look after you all day.