Saracen Ariel 152 £3299.99

UK firm's top end all-mountaineer

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

The Ariel 152 is Saracen’s top-flight do-it-all machine, boasting some impressive geometry and a solid kitlist. But how does that translate on the trail?

Frame and equipment: sorted selection, with an eye on the descents

As you’d expect, the Ariel 152 has space for the obligatory 650b wheels within its custom-butted front triangle and beautifully shaped carbon back end. Saracen has opted to use a 142x12mm rear axle, but rather than an enclosed screw-thru system it's is an open, quick-release style setup. You can switch to a stiffer bolted Shimano Saint rear axle if you don’t mind using tools to remove your rear wheel.

The Tuned Ride Link (TRL) suspension – a single pivot set-up with a linkage-driven shock – is controlled via a Float X CTD rear shock, which has Fox’s three standard modes (climb, trail and descend) along with an additional Trail Adjust dial for more accurate tuning.

The piggyback shock and 1x10 drivetrain hint at the Ariel’s DH leanings

The Ariel’s geometry points more towards making the most of the downs than the ups, with a reasonably slack 66.5-degree head angle and a flickable 435mm chainstay length.

The Shimano Zee cranks, rear derailleur and 10-speed shifter, along with the Gamut chain guide, give a nod to the Ariel’s gravity-orientated intentions. Shimano’s cheaper M615 brakes may not be the flashiest anchors available but they stop the Saracen with consistent power, time and time again.

Ride and handling: more bruiser than cruiser

Pummel into a rough section and you’ll regret not having padded the stays before rolling out of the garage. Get that clatter silenced though and get the 152 belting through root-riddled downhill sections and you’ll start to see where the Ariel works best.

The nicely progressive rear end seems happy to be stoved into rock sections and stutter bumps or launched off huge booters and land to flat, remaining composed enough to keep you in a neutral position on the bike and deal with the trail ahead. It’s maybe not the comfiest back end out there, but it gets the job done with little fuss and at a decent pace.

The Ariel's rear end delivers composed landings

The shock is pretty easy to get tweaked to perfection, but we had to play with air pressures to get the Fox 34 fork feeling close to what we were after. A little extra air and leaving it in the descend setting proved the best setup for us, but it’s worth getting it tuned (by Mojo, if you're in the UK) to make the most of it.

When you’re cranking hard or sliding through fast, rough off-camber turns, you can feel some flex from the rear triangle. Coupled with its 14.1kg (31.1lb) weight, this means the Ariel doesn’t have that taut, ‘get up and go’ feel some other trail bikes possess. It’s definitely more of a DH bruiser than an XC cruiser. It’s a little sluggish when climbing too, but the solid Zee transmission will get you up most drags and reward you on the way back down.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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