Saracen 29er and cyclocross prototypes - First look

Plus new Ariels and Myst

Genesis weren't the only ones showing prototypes at this week's iceBike* show in Milton Keynes – fellow Brits Saracen also had three 29er pre-production models on display, alongside their full 2012 range.

The Kili and Zen were arguably the bikes that made Saracen's name – the former a 1990s chromoly steel classic, the latter one of the first long-forked hardtails – and remained mainstays of the brand when it was relaunched a couple of years back. Now it looks like both will soon be available in 29er form. 

According to Saracen's Simon Wild, the venerable 26in-wheeled Kili will be phased out and relaunched as a 29er platform, while the Zen will be available with both wheel sizes. The Kili-29er on show at iceBike* was a second generation prototype and Wild says it needs another 10mm of reach, which will take the top tube on the 17in size seen here to 590mm.

Other than that, though, the production bike is likely to be very similar – raw finish and zip-tied cables aside – with geometry designed around a 100mm-travel fork (including a 69° head angle), a tapered-steerer compatible XX44 head tube and a mix of triple-butted, double-butted and plain-gauge 6061 alloy tubing. 

Five complete bikes ranging in price from £550 to £1,200 should be available from September, following an official launch at Eurobike. The top two models will use more refined 6066 alloy and will come with a tapered fork and bolt-through axle.

The Zen-29er will be Saracen's more trail-orientated big-wheeler, designed to take a 120mm fork. The frame is very similar to the Kili-29er (the difference in standover height between the two iceBike* prototypes is due to the fact that the Zen-29er on show was a 19in while the Kili-29er was a 17in) but geometry is about 1° slacker. Production bikes will again have a 10mm longer top tube, along with a CNC-machined chainstay yoke.

Wild reckons it rides remarkably similarly to Saracen's 140mm-travel Ariel full-suspension bike, with the big wheels' ability to iron out trail undulations compensating for the lack of rear wheel travel – at least, until you get to a rocky downhill section.

The third prototype at the show was Saracen's first cyclo-cross bike, the CX. As you might expect from a company known for their 'hardcore' hardtails and aggressive trail bikes, this is no lightweight race steed. Instead, it's a rugged, disc-equipped off-roader that's aimed primarily at mountain bikers who fancy giving drop-bar bikes a go.

"It has race geometry but we've slackened the head angle by half a degree," Wild tells BikeRadar. "We've put a bit of detail into the stays to give a bit of vertical compliance and we've added rack mounts so people can commute on it." 

The CX also has a tapered head tube to boost front end stiffness and a 30.9mm seat tube, making it compatible with dropper seatposts. Two complete bikes are likely to be available from October – an entry-level version with mechanical discs and a high-end model with hydraulic brakes, provided either Shimano or SRAM have launched a fluid-based road system by then.

Other highlights of the Saracen display at iceBike* were the latest Ariel trail bikes and Myst downhill bikes. The new Ariel, available with either 140mm or 160mm of travel, is the third generation model and is said to be lighter, stiffer and more refined, but with the same proven geometry. 

Changes for 2012 include a proprietary Maxle-style 12mm rear axle, internal routing for a RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post and a QR code on the non-drive chainstay which, when scanned, will bring up the bike's details on a technical website, making it simpler to get hold of spares.

The Myst has also had some subtle tweaks after its successful debut season on the World Cup season. There's now a smaller gusset between the down and seat tubes, the front end of the swingarm has been redesigned to boost strength, the shape of the stays has been refined, and the upper shock mount is now CNC machined and has a bigger weld area. The head tube now has a standard internal size so it can be used with angle-adjust headsets.

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