The British company Saracen is best known for its off-road bikes. And when it has created more road-orientated bikes – such as the Hack – these have generally been cyclocross-influenced bikes made for the urban environment.
So it’s immediately apparent that the Avro is a very different beast. It has features more often seen on mountain bikes, such as disc brakes and thru-axles. If you had to label it, you’d probably call it an endurance-focused disc-braked road bike. Which is starting to look like it’ll be a pretty crowded market for 2015…
The frame is made from high-grade carbon fibre from the Japanese company Torayca and weighs about a kilo. It comes with mountain bike-derived thru-axles – 15mm diameter front, 12mm rear – to cope with the forces of disc brakes.
But though the frame itself is stiff enough and those thru-axles eliminate any brake rub, Tektro’s mechanical Lyra disc brakes never truly impressed. They are designed to work with road levers, but on test felt neither particularly powerful nor that progressive.
The new 11-speed Shimano 105 continues to impress
We also found mid-ride that the pads of the front brake – which does most of the work – started to drag on the rotor, which meant stopping to adjust the cables. They really felt no match for the excellent Shimano R517s on the similarly specced Focus Mares, even with the larger 160mm diameter rotors (most road-focused brands go for 140mm).
But we had no criticisms when it came to the new 11-speed 105 groupset – the new drivetrain is extremely impressive. Shifting at the rear is slick and rapid across the 11-28 block and the front mech’s trim function makes it easy to avoid chain noise too (Saracen was still awaiting delivery of 105 chainsets, hence the test bike’s 52/36 Ultegra chainset).
The Avro’s standard 73-degree seat angle and fairly slack head angle help to make it a very capable road machine. It’ll happily buzz along at over 20mph on its 28mm Continental tyres, and though it climbs well enough when you hit the hills – helped by a reasonable overall weight – its midweight wheels and tyres make it harder to fight gravity when things get steeper.
There's plenty of room for the fat 28mm Continental tyres
Tyre clearances are impressive, though, which lured us onto the gravel and dirt, where the Avro really shines. Its slacker head angle helps it track well over gravel, it’s stable, and riding down short, steep dirt slopes it is confident and easy to handle. The same is true descending on the road, though it’ll never be quite as nimble to change direction as a full-on race bike.
The Avro impressed us overall – in spite of the middling performance of the brakes. Its frame is a class above anything that Saracen has produced for the road until now, and the swiftness of the ride is a match for any established road brand. With better brakes the Avro would be a top-scoring machine – as it stands it’s still very good.