Saracen Mantra Elite LSL review

Saracen’s Mantra Elite LSL takes the geometry-first approach to bike design, but its parts spec also needs to be up to the job if it’s to impress on the trails.

Built from 6061 aluminium alloy, the Mantra’s hydroformed tubes are relatively simple-looking. Cables are routed internally, but Saracen has stuck with a threaded bottom bracket shell for easier maintenance. ISCG-05 chain guide tabs are provided.

Saracen Mantra Elite LSL geometry

The geometry is bang up to date – the large size has a 490mm reach, 440mm chainstays and 1,236mm wheelbase.

It’s got a low bottom bracket height too, at 304mm. These figures are mated to a 65-degree head angle and 75-degree seat angle. Add the short 37mm offset on the fork, and the bike is firmly in ‘hardcore hardtail’ territory.

Seat angle (degrees)75757575
Head angle (degrees)65656565
Chainstay (cm)44444444
Seat tube (cm)36414651
Top tube (cm)60.362.865.868
Head tube (cm)10.510.512.513.5
Fork offset (cm)
Bottom bracket drop (cm)
Bottom bracket height (cm)30.430.430.430.4
Wheelbase (mm)1,1781,2031,2361,260
Stack (cm)60.960.962.763.6
Reach (cm)4446.54951

Saracen Mantra Elite LSL kit

The Mantra is fairly well-specced for its price. Out front is a 140mm-travel RockShox 35 fork, which uses the same 35mm stanchion diameter as the more expensive Revelation, Pike and Lyrik, and has the Motion Control damper.

A full SRAM NX Eagle 12-speed drivetrain takes care of the gears, while the brakes are Shimano’s MT501s with 180mm rotors.

You get a 125mm-travel TranzX dropper post and an own-brand stem, bar, saddle and grips. Jalco rims are laced to Formula hubs and wrapped in Tackee-compound Vee Flow Snap tyres, running inner tubes.

Pack Shot Of The Saracen Mantra Elite Lsl Hardtail Mountain Bike

Although the Mantra comes with a dropper post, its 125mm of travel doesn’t let you drop the saddle far enough out of the way.

Ian Linton / Immediate Media

Saracen Mantra Elite LSL ride impressions

There’s no ignoring how hefty the Mantra feels, especially when climbing, and that weight dominates the ride feel. It’s harder to lift over rocks and roots or place accurately on techy ascents than the lighter bikes I also had on test, and more effort is required to get it up to speed. It doesn’t feel like any pedalling force is lost to unwanted flex, though.

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Once moving, the Saracen maintains momentum well and the grippy Vee tyres are great for negotiating slippery rocks and roots, keeping confidence – and therefore speed – up. The trade-off for this traction is increased rolling resistance, which compounds the bike’s lack of snap.

The Mantra puts you in an upright position when climbing, and the 11-50t cassette and 32t chainring provide a wide enough gear range that you can keep plodding up even the steepest of hills, despite the bike’s weight.

It’s easy to get the NX Eagle shifter feeling comfortable on the bar, but I struggled to do the same with the dropper post lever. If set in the most convenient position, I found it touched the brake lever when pushed.

On the downhills, the Mantra feels great, proving itself to be a proper heels-down, toes-up descender. While Saracen has used some lower-spec parts to keep costs down, you’re not relying on the components to compensate for compromised geometry. Instead, the long reach and wheelbase and slack head angle put you in the best position for descending, balanced centrally between the wheels.

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Saracen Mantra Elite Lsl

Saracen’s LSL geometry makes descending a total pleasure without any notable side effects on the climbs.

Ian Linton / Immediate Media

Add the grippy tyres, with a rounded profile that keeps them biting when leaned over in flat turns, and the result is a calm-feeling ride. I reckon that, if set up tubeless, the ride quality would improve further, and the bike would lose some weight too.

I do think the Mantra would benefit from a taller stack height, especially with the stock bar, which only has a 25mm rise and lacks much backsweep or upsweep. The low front end makes steep trails trickier than they should be considering the sorted geometry. Fitting a higher-rise bar would improve this.

Also, the dropper post’s 125mm of travel is more suited to XC than a rowdy hardtail, especially on a large frame. The internally-routed cables rattle over rough terrain, and the resin brake pads squeal when warmed up and aren’t ideal for wet conditions (and you can’t fit sintered versions without replacing the rotors).

It’s a shame that these issues detract from the Mantra’s biggest draw – its descent-focused DNA.


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