It's brave to try and create a proper hardcore character bike at a price where most companies are struggling to string together a decent conventional ride. But we think Saracen has done a damn good job. For a start, you'd be hard pressed to tell that the frame alone didn't cost £300.
With its massive oval to squared down tube and big strengthening gussets at both the reinforced head tube and seat tube junctions this is a properly tough frame that'll handle drops and rocks with aplomb. The pronounced 'S' curve of the rectangular stays also gives massive muddy tyre clearance and there's plenty of standover room too. However, the bolted seat collar is dying for a switch to a QR to make it easy to drop the seat for really steep descents.
The ride position pushes your weight forward to work the fork and nail cornering traction, while the big, wide bar and short stem give a fast, power assisted steering feel that's perfect for slithering through the tightest single track. In fact, if you're not spending as much time as possible with both wheels sideways or counter steering madly then you're missing the point.
The big tubes and hefty weight keep you surefooted on the trail too, thundering downhill with real authority and steamrollering through a remarkable amount of rough stuff before getting kicked off line. The RST fork works okay swallowing mid-sized rocks happily and only bounced back with a harsh top out when you properly clout something.
Also, while it was reluctant to give more than 80mm of its claimed 120mm of travel, that actually stopped the front end diving badly when we heaved on the brakes. Thankfully the tyres are big enough to add some subtlety to landings off larger drops too. The hefty overall weight of the bike is obvious on the trail. To be fair though, the stiff frame dug in and did its best to muscle its way up hills or out of corners.
Saracen has done a great job of getting the crucial kit bits right too. The broad rimmed wheels can cope with plenty of abuse and give a chunky profile to the already broad 2.35in tyres and the gearing pedigree is par for the course.
The reinforced scuff proof saddle is a wise choice, but the plastic guard is definitely just a trouser defender not a log and rock defeater though. Plus, while the cable discs are spongy and delayed in action, they do offer more wet weather power and Saracen couldn't really have pulled off the hardcore look without them.
Any bike that weighs close to 40lb is always going to be hard to lug uphill or keep going all day, but the Saracen is worth the effort for those planning to push the limits of their riding. The frame and handling is excellent for playing tough in tight technical terrain.