A first look review – Pete’s 2015 Saracen Ariel 152 Longtermer

Pete just got his hands on the 2015 Ariel 152 – a tough, confident, trail belter that impressed us throughout 2014. So what’s changed on the new bike?

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The Vitals

The 2015 Saracen Ariel 152 looks set to pick up exactly where the 2014 model left off. A few sublte tweaks should help this fast, predictable number make even more fans. The 152 is the top spec bike in a rather narrow range, with a frame-only option also available.

With the frame remaining unchanged from last year, bar a slightly more eye-catching paintjob, we know this bike is going to be handle the rough stuff just as well as it’s outgoing older brother.

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First Look

Both the geometry and the suspension system on the Ariel are sorted. Both provide a very stable, central position on the bike, neither doing anything weird when the going gets tough.

Will a subtle spec change affect the ride though? 2014 was not a good year for Fox, with forks and shocks feeling either completely without support or utterly wooden. Sometimes both. Fingers crossed that will change with the equipped Fox 34.

A 66.5 degree head angle, combined with a 73 degree seat angle allow a suitable level of charging both up hill and down dale. Anyone with eccentric tastes for massive top tubes, tiny rear chainstays or slung out head angles may wish to look elsewhere.

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The Ariel’s frame is a pairing of Saracen’s own custom double-butted 6014 series front triangle and a carbon fibre swing arm. In the middle, the Tuned Ride Link offers a reassuringly progressive action that ramps up nicely the deeper into the travel you delve.

Damping duties are handled by Fox’s new Float X CTD Kashima shock. All the dials you could ever wish for, plus an extra piggy back to keep the shock performing on long descents. 30mm sealed cartridge bearings keep the main pivots smooth and wobble free. Norglide bushings take care of the linkage duties. All solid stuff.

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Up Close

With the chassis being of proven design, it’s likely that the components specced on this 2015 will make the greatest difference.

It’s good to see the Fox Float X remaining to handle the rear wheel damping. This is a solid, reliable unit that provides ample grip in all situations, while beautifully controlling the way in which the rear wheel reacts to hits. The usual range of tuning options are available on this Factory CTD unit. Much has been talked about Fox’s front dampers in 2014, a lot of it negative. It is likely however that the 2015 34 Float CTDs have been much improved, mostly in the compression leg for this year. Time will tell.

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The Shimano Zee cranks stay, coupled with a Gamut P20 device, with the ever-dependable Deore hydraulics taking care of speed maintenance. All flawless on last year’s Ariel. If it ain’t broke…

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A Shimano XT Shadow Plus rear mech replaces the Zee of last year and sits pretty beneath the rear axle, while a direct mount XT Rapid Fire shifter keeps things moving.

Kore finishing kit covers the stem, rims, saddle and bars, the latter of which have grown 20mm in width to 760mm for wider shoulders and more control in the rough stuff.

Wheels are the same mix of Kore Mega rims laced to Saracen’s own hubs. Hopefully the freehub will last longer this year than last time. Otherwise, a wheelset that will take the hits without too much of a weight penalty.

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Possibly the greatest change is the KS dropper with 125mm height adjustment has no cable like the 2014 model, but a lever underneath the saddle. Less clutter on the bars is certainly a nice change.

Finally, we get the rubber. It’s good to see some more UK-centric WTB Vigilante offerings on the 2015 steed. These will put in a good turn anywhere, but really come into their own off-piste. Even before we get to the trails, these changes have taken the Ariel much closer to the fabled 30lb mark, coming in at just over the threshold. All this is impressive when you consider RRP remains unchanged. Hopefully this will put even more spring in the Ariel’s step.

FRAME SIZES 15″ 17″ 19″
Seat Tube Length (mm) 381 432 483
Horizontal Toptube Length (mm) 584 609 634
Reach (mm) 400 425 450
Stack (mm) 603 603 603
Headtube Length (mm) 115 115 115
Head Angle 66.5° 66.5° 66.5°
Seat Angle 73° 73° 73°
Chanstay Length (mm) 430 430 430
BB Drop (mm) 14 14 14
Wheelbase Length (mm) 1134 1159 1184


The Rest

Again, Saracen prove their superb attention to detail. The 2014 Ariel 152 was a race-ready machine from the off, no doubt about it. A smart approach has killed some weight from what was already a fantastic bike aimed squarely at reaping the rewards of a good climb. This has been done without hiking the price up by even a penny.

If the new Fox 34s play ball, the 2015 Ariel 152 could be the bike to beat. Not cheap, but even better value for this year. A sorted fork combined with a slightly lower weight will see this bike taking you down the descents it was made for even faster, and that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day, right?

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