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Saracen Kili Flyer full suspension MTB review

17 Oct 2018
Verdict:

A lively small-wheeled MTB that's designed for big fun

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,850

This review first appeared in Issue 45 of BikesEtc magazine

Saracen reckons this is the perfect UK trail bike. A medium amount of travel, nimble and strong 27.5-inch wheels, and a slacker-than-average geometry.

Earn your treats by pedalling up, then smash back down. The suspension is designed to be efficient on the climbs and plush on the descents.

With a dropper post and serious tyres, it looks ready to rock, but will it provide a balanced enough ride to earn top marks?

Buy the Saracen Kili Flyer bike from Tweeks Cycles

The frame

For suspension geeks, the Kili’s design is technically a linkage-driven single pivot. In practice, this means it’s simple and low maintenance.

The X-Fusion 02 Pro RL rear shock works well, providing rebound adjustment and can be made stiffer for pedally sections with the flip of a lever.

Low slung and relatively stretched out at the back, the ‘Chip-Slot 2’ dropout system means it’s possible to fit a thru-axle, although it comes with a regular 9mm quick release.

How much the lack of a bolt-thru axle affects the frame is hard to say. It’s not flexy, but would probably be even less flexy if it had one.

If you like to really carve your way down the mountain, you might just notice a smidgin of flex, although the whole length of the bike is relatively unyielding, accentuated by the fork.

Neither it nor the frame are Boost spec, meaning you’ll have to stick to wheels with narrower hubs and standard-width tyres.

Groupset

A single chainring 1x10 groupset is a perfect fit for the durable Kili. Using a matched pairing of Shimano Deore shifter and derailleur it works well.

Twinned with a Shimano 11-42t cassette this provides a big spread of gears, and being on-brand should last well.

The crankset might be anonymous but still features a chainring with alternating narrow-wide teeth, a design that combines with the clutch on the derailleur to keep the chain on without the need for extra retention.

Shimano’s Acera brakes slow the bike down quickly and require very little maintenance.

Finishing kit

This looks to have been assembled by someone who likes having fun. The stumpy 50mm stem is twinned with broad 760mm bars.

Putting the rider’s weight in the centre of the bike to keep them balanced as they attack the trail, the wide bars provide plenty of leverage to prevent you getting thrown off course.

A dropper post is a must on this style of bike, so it’s good to see one. Allowing the saddle to be pushed out of the way via a lever on the handlebar, it allows you to get your weight low as you take on difficult sections.

Wheels

Maxxis Ardent tyres are tough and voluminous. Designed for summer conditions their aggressive knobbly shoulders dig into a range of surfaces.

Lower profile centre ridges keep weight and drag down, but can leave you spinning in deep mud. Despite the tyres not being tubeless compatible, the rims are, so the option is there for later.

With the front hub featuring a bolt-thru axle for stiffness, the rear is left with a more basic 9mm quick-release.

Made by Shimano it should be durable and easy to service. 

First impressions

The Kili is a right little hooligan. The joker in our pack of test bikes its smaller wheels make it instantly feel more lively, furthered by a kit list that seems to prioritise mucking about.

Given the huge difference they make to both efficiency and confidence, we were happy to see a dropper post fitted as standard, although given its price you’d have expected to find one.

Hopping on, the first turn of the pedals confounded our expectations as the bike jumps forward, rather than wallowing in its suspension.

On the trail

The short stem and wide bars plant the rider right in the centre of the bike. With a relatively low bottom bracket, the effect is to set you up nicely for slinging through the turns.

Adept at whipping through twisty sections with 120mm rear travel and smaller wheels, it’s unsurprising the Kili isn’t quite as smooth riding as some, but assuming you can hang on, the excellent tyres and broad bars mean it’s happy to get wild.

The frame has the look of being equally tough. Yet despite its relaxed angles there’s no reason it couldn’t be a suitable companion on longer all-day rides.

The dropper post lets you switch between attack mode and climbing stance instantly and this split personality makes it well suited to the fly down, grind up nature of most trail centres, somewhere the Kili would be right at home.

Making sure it’s got the gears to get over most hills, the wide 11-42t 10-speed cassette, clutch derailleur and single-ring chainset simplify shifting and keep everything quiet and secure.

Handling

In its shorter 27.5-inch guise, the RockShox Recon fork seems less twangy. Combined with the big tyres, the front of the bike makes a convenient battering ram for smashing your way through trail features.

At the back, the rear suspension provides a solid base for pedalling. Disinclined to bob about, flipping the lever on the shock to stiffen it only accentuates this trait.

Its movement is  perhaps a little hesitant to get going, good for charging about, but less good for sticking limpet-like to the ground.

This is accentuated by the smaller wheels, which roll less readily over lumps and bumps. However, the Kili still deals well with big whacks, while the small frame is easy to throw about.

Its diminutive wheels and a medium length wheelbase also make it faster to turn than its slack head angle would otherwise suggest.

Decent pedalling characteristics and a moderate weight mean you’ll be happy to link up descents over longer expeditions. 

RATINGS

Frame: Compact and stiff, but lacks bolt-thru axle fixings. 7/10 
Components: The 1x10 groupset is a good match for the Kili. 9/10 
Wheels: Tubeless-ready wheels with great summer tyres. 7/10 
The ride: Stable and agile, the Kili is happy to get wild. 7/10 

Verdict: A lively small-wheeled MTB that's designed for big fun.

Buy the Saracen Kili Flyer bike from Tweeks Cycles 

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 619mm 610mm
Seat Tube (ST) 432mm 440mm
Reach (R) 443mm 443mm
Stack (S) 582mm 582mm
Head Tube (HT) 105mm 105mm
Head Angle (HA) 67 67
Seat Angle (SA) 73 73
Wheelbase (WB) 1,156mm 1,155mm
BB drop (BB) 21mm 22mm

Spec

Saracen Kili Flyer
Frame Custom-butted. 6013 alloy, Chip-Slot 2 dropout system, RockShox Recon RL fork, 130mm travel, compression and rebound adjust
Rear suspension X-Fusion 02 Pro RL, 120mm travel
Groupset Shimano Deore 1x 10-speed
Brakes Shimano Acera
Chainset Samox single ring 32t, narrow-wide
Cassette Shimano M6000, 10-speed 11-42t
Bars Saracen alloy riser bar, 760mm wide, 25mm rise
Stem Saracen 3D-forged alloy, 50mm
Seatpost JD YSP15 dropper post, 120mm travel, 30.9mm
Wheels WTB STP i25rims/Shimano M475 hub, tubeless compatible, Maxxis Ardent 27.5 x 2.25 tyres
Saddle Kore Connex
Weight 14.22kg (M)
Contact saracen.co.uk

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