Sette Serum Pro Review: Part 2

June 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

As I noted in the last two posts, I bought a Sette Serum Pro to replace my ancient Mongoose mountain bike.

The Serum Pro is carbon light…haven’t weighed it but the specs claim 22.56 pounds for my 19″ size and I believe it. My old bike was in the 22-24 pound range depending on what was on it at the time for parts and this new ride is right in there.

I have some initial ride impressions to relate after a few miles both off and on road with it. I did end up putting a seatpost with a more normal set-back to the clamp on it which got the saddle back to where it should be for me. I also put a 120mm stem on, but this is still a tad short. I may eventually put a 130 mm on it but I’m waiting to transfer my bar ends over before I get too pissy. I initially hadn’t done anything to the forks except twiddle the dials…I did put the air pressure up to 120 psi for the last couple of rides.

So far, the bike is fantastic. Bottom Bracket and rear stay flex under heavy pedal pressure is probably my starting point for evaluating a frame and this one is rock steady. Jumps out just as you would want with no sign of weaseling or flex. I had been riding the Shimano external cup bottom bracket with SLX cranks for at least a year on the old rig so I’m not attributing it to that at all. Frame is solid.

Interestingly the XT M775 wheelset is a 24 spoke count…I’m used to 32 as a minimum and I was a bit worried. No sign of problem yet. They seem sufficiently stiff under heavy pedaling and under cornering….within the limits of the Kenda Small block 8 tires. This will be an area of interest in the long-term test situation.

My second point of consideration is the frame stability under turning and it is coming though with flying colors. Good design.

The M770 9speed Shimano XT shift train is excellent, as expected. They have seemingly returned to a more “positive” feel to the shifters. This means it clicks and clunks solidly so you know you are making a change. I like this. I did not like the ever-softening and quieting approach they were taking late 90s and into the 00s.

I am definitely still working on the fork. It has a lot more travel and compliance (springiness) then I am used to. Some of this may be set-up and some of this is undoubtedly that modern forks specified on a XC race-style MTB are designed for more activity than the old Mag21 I had. Which, btw, has probably been relatively immobile relative to original design for years since I’ve never done any recent maintenance on it. My issues with the Fox 32 F100 R Open Bath is that it is too soft for my (current) taste. The wheel drops down when you pull up on the bars, making quick elevations over bumps and curbs different from what I expect. This is intentional, I should note, as a way to improve bump compliance when you are not trying to lift the wheel. Correspondingly I’m fiddling with the compression damping (big lever, easy to switch on the fly) and the rebound damping knob (not so easy on the fly) to adjust the ride. The other problem of this squishiness is that the front end bobs when standing up out of the saddle on hills. This is something that needs to be fixed for my style of riding. Putting the compression lever all the way up helps and I may have to live with this.

Hey, going from a rigid fork to my original Mag21 took some adjustment too!

The on-road feel is a pretty good way to evaluate a MTB as well and the Serum has been good there too. It doesn’t resonate with the tires or ping or click or anything that I associate with Al frames. The frame is solid on-road too, where tire grip is good and one can really crank in the big ring. Instability in high speed cornering is minimal and right now I’m putting this down to the fork and my unfamiliarity with it / possible failure to set it up properly. The bars and stem are stiff, maybe even stiffer than I’d like. I have a 110 gram titanium bar on the old bike that, amazingly, is still alive and well. It was always a little tiny bit flexy which I actually liked.

The oversized seatpost specification seems to make up for a rather hefty bit of mast I have showing. Let me note that I have never been a fan of the sloping top-tube design. This one has more of it than my last one did which means slightly more seatpost is used. This has the potential to be flexy but I’m not noticing anything. The extra diameter over what was spec’d on my old bike may be the difference here…or perhaps my fears of flex from the seat post were simply unfounded.

So, to conclude from the first few rides, this bike is light, stiff and everything I expected in a carbon frame. I have the fit nearly dialed in so I can get to riding. The only spot of weirdness is going to be the suspension fork although this is down to my tweaking the adjustments and learning to ride with a modern type of fork.


