In the last few months, we have covered the Saracen brand in a couple of our articles. First, we looked at their broad offerings revealed during the Saracen party. Next we got our hands on the Clever Mike, a fanciful hybrid that has strike the right cord among us. And after much waiting, we finally got our hands on their most promising model, the Saracen Ariel.
Saracen current range predominantly consists of hardtail frames and has only two full suspension models in its stable, the Myst and Ariel. The Myst is a full fledged downhill racer while the Ariel is designed as a trail bike with 140mm of travel, appealing more to the average mountain bikers.
The new Ariel has been totally re-designed since Madison bought over Saracen. A lot of focus has been put on the Ariel since it represent Saracen’s first attempt to break back into the already congested dually market, under the Madison flag. Utilising their new platform, dubbed the Tuned Ride Link (TRL), this could be the bike that could make or break the brand. Essentially, the TRL is a linkage driven single pivot suspension design.
The Ariel is offered in three complete bike variation or as a frame only, like the Ariel X in this review. All Ariel models share the same frame construction and rear shock, differentiated only by the components. On a separate note, only the X comes in black paintwork with bling red anodized bits.
When you take a good look at the Ariel, it becomes apparent that a lot of thought have gone into designing it. First and foremost, the Ariel features custom butted tube set and runs an oversized 30mm main pivot to ensure longevity. 15mm Norglide linkage bushings make certain silky smooth suspension movement over the long run. Massive overbuilt swingarm at the rear ensure the bike does not turn into a swinger under hard riding. The frame also caters for full housing to be run to minimize maintenance. The only thing we find missing on a bike as such is the cable holder for adjustable seatpost with remote switch.
In addition, this frame is also designed to be futureproof. Tapered head tube upfront, ISCG05 mounts and changeable rear dropout make sure that you can use the same frame for years to come and not affected by the ever changing standards of fork steerer tube or rear hub axle. This also allows you to choose between a lighter XC setup or a tougher trail build, depending on one’s needs.
Hop onto the Ariel and instantly you will recognize what this bike is all about. The short and curve top tube provide an upright position with ample crotch clearance. Couple with a low bottom bracket, this bike is all about having fun.
Lead by a slack 68-degree head angle, the handling on the Ariel is composed yet intuitive. Give a quick tweet to the bar and it will head in any direction you desire. When coming into corners and berms, this bike yearns to be dug deep into each of them and you will be wowed by the confidence it instills. This little beauty also shines when blasting down fast and rutted slopes. Certain sections might make the rear feel a little sketchy, but at no time does the Ariel feels out of breath.
For trail riding, going down is only half the battle. Can the Ariel climb as well to qualify it to be a true blue trail bike? We have to be realistic here and not expect a 28lb to climb like a mountain goat. But what we do find is that the Ariel does a reasonably good job in it. The stable pedaling platform allows the bike to be pushed forward with much efficiency and not sacrificing traction. For those who required a more stable feel, the platform damper on the RP23 can be switched on to provide that extra boost, but we did not feel it was needed.
We had a great time on board the Ariel X. Its spot-on geometry complemented by the 710mm wide Reverse handlebar made the bike feel invincible and ready to roll over any obstacles in its path. While it is no race machine, you can feel its urge for you to maintain speed when you are on it. It yearns to do everything fast but confidently. The Ariel would be perfect for anyone looking to having a fun filled day trip on an all rounder.
If you were dressing the bike from frame up, we would recommend going with at least 2.3″ tires on a decent weight wheelset and dual rings upfront. This combination should maximize Ariel full potential as a do-all trail bike. As an added plus, the Ariel comes in a very reasonable price tag considering its built and performance. So if you are in the market for 140mm travel bike, do not forget to check this baby out.