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
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.”
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.
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”.
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