Saracen Ariel 162 review

Fun downhill-style enduro bike

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £3,000.00 RRP
Saracen Ariel 162

Our review

The Ariel 162 is a playful hard-hitter, but too gravity-focused to be an all-day enduro bike
Skip to view product specifications

Saracen say they developed the Ariel 162 for downhill-style enduro racing. While naming it ‘Ariel’ – a mountain gazelle – is in keeping with that statement, it could easily be called the ‘Aerial’ instead, as the bike is seriously fun to get airborne.  

Advertisement

Ride & handling: Downhill friendly, confidence inspiring geometry

The Ariel 162 is a playful bike, and very capable on steep terrain. The Fox 36 fork and a long, tapered head tube contribute to a high front end, which combined with the slack 66.5-degree head angle create a well-balanced feel when the front wheel points downwards. 

The lofty handlebars (even when dropped all the way) and short cockpit put you into a stood-up, rather than stretched out, position, which is great for technical trails as it’s easy to move the bike and get over the rear quickly on short steep roll-ins. This compact sizing and a firm-feeling rear end make it a blast on the jumps and bike park-style trails. In fact, whether we were getting airborne or slamming it into berms, the Ariel’s tight wheelbase made snappy direction changes a breeze.  

Though the Saracen pedals well with efficient power transfer on smooth trails, the rear suspension doesn’t suck up square edges and small bumps as smoothly as we’d like, even with minimal compression damping (Pro Pedal). That big, slippery, Kashima coated fork with its ultra-adjustable FIT damper performs flawlessly, but sadly this just leads to a slightly unbalanced feel from front to rear through rocky sections. 

Single ring gearing with a chain device up front means we never lost the chain once, but climbing steep trails is more of a make-this-feeling-stop-now affair, rather than a relaxed twiddle. 

Rather than a race-tuned enduro machine, the Ariel performs more like a mini downhill bike. Its standard downhill geometry and dynamic nature make it one of the most fun things we’ve ridden on steep, technical trails. It’s the perfect partner for jumping and slow speed UK downhill riding, rather than flat-out enduro-style attacks. 

Frame & equipment: Caters for DH needs, apart from the tyres

At £3,000 and boasting matching Kashima coated forks and shock, the Ariel stands out in its price range. The frame features that tapered head tube but a 12x135mm quick-release rear axle, and is built around Saracen’s signature TRL (Tuned Ride Link) suspension system. It creates a solid pedalling platform. 

Saracen’s choice of gravity-inspired components – such as an e*thirteen chainguide, 740mm-wide KORE bars and KS dropper seatpost – mean it’s ready to roll on steep trails straight out of the box. The same can’t be said for the paper-thin sidewalled Schwalbe Nobby Nics, which pinch-punctured regularly when ridden hard. 

Advertisement

This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Ariel 162 (12)
Brand Saracen

Description S, M, L
Shifters Shimano Deore M591 Rapid Fire, 10spd
Front Wheel Sun Inferno 27 rim, Formula hub, 20mm axle
Tyres Schwalbe Nobby Nic Evo, 2.25in
Wheelbase (in) 43.8
Top Tube (in) 23
Standover Height (in) 30
Seat Tube (in) 17
Chainstays (in) 17.1
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.6
Weight (lb) 32
Weight (kg) 14.6
Stem KORE Durox Ahead, 60-75mm, 6-degree rise
Seatpost KS Dropper (125mm) with remote
Bottom Bracket FSA BB-7000
Saddle Fizik Gobi
Rear Shock Fox RP23 Factory Series Kashima
Rear Derailleur Shimano XT
Headset Type FSA Gravity XX
Handlebar KORE Durox 2014, 740mm, 20mm rise
Grips/Tape Saracen dual-density grip, lock-on
Frame Material Aerial custom butted, tapered steerer
Fork Fox Float 36 FIT RLC, 20mm QR, tapered, Kashima coat, 160mm
Cranks FSA Gravity Moto X DH, 36T
Chain Shimano HG-54, 10spd
Cassette HG62, 11-36T, 10spd
Brakes Shimano M596, 180/180mm rotors
Rear Wheel Sun Inferno 27 rim, Formula hub, 12x135mm axle