Saracen Kili Flyer 1 £1599.99

Versatile cross-country & trail-riding hardtail

BikeRadar score 4/5

The Kili Flyer is a cross-country bike with one eye on the podium and another on the trails. Its race quickness is calmed by its shock-absorbing carbon frame and Reba fork, making it a solid choice if you want to mix it up a bit, doing your weekend ride with your mates one week and a cross-country race or enduro the next.

Ride & handling: in-control cross-country manners

With its wide, low-rise bar and upright riding position, the Saracen feels as much like a general-purpose cross-country bike as a race bike.

It doesn’t attack climbs with the fervour of a super-light, thoroughbred race bike, but the flipside is that it feels more in control coming down, particularly when you hit trail turbulence.

The RockShox Reba fork tracks well and travels smoothly on choppier singletrack that can upset some short-travel forks.

If you’re making the jump from a trail hardtail to a bike you could race on, the Kili Flyer will feel a lot more familiar.

Frame: beefed up carbon for ride not weight

There’s no mistaking that this is carbon, thanks to the visible weave and the swoopy lines around the seat cluster and rear triangle that a monocoque build allows without unnecessary weight.

It’s burly-looking, but the benefit of more composite material is greater strength and crash resistance.

Carbon fibre isn’t intrinsically fragile unless you haven’t used enough of it. But when it does go it doesn’t get bent, it shatters. Carbon frames are either completely fine or completely kaput.

The downside is the weight – you could build up an aluminium race hardtail lighter than this for the same outlay.

It wouldn’t have carbon’s ride properties, though, like those ‘flex stays’. They do flex a bit too – mostly laterally.

Yet while there’s scarcely any vertical deflection between rear axle and saddle, you can feel the flex at the pedals, which is where your weight will be when the going gets rough. It’s enough to take the edge off trail buzz and sharp hits.

Equipment: SRAM & RockShox handle the mud

The Saracen gets a RockShox Reba SL fork. It’s a bit heavier than the Fox 32F100RL you find on many bikes at this level, although that’s offset by the fact it can be upgraded with a remote lockout.

The groupset is SRAM X.7. Compared with rivals, the Cannondale Taurine 3 and the Scott Scale 30, you’re missing out on the uprated Shimano Deore XT Shadow rear mech. However, SRAM’s 1:1 cable-pull ratio is more tolerant of a bit of cable stretch and British mud.

The Maxxis Ignitors don’t feel as fast as the other bikes’ tyres, although they’re fine as an all-round cross-country tyre.

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