Yep – our first ever dropped bar bike review! It’s the 2015 Saracen Hack 2!
// Drop barred road bike/cyclocross cross breed from UK Saracen // Shimano drive train // Disc brakes with 160mm rotors // Internal cable routing // £949.99 // http://www.saracen.co.uk // not our usual type of bike … Can you forgive us?!
The Saracen Hack 2 is the sort of bike I cannot live without. It’s not a bike that I fuss over and spend hours admiring or fettling or pissing about with. It’s a bike I grind out miles on every day of the week, all year, in all weathers. You’d probably call it a gravel bike, or a cyclo-cross bike or something similar. Essentially, it’s a sort of road bike meets pub bike cross over.
It takes me to the pub, to work, out on site visits for my day job, to the train station, to the shops … everywhere I need to go that I can’t or don’t need to drive to. It gets locked up to countless pub railings, lamp posts and over-crowded bike parks and is thrown in and out of guard’s vans and train carriages with little concern. I drag it up and down stairs on my shoulder, impatiently bump it up and down kerbs and once a week or so use it to battle the beer belly with a ‘training’ ride over a big hill. It’s my daily run around, my ‘training bike’ and my mule …
The Hack’s name tells you what you need to know … it’s a bike for hacking about. Not an ultra light weight road bike, nor a heavy, sluggish, steel tourer. It’s a versatile, comfy Cyclocross style bike with a few tweaks to give it a ’round town’ vibe. The effect is a tough and reasonably fast drop-barred bike that will get you where you need to go quickly, comfortably and without the twitchiness or frailty of an all out road bike.
It has a 2 x 10 Shimano set up (34/50T up front with a 12-30T cassette) and can take mud guards and a pannier-rack if that’s your thing. Keep the slick tyres to lean towards round-towning, pop some nobbies on and you’ve got a reasonable ‘Cross bike.
“A lot of my riding is done on sheep-shit ridden back lanes, pot-holed farm tracks or long-unloved stretches of the National Cycle Network”
The angles mean that it’s every so slightly closer to a mountain bike than a roadie giving lots of confidence when hooning. The 35c Schwalbe Spicer tyres roll fastish whilst also letting you explore routes that aren’t perfectly surfaced. A lot of my riding is done on sheep-shit ridden back lanes, pot-holed farm tracks or long-unloved stretches of the National Cycle Network … all with a bit of overcrowded, pedestrian strewn, dog infested city centre at either end. I’d go so far as saying it’s the perfect bike for the National Cycle Network.
The Hack let’s me churn out the miles in comfort but has just enough mountain bike in its cross-bred genes to cope with bumpier, twistier riding. Of course, the Tektro Mira discs and 160mm rotors are also a big help and offer lots of support when white-knuckle bombing big hills in stinky weather. I’m still working up my minerals with the drop-bar descents so they’re a big help!
What else is good?
The carbon fork is a nice touch. The big and comfy bar is big and comfy. The gearing is also pretty versatile and seems to offer everything I need for big, lumpy all day rides. The Saracen finishing kit also looks sharp and is complimented by simple, tough graphics, coulour matched wheels and internal cable routing. Shimano shifting does a cracking job as always.
“everything I need for big, lumpy all day rides”
What’s not so good?
“the disc brakes and bright red graphics will likely catch the eye of the local scummers”
It’s not massively light at 10.52kg. The wheels are weighty and the whole package is noticeably chunkier than a slick-tyred road bike. The brakes were a bit iffy to start with too and seemed to feature an unsettling ‘snapping’ sensation out of the box. That stopped once we adjusted the cable at the caliper to be a bit tighter. Oh … it’s also worth consider how flash the Hack looks. It’s no show-off but the disc brakes and bright red graphics will likely catch the eye of the local scummers. Buy a big, sturdy lock or end up (like me) having to get a second Hack to replace your stolen first one. A nice anti-scum-bag feature on the Hack is the allen-key locked skewers on both wheels … meaning they’re much less nickable to opportunistic pikeys.
“thanks to discs brakes, slackish gemoetry and chunky rubber I can churn out smiles as well as miles”
I wanted a bike that was quite specific … a drop barred road-bike style that could take me on all day cake-and-ale style saunters, short sharp fitness blasts and all the other hacks to the shop, pub, work, train station in between. It turns out that despite looking like a ‘road bike’ the Hack’s urban cyclo-cross vibe was exactly what I needed, offering loads of flexibility to ride pretty much any terrain I encountered and the ability to chomp down the miles. Rough, messy terrain is a breeze thanks to discs brakes, slackish gemoetry and chunky rubber meaning I can churn out smiles as well as miles.
The £949.99 price tag doesn’t make this a cheap ‘extra bike’ but given the Hack can be your fitness bike, your pub bike and your commuter it feels like a good investment. The price also puts it within the Cyclescheme threshold meaning you can potentially buy one through your employer and pay it off monthly. There’s also a lower-spec but still very competent Hack 1 that’s £200 less, a Hack FB that comes with hydraulic discs and a flat bar for £699 (which would be rad with a big, wide mountain bike bar on it!) and a Hack R for £799 which comes with nobbly tyres.