It’s not often that a bike comes along and totally breaks the mould for what a bike should look like. The big names continually evolve their models and occasionally someone like Mojo will come from nowhere with something completely different — the Geomotron is a massively stretched Nicolai and groundbreaking in its own way.
Small to mid-size manufacturers’ bikes often have similarities to bigger brand bikes, simply because there are only so many economical ways to place pivots in the right places, and few people are keen to risk massive investment in moulds to create something truly unique.
But what if you’re not trying to hit a price point? What if you’re not trying (at the start, at least) to go mass-market? You then have the freedom to truly transform things, to try something a little different, to work with new linkage systems and frame shapes.
The rear suspension is designed to pedal well, have minimal pedal interference, and deal with large and small impacts with no stress Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
This is what ARBR has done. This is the Saker.
The ARBR Saker is not a completely new bike, having been in development for a number of years, and the pre-production bike was all over the internet in late 2016, but we’ve got a first look of the first full-production bike — which is ready to order now.
ARBR wanted to build the ultimate 160mm travel enduro bike without any compromises. A bike that pushed the boundaries of both performance and construction methods, and used the team’s considerable experience in Formula 1 and World Super Bike construction.
The team had a number of ride quality goals when designing the Saker.
First, a rearward axle path was believed necessary to give a smooth ride over rocks and roots, in order to help maintain speed. As the wheel hits rough ground it moves back and up, reducing harshness over terrain. This is achieved by using a high pivot placement.
The flip-side to this high placement is that chain growth is greater with a traditional drivetrain set-up. As such, the chain is routed over an idler wheel, removing this influence.
The shock’s low position in the frame aids weight distribution Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
ARBR wanted a 100 percent anti-squat characteristic in the lower gears in order to make climbing as efficient as possible. It also wanted a progressive shock rate, which gives suppleness at the start of the stroke and progression towards the end for good grip levels and control through bigger impacts.
By building its rocker mechanism, ARBR says it’s achieved this without relying on an over-damped shock, or one stuffed with volume spacers, which it believes compromises the shock’s ability to deal with heat build up.
Fox’s shocks will be specced from stock, however other options, including coil, can be fitted Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The team at ARBR has built the frame using techniques found in motorsport and aerospace. These are common claims seen across the industry, however few manufacturers actually use the Autoclave Process found here, as for mass manufacturing, it’s too time consuming and expensive.
The handmade process is relatively complex, but ARBR has spent time making sure every sheet of the pre-impregnated carbon is used in exactly the right place and for the right reasons.
Frame stiffness has been controlled, though. Too stiff and a bike feels harsh and can be tough to keep a handle on off-camber terrain. ARBR says it’s made sure some frame flex exists to provide grip and control in these situations.
Bespoke building means little details, like the swing arm protector, can be neatly integrated Tom Marvin / Immediate Media
The front of the bike is a monocoque, while the rear is made from two individual chainstays that are bonded together at the bridge between the wheel and front triangle. ARBR’s own site has a fairly comprehensive look at how the frame is built.
The alloy linkage system works on a droplink from the bottom of the swing arm, which then turns a dog-link below the shock. This then compresses the shock. By having the linkage low in the frame, weight distribution is improved, as is the case with the shock’s location in the mainframe. The main bearing looks to have a large diameter, which should provide reliability.