Serotta HSG Carbon review

High-performance carbon race rig

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0
GBP £4,180.20 RRP | USD $6,825.00

Our review

Sublime ride quality, with superb handling and cornering, but very expensive and not as stiff or light as much of the competition
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The Serotta brand name has long been synonymous with American bicycle building. Now the company hopes to rekindle its association with racing with a new line of high-performance carbon machines. If our HSG Carbon tester is any indication, Serotta may be well on its way to restoring its old podium credentials.

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Serotta’s past is deeply rooted in racing, having supported the efforts of such classic teams and riders as 7-Eleven, Coors Light, Crest, the 1980s US Olympic squads and Davis Phinney and Andy Hampsten. Among a sea of me-too, constant-diameter, round pipes, its Colorado Concept steel tubing was revolutionary.

The company has largely kept up with technology under the lead of founder, and once-again owner, Ben Serotta, with models such as the titanium-and-carbon Ottrott. But the classic appearance of much of its lineup and the high costs associated with its unflappable attention to detail and quality have won favour with the well-heeled doctor and lawyer crowd instead of the ‘How many Pot Noodles/packages of Ramen noodles can I buy with my race winnings?’ crew. 

The Serotta name brings supreme quality, years of hard-fought experience and true race cred, but at a high price. The cost of the HSG pales in comparison to the top-end Serotta MeiVici frameset, but £4,180.20 (US$4,275) is still a lot of money to pay for a bare frameset. On the bright side, much of the knowledge and fabrication that goes into the custom MeiVici is also used in the stock HSG – there are just fewer geometry choices and tubing options.

FSA's aluminum Energy handlebars are a popular choice in the pro peloton.
FSA’s aluminum energy handlebars are a popular choice in the pro peloton.: fsa’s aluminum energy handlebars are a popular choice in the pro peloton.
Mark Zalewski - North American Editor, Cyclingnews

Ride & handling: Smooth, smooth and more smooooooth

The ride was everything we expected of a Serotta. On the less-than-ideal roads around the home base – which can sometimes be a deal-breaker right from the start – the frame easily and dutifully absorbed the minefield of vibrations and bumps from tired pavement that had endured yet another rough winter.

Not only were we less fatigued than usual from the relentless pounding but the handling over rough patches was top-notch. ‘Bigger’ and ‘stiffer’ may be the buzzwords for carbon frames these days, but in cases like this where the pavement surface is less than ideal a little more resilience can be just as much of a performance advantage, and the HSG Carbon has it in spades. Longer rides only served to reinforce those initial impressions.

In spite of appearances, the HSG frame has a pleasantly beefy feel when pounding on the pedals, with good sprinting response and acceleration. The “stiffest, lightest and most race-worthy Serotta ever” isn’t nearly as rigid as many other carbon racers we’ve sampled but what the HSG lacks in stiffness it makes up for in its reassuringly solid ride quality.

The carbon chain stays aren't nearly as big as many others we've used lately yet the HSG Carbon still has plenty of get-up-and-go.
The carbon chain stays aren’t nearly as big as many others we’ve used lately yet the hsg carbon still has plenty of get-up-and-go.: the carbon chain stays aren’t nearly as big as many others we’ve used lately yet the hsg carbon still has plenty of get-up-and-go.
Mark Zalewski - North American Editor, Cyclingnews

Unlike so much of its massively oversized competition that can be fantastically stiff and efficient on the test bench but hollow-feeling on the road, there’s little sense that the thick HSG tubes will buckle if you tap them too hard with your finger or that the first incident with the ground will result in a useless pile of jagged carbon shards. Never once did we question the frame reliability when confidently hurtling through high-speed corners.

Speaking of durability and high-speed corners, we inadvertently put the Serotta to the true test when someone took out our front wheel during a local criterium. Save for a bent rear wheel, a tweaked derailleur hanger (which was thankfully realigned later as it is not easily replaceable) and some scrapes, the HSG Carbon came out unscathed (unlike the rider). 

