The Arbr Saker

is no run-of-the-mill car­bon bike straight off a Far East as­sem­bly line – it’s a bou­tique beauty de­signed and made right here in the UK

Mountain Biking UK - - CONTENTS -

When mo­tor­sport engi­neer Robert Barr em­barked upon the chal­lenge of de­sign­ing his own bike back in 2013, he had one vi­sion – to cre­ate the best two-wheeled ma­chine he could, with ab­so­lutely no com­pro­mise. Four years of de­sign­ing, pro­to­typ­ing and test­ing later, we’re fi­nally see­ing the fruits of his labours, as the pro­duc­tion ver­sion of his 160mm-travel all-moun­tain beast is ready to roll out the door.

If you imag­ine the push­bike equiv­a­lent of a Formula 1 car, then the Arbr Saker prob­a­bly isn’t far off the mark. It’s sleek, cut­ting edge, made of car­bon fi­bre and de­signed with one thing in mind – per­for­mance. Robert was in­volved in the de­sign of F1 and Mo­toGP sus­pen­sion for over 10 years, and he’s ap­plied all of that ex­pe­ri­ence to the Saker. “I feel like ev­ery­one thinks they un­der­stand how to make a fast bi­cy­cle, but the way bikes have evolved proves we didn’t and still don’t!” he says. “A lot of bikes just don’t have pro­gres­sive enough rear sus­pen­sion, and you shouldn’t have to com­pen­sate for this with damp­ing.”

Old-school in­spi­ra­tion

Robert was in­spired by Nico Vouil­loz’s V-Process NV00 down­hill bike, built back in 2000. “I was look­ing through loads of de­signs and thought that hav­ing a high pivot – to give you a rear­ward axle path and a fall­ing lever­age rate – made sense. But if you do that, you can’t avoid chain in­ter­fer­ence, so you need an idler wheel. The V-Process caught my eye, but I thought peo­ple might con­sider it too old-school. It’s good to see a ma­jor brand like Com­men­cal giv­ing the the­ory cred­i­bil­ity [with their new Supreme DH V4 down­hill bike and Supreme SX freeride rig]. I know it looks like I copied them, but I started de­sign­ing the Arbr well be­fore I saw their new down­hill bike – hon­est!”

The Arbr may not be a down­hill bike, but it’s def­i­nitely been de­signed with grav­ity-fed fun in mind. “It’s for ped­alling up and then blast­ing back down with your mates,” Robert smiles. “I want a bike that in­spires con­fi­dence, and that’s ex­actly what this does. The

first thing I no­ticed when I rode the pro­to­type was how plush the rear sus­pen­sion was and it felt in­cred­i­ble on the steep stuff.”

Many bike brands are length­en­ing and slack­en­ing their bikes to ex­tremes to achieve this feel­ing of con­fi­dence, but Robert doesn’t see this as the so­lu­tion. “I want the rider to feel cen­tred on the bike, with good weight dis­tri­bu­tion be­tween both wheels, with­out the need for any dras­tic weight shifts. The front end has been pulled for­ward a lit­tle and the chain­stays are short, but not so short that you can’t weight the front of the bike.” The medium Saker has a reach of 437mm and on the large it’s 465mm. Both have 435mm chain­stays, 10mm of BB drop and a fairly slack 65.1-de­gree head an­gle. Be­cause of the ex­pense of mak­ing moulds, the Saker is only of­fered in two sizes at present.

Fan­tas­tic plas­tic

With Robert’s ex­ten­sive back­ground in com­pos­ites, there was only ever one choice of ma­te­rial. The link­age is al­loy, but ev­ery­thing else is car­bon fi­bre, in­clud­ing the chain guides and frame guards. “It gives you so much con­trol over the feel of the frame,” he says. “You can al­ter the car­bon lay-up or use fi­bres with a dif­fer­ent mod­u­lus and make two bikes that look the same but ride com­pletely dif­fer­ently.”

So, what ride feel was he aim­ing for with the Saker?“Be­fore we started build­ing it we did some bench­mark test­ing on other bikes, to de­cide on stiff­ness. We haven’t made it su­per­s­tiff, be­cause when you’re leant over in a cor­ner you don’t want all the high fre­quen­cies to shake you to bits. But it’s passed the same strength tests as a DH bike, so it’ll take a hell of a beat­ing.”

The project has been a ma­jor un­der­tak­ing for Robert, who’s ded­i­cated sev­eral years of his life to it, along­side a full-time job and fa­ther­hood. So it must have been dis­heart­en­ing when he re­vealed his cre­ation to the world and the re­sponse on­line wasn’t en­tirely pos­i­tive. “I think it just takes peo­ple a bit of fa­mil­iar­ity with some­thing be­fore they’ll like it,” he says. “This bike doesn’t look like any­thing else, but then it’s not meant to.” The Saker’s looks may be po­lar­is­ing from afar but in the flesh it’s a work of art – and at least you can’t ac­cuse it of “look­ing like a Trek”.

SPECS

Price £8,750 (full build as shown here) Con­tact www.arbr.bike Also try Ro­bot Bike Co R-160, £3,895 (frame only), https://robot­bike.co

Words Ed Thomsett Photos Andy Saun­ders

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