Saracen Hack 2 review£950.00

A diamond in the rough that's nowhere near as crude as it sounds

BikeRadar score4/5

Saracen has taken a totally no-nonsense approach to both the name and the design of its rugged road-based all-rounder, but that risks underselling what is a well-balanced, vibrant and enjoyable ride.

Design detailing and decent component mix

Patriots (potentially on both sides of the Channel) will certainly be drawn to the bold red, white and blue paint job, and on closer inspection the Hack has a few other design tricks up its sleeve too. The rear brake cable tucks into neat inserts on the top-tube and there’s a tapered head-tube holding the deep but narrow fork blades, with a 160mm post-style disc brake mount moulded into the carbon legs.

There’s plenty of fine detail on closer inspection
There’s plenty of fine detail on closer inspection

The alloy main tubes are subtly shaped and tapered, while keyhole kink chainstays and relatively stout and straight seatstays give plenty of room for big rubber. The rear brake mount is old style IS (International Standard) but you get front and rear mudguard mounts, and rack mounts on the back – if you’re after a low rider mount on the front forks, you’re out of luck. The wheel skewers have 5mm Allen key heads rather than tool-free quick release cams for added protection against opportunistic wheel thieves.

Related: 2014 Saracen Hack 2 review

Shimano Tiagra transmission is good value at this level, given the slick and impressively stiff ring-and-arm-synced crankset and long-lasting Hollowtech bottom bracket. While the Tektro Mira brakes are typically underpowered and vague for cable disc brakes, they at least have cable adjusters on the callipers to compensate for pad wear without having to get your mini-tool out.

The true value of the Hack shows through the more you ride it, and the well-balanced frame and well-crafted component mix shine through however grim the conditions. The Schwalbe Spicer tyres only measured 32mm across – despite 35mm labelling – but the slashed slick tread and tough K-Guard carcass still ride smoothly and effortlessly.

Positive, agile and comfortable ride

While the Hack is obviously designed for road, not dirt, we were surprised at how well it gripped even when charging across sodden grass and mud on shortcuts between proper gravel tracks.

The slick-ish Schwalbe tyres are tougher and ride smoother than expected
The slick-ish Schwalbe tyres are tougher and ride smoother than expected

Its greatest strength, though, is the way it connects you with your terrain. The large chainstays and Tiagra cranks transfer torque efficiently, which translates into an encouragingly responsive attitude to climbs or combative moments, and it was happy to dance on the pedals if we needed to up the tempo.

Handling is agile and involving, and the combination of a bar with 70mm reach and 120mm drop gives you plenty of closely spaced hand positions from which to choose.

However, the bar and equally comfortable saddle are just the contact points of what is a far more forgiving ride than we expected, given the chunky tubes and seatpost diameter. In the end, we were bombing down cratered, semi-submerged bridleways in the big ring just to try to find a limit to what the Saracen would take in its stride.

No matter the terrain, we still ended up grinning at the end of every ride
No matter the terrain, we still ended up grinning at the end of every ride

No matter the terrain we still ended up grinning at the end of every ride, and whenever the Hack was in the company of similar bikes we were testing at the same time, chat quickly turned to how good it felt for the money and how happy we’d be to hold onto this consistently fun have-a-go hero for good.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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