Sette Serum Pro Review: Part 1

June 22, 2012 § 1 Comment

Continuing on from my observations earlier in the week in which I was pointing out that I tend to cheap out on bike frames.

I pulled the trigger on the Sette Serum Pro, which I bought from Price Point. It turned up about 29 hrs after ordering it, at a cost of just over $1,800. To nonbikers and especially spousal units, this is not “cheaping out”. For us normal folks, this is a SCREAMING good deal.

Trolling around the usual suspect major manufacturers like Trek, Specialized, Giant, Jamis, Cannondale, etc you will find, first, that many of the hardtail MTB offerings of any decent quality are 29″ wheelers these days. Being the retrogrouch that I am, I had to peer a bit harder to find the 26″ers. Still, it rapidly became clear that the $2,500-$3,500 range was the entry point. Many of these, especially on the lower end, were Al frames. I am not a fan of aluminum for bike frames, all else equal. I find them to be noisy, as a first fault. Second, I was biased during my enthusiastic mountain biking days in the early to mid 90s when boutique framebuilders were sprouting like weeds. I saw many, many fairly expensive mountain bike frames get cracks. This put me off both Al frames and boutique builders…and reinforced the notion that extra cost did not mean extra quality when it comes to bike frames. I do ride a Al Redline cyclocross bike so I’m not totally biased. Some of my best friends are…..ahem.

Back to the story, my initial read was that the more obvious bikes in my initial price range were specified with a mixture of SRAM X.7 and X.9 drivetrain parts. Some of them came with Shimano SLX (which seems to be a fair enough replacement for the old Deore LX line, even though I think it started out below LX). I was really looking for a carbon fiber frame though, given the great experience I had with a circa ’95-96 Mongoose IBOC Team SX Carbon frame. To get a carbon frame one, I was seeing things on the upper side of the $2,500-$3,500 range, but still finding bikes specified with the same approximate parts bin.

There’s nothing wrong with SRAM, though I haven’t spent serious time with it. From the price points though, it seems that X.9 is slotting in just beneath XT. And, as I said, SLX seems okay and in fact I had been riding SLX cranks for a year or so. The thing is, while I tend to cheap out on frames, I also want the value of the just-below-chi-chi componentry. Off road that pretty much means Shimano XT. At the very least in the derailleurs and shifters. I can manage with lower level hubs and cranks. But the shift-train is kind of important. Especially as I get old, have little time for maintenance and want the bike to work when I have a chance to get out for a ride.

Looking at the XT-spec bikes is what gave me sticker-shock conniptions. The notion of Trek or Specialized hardtail MTBs that run over $6,000 is a little daunting. So I was trolling around the internet trying to find something a little more affordable and I ran across the Sette.


This is more like it. Carbon frame, XT kit (shifters, derailleurs, cranks, wheels)…disc brakes that look to be a decent line (Avid Elixer CR. heck, I wouldn’t have sneered at cable actuated ones). I was previously riding an old Mag21 that hadn’t been touched in many years so the fork selection was going to be better no matter what. The XT is 9-speed, not the current ten speed introduced in 2010 or so. I was uncertain about how dated the components are but figured it was a good place to save some money, even if this stuff is a couple of design years old. It sure as hell was going to be an update on my old bike, even if the XT was from the 2009 design year.

Reviews online were a bit hard to come by, you can Google them yourselves. Not hard to find but there aren’t very many of them. Nevertheless, the available reviews all seemed to conclude the bike was “as good as advertised” . One check of the geometry spec for my size frame (19″) and I was pretty much good to go. As I said, it came in a day.

First impressions are excellent. The double-box referred to elsewhere is an impressive way to ship. You will definitely need some basic bike mechanical skills, as with any bike you buy in a box. If you can’t break down and reassemble a bike then I suggest you don’t really have much call to be mail ordering. Unless you have a bike buddy who can help, I suppose.

This was a straightforward job of installing the seatpost (seat already mounted), stem (bars already mounted) and front wheel. It comes without pedals, the assumption being you’ll have your own clipless pedal preference. I do and am using my old ones.

