[Bike building] progressed to mountain bikes when we moved to Warwick. The first mountain bike with a Saracen name on it was actually a stripped down and repainted bike from Japan. Elaine (Staples) Dunn, daughter of Brian Staples, classiclightweights
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The Saracen bicycle brand was born in 1983 in Brian Staples' cycle shop in Kenilworth, Warwickshire. The Saracen brand of mountain bikes had a few chaotic years passing through three owners before the end of 1986. Staples had previously built up and rebranded road and touring bicycles with frames supplied by Knight Fabrications. In 1983, Staples moved to Warwick and created the Saracen mountain bike brand, by first importing and repainting Japan mountain bikes and then having Knight Fabrications make the frames.1)
Early Knight built Saracens are easily spotted by both their Knight decal, and unusual rear brake bridge and Reynolds 501 tubing.
Almost immediately after introducing the first British made mountain bikes, Staples sold his business to Bluemel's Cycles (in late 1983?4),) who then moved manufacturing to Wolston.
Soon after, in 1986, it was purchased Paul and Rick Stanforth, who gradually moved production to Asia. 6)
Today, Saracen remains a successful British brand: https://www.saracen.co.uk.
A bridge built to last retrobike
June 1984, Bicycle Action mag retrobike
No provable 1983 pictures can be found. Saracen claims to have built bikes in 1983 and various internet sources hint at this. However, all example pictures are not consistent with a 1983 timeline. For now, this will be left blank, with some confidence that the 1983 starting date is accurate and that corroborating evidence will appear.
Knight Cycles logo, lugged frame, black paint, Reynolds 501 tubing (1984+), SunTour aRX (1981-1983), over built brake bridge.
Jan. 1985 advert. Note that the name is simply “All-Terrain Bikes” retrobike
1984 Saracen imgur
1984 Ascent of Kilimanjaro
Nick and Richard Crane rode two stock Saracens up Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to promote a charity to help third world development. Read of their exploit here: abebooks or: uzdevmi. Their mountain bike adventures brought world attention to the tiny brand.
Coming down was more fun: they could ride the bikes fast and easily some of the way, though they still fell off. Almost at the bottom of the mountain they met a Frenchman who couldn’t stop laughing.
“Why are you riding bicycles on Kilimanjaro? Now I know what I must do next year: carry a refrigerator to the top!” Someone's English reading assignment at: uzdevumi
1984 Bicycles up Kilimanjaro abebooks
1985 Kili Flyer
1985 saw the introduction of model names such as “Conquest”, “Kili Flyer” and “Sherpa”, all referring to their mountain climbing prowess. The Kili Flyer was named in honor of the Crane cousins' proof that Saracen have what it takes and that Brits still lead the world in adventurous eccentricity.
Knight Cycles logo, “Conquest” Brooks saddle, standard brake bridge, Reynolds 501 tubing and SunTour MounTech front derailleur, with a likely replacement rear derailleur.
1985 Kili Flyer retrobike
Although its hard to spot in this low-res photo, there remains a Knight sticker on the head tube, while Saracen screams across both the seat and down tubes. 600EX & XT drive train. Mudguards are original, a Bluemels specialty.
1986 Conquest retrobike
In 1987, Saracen started to import two models: Tufftrax and the Trekker. The Conquest and Kili Flyer remained the locally produced, higher end models.
1987 Tufftrax retrobike
This model did not appear in any catalogs. Tange tubing, Shimano Exage group set.
1988 Blizzard retrobike
1989 Kili Flyer
1988 Kili Flyer retrobike
Shimano Deore/LX drive train, Tange tubing in “ultra violet.”
1990 Traverse retrobike
1991 Traverse Competition Hydrotech
Elevated chain stays! Hydraulic disk brakes! Optional front suspension 7)! Wild paint schemes! Saracen hit all the mountain bike lust buttons this year and it's no wonder they sold over a million bikes going forwards.
1991 Traverse Competition Hydrotech lfgss
1992 Kili Ultra
Saracen offered 15 different models of mountain bike in 1991, with all mixes of components to distinguish them. The Ultra weighed less than 26 pounds, as it was equipped with a full Campagnolo Record OR group set, with a nice Campy RD-130R 42T derailleur. 8)
1992 Kili Ultra retrobike