TNT have just dropped off this stunner, a 2016 Saracen Ariel Elite for a long term test. Will the third incarnation of the top spec Ariel be a quantum leap over the impressively quick 2015 model?
Keep your eyes peeled over the coming months for a more in-depth look at the 2016 Saracen Ariel Elite once Pete has had a chance to throw it, and himself, down some Scottish fare. Without further ado, here’s our first look at our web editor’s new longtermer.
What is most immediately obvious with the 2016 Ariel Elite is a considerably more muted colour scheme. Fluoro yellow offers a flash of colour to a more monochrome paintjob. Make no mistake, this is still one fine looking vessel, and paint/decals aside, this is the same frame we’ve come to know and love in the previous two seasons.
The price has jumped £200 over the 2014 and 2015 models, but don’t let that put you off. For your extra buck comes what promises to be some serious bang. Handling the damping duties are a set of 160mm Fox Factory EVOL 36s mated to a Fox Float X EVOL via Saracen’s TRL linkage. In addition to the damping hardware, comes a full XT M8000 11-speed drive train.
2015 saw the Fox Racing Shox units working in harmony after a lacklustre fork performance on the 2014 model. The Ariel Elite has made another move in the direction of serious traction and support with EVOL editions of Fox’s 36s and Float X shocks. Will these bring a quantum leap in speed to what we know to be a dialled and confidence-inspiring chassis? With the longer fork, half a degree goes from the head angle, giving 66 degrees out front. Time will tell if this lends even more to ridiculous downhill velocity.
Climbing is aided by the same 73 degree seat angle, but perhaps more so by the 40-tooth top ring on the cassette. Combined with a 34t front sprocket, only your legs should stop you from winching up a precipice.
The Ariel’s frame remains unchanged materially or mechanically from the 2014 and 2015 offerings, but that is no bad thing. The TRL link offers a low-maintenance, high performance action.
Suspension on the Ariel Elite, as aforementioned, are handled by Fox’s new Float X EVOL 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.
We’re not expecting any surprises when it come to the frame on this bike, so any change in performance will likely be down to the components specced.
From what we can gather, the spec changes will only improve the Ariel’s ability to calm the madness and allow you to concentrate on the job at hand. Both up hill and down dale, this 2016 version of Saracen’s do-it-all bike should be the best yet. Other than the remaining components, it is hard to see how much this chassis can improve, unless Saracen have a carbon front triangle in the works.
XT cranks replace the Zee numbers of the 2015 model, with a sleek Gamut Trail S keeping the chain put, ensuring all your power sends you forward. Twin-pot Deore discs, twinned to 180mm rotors have been the fit-and-forget option since this version of the Ariel frame came to be. Will the increased speed available through the new Fox units test these too much? Would 4-piston Zee unit allow you to really push the boat out?
An 11-speed Shimano XT Shadow Plus rear mech sits pretty beneath the rear axle, last year’s direct mount XT Rapid Fire shifter is replaced with a bar-mounted version but keeps things moving just as smoothly.
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.
A KS Drop Zone post, cable-less like last year should do nothing but exactly as it’s told, just like previous models. If it ain’t broke… WTB Vigilante tyres offer immediate grip for UK-conditions, and should put up a good fight on anything other than hardpack.
As with previous Saracen test bikes, the attention to detail shows. A small cardboard box containing the usual reflectors and owner’s manuals contains some other gems as well. Rubber cable shrouds help keep cable rub in the usual areas to a minimum, and a bolt-up seat clamp can be swapped out for the fitted QR number should you not move your post too often.