It's a bit difficult to make any comparison with a US brand as the history of Saracen is relatively long and varied. If you concentrate on the earliest days then I guess the Specialized comparison isn't a bad one, as they both had frames copied from Ritcheys.
Interestingly the earliest incarnations of what would later become the Saracen brand were also essentially copies of Ritchey frames. [See below]
Bob Jackson built Saracen Conquests were also the bikes used by Nicholas and Richard Crane to sucessfully conquer Mount Kilimanjaro in 1984.
The 'Kili' sub brand has been around ever since.
The Saracen brand was undoubtedly a very important part of mountain bike history in the UK, but unfortunately as often happens, the brand lost it's way at some point in the mid-nineties.
But under new management and investment with Madison, some of the new 2010 bikes are actually looking pretty good.
Anyway here is an extract from the early history of UK mountain biking straight from Graham John Wallace.
By the end of 1982 American built Ritchey's were being brought into England. I remember it being received wisdom that Norman Hiller of Covent Garden Cycles brought over the first purpose built US Mountain Bike, an early Tom Ritchey built Bike. Others claim that either Journalist Richard Grant or Richard Ballantine brought across the first Ritchey's from the States. Richard Ballantine's two bikes brought over for a Saharan expedition were the inspiration London bike shop, F.W. Evans Cycles, to design a Mountain Bike that became the F.W. Evans ATB, Saracen ATB. Both bikes were identical, apart from the first being usually painted silver and the latter being painted black or red. In July 1984 I hired a black F.W. Evans ATB from Kingston Cycles, its frame number was 001.
Which was the first Mountain Bike mass-produced in Britain? Raleigh Bomber? 1981 (I don’t think so). They were American style Beach Cruisers. Only three speed hub gears, caliper brakes and small frame/seat Designed for teenagers who were outgrowing their BMX bikes.
Early 1984 F.W. Evans ATB/Saracen ATB? (Manufactured by Bluemels).
In 1982/3, Richard Ballantine asked London bike shop F.W. Evans Cycles to build up two Ritchey frames he had brought from the U.S. for Tim Gartside's and Peter Murphy's ,February 1983, Saharan expedition. Evans were curios and persuaded Bluemels to build some bikes based on what they had seen. The resulting F.W. Evans ATBs were mostly silver and branded under the shops own marque. The Bluemels’ own Saracens bikes were identical, apart from being painted black.
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