The Mantra is Saracen’s entry into the trail bike market, but a quick look at its silhouette shows that the UK brand has applied lessons learned from its higher-end and full-suspension models.
This bike has a decent-length reach, a slack head angle and a snappy back end for an engaging ride.
Saracen Mantra frame
The Mantra is made from aluminium alloy, and it’s a nicely finished package. While the rear dropouts are sized for a quick-release axle, Saracen’s Chip Slot system means you can replace them with bolt-thru versions if you want to upgrade the wheels.
With a generous reach (465mm, large) and slackish 66-degree head angle, the geometry is modern, so shouldn’t give you any excuses on the trail.
Cables are routed internally through the front triangle. While there’s only one set of bottle bosses, this does mean the seatpost can be slammed when you’re hitting steep trails. Attachments are provided for a rack and mudguards too.
Saracen Mantra kit
This £500 model is as cheap as Saracen’s trail bikes go, and the spec reflects that.
The Mantra runs a 3×8 drivetrain, with Shimano’s Tourney groupset performing gear-shifting duties. A 12-32t cassette is mated with 24/34/42t chainrings, the outer of which is shrouded by a plastic ring so your trousers won’t get caught, which does detract somewhat from the look of the bike.
The 650b JHT rims are shod with 2.3in Vee Crown Gem tyres. While the rubber compound feels fairly hard, the tread is relatively aggressive, which helps you hold your line in the mud.
The 120mm-travel fork is a coil-sprung SR Suntour XCM30 HLO with a lockout. It has skinnier 30mm-diameter stanchions (upper legs) than the forks on the other bikes that were on test, which were all 32mm.
Tektro HD-M275 hydraulic brakes bring it all to a stop, while Saracen provides the finishing kit.
Saracen Mantra ride impressions
While the Saracen comes with quick-release wheels, you can swap to 142x12mm dropouts, vastly improving the bike’s upgradability. Russell Burton
The Mantra feels compact, likely because of its 650b wheels, but the feeling of sitting ‘over’ the bike disappears when you start rolling because its slack head angle sticks the fork out in front of you.
It feels immediately at home on twisty tracks, barrelling between trees and round berms. The short rear end combines well with the head angle to give snappy yet predictable handling.
Unlike on the similarly priced Voodoo Wazoo, turns are easy to initiate, and the shoulder tread of the Crown Gem tyres – while not as pronounced as that of the WTB Vigilante found elsewhere – digs into dirt to give a predictable cornering feel and grip.
The rounded tyre carcass helps the transition from central to shoulder tread, giving confidence as you enter turns. When you’re trying to negotiate rocks and roots, the short 429mm chainstays make it easy to shift your weight back, to unweight the front wheel or start a bunnyhop.
This is handy, because the XCM30 fork isn’t the most sensitive. The coil spring feels more suited to heavier riders, so it certainly wasn’t the plushest unit, despite me removing as much preload from the spring as possible. This meant I was always looking for the smoothest lines. While the fork improved with use, it took fairly big impacts for me to feel that it was doing its job properly.
It took the Tektro brakes a while to convince me too, but fortunately, after a fairly long bedding-in process, they delivered enough power and reasonable feel, although they still weren’t the sharpest.
The Tourney drivetrain feels basic, rattles a lot (the rear mech struggles to maintain chain tension) and, on paper, requires more frequent front shifts.
It has one benefit over 2x set-ups though – while the other bikes on test with double chainrings dropped their chains frequently on rough trails, on the Saracen I spent most of my time in the middle ring, so the outer ring actually helped keep the chain in place.
Plenty of thought has gone into the frame, with its hydroformed tubing, internal routing and uninterrupted seat tube. Russell Burton
Saracen Mantra geometry
Seat angle: 74 degrees
Head angle: 66 degrees
Chainstay: 42.9cm /
Seat tube: 48.3cm / 19.32in
Top tube: 64.1cm / 25.64in
Head tube: 13cm / 5.2in
Fork offset: 4.2cm / 1.68in
Bottom bracket height: 31.8cm / 12.52in
Bottom bracket drop: 4.5cm / 1.8in
Wheelbase: 1,194mm / 47.64in
Stack: 61.2cm / 24.48in
Reach: 46.5cm / 18.6in