Saracen Avro review

Tough sportive machine from home-grown mountain bike specialists

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,799.99 RRP

Our review

Classy chassis with good kit, apart from the middling brakes
Skip to view product specifications

The British company Saracen is best known for its off-road bikes. And when it has created more road-orientated bikes – such as the Hack – these have generally been cyclocross-influenced bikes made for the urban environment.

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So it’s immediately apparent that the Avro is a very different beast. It has features more often seen on mountain bikes, such as disc brakes and thru-axles. If you had to label it, you’d probably call it an endurance-focused disc-braked road bike. Which is starting to look like it’ll be a pretty crowded market for 2015…

  • Highs: Top quality frame, great handling and a quality groupset
  • Lows: Its brakes don’t match the quality of the chassis
  • Buy If: You want a bike that’s at home on the road, but also has the potential to leave the tarmac

The frame is made from high-grade carbon fibre from the Japanese company Torayca and weighs about a kilo. It comes with mountain bike-derived thru-axles – 15mm diameter front, 12mm rear – to cope with the forces of disc brakes.

But though the frame itself is stiff enough and those thru-axles eliminate any brake rub, Tektro’s mechanical Lyra disc brakes never truly impressed. They are designed to work with road levers, but on test felt neither particularly powerful nor that progressive.

The new 11-speed Shimano 105 continues to impress
The new 11-speed shimano 105 continues to impress:
Robert Smith

The new 11-speed Shimano 105 continues to impress

We also found mid-ride that the pads of the front brake – which does most of the work – started to drag on the rotor, which meant stopping to adjust the cables. They really felt no match for the excellent Shimano R517s on the similarly specced Focus Mares, even with the larger 160mm diameter rotors (most road-focused brands go for 140mm).

But we had no criticisms when it came to the new 11-speed 105 groupset – the new drivetrain is extremely impressive. Shifting at the rear is slick and rapid across the 11-28 block and the front mech’s trim function makes it easy to avoid chain noise too (Saracen was still awaiting delivery of 105 chainsets, hence the test bike’s 52/36 Ultegra chainset).

The Avro’s standard 73-degree seat angle and fairly slack head angle help to make it a very capable road machine. It’ll happily buzz along at over 20mph on its 28mm Continental tyres, and though it climbs well enough when you hit the hills – helped by a reasonable overall weight – its midweight wheels and tyres make it harder to fight gravity when things get steeper.

There's plenty of room for the fat 28mm Continental tyres
There’s plenty of room for the fat 28mm continental tyres:
Robert Smith

There’s plenty of room for the fat 28mm Continental tyres

Tyre clearances are impressive, though, which lured us onto the gravel and dirt, where the Avro really shines. Its slacker head angle helps it track well over gravel, it’s stable, and riding down short, steep dirt slopes it is confident and easy to handle. The same is true descending on the road, though it’ll never be quite as nimble to change direction as a full-on race bike.

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The Avro impressed us overall – in spite of the middling performance of the brakes. Its frame is a class above anything that Saracen has produced for the road until now, and the swiftness of the ride is a match for any established road brand. With better brakes the Avro would be a top-scoring machine – as it stands it’s still very good.

Product Specifications

Product

Name Avro (15)
Brand Saracen

Available Sizes 52cm 54cm 56cm 58cm 60cm
Year 2015
Seatpost Saracen alloy 31.8mm
Shifters Shimano 105 (5800) 11-speed
Stem Saracen alloy oversized 11.5cm
Trail 6.4
Weight (kg) 8.64
Wheelset Alex CX026 on sealed bearing hubs, 24 spokes front and rear
Weight (lb) 19.05
Saddle Kore
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 28
Chainstays (cm) 42
Seat Tube (cm) 53
Standover Height (cm) 80
Top Tube (cm) 58
Wheelbase (cm) 100
Seat Angle 72.5
Rear Wheel Weight 1406
Bottom Bracket Shimano BB5800
Frame Material Unidirectional Toray carbon fibre
Brakes Tektro Lyra cable disc
Cassette Shimano 105 (5800) 11-speed 11-28
Chain KMC
Cranks Shimano Ultegra 6800 52/36 172.5mm
Fork Full carbon disc 1 1/8-1½in
Fork Offset 4.5
Front Derailleur band-on front
Rear Tyre Continental Grand Sport 700x28
Front Tyre Continental Grand Sport 700x28
Front Wheel Weight 1030
Handlebar Saracen alloy oversized 11.5cm
Head Angle 72
Headset Type FSA integrated 1 1/8-1½in
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105 (5800)
Frame size tested 58cm