Saracen Mantra Trail review£900.00

Balanced, reliable and upgradable all-rounder

BikeRadar score4/5

The Mantra Trail combines a solid spec with balanced all-rounder geometry and ride feel, plus added versatility and future-proofing, to create a great package for many reasons.

Saracen has always been one of the more progressive brands when it comes to geometry. While the 450mm reach of my large sample isn’t radical, it’s enough of a stretch to enhance stability without feeling weird if you’re coming off a short and upright beginner bike.

The 67-degree head angle adds a useful dose of self-correcting stability to the steering, so those same beginners are more likely to save a situation than stack it.

If getting to work, as well as working the tech, is important, the rear rack mounts are a bonus. Tyre clearance is generous between the chunky rear stays and, together with the big D-section down tube, they guarantee a muscular, accurate ride feel. You also get retro Crudcatcher fittings.

While basic, the Shimano brakes are reliable and predictable
While basic, the Shimano brakes are reliable and predictable

There’s a second set of bottle bosses on the seat tube for longer rides, too. That does limit the amount you can drop the seatpost into the frame, but there’s a side-exit slot for an internally routed dropper post if you upgrade later.

A band-on front mech and cable clamps bolted under the top tube mean there’s only a small, discreet cable-stop left on the seat tube, if you go single-ring further down the line too. That’s not where the upgrading options stop either, as the bolt-on rear dropouts can be swapped for 142x12mm thru-axle versions.

One change I’d make straight away is to unbolt the shifters and rear brake from the bar and pass them through the frame, so the cables loop round the outside of the head tube and don’t trash the paint as quickly.

Saracen Mantra Trail kit

Saracen’s kit selection is solidly no-nonsense. The 2x10 Shimano Deore transmission has a clutch mech to keep the chain quiet and protect paint on rowdier descents. While the basic Shimano brakes feel a bit wooden, they’re reliable and predictable. Power is adequate too, thanks to the 180mm rotor up front.

DIY-adjustable Shimano hubs are a smooth-rolling long-term reliability bonus, but the Araya rims aren’t tubeless ready. While the ‘Performance’ compound Schwalbe tyres can get slippery in the wet, the chunkier Nobby Nic up front and faster Racing Ralph at the rear are a good all-round pairing otherwise.

Whatever you're up to, the steering is obedient and accurate
Whatever you're up to, the steering is obedient and accurate

The 60mm stem and 740mm bar are well shaped for the character of the bike, and the saddle is a tough Kore model designed to shrug off the inevitable scrapes. I’d invest in some lock-on grips though, as it doesn’t take long for the unclamped originals to start working loose in the wet.

The 120mm-travel Suntour fork also needs a more attentive attitude to cleaning and servicing than the RockShox units here if you want it to stay smooth.

Tracking stiffness is good even with a QR axle though, and the rebound adjustment is a lot more subtle. There’s also a women’s version of the Mantra with different contact points.

Saracen Mantra Trail ride impression

There is a prompt and positive return on the effort you put through the bar and pedals
There is a prompt and positive return on the effort you put through the bar and pedals

While the Saracen isn’t radical in any particular way, what it does offer is an extremely well-sorted, well-balanced package. The steering is obedient and accurate whether you’re twisting and turning up a climb, tiptoeing through slow-speed tech or letting the bike run through bigger stuff.

While the frame can feel firm when things get hard and fast, it rewards with a prompt and positive return on any effort you put through the bar and pedals. The tyres suit the keen and eager overall ride character well too, and the fork is smooth as long as you look after it.

Between the rack mounts, dropper post routing and changeable rear dropouts, the Mantra Trail has got plenty of versatility built into it as standard. Even though the brakes are basic, the full-Shimano component list will maximise time on the trails and minimise time in the workshop in the long run.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Guy Kesteven

Freelance Writer, UK
Guy started filling his brain with cycle stats and steaming up bike shop windows back in 1980. He worked the other side of those windows from '89 while getting a degree in “describing broken things covered in mud" (archaeology). Dug historical holes in the ground through the early '90s, then became a pro bike tester in '97. Guy has ridden thousands of bikes and even more components the world over since then and can remember them all in vivid, haunting detail. Can't remember where the car keys are, though.
  • Age: 45
  • Height: 180cm / 5' 11"
  • Weight: 68kg / 150lb
  • Waist: 76cm / 30in
  • Chest: 91cm / 36in
  • Discipline: Strict sadomasochist
  • Preferred Terrain: Technical off-piste singletrack and twisted back roads. Up, down, along — so long as it's faster than the last time he did it he's happy.
  • Current Bikes: An ever changing herd of test machines from Tri bikes to fat bikes and everything in between.
  • Dream Bike: His Nicolai Helius AM custom tandem
  • Beer of Choice: Theakston's Old Peculier (not Peculiar)
  • Location: Yorkshire, UK

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