Tested: 2016 Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon

We were lucky enough to get our hands on the first 2016 Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon in the UK. Pete has been putting it through its paces ever since.

Here’s what he made of the Mantra after a good old thrashing.

2016 Saracen Mantra Trail carbon

The Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon is what Saracen call their flagship UK hardtail. The Trail Carbon is one step away from their top spec model. Pete spent half the Summer and most of the Autumn seeing just how versatile this carbon hardtail is – including racing Epic Israel, a 180mile 3 day XC race.

The vitals:

  • Mitsubishi UD Carbon frame.
  • 120mm Suntour Axon LO-RC, 15mm, tapered steerer.
  • Shimano Deore 2 x 10 drive train.
  • Kore finishing kit.
  • 27.5″ (650b wheels)
  • £1,599.99

After 6 months of riding from the West Highland Way, the Scottish XC Champs, local singletrack, interval sessions and a wee stage race in the Land of Milk and Honey, here’s what Pete made of the Mantra.

2016 Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon

Having a hardtail at my disposal over the summer was something I was really looking forward to. Not only are hardtails a brilliant way to hone the skills, they’re great at covering the ground. Beyond the training I’d be doing for the Epic Israel on this bike, as well as the race itself, it was the to be a perfect tool for some local exploration.

2016 Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon at the Epic Israel Stage Race.

So what’s the Mantra Trail Carbon all about?

At a glance the Mantra Trail Carbon certainly looks like a racy beast, but look a little closer and you’ll see this isn’t an out and out cross country race bike. Sure it’s light, and it will go as fast as your legs will allow, but a 120mm fork and a sensible 68 degree head angle mean you can enjoy the fruits of the climb you’ve just fired up.

“a 120mm fork and a sensible 68 degree head angle mean you can enjoy the fruits of the climb you’ve just fired up.”

Saracen definitely do have the no nonsense specs well thought out. As with my other Saracen bike, the Ariel, kit is a mix of Shimano, Deore in this case, finished off with Kore components. Light enough, sturdy and cheap to replace should you stave it into the deck. There’s little you would change immediately other than for personal preference. The Trail Carbon sits one down from the top spec bike giving the option of a cheaper, carbon-framed hardtail for future upgrades.

The Suntour forks were a bit of an unknown quantity, and came with the rebound fully open out of the box. Nothing some fettling couldn’t solve and after bedding them in, they did a grand job of keeping the front wheel pointing where I wanted it to.

My Mantra experience was not all bells and whistles though. Before long, the rear hub, Saracen’s own, started to fall to pieces in its now familiar fashion. Also, early into the first few weeks, the sample bike I had been sent developed a crack at the junction between the chain and seat stay on the drive side – this was explained as being because the frame was a pre-production version. Props to Saracen for getting me a new bike before my Israeli outing, and the new frame is still going strong way after the time frame the previous failure occurred within.

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So, did the Mantra perform?

Thankfully, yes. Most of my riding consisted of big miles or hill sprints in preparation for the Epic Israel. Over the 200-odd miles along the West Highland Way (not in one go), the bike was without fault. Not a single complaint over several tired hours in the saddle in preparation for more of the same. I was to trust this bike to see me through the hardest race of my life, and it did so with ease.This bike covered more miles in its first three months that many would do in a summer’s worth of riding. I do genuinely hope Saracen resolve the freehub issues with their own hubs. It truly is the only weak point I can see in their spec. 2016 Saracen Mantra Trail Carbon.What did we change?

Wheels – Sadly, again, the freehub didn’t stay the course, and I spent most of the time riding the Mantra decked out with a set of DT Swiss XM1501 wheels that were lighter and rolled faster.

Grips – Personal preference. ODI Aaron Gwin signature numbers replaced the Saracen-own ones.

Tyres – The Maxxis Ardent Race tyres stayed put until I needed some sturdier rubber for the Epic Israel. I ran Continental X King 2.2 Protection tyres for that race, tubeless, without issue.

What did we break?

A sample frame and another freehub. Issues were resolved swiftly by Saracen.

What about maintenance?

Nothing. I had the Shimano tech team look at the bike before day 1 of the Epic Israel and she received a clean bill of health.

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So, what’s not so good?

Unfortunately, my only two real gripes were fairly serious.

A crack on the first frame, albeit a pre-production version, did turn out to have been structural. The second frame did plenty more miles and hasn’t shown any similar signs thankfully. I’m happy that Saracen resolved the issue swiftly and that the replacement hasn’t shown any signs of repeating the issue. I’m impressed by how quickly and easily the replacement was made.

The freehub. I’d like to say that it didn’t fail again but it did. No amount of fettling, loosening of the rear axle etc. could rectify it. This remains the only weak point in Saracen’s line up.

Finally, what’s good?

The Mantra Trail Carbon didn’t fail me other than that mentioned above. It was a joy to ride from day 1 and I look forward to busting out some miles on it whenever I get a chance. The medium, on paper, should have been too big, but was plenty comfortable enough. The bike is fast, quiet and smooth across the ground, while being light enough to pick up over trail obstacles with ease.