Saracen has taken a totally no-nonsense approach to both the name and the design of its rugged road-based all-rounder, but that risks underselling what is a well-balanced, vibrant and enjoyable ride.
Design detailing and decent component mix
Patriots (potentially on both sides of the Channel) will certainly be drawn to the bold red, white and blue paint job, and on closer inspection the Hack has a few other design tricks up its sleeve too. The rear brake cable tucks into neat inserts on the top-tube and there’s a tapered head-tube holding the deep but narrow fork blades, with a 160mm post-style disc brake mount moulded into the carbon legs.
The alloy main tubes are subtly shaped and tapered, while keyhole kink chainstays and relatively stout and straight seatstays give plenty of room for big rubber. The rear brake mount is old style IS (International Standard) but you get front and rear mudguard mounts, and rack mounts on the back – if you’re after a low rider mount on the front forks, you’re out of luck. The wheel skewers have 5mm Allen key heads rather than tool-free quick release cams for added protection against opportunistic wheel thieves.
Shimano Tiagra transmission is good value at this level, given the slick and impressively stiff ring-and-arm-synced crankset and long-lasting Hollowtech bottom bracket. While the Tektro Mira brakes are typically underpowered and vague for cable disc brakes, they at least have cable adjusters on the callipers to compensate for pad wear without having to get your mini-tool out.
The true value of the Hack shows through the more you ride it, and the well-balanced frame and well-crafted component mix shine through however grim the conditions. The Schwalbe Spicer tyres only measured 32mm across – despite 35mm labelling – but the slashed slick tread and tough K-Guard carcass still ride smoothly and effortlessly.
Positive, agile and comfortable ride
While the Hack is obviously designed for road, not dirt, we were surprised at how well it gripped even when charging across sodden grass and mud on shortcuts between proper gravel tracks.
Its greatest strength, though, is the way it connects you with your terrain. The large chainstays and Tiagra cranks transfer torque efficiently, which translates into an encouragingly responsive attitude to climbs or combative moments, and it was happy to dance on the pedals if we needed to up the tempo.
Handling is agile and involving, and the combination of a bar with 70mm reach and 120mm drop gives you plenty of closely spaced hand positions from which to choose.
However, the bar and equally comfortable saddle are just the contact points of what is a far more forgiving ride than we expected, given the chunky tubes and seatpost diameter. In the end, we were bombing down cratered, semi-submerged bridleways in the big ring just to try to find a limit to what the Saracen would take in its stride.
No matter the terrain we still ended up grinning at the end of every ride, and whenever the Hack was in the company of similar bikes we were testing at the same time, chat quickly turned to how good it felt for the money and how happy we’d be to hold onto this consistently fun have-a-go hero for good.