Big wheels and little travel – Our Saracen Traverse Elite review
Saracen Traverse Elite vs Revolution Bike Park
Saracen reckon the new Traverse Elite is “designed to go as fast as you want and leave you with a big smile on your face”. So with that in mind I found myself at a recent Saracen Experience Day at Revolution Bike Park and chucking the 100mm travel, 29’er on the uplift.
I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?
Saracen Traverse Elite Features:
- Series 3 6013 aluminium frame with carbon rear triangle and linkage
- 100mm rear travel / 120mm front travel
- 29″ wheels with WTB rims and Maxxis tyres
- 1 x 11 shifting with Shimano SLX
- Shimano Deore brakes
Short-travel, big-wheeled whippet
The Saracen Traverse Elite is the short-travel, big-wheeled whippet in the range. With 100mm travel out back and 120mm on the front, big wheels and skinny-ish 2.35″ tyres it’s a bike that’s designed to go like a rocket up and along and get you down with plenty of fun. Assuming ‘down’ isn’t a blown-out bike park trail in North Wales, that is.
The bike is built with WTB rims, Maxxis Forekaster tyres, Deore brakes, Shimano SLX 1×11 and a Fox 34 fork and Fox Float DPS shock. The bike isn’t quite available yet but when it’s released it’ll be a penny shy of £3k and in your local bike shop or online at Freewheel.co.uk.
Designed to razz
The geometry of the bike is exactly as you’d expect for a bike designed to razz singletrack and trail centres.
There’s a 67.5° head angle, which probably feels very well balanced round the Verderer’s Trail at FoD. The bike has a spacious, not-too-extreme-either-way size with a 454mm reach on a large. The chain stays are 435mm and there’s a 72° seat angle, which is actually relatively slack in these days of steep of everyone shouting for 75° angles.
The bike feels sprightly, alert, fairly upright and quite compact.
White knuckle pin balling
My first run of Revs on the Traverse wasn’t a great success. I misjudged the air needed in the Fox 34 fork and forgot to turn my lock out off. The result was a terrifying warm up.
Once I’d sorted myself out, I got back on the horse and pointed the Traverse down Revolution’s rooty top section. The bike squirted down the top straight, pinging from root to root and over all those little made-up gaps. It gave instant boost from the pedals off the start and was a breeze to chuck around between the tight turns.
The rest of the ride was a blur of hilariously fun corner banging and white knuckle pin balling. With just 100mm travel, the steeper and rootier sections were definitely “what you make of it” fun. If you like being in perfect control and charging in a straight line over rough and natural stuff, you’re probably on the wrong bike.
The Traverse rewards either balls out, seat-of-your-pants hammering or a more careful and hard-on-the-brakes approach. I held on tight, worked those Deore brakes and picked my lines as best as I bloody well could.
Knives and gun fights
My first run was a shocker but by the second, things started to get really fun. It didn’t take long to ease off the brakes, start banging those corners, slithering over roots and having an absolute blast.
The Traverse has just 100mm travel but I was surprised at how well the suspension battled with the terrain. It soaked up the worst of the chattery roots just enough to keep the bike going and help put up a good enough fight to get down.
Of course, much of Revolution’s trails are blown-out, rough and fast and when it we got into breaking bumps and holes it was outgunned, but you know what the say about knives and gun fights right?
Did I learn anything?
A few laps of Revlution Bike Park aren’t the ideal test lab for a Saracen Traverse review, but I was really surprised at how capable the little bike was.
I’ve got no doubt that a braver man than I could tear apart raw, natural, technical terrain on the Traverse. I’ve also got no doubt that the rest of us could razz it round a trail centre or our local singletrack and have an absolute blast.
It’s a bike that would be a hell of a lot of fun round Cwmcarn, Afan, Glentress or any of the best of British trail centres. If you don’t need loads of travel, you don’t want or can’t afford full carbon and you want to pedal really far, for really long and still enjoy your descents, this could be worth a demo ride.
Sure, the Traverse might not go as fast as your big, soft, slack enduro bike but you might be surprise how much fun you have on it!
You can learn more about the Saracen Traverse Elite over on Saracen’s website here.