BRAND SPOTLIGHT: Saracen

The next Zen-eration: Announced last December, Madison’s acquisition of Saracen promised to re-invigorate the brand. The very first samples of a much-anticipated 2010 line-up have now hit UK shores. Mark Sutton visits Madison’s distribution centre for a progress update...
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Doesn’t time just fly by in this industry? The controversial decision to take on the Stanforth’s legendary, yet ailing, Saracen brand was met by both applause and constructive criticism back in December.

Fast-forward to February’s IceBike show and Madison’s customers had begun to ask questions about how the brand could be turned around and by whom. Simon Wild, formerly of Raleigh, is the man tasked with the brand’s transformation, both in terms of returning the once highly-regarded status and designing and speccing the range.

For the first time in Madison’s history – and testament to the investment in the brand – a sole designer, Kiera Askeroff, has been appointed to work alongside Wild. The pair have been working hard since January too, tasked with creating a range that will appeal to what Wild describes as “an emerging market of 18 to 25 year olds seeking a reliable bike for multiple purposes.”

An emphasis on reliability is one of Wild’s main focuses, something immediately obvious by the far upgraded specs on the 2010 line-up when compared to the brand just a few years back. Shimano features throughout the range (top-end Mantra model aside) as does SR Suntour forks on the low-to-mid-end bikes. Higher in the range there’s smatterings of Race Face, Quad, Continental, Rock Shox, Marzochhi and Mavic.

So what’s in it for dealers? Well, on the back of criticisms this year, Madison is to clamp down on online discounting in 2010, which of course will protect dealer margins – another strong reason why retailers may be interested in this new range. The destiny of the brand is now exclusively in the hands of independent retail.

For the many who jumped at the opportunity at July’s dealer previews, 2010 sign-up involved many clauses designed to protect the brand’s image, something many felt had been tarnished previously by the lower specced, often discounted models available at the larger sheds. What’s more, the price lists given to dealers at the July launch shall remain fixed until at least February 2010.

Image certainly won’t concern dealers going forward though. With the relaunch comes plans for a wealth of promotional activity through a series of cartoon characters – under the ‘not the usual suspects’ slogan – customised and matched to a model. Then there’s the London design agency hired to jazz-out some models. Madison has also made strong moves to appoint ‘A-list’ riders to put the brand’s models through tests and races.

Attention to detail has been key in developing an entirely new and unique image for the brand too. Wild tells BikeBiz: “When designing the range we paid plenty of attention to detail to ensure the designs were functional, aesthetically pleasing and as technically advanced as possible. We decided to step away from hydroformed tubing to control the wall thickness of the frames. Then there’s the brushed steel head badges on every bike all the way up to the Zen range. Personal touches of mine include careful positioning of the cable guides so legs won’t catch as you mount or dismount. And, of course, there’s the super-stylish imbedded ‘Saracen’ in each frame’s headtube.”

Kids’ bikes have had the same treatment too and Wild describes the models, which begin at £129.99, as scaled down versions of the adult bikes. The same thought has gone into design, explains Wild:

“It’s all very well having bar tassles, kids love that, but we thought it better to spec the bikes with practical, attractive add-ons, such as a bar mounted water bottle holder. White seems to be the ‘in’ colour at the moment, so we’ve tailored the graphics on the junior models to suit boys or girls. The Saracen characters feature in either pink or blue. Simple.”

The range is due to be unveiled to the public for the first time at October’s Cycle Show, with the trade day hosting the first viewing of the yet-to-be-seen urban 700cc models, the Myst downhill and extensive freeride range.

Initial interest in the brand has been strong. However, Madison is looking to set up a geographical dealer base. Simon Wild can be contacted via email at simon.wild@madison.co.uk or via phone on 0208 385 3385.

www.saracen.co.uk

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