The crash also afforded us the opportunity to do the most direct comparison possible – a bike switch (with a neutral service bike) with our heart rate still at race pace. While the replacement bike was a quality ride in its own right, it made us appreciate the feel of the HSG. The bigger, stiffer and lighter loaner was snappier and more nimble but it took several laps to even begin to trust its handling in the corners after racing on the HSG. Whereas the resilient Serotta felt practically glued to the ground, the replacement seemed more like it was skipping across the pavement, especially when it was rough.

Think of the Serotta as a lifetime investment that can also be successfully raced as opposed to a dedicated racer that might make it into the next season.

Similarly, the bottom bracket lug looks positively spindly in comparison to some other modern rigs but is still beefy enough for all-out racing.
Similarly, the bottom bracket lug looks positively spindly in comparison to some other modern rigs but is still beefy enough for all-out racing.: similarly, the bottom bracket lug looks positively spindly in comparison to some other modern rigs but is still beefy enough for all-out racing.
Mark Zalewski - North American Editor, Cyclingnews

Frame: Slender-looking carbon tubeset with reinforcement in all the right places

The HSG Carbon’s Colorado Concept Torsion Core tubeset recalls the artfully swaged, butted and ovalized shapes of Serotta’s old steel bikes but recreated in far lighter carbon fibre. Likewise, the once-steel lugs have been replaced with carbon lugs made from multiple modulus lay-ups and key areas such as the head tube and bottom bracket are reinforced with titanium inserts.

Serotta describes the HSG tubes as “oversized” and while they certainly are by 1980 standards, they look distinctly undersized compared to most modern competitors. Then again, pressing one’s finger into any area of the HSG frame suggests that those relatively small-diameter tubes are well bolstered with sturdy thick walls that, if nothing else, should hold up better to long-term abuse. Serotta specifies its stiffest TC2 lay-ups for the HSG Carbon and the biggest tube sections are concentrated around the bottom bracket area. 

A SRAM Force front derailleur moved the Shimano Dura-Ace chain back and forth between the chainrings.
A sram force front derailleur moved the shimano dura-ace chain back and forth between the chainrings.: a sram force front derailleur moved the shimano dura-ace chain back and forth between the chainrings.
Mark Zalewski - North American Editor, Cyclingnews

Equipment: SRAM gruppo, Zipp wheels, Chris King headset and FSA finishing kit

Our test bike came outfitted with Serotta’s SRAM Force build kit which also included a Zipp Team CSC clincher wheelset, an FSA handlebar, seatpost and stem, Hutchinson tires, and a Chris King headset.

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Completing the ensemble was Serotta’s S-Fork which mates a carbon steerer and legs to a set of minimal-looking aluminum dropouts. Total weight for our 54cm sample was an encouraging 7.21kg (15.89lb).

Product Specifications

Product

Name HSG Carbon (09)
Brand Serotta

Available Colours Custom Various
Rims Team CSC Clincher
Rear Tyre Size 700x23C
Rear Tyre Fusion
Front Tyre Size 700x23C
Front Tyre Fusion
Weight (lb) 15.8
Weight (kg) 7.2
Stem OS-115
Shifters Force DoubleTap
Seatpost SL-K
Saddle Arione Wing Flex
Rear Derailleur Force
Available Sizes 48 50 52 54 56 58 60 cm 62cm Custom
Handlebar Energy Anatomic
Front Derailleur Force
Frame Material Serotta HSG Carbon
Fork Serotta S-Fork F-3 lay-up
Cranks Force
Chain Dura-Ace CN-7801
Cassette SRAM OG-1070 11-26T
Brakes Force
Bottom Bracket GXP
Manufacturer's Description Bold- light and as stiff as you want it to be.. the 2009 HSG Custom combines 100% customization with the innovation of Serotta's industry-leading carbon fiber technology. Rider-specific Torsion Core Colorado Concept tubing platform and multi-modulus (MML) construction allows Serotta engineers to optimize drive-train stiffness without sacrificing vertical compliance. Handbuilt with Serotta's proprietary S3 Carbon Fork and a choice of two stunning finish options allow the full custom- 100% carbon HSG Custom to be priced extremely competitively.
Description Price - $6825 (as tested) US$4275 (frame and S-fork)
Year 2009