Saracen Kili Flyer review£2,799.99

650b all-rounder full suspension bike

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Saracen’s 650b all-rounder is so new it wasn’t even in the range when the company announced its 2013 lineup. Can this future-proofed trail machine live up to the legendary Kili Flyer name?

Ride & handling: Sorted cockpit for an aggressive attitude

The front end feels securely stuck down, but where 26in-wheel bikes were sliding through looser or wetter corners the back end was remarkably responsive. Sessioning sections for photos inevitably meant whipping down some tight climb sections the wrong way round, but the Kili refused to get tied in knots or topple off the outside edges.

The front end turns in neatly, the back end steps out with a flourish and you’re free to get straight back on the power, hammer down and head up looking for the next chunk of fun to get stuck into.

The Revelation fork adds easy suppleness to enrich straight-line traction and comfort, while the 130mm stroke isn’t deep enough for excess dive to cause a big issue. The slightly bigger wheel size also fills in a lot of the gaps the simple Turn Key damping circuitry can’t cope with, leaving the front end consistently trustworthy.

Saracen kili flyer:
Saracen kili flyer:

Frame & equipment: Progressively shaped chassis, mostly decent kit

There’s a lot to like from the off. The Flyer’s long low lines, 60mm stem and 740mm bars seem to mean business, and it was confirmed even as we scooted it round the car park. 

Travel is mid range but Saracen’s gone properly progressive on the angles, with the front wheel kicked way out front for high-speed stability, and the sump dropped low for surefooted swinging through corners.

It’s great to see Maxxis Ardent and CrossMark tyres as one of the first 650b options, and they got the Kili off to a brisk but confidently trauma-proof assault on the test trails. 

The chunky side lugs and flat centre tread encourage full blooded commitment and plenty of early lean to nail every flick-flack apex. The screw-thru 142x12mm rear axle, 30mm main pivot and broad rims on usefully tight 32-spoked wheels these 27.5in wheels are plenty stiff.

This all put the Kili well up in contention for overall Trail Bike of the Year 2013 honours… Until the geology got more belligerent and the emphasis moved to the rear suspension.

The smooth Kashima-coated Fox shock is the most expensive and theoretically the most sensitive and controlled shock on test, but Saracen’s steeply back-swept linkage, which hangs from the top tube, feeds the impacts into it at a dramatically changing rate. 

One result is very smooth and responsive movement over small bumps, and excellent rolling-trail comfort and traction. Another is lots of bob when out of the saddle – unless you flick on CTD compression. 

And the biggest result is that it slams through the last part of the stroke. It really clattered and banged through bigger impacts, undermining an otherwise very promising ride.

This bike was tested as part of magazine’s What Mountain Bike 2013 Trail Bike of the Year feature – read the full results in issue 147, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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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