Specialized Secteur Elite review
The upright position of the Secteur will be welcomed by those looking for a cruising bike, but it’s off the pace in terms of weight and kit, and that’s clearly noticeable in the ride.
Highs: The upright, short-reach Secteur will be welcomed by those who have a closer relationship with their chiropractor than their chronometer
Lows: It’s not as smooth as you might expect, it’s heavy and rather dull in ride character and under-specced for the price
Buy if: You like a lot of matching kit and accessory options, and you’re more worried about putting your back out than putting your back into it
Even by current ‘comfy bike’ standards the Secteur is a fairly extreme machine. The tall head tube extends below and above the main tubes and is properly orthopaedic in terms of bar position, with a big stack of steerer washers and the stem angle adjustable via a rotating steerer shim.
The curved top tube curls down to leave a lot of skinny 27.2mm seatpost showing for extra spring under the saddle. There’s a distinctly short reach to the cockpit on our 56cm frame and the bar has shallow ‘compact’ style drops to let you make regular use of the lower sections without straining your spine.
The Secteur also uses Specialized’s proprietary zertz ‘jelly’ sections in the skinny, curved fork legs and seatstays, designed to dissipate shocks and vibrations, though how much of this is achieved by the jelly pieces and how much by the hydroformed tube is a moot point.
Despite all the tech it’s not the smoothest ride, with more jolt and chatter on rougher sections than some of its price rivals. Things improved when we switched to lighter, more supple tyres than the tough Espoirs that come as standard, and switching tyres also made a difference to overall response levels, perking up what’s otherwise a rather pedestrian performance.
It’s not that there’s any particular sense of power loss through the frame – while there’s a bit of twist through the tall front end and shimmed stem, it’s not excessive and it feels usefully firm underfoot – but the heavy rear wheel and high overall weight definitely dull its dynamism, and there’s a tendency for the skinny seatpost to ‘bounce’ if you’re mauling a big gear round.
Combined with the more upright position, this makes it more natural to gear down rather than get up and go at the first sign of a hill. Descending is on the upright and uptight side too, with a vagueness at the fork and frame ends, not helped by the lack of communication from the tyres. Also, though functionally excellent, the Shimano Tiagra groupset is a little disappointing in fiscal terms.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.