Saracen Kili Flyer Elite review

‘Longer and lighter’ evolution improves UK all-dayer

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0
£3,500.00 RRP

Our review

Well shaped, lightweight and efficient, but starts to feel nervy when things get nasty
Buy if, You're after a mid-range, lightweight bike for trail riding
Pros: Lightweight and pedals efficiently; UK-friendly kit; well-shaped frame and cockpit
Cons: Mainframe feels flexy when you’re working it hard; tight suspension reduces traction
Skip to view product specifications

Saracen’s Kili Flyer Elite is light and well-shaped for fast and far riding all year round, but its sticky suspension and frame flex are obvious in technical sections.

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The full-carbon frame’s layout hasn’t changed for 2018 but Saracen has modified the mould to let it stretch the front end. That means the medium is as long as last year’s large.

The back end is now Boost width, with a bolted axle and direct-mount mech for stiffer shifting and tracking, and the head angle is a degree slacker. Saracen has also specced a lighter compression tune on the shock.

The 30mm main pivot, ISCG-05 tabs and optional front mech mount stay the same. There’s a lot of stiction in the linkage bushings, which makes swingarm movement notchy even with the shock removed.

Switching to triple-compound Maxxis Forekaster tyres from last year’s WTB pairing boosts all-weather grip and saves 300g
Switching to triple-compound Maxxis Forekaster tyres from last year’s WTB pairing boosts all-weather grip and saves 300g
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media

Saracen Kili Flyer Elite kit

While its price has dropped by £200, the Elite’s spec is now closer to that of last year’s cheaper Pro model. That means you get a ‘Performance’ grade Fox fork and shock, not Kashima-coated units, and a 1×11 Shimano SLX transmission without last year’s XT mech and shifter hop-ups.

While my sample had SLX brakes, production bikes will get Deore, but that’s no bad thing, because they have a more consistent lever action. Beware of the ‘recommended’ pressures on the fork, which are 25 to 30psi lower than I’d run and make it dangerously divey.

The mid-width Kore rims are sound and the Maxxis Forekaster tyres are a definite control upgrade.

Saracen Kili Flyer Elite ride impressions

Compared to last year’s Kili Flyer, the change in frame geometry is immediately and positively obvious. With 25mm more reach, even my medium sample (no larges were available for test) felt roomy and rad enough with its front wheel placement.

The slightly slacker head angle puts it into the ‘trail’ category in steering terms too, while the wide bar and short stem give plenty of leverage and fast traction-tweaking reactions for technical situations.

Despite the refreshed geometry, stouter fork, toothier tyres and enduro cockpit, the Kili lacks descending confidence
Despite the refreshed geometry, stouter fork, toothier tyres and enduro cockpit, the Kili lacks descending confidence
Mick Kirkman / Immediate Media

Despite the longer frame, lighter tyres mean it weighs fractionally less than last year. The tight initial feel of the Performance fork, stiff linkage bushings and shock stops pedalling bounce, improves acceleration and makes the Kili a genuine Flyer on smoother trails and climbs. That means it’s potentially a good option for riders coming off more traditional XC/trail bikes who are looking for modern geometry but don’t want to sacrifice low weight and efficient pedalling.

It also creates a clear difference in intent and feel between the Kili Flyer and the 165mm-travel Saracen Ariel. Shimano’s durable SLX kit is a good match when it comes to long-range missions in all weathers too.

Despite the refreshed geometry, stouter fork, toothier tyres and enduro-style cockpit, the Kili lacks descending confidence compared to the other bikes on test.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the lightweight mainframe isn’t as stiff some of the other bikes I had on test such as the Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Comp Carbon 650b and Cannondale Trigger 3 when tracking across trouble or under power.

This gives a distinctly articulated front-to-rear frame feel. While the big bar generally keeps the front end on track, the rear often skips and crabs in different directions when you’re trying to roll through rocks and roots, and can ricochet randomly on bigger landings.

While the toothy Forekaster tyres are theoretically well suited to slippery UK natural trails, the tight shock/fork feel that helps the Kili spark up under power kills supple traction over roots and smaller rocks.

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The altered compression damping means it’s easier to get into the mid stroke for a smoother ride over bigger stuff and there’s still a lot of tyre-preserving end-of-stroke progression, but you need to tune pressure carefully to make it feel more like a 130mm bike than nearer 100/110mm. As a result, you need to Fly the Kili with some skill/grip/nerve in reserve, ready to catch probable twists or slips, rather than just mashing the pedals and hacking and carving off down the trail.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Kili Flyer Elite
Brand Saracen

Available Sizes XS S M L XL
Rear Tyre Maxxis Forekaster EXO TR 27.5x2.25in
Wheelbase (in) 45.67
Top Tube (in) 24.61
Seat Tube (in) 17.13
Chainstays (in) 16.93
Bottom Bracket Height (in) 13.39
Spoke Type 32x double-butted, stainless steel
Weight (kg) 12.88
Stem Saracen, 45mm
Shifters Shimano SLX M7000 (1x11)
Seatpost JD YSP12L 125mm dropper
Seat Angle 73
Saddle Kore Conex
Rims Kore Realm 2.4K
Rear Wheel Weight 2630
Rear Shock Fox Float DPS EVOL Performance 3-position
Bottom Bracket Shimano MT800
Front Hub Formula DC
Brakes Shimano SLX M7000, 180/160mm rotors
Cassette Shimano M7000, 11-46t
Chain KMC X11EL
Cranks Shimano SLX M7000, 34t
Fork Fox 34 Float EVOL FIT GRIP Performance, 130mm (5.1in) travel
Frame Material Toray T24/30 UD carbon fibre
Front Tyre Maxxis Forekaster EXO TR 27.5x2.25in
Rear Hub Formula DC
Front Wheel Weight 1980
Grips/Tape Saracen lock-on
Handlebar Saracen OS DB, 760mm
Head Angle 67
Headset Type Prestine PT-1860
Rear Derailleur Shimano SLX M7000 Shadow Plus
Frame size tested M