The Mantra Pro is the second cheapest of Saracen’s Mantra line, and sits alongside the Zen and Kili ranges as part of the company’s trail hardtail line-up. At a penny under £600, is it all the hardtail you need?
Frame and equipment: smoothly does it
The frame offers a very upgradeable balance of kick, float and functional features like bolted cable guides and down tube mudguard mounts.
The Schwalbe Rapid Rob might be a bit trade iffy when it comes to root and rock control, the the trade-off for that is fast, smooth rolling flattery of the Mantra’s 13.6kg mass. A chunkier, softer compound front tyre such as Schwalbe’s Nobby Nic or Hans Dampf Evo would significantly increase the Mantra Pro's confidence on sketchy terrain, so see if you can barter an upgrade if you buy this.
The rudimentary 120mm travel Suntour fork is better controlled than most units for the money and has better longevity than most bargain spring sticks, while the Shimano brakes are basic but reliable. They took a little time to bed in, although their reliability and spares availability is assured.
Sure, there are grippier tyres and smoother forks to be had, but all hardtails impose a rattling rear end limit on how much you can exploit the best equipment. Overall, Saracen has done a great job on spec for a small UK-based company.
Ride and handling: agile but not for ascents
The Saracen Mantra Pro is a lot of fun to ride. Once the initially-wooden Shimano discs brakes warmed up, we were able to make full use of the sorted 68-degree steering angle, 70mm stem and 720mm bars to whip and hip the Mantra Pro through the trees with minimal compromise.
With a steep seat angle naturally pushing forward onto the front wheel for extra grip and a seat you can slam all the way down we found ourselves in an ideal position to make the most of what we had and simply ignore what we haven’t.
The geometry exploits the increased smoothness and traction of 650b wheels without losing the spark that makes a trail hardtail fun. A steep seat angle and short stem create a relatively short reach to the bars, which is great for enhanced agility but it’s not so good a position for slogging up long hills fast. You could go wider on the bars for extra leverage but we realise that might freak more recreational riders out.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.