Saracen Ariel 2 - First ride review£2,099.00

Outstanding new trail centre bomber

BikeRadar score4/5Find prices on Bicycle Blue Book

Iconic UK brand Saracen have brought out a fresh new range for 2010. This includes the Ariel suspension bikes – state-of-the-art radical trail bombers.

Ride & handling: All the poise and capability of a mini downhill bike but spot-on for day rides too

In the month we’ve had the Ariel we’ve hit up everywhere from Coed-y-Brenin’s blackest runs to Snowdon’s singletrack descents and the most mental lines down our local crags – and it’s loved it.

With its slack head angle (68 degrees), downhill-style wide-and-low bar and stem setup and low bottom bracket (13.4in high), this bike begs to be blasted down every trail. The tapered head tube and shared-seam front end just loves to be buried deep into corners and ripped round berms.

The low bottom bracket keeps it anchored when railing or sliding, and the tyre choice means it always steps out stern first, speedway style. The angles and bar-and-stem dimensions are just right to inspire confidence, and although there’s some twist in the rear end, it gives a pliable, playful feel.

The non-FIT cartridge Fox 32 fork and low-ratio, low-pivot shock setup are supple over small stuff, but still suck up drops well for a 140mm-travel (5.5in) bike. Its weight balance is perfect for flat-out flight or low-speed hop and drop work too.

The fast-rolling rear tyre and decent pedalling stability means it pedals and climbs pretty well for a 30lb bike, so day rides aren’t out of the question. The low bottom bracket means lots of toe tapping though, and the short length will leave you short of breath if you hurry.

 saracen ariel 2:  saracen ariel 2
saracen ariel 2: saracen ariel 2

Frame & equipment: Burly chassis with a good parts spec for the price

The externally reinforced tapered head tube backs onto shared-seam main tubes for maximum stiffness. The top tube is kinked for extended 720mm standover clearance, and the seat tube left clean for full seatpost drop.

The low single-pivot rear end uses multiple CNC-machined sections to wrap around the bottom bracket and front mech, and production models will have a RockShox Maxle quick-release through-axle skewering the replaceable dropout plates, rather than the heavy bolted one here.

Mud clearance is massive, the rear mech cable-routing is continuous and there are bosses for a mudguard under the down tube. The Ariel also has ISCG tabs for a chainguide, although there are no stops for an adjustable seatpost remote cable.

The wide bars (711mm) and short stem are from RaceFace’s Respond range and offer plenty of control. The Fox FLOAT fork has a stiff tapered steerer, a 15mm through-axle and 140mm (5.5in) of travel. The 200mm long, 140mm-travel (5.5in) Fox shock is driven through a twin linkage setup to tune spring feel.

The Shimano brakes are boosted with a 180mm front rotor and the Maxxis tyres on 27mm wide Sun rims are great for pushing the pace. We reckon the Ariel is begging for a double-and-bash chainset, not a triple, but otherwise it's spot on for its mission and the money.

RaceFace’s respond bars are 711mm wide and offer plenty of control: raceface’s respond bars are 711mm wide and offer plenty of control
RaceFace’s respond bars are 711mm wide and offer plenty of control: raceface’s respond bars are 711mm wide and offer plenty of control

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 44
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster tfhan the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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