There were only two problems I noted with the preparation. First, the front brake caliper was off and I had to re-adjust it. I am not too familiar with discs so I may have to play with it a bit but I got it in working order pretty quickly. Without referring to any manuals…so it’s pretty damn obvious what to do. Second, the bars were mounted in the stem at a smidge of the wrong rotation. This is an easy fix and almost comes under the personal adjustment clause.

Personal adjustment: These are things that you can’t blame on a mail order bike, but that you might possibly have fixed at a local bike store at the time of purchase. The stem is not right for me, I’m going to need a different one. This is totally typical and the one on the Sette is pretty neutral (about a 100 mm, 6 degree rise)…presumably designed to fit the larger number of riders. Second, the seat post may not allow enough set-back as the clamp is directly over the post centerline. At some point this became popular with off-road posts, replacing the traditional look that included the clamp centered behind the post. I’ve had to go with set-back models in the past so again, this is expected. Posts run anywhere from $20 to $120 (and up) and stems go from $20-90. So there’s $100 or so that you might possibly have saved in the bike store purchase as they will occasionally do a size swap. That’s a long ways from the thousands of bucks differential in bike purchase price, don’t you think?

The only thing to criticize here is the Kenda small block 8 tires. As I read in one of the available reviews, these are a pretty good road tire. Since tire preference is so individual , I’m giving the Sette Serum Pro a pass on this. Still, you can add another $100-$120 bucks to the cost to get yourself a set of decent skins.

Initial verdict is, just as good as advertised. And a screaming good deal.

June 28: This post has been edited from the original, mostly for readability and to expand on some things I left too abbreviated in the original version.

Moving on…

June 20, 2012 § 5 Comments

When it comes to bikes, my philosophy has always been to cheap out when it comes to the frame. Well, more like my reality.

In the day, I just couldn’t afford the top line stuff from the serious makers. Not the established Euro brands and for damn sure not the boutique builders.

Heck, I couldn’t even afford the best the mainline brands (Trek, Cannonwhale, Specialized) had to offer.

So I’d go looking for deals. The less popular brands which had to try harder and couldn’t upgrade the sticker price based solely on the name plate. Ones that had to figure out how to compete within a component-spec level of the market.

This is the way I ended up with a Schwinn road bike in the late 80s. It wasn’t awesome but the components were Sante, priced above Ultegra and under Dura Ace. With a very….unusual finish. Still, I got the whole thing for under what most mainline Ultegra level bikes were going for at the time.

This cheapout plan is also the way I ended up on a series of Mongoose MTB frames in the early 90s. In this case I bought into some racer contingency program…they sent you the frame for something like $225. This was when the burgeoning small-manufacturer offerings were running at least $500 for the frame, and likely much more. For welded Al frames that hadn’t been optimized for durability….I remember a ton of cracked frames leading to arguments over replacement from the builders.

So I scored a decently light Al frame with the weird Toblerone top tube…slightly long in the reach but a pretty decent ride. Eventually it cracked and I got the company to replace it for free. This was at least a year later and Mongoose’s top offering was then a carbon job. AWESOME.

This was early in the mass-production carbon frame days and quality was not assured. Clearly this one was being produced on a factory line…on the cheap. No big-name designer was identified so who knew how the geometry would work out.

It worked out great. The frame was a fantastic ride, super light and durable. The first one had the bottle bosses come unstuck after maybe a year and I fought them into giving me another one for free.

The replacement lasted 18 years. Or thereabouts.

Finally, the seat tube cracked off the BB shell.

So I went looking for another MTB.

Simple hard tail XC race design, front suspension only…nothing fancy. XT componentry level…maybe STX if necessary.


And up?

Yeah, I STILL can’t afford the bikes I want to ride.


Michael Steele is an idiot. The analogy with the Loving decision is clearly applicable.

February 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

from RawStory:

“Michael, I’m curious to whether you think it would be OK in modern America for there to be some states where black men could not marry white women?” author John Heilemann asked the former RNC chairman.

