Specialized Secteur Sport
If it was a tin, it would do what it says, on the tin
Back in time (a little) to the Specialized Secteur. Dave is still riding it, but does he want to be.
This bike was my first foray into road cycling, so it has a slightly special place in any kind of bike test. As we know, every test ever done is biased. By like/dislike of brand, of riding style, and size, confidence, mechanical knowledge, day, date, weather, and so on. You can get a few more people to ride a bike, but that doesn't make a robust sample, and all those people are different again, so you can't use large numbers to iron out the outliers (this is not a stats lesson - Ed). Anyway, as my first road bike I was new to the ways of on-display lycra (Mountain bikers keep all that stuff hidden away), and new to considering hills as good things to ride up, not just grim but necessary obstacles, in order to fly back down them. This particular one is what's known as an entry level bike (see box below). Rather than the offered free kit worth 10% of the price, I managed to talk them into taking the 10% off the price. Suddenly it seems like a very reasonably £585.
More epithets: This is an 'endurance' bike. Or more accurately it has 'endurance geometry'. This means it is designed so that you have less bend in your back to reach the bars, which are closer, and less low down than a bike with 'race geometry'. This means you can ride it for longer in comfort. Which I do. So this works well. Over time I have moved some of the spacers on the stem out, which has dropped the handlebars a very small amount. And is the reason I'd like to try something racier - to see if I can.
The Secteur, named after the section's of cobblestones (pave) from the Paris-Roubaix road race, is modeled on the more expensive Specialized Roubaix. Modeled means the same geometry, and then noticeable cheaper build, materials and component. That's fine with me. I do think it does a good job of dealing with the terrible state of the roads where I live. It has 'zertz' inserts built into the seat stays (of course it does), which are meant to provide some damping of rough roads. Hard to say without a control bike, but it does cope pretty well with potholes and so on. I quite often ride through them, so I can maintain my speed, whilst others with less robust bikes slow right down to avoid them. I can't advise on the best course of action, but I can say the Secteur is up to the job. It is comfortable to ride for hours in the saddle. It holds a line well when descending, and it is OK to climb with. I don't think this is a strong point, given the weight, which is substantial, but it's doable. The original handlebars were comfortable to grip, and not too large for my small-ish hands. Interestingly, when the bar tape was peeled off for a service I was shown some plastic shapers, which sit under the tape on the bar tops, and give it a much wider area to grip on the tops. A poor man's version of those wide aero-bars?
One of the reasons the climbing is doable, is that the Secteur Sport comes with a triple chain ring on the front derailleur (those that scoff won't be reading this review, so it's fine to admit it). And it has got me out of trouble on more than one occasion. I hardly use it at all now, which is something of a statement about how my riding has improved, and there's probably now an argument for something different. But it's fine, so I keep it going. There is some satisfaction in watching the wannabees laugh at the triple and then besting them up a climb.
Entry level might seem a curious phrase for bikes costing £600 or more. But this is all about the relative pricing, both within the brand, and across the spectrum of bike buying. It is probably something of a misnomer nowadays, as you can get good bikes for less than this. But it is still widely accepted that this is about the price you need to pay to get a decent bike, from a reputable dealer, of a decent brand. It is, therefore, a fiercely competitive price point.
The endurance label should really be applied to the whole bike, not just the geometry. I have this as my road bike, so it is ridden year round, all through the winter, on ice-and-mud strewn country lanes and out the other side, I rode stage 1 of the Tour De France 2014 and it's not let me down. It has, of course, needed maintaining, and the bits that wear out have worn out and be replaced. I had a bike fit, which meant new bars and stem, and the latest addition is some new wheels, which have been a revelation to the bikes speed. Three people I know have bought Secteurs and then gone on to buy carbon race bikes. I wonder if they'd have bothered if they'd have replaced the wheels first.
I don't necessarily feel it has the looks over some other bikes, but even then I have a soft spot for the sweeping top tube, that sweeps from low down, up to the stem. It's a satisfying curve. The look that most lets it down is the outrageously big head tube. This is a result of my size: being 6ft I need a large frame, or 58cm, or whatever Trek do with measurements (someone please explain this to me). The Secteur's solution to the issue of size and comfort is to build the head tube roughly the height of the Eiffel Tower and hope no-one notices. It functions extremely well, it just looks a bit silly.
If there's a better introduction to the world of cycling, I don't know what it is. I spend almost no time looking after it, which is just how I like it. The triple, helps new riders deal with hills, and I would wager quite a large number of owners have gone on to buy more expensive, lighter, faster bikes. Which speaks strongly of it's position as entry level. Not having to worry about the basics means I can spend more time just riding the bike.
I bought my Secteur from Noahs Ark bike shop, available online and instore.
What we think of ... Specialized Secteur sport ... in 50 words or less
Perfect entry level bike. Whilst it might seem dated a little, a second-hand version would do exactly what you need it to do. It deals with rough roads, descents and climbs with the same go-anywhere attitude.
I know that Specialized don't make the Secteur anymore. This gives some excellent opportunities to buy second hand versions for even less money. There are some decent-looking ones on ebay for about £300, and there is a women's version as well. Triples are currently out of favour with bike manufacturers, and the compacts (and other things) are considered just as good, so this is probably not a deal breaker. This is a popular category - entry-lelve endurance bikes - so we've just given three alternatives that we like the look of. There are plenty of others, go and chat to your local bike shop.
Specialized Diverge A1
Aluminium Frame w/carbon fork
Shimano claris drive train. Disc brakes
Available for £725 from Pedal Heaven, other retailers also stock this bike.
Specialized Dolce sport
Aluminium Frame w/ Carbon fork
Shimano Sora drivetrain. Zertz inserts
Available for £750 from Sigma Sport, other retailers also stock this bike
Mango Point AR
Aluminium frame w/carbon forks
Shimano Sora drive train. Disc brakes
Available from £699 from Mango Bikes