Specialized Sequoia Elite review£1,500.00

The return of an old Specialized name in a new gravel bike guise

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Specialized is probably best known for its high-end exotica – and for its attempts to achieve worldwide cycling ubiquity – but its original sport-tourer Sequoia dates back to 1981. The 2017 incarnation is a very different beast though. 

Down-tube shifters have long since vanished, and side-pull brakes have been supplanted by hydraulic discs. But it’s still essentially a ‘sports-tourer’, albeit in a more modern gravel bike-inspired design. And it’s made from good ’ol chromoly, so some things never change – though we doubt ’81-era Spesh would have released a bike in ‘California white sage’. Or very pale green to the rest of us…

Components and handling

The Sequoia’s contact points are comfortable, and they’re colour coordinated too – a sort of charcoal black pairing. But the canvas tape and the canvas-feel saddle finish looked much the worse for wear after one very muddy ride, and neither is as easy to clean as traditional bar tape or saddle.

There’s no doubting that the Sequoia Elite’s braking is head and shoulders above the next model down in the range, as your extra money contributes to Shimano hydraulic disc braking (the entry-level Sequoia has Tektro Spyre mechanical disc brakes). The thru-axles also contribute to the quality braking.

The downside of the Shimano 105 groupset is the shape of the hydraulic levers, which have a pronounced bump you feel under the inside of your thumb when you’re on the hoods. That said, the 105 gearing is superior to nearly anything else at a similar price point, and the 48/32 FSA chainset paired to an 11-36T cassette will get you up any hill.

Everyday riding, fitness riding, gravel and even singletrack are within the Sequoia’s remit
Everyday riding, fitness riding, gravel and even singletrack are within the Sequoia’s remit

The unusual-looking Specialized Sawtooth tyres have a zig-zag pattern in the Gripton rubber compound and are a winner, fast running on tarmac and gripping impressively on gravel, especially considering the minimal depth of the tread. These are up there with the best all-surface tyres and they’re tubeless compatible. Their width helps with comfort too.

Specialized has gone for a flared bar for extra control, particularly when you leave the black top. The distinctive Hover bar also rises either side of the stem, which helps you to achieve a more upright riding position. But it makes fitting lights and computers (and a bell, remember them?) that much trickier.

Specialized Sequoia Elite summary

Specialized’s Sequoia really is an accomplished and versatile bike. It may fall shy of a full-on expedition mount (Specialized has the AWOL range for that), but as a one-bike-for-virtually-all-eventualities it's well sorted. 

Everyday riding, fitness riding, canal towpaths, gravel and even singletrack are within its remit, and it’ll handle all of them with panache, if not necessarily great speed. It also comes with five bottle mounts - three on the frame and two on the fork. So you won’t get thirsty.

This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Simon has been cycling for as long as he can remember, and more seriously since his time at university in the Dark Ages (the 1980s). This has taken in time trialling, duathlon and triathlon and he has toured extensively in Asia and Australasia, including riding solo 2900km from Cairns to Melbourne. He now mainly rides as a long-distance commuter and leisure/fitness rider. He has been testing bikes and working for Cycling Plus in various capacities for nearly 20 years.
  • Age: 53
  • Height: 175cm / 5'9
  • Weight: 75kg /165lb
  • Waist: 33in
  • Discipline: Road, touring, commuting
  • Current Bikes: Rose SL3000, Hewitt steel tourer
  • Beer of Choice: Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Location: Bath, UK

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