Review: Specialized Secteur

Thinking more about fast group rides, maybe a bit of racing, or even some light touring? Let’s take a look at the Specialized Secteur, which is the aluminum version of Specialized’s Paris Roubaix-winning (and creatively named) “Roubaix.”

Don’t let the racing pedigree fool you—the Specialized Secteur is set up to be friendly for those of us without “Eye of the Tiger” playing on repeat in our heads. Designed to be comfortable and easy to ride, Specialized created a good old-fashioned all-around road bike that isn’t at all old technology.

The frame is a modern hydroformed aluminum unit, the fork the now de rigueur carbon fiber. Both are equipped with Zertz inserts, a vibration-reducing elastomer in the fork legs and seat stays to help keep rough roads from ruining the ride. Its geometry numbers are more relaxed than Specialized’s more race-oriented frames, with a taller head- tube, longer chainstays, slacker head angle, and lower bottom bracket than the similarly priced but more racy Allez. What does that all mean for the ride? Read on, reader.

My first ride on the bike was a commute home, which starts with four miles of slight downhill. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a real skinny-tired road bike, and cranking out the miles in the big ring was a welcome change from my often slow slog home on various more practical bikes. This “fast” trend continued throughout the review period.

I mostly rode the Specialized Secteur for training for a mountain bike stage race, and it was outstanding in this regard. The ride is fast and efficient-feeling, but not so hard-edged that I avoided the rough roads I prefer. It was more nervous than I’d like on dirt roads, but everywhere else the bike was a fine balance of stability and responsiveness. The frame is stiffer than I’m used to, which led me to attack hills with more gusto than normal, but the Zertz is effective in taking the edge off rough roads, not quite as comfortable as some of the better steel frames I’ve ridden, but much, much better than most aluminum bikes.

I requested the model with a Shimano 105 compact double drivetrain, as I’ve found the gearing range to work well for my local terrain and reasonably fit self. Those looking to take advantage of the rear rack mounts, or who live in areas with sustained steep climbing, might be better off with the wide-range SRAM Apex set-up or one of the triple-chainring options.

Three Specialized-branded components stood out enough to warrant mention. The Espoir Sport 25mm tires provided a smooth ride and great puncture resistance. No flats and little wear in a few thousand miles. The Comp handlebar has a great bend and was easy to set up. Finally, the Riva saddle was comfortable enough for a double century, but I’m sure the skinny 27.2mm Seatpost helped here too; the bit of flex took the edge off.

The Seatpost was a two-bolt set-up, making it easy to adjust the angle, but one of the bolts is only accessible through a hole in the saddle. Fortunately, the stock saddle is pretty swelled, but installing a different non-holey saddle would make it very difficult to use the saddle clamp. No fender mounts meant fender options were limited, although a set of SKS Raceblade Long fenders (reviewed next issue) worked quite well. I figure if you are going to install rack mounts you might as well put fender mounts on there, too. I’d also love to be able to run 28mm tires and fenders; this only works with mid-reach road brakes, which this bike is not designed around. Specialized hinted that most of my concerns might cease to exist with expected changes for 2013 models.

When I was hanging the Secteur up in my basement recently, I had a vision of a kid finding it in 15 or 20 years, dusting it off, turning it up, and falling in love with cycling. Specialized nailed it with this one— a fast, comfortable bike at an affordable price, with enough practicability to bring it out of the recreation-only range. Those with visions of long charity rides, Gran Fondos, and other fast rides will not be disappointed with the Specialized Secteur.

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Review: Specialized Secteur — Bike Hacks