Saracen Amplitude AL1 review£799.99

Racer piles on the style

BikeRadar score2.5/5

The new owners of pioneering UK mountain bike brand Saracen have launched an all-new range of cost and style conscious bikes with no less than four park/play bikes on the roster. This style-heavy alloy hooligan has some great features for ripping up the track or the trails.

Ride & handling: Promising ride spoiled by clunky budget fork

The basic fit and feel of the bike is sorted, and adjustable dropouts let you tune the tail character from steady to whippy very easily. In its shortest setting, the Amplitude is all about back-end snap and airborne agility, while racers can dial in a more stable, longer-tailed feel. This offsets the short centre section’s hyperactive, BMX-like tendency to change direction – this scared a few of our less experienced riders until they got used to it.

Wide bars aid steering when the back end steps out and the front tyre struggles to stay on line. While they’re not as quick as street slicks, the low knobbed treads certainly aren’t slow and the rounded profile means they whip in and out of deep turns without worry. We wouldn’t go mental grinding them though – the sidewalls are standard thickness rather than reinforced.

The adjustable dropouts make fixing a puncture a real pain in the arse, but then this is primarily designed as a race bike, where a flat means a DNF anyway. You also have to get used to the elastomer and coil spring stroke of the Marzocchi DJ3 fork which definitely isn’t kind on the wrists – and while dedicated dirt jumpers aren’t big on subtlety, even they don’t want a fork that feels as dead as this.

It’s non-adjustable and has a rapid kickback, and the lack of a bolt-through axle means it tends to wash out in corners or on less than perfect landings if you’re not careful, which is a shame on an otherwise well sorted ride. The cheaper damping and spring format is noticeable compared to the DJ2 fork found on many price rivals.

Saracen amplitude al 1: saracen amplitude al 1
Saracen amplitude al 1: saracen amplitude al 1

Frame: Sorted compact frame geometry with ISCG mount and rear-end adjustability

The neat detailing starts right from the inset logo integrated Aheadset head tube. The curved and tapered rectangular section down tube shares a long weld seam with the triangulated and tapered top tube to spread heavy landing loads as broadly as possible. The built-in ISCG mount is perfect for fettling the supplied Truvativ chainkeeper too.

Rectangular section chainstays swerve round the tyre from a hollow box bottom bracket brace while the seatstays are seriously snaked for ankle and calf clearance when pedalling. The dropouts use rear facing slots with separate sliding mounts for the rear mech and disc brakes, so you can tension the chain for singlespeed use or tweak the rear end geometry from medium to long.

The combination of different sized bolts, Allen keys and almost complete brake removal to get the wheel out is a headache if you’re fixing punctures or trying to squeeze it into a small car, though. There’s only one frame size on offer too.

You’ll be star of the pose parade with the alienation and spank components: you’ll be star of the pose parade with the alienation and spank components
You’ll be star of the pose parade with the alienation and spank components: you’ll be star of the pose parade with the alienation and spank components

Equipment: Pedigree BMX and freeride componentry, but tyres are too slight for street use

Saracen have definitely gone all-out to catch as many buyers as possible with the logo-heavy spec. BMX brand Alienation provide the blue anodised double-wall rims, which are laced up with 36 white powder-coated spokes (rather than the usual 32) to spread landing loads more evenly. Super-secure bolted hubs complete a tough and eye-catching wheelset.

The star-spangled jump saddle and seatpost with hidden single-bolt adjustment also come from Alienation. The bar, stem and grips are quality Spank pieces and Saracen spec a decent width (700mm) cockpit, which gives extra leverage. Truvativ’s single-ring Ruktion chainset is okay, with a full box chainguide to stop derailing.

While the shifters and rear mech are sensibly cheap ‘crash-without-crying’ choices, the top quality KMC chain shouldn’t ever miss a beat at a crucial moment. Quad’s Axis hydraulic brakes get a power upgrade from a 180mm rotor to let you out-brake the opposition into corners and the Continental Speed King front and Race King semi-slick rear tyres are light and responsive. The sidewalls are way too thin for street use though, and their potential for regular puncturing will highlight the awkward wheel attachment.

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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