“First off, let’s just be very clear,” Steele said sternly. “There are a significant number of African Americans, myself included, who do no appreciate that particular equation. OK? Because when you walk into a room, I don’t know if you are gay or not, but when I walk into a room, you know I’m black. And whatever racial feelings you have about African Americans, about black people, that is something that is visceral, it comes out. I don’t know [you are gay] until later on, maybe you tell me or some other way. So, don’t sit there and make that comparison. Don’t make that analogy.”

It is a perfectly apt analogy. Go back and read the newspapers and diatribes and reporting on the miscegenation issue as it was fought through to the bitter end during the fifties and sixties in the US. The language is the same. Sure there are the occasional differences but see the appeals to tradition, the “natural order”. To religion. and to basic squeemy-ness on the part of the poor, poor lily white majority that might have to….see people of different appearances married to each other.

PropH8 has been busted down to its bigoted knees by an Appeals Court ruling.

“Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples,” Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote, joined by Judge Michael Daly Hawkins.

Let’s get back to moron Michael Steele, however. His logic is that because you know someone is black when you look at them, it is totes different from being gay. Oh yes? So you never see someone in a public context behaving in a way that makes it clear they are gay? Why is it different if you infer (strongly) that the person is gay and get a “visceral” response? Like that didn’t ever happen? And what if your only evidence for someone being black is indirect- name, background details….vocal patterns and speech? Like that didn’t contribute to miscegenation laws? It was only about when you see someone in person?

This logic doesn’t even remotely make sense.

And it disingenuously ignores the fact that just as the anti-Black bigot has a “visceral” reaction, so does the homophobe. Like Michael Steele, apparently.

Sure sounds like “black” to me….

January 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Oh, Ricky, Ricky, Ricky. You tried to weasel out of it:

On CNN Wednesday, Santorum said he reviewed the context in which he made his remarks and said, “I’m pretty confident that I didn’t say ‘black.'” The GOP contender said he “was starting to say one word, and I sort of came up with another word and moved on and it sounded like black.”

Well, it sure as hell sounds like “black” to me, Rick. You sad little liar you.

The CBS article points out that in Iowa the vast majority of welfare recipients are white:

NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement Wednesday that “Santorum’s targeting of African Americans is inaccurate and outrageous, and lifts up old race-based stereotypes about public assistance.”
Jealous pointed out that federal benefits are determined by income level, not race. In Iowa, for instance, 9 percent of food stamp recipients are black and 84 percent are white.

Since Rick made his remarks at a stop in Sioux City, Iowa, that pretty much makes his comments the usual Republican race-baiting on welfare.

Now true, African-Americans are disproportionally poor and disproportionally on welfare, accordingly. However, since there are considerably more non-black folks in these here United States the raw numbers show more non-black Americans supported on welfare. And in fact more white Americans are on welfare than black Americans.

So if some guy is going to make a dent in the numbers of Americans on the dole, targeting the less populous group is…peculiar. Unless, you know, he’s engaging in race baiting in the good old tradition of Ronald Reagan.

By the numbers

January 3, 2012 § 4 Comments

The Census quick facts sheets report the following:

USA: 72.4% white, 12.6% black, 16.3% report Hispanic or Latino origin.

Iowa: 91.3% white, 2.9% black, 5% report Hispanic or Latino origin.

NH: 93.9% white, 1.1% black, 2.8% report Hispanic or Latino origin.

This is hardly news. But it IS pretty damn screwed up that two totally unrepresentative states have such a disproportionate impact on who is a viable candidate for President. This is even before we get to their generally conservative leaning populations, lack of dense urban living and a host of other factors.

Too smart to be a police officer…..okay, what THE FUCK WAS THAT NOW?????

January 3, 2012 § 1 Comment

Are you kidding me? Really?

Jordan, a 49-year-old college graduate, took the exam in 1996 and scored 33 points, the equivalent of an IQ of 125. But New London police interviewed only candidates who scored 20 to 27, on the theory that those who scored too high could get bored with police work and leave soon after undergoing costly training.

This is quite possibly the stupidest thing I have ever heard. Good God I hope that New London is the only police force idiotic enough to limit their pool to officers of average intelligence and below.