Saracen Tufftrax Comp Disc review£450.00

Smart kit choices put you in control on the trails

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Saracen has been a consistent high achiever when it comes to delivering affordable rides that feel like proper mountain bikes – and here the firm has pulled off the impressive feat of doing so for well under £500.

Wheel versatility

The alloy frame is shared with other, even cheaper Tufftrax models. But you still get hydroformed main tube shaping and S-curved rear stays, top tube control lines to keep them out of harm’s way and bolted Crud Catcher under the down tube to stop mud spraying in your face.

Related: The best mountain bikes under £500

While the seat clamp is bolted rather than quick-release, the forward-facing slot stops rear-wheel spray seeping into the frame and it can be dropped right down for steep descents. Saracen runs overlapping 27.5in (13-19in) and 29in (15-21in) wheel-sized versions of the Comp, in case you prefer a smoother, hybridtyre-compatible big wheel Tufftrax.

The frame is hydroformed alloy, with a 69-degree head angle: the frame is hydroformed alloy, with a 69-degree head angle
The frame is hydroformed alloy, with a 69-degree head angle: the frame is hydroformed alloy, with a 69-degree head angle

The frame is hydroformed alloy, with a 69-degree head angle

Whichever wheel size you opt for, you’re getting sorted kit for your cash. The forged alloy one-piece crank and spider use replaceable rings making it a real practical bonus over the flexy, pressed steel cranksets found on price point peers such as Trek’s Marlin 6 and Specialized’s Pitch.

Related: Best mountain bikes under £500

The latest generation Shimano Altus drivetrain gives you nine gears in the rear block – better than eight – and it’s a lot tidier looking and faster shifting than before. WTB’s Nano tyres are a classic fast rolling tread pattern that are OK until they meet slippy roots or mud.

The lightweight promax solve discs struggle a little to scrub off proper speed: the lightweight promax solve discs struggle a little to scrub off proper speed
The lightweight promax solve discs struggle a little to scrub off proper speed: the lightweight promax solve discs struggle a little to scrub off proper speed

The lightweight Promax Solve discs struggle a little to scrub off proper speed

The wheels are light enough to pick up speed encouragingly too although the lightweight rotors make it hard for the Promax Solve discs to get rid of it quickly.

Basically fun

The fact that getting rid of excess speed rather than labouring to create it was our main issue with the Tufftrax Comp is a major compliment though. It doesn’t just relate to the low overall weight and lively wheel pack either, but because you can carry speed noticeably better than on most of the competition on technical terrain.

That said, the SR Suntour XCM fork still has solid coil and elastomer springs with no meaningful adjustment. Yet on the plus side, we found their default compression and rebound rate is controlled enough to keep the front wheel tracking the ground predictably.

The tufftrax is a good entry-level option for honing your skills on: the tufftrax is a good entry-level option for honing your skills on
The tufftrax is a good entry-level option for honing your skills on: the tufftrax is a good entry-level option for honing your skills on

The Tufftrax is a good entry-level option for honing your skills on

There’s no wrist-jarring topout when you launch the bike and we got over 80mm of the claimed 100mm travel if we really mowed it into a big hit. The 69-degree head angle combined with 720mm bar and 80mm stem gives the Saracen a great blend of agility and authority for taking aggressive line choices too.

All this adds up to a conclusion that Saracen hasn’t just got a good kit collection together for the money – it’s created an enjoyably responsive, well-balanced bike that you can properly progress your riding on. Inevitably the cheaper fork, small volume tyres and firm rather than forgiving ride of the Tufftrax frame mean it won’t always seal the deal on more challenging trails, but you’ll certainly have fun having a go.

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.

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: 45
  • 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 than 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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