Saracen Ariel Elite first ride review

Some dodgy spec choices but it’s a ripper to ride

£3,500.00 RRP

Our review

It may not look great on paper, but the Ariel Elite is a proper flat out, fun time blaster on the trail
Pros: Snappy handling, premium suspension, maximum sense of fun
Cons: Some so-so spec choices, open rear dropouts, fiddly internal hose routing
Skip to view product specifications

The Saracen’s spec is a mixed bag for the money but there’s no doubt about its impressively focused speed on the trail.

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Alloy up front, carbon in the rear

The Ariel frame pairs a long hydroformed alloy mainframe (the 19in size has a reach of 450mm) with a carbon back end via a large main pivot bearing and separate shock-driving linkage. The open-dropout 142x12mm rear axle needs high tension to stop it loosening and internal brake hose routing on the swingarm potentially makes servicing/upgrading awkward, but the threaded bottom bracket is a longevity bonus.

We'd prefer not to see open rear dropouts at this price point
We’d prefer not to see open rear dropouts at this price point
Mick Kirkman

A Factory series Fox 36 fork and Float X piggyback shock provide premium control, and 1×11 Shimano XT gearing is secured with a top-and-bottom Gamut chain guide. The Shimano Deore brakes are impressively controlled, if not particularly powerful. The under-saddle ‘rodeo grab’ KS dropper post is primitive for the price, and even with lightweight-carcass WTB tyres, the bike is heavy.

Downhill delights

Despite noticeable back end flex under power, the ‘Fast Rolling’ tyres and stabilising side lever on the rear shock mean gaining height isn’t too grim a job. When you point the Ariel downhill, any grumbles about weight, value or spec are rapidly forgotten.

Point the Ariel downhill and any slight niggles evaporate – our test team loved spending time on this bike
Point the Ariel downhill and any slight niggles evaporate – our test team loved spending time on this bike
Mick Kirkman

The 60mm stem and 66-degree head angle are slightly long and steep by cutting-edge standards. But the slight frame flex helps glue the potentially skittery tyres (they squirm if you drop pressures low) to the ground and the handling/frame balance feels great whether you’re tree weaving at slow speed or sliding sideways on gravel.

Even with its dual-speed compression damping fully open, the 36 fork clatters and chatters rather than flowing creamily over small bumps – great for accurate feedback but not forgiving on forearms. The TRL rear suspension (a single-pivot set-up with linkage-actuated shock) is remarkably composed and capable for its 150mm of travel.

A top-and-bottom Gamut chain guide keeps things secure
A top-and-bottom Gamut chain guide keeps things secure
Mick Kirkman

It doesn’t just suck impacts up, it properly puts the Ariel on the attack, carrying serious pace through normally speed-killing rocky, rooty sections. Keep the shock in the mid position and cornering stability is impressive for ripping through turns with eyes on the prize, or leave it fully open for maximum smoothness.

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Despite our spec sheet doubts, we recorded top-end splits down sections we’ve ridden hundreds of times. More importantly, the Ariel has a clearly communicated sense of fun that makes you want to push and play just as hard as on theoretically more aggressively shaped and ‘better value’ machines. And it does it with minimum setup faff or tuning skill required, making it a real test team favourite despite it sharing test time with some of the best bikes in the business.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Ariel Elite
Brand Saracen

Available Sizes 15in 17in 19in
Saddle Kore Durox SL
Wheelbase (in) 46.61
Top Tube (in) 24.96
Seat Tube (in) 19.02
Chainstays (in) 16.93
Spoke Type Butted stainless steel 14g
Wheelset Kore Mega rims on sealed-bearing disc hubs
Weight (kg) 14.1
Stem Saracen, 60mm
Shifters Shimano M8000 Rapid-Fire 1x11 speed RH
Seatpost KS Dropzone (dropper)
Seat Angle 73
Rear Tyre WTB Vigilante TCS Light/Fast Rolling 27.5x2.3in
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB-MT800
Rear Shock Fox Float X EVOL Factory
Rear Derailleur Shimano Deore XT M8000
Headset Type FSA Orbit No.57
Head Angle 66
Handlebar Kore Mega, 760mm
Front Tyre WTB Vigilante TCS Light/Fast Rolling 27.5x2.3in
Front Derailleur Gamut Trail S
Frame Material Hydroformed alloy mainframe, carbon fibre swingarm
Fork Fox 36 Float Factory, 160mm (6.3in) travel
Cranks Shimano XT M8000 34T 170-175mm
Brakes Shimano Deore M615
Frame size tested 19in