The Tufftrax comes from Saracen’s ‘Sports’ rather than ‘Trail’ range, and its geometry and suspension create obvious ‘soft roader’ limits. But neat details and decent ride quality make it enjoyable on less gnarly trails.
Saracen sell its bikes through ‘proper’ bike shops, which adds another layer of cost compared to buying direct from a superstore. You wouldn’t know that from the Tufftrax frame though.
The 44mm head tube means it’ll take a tapered fork, making future upgrading easier. There’s a quick-release clamp for the seatpost, with a brass bearing surface so the lever stays smooth. The skinny 27.2mm diameter of the seatpost also allows it to flex more than thicker posts for a bit of under-seat ‘suspension’.
Because the gear cables run ‘naked’ (without outer hoses) for most of their length, shifting is lighter in action and less likely to be compromised by grit and grime. The post-mount rear brake fixture is easy to adjust to stop pad rub, and there are two bottle mounts (although that does stop you slamming the seat down for descents). Four-point rack mounts are provided out back.
The frame shape is conventional rather than confidence enhancing, with a relatively short top tube and 440mm of reach on the large size.
Saracen Tufftrax Comp Disc kit
The 44mm head tube can be used with the latest tapered-steerer forks if you replace the lower headset cupAndy Lloyd / Immediate Media
Selling through shops and investing in the frame puts Saracen at a disadvantage in terms of kit spend. The Suntour XCM fork doesn’t have any rebound adjustment but its 30mm legs make it stiffer than the XCT. That means it works slightly better under load and you could upgrade to a 185mm front disc to increase the stopping power of the basic Shimano brakes.
Saracen has fitted the latest Shimano Altus M2000 shifters, which have a clean and light action. The bottom gear of the 3×9 spread allows for easier climbing, but I had more chain drop issues in extreme gears, due to the short 425mm chainstays. The Shimano crank and hub bearings are likely to last longer than most, saving you servicing costs.
The 51mm-wide WTB Nano Comp tyres have an almost continuous centre ridge tread for fast rolling, while the 32-spoke 650b wheels help to keep the Tufftrax’s weight down.
Saracen Tufftrax Comp Disc ride impressions
Suntour’s XCM 30 fork has 30mm legs but still struggles to stay smooth if things start getting lumpy or lairyAndy Lloyd / Immediate Media
Fast tyres on light wheels and a relatively low complete bike weight for the price give the Tufftrax a lively and responsive initial feel. This is further enhanced by the short stays and wheelbase.
The 75mm stem, 720mm bar and 69-degree head angle give a well-balanced feel and make it easy to tip the rounded tyres in and out of corners. Despite its low-volume rubber and smaller-diameter wheels, the Saracen is impressively comfy for a bike at this price. This all adds up to make it a lot of fun on less taxing trails and extend its reach further into the rad than you might expect.
While the well-balanced steering helped me get deeper into slippery, rooty terrain than I’d expected, the hard-compound, centre-ridge front tyre needs swapping for something chunkier if you’re planning to play in the woods rather than just ride through them on fireroads.
Start hitting stuff harder and you’ll soon thump up against the limits of the Suntour fork too. That has obvious control and comfort consequences, but at least the frame can be upgraded with a more sophisticated tapered fork.
The relatively short geometry is also an issue when it comes to stability in faster, sketchier sections, where the Tufftrax feels more nervous and pressured than some longer bikes. If your riding is milder rather than wilder, the little longevity details and lively overall ride still make the Saracen worth a look.