BIKE TEST: Sarto Seta

Perhaps until the bitter end, the bike company founded by Antonio Sarto in 1950 will strive to remain one of the longest-surviving brands that continues to build all of their bikes in Italy. Although they may not have a massive line of bikes, in producing approximately 2500 frames a year, they do, however, make it up in precision, handmade, tube-to-tube, custom carbon fiber frames. Sarto’s Seta is currently their premier lightweight frameset with a claimed weight of a lowly 700 grams.

THE FRAME
Tube-to-tube construction allows Sarto to create some great frame designs while still maintaining the ability to provide custom geometries along with demand-specific ride characteristics. This form of fabrication also allows the Sarto to remain incredibly light. The Seta utilizes traditional round-shaped tubing to keep the weight down without sacrificing stiffness, while the top tube is mildly flattened to provide some flex for comfort. To provide even more comfort the Seta uses an X-style brake bridge that helps improve vibration damping. Our test bike came with a PressFit 86.5 bottom bracket, which creates a wide platform to increase pedal efficiency. But with their custom frame project, they give the option of a regular threaded, BB30 or PressFit 386 bottom bracket shell.

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Sarto has a few steps in their production that separates them from the rest of their custom carbon fiber frame-manufacturing competitors. Besides a lamination process that maximizes tube strength and durability, layers of Kevlar are infused in the lay-up to increase impact resistance. They also use a special resin-application process to make the joints look perfectly melded together. All of the finished frames are tested to ensure that they pass required safety standards and meet their stiffness expectations.

Once the frame is deemed worthy of the Sarto name, they have expert craftsmen paint the frame with the best equipment for use on carbon materials. All of these processes, including the painting, is completed in Sarto’s small factory located just outside of Venice.

THE PARTS
To test a handmade Italian road bike, it is only fitting to equip it with Italian components. With that said, our test bike was spec’d with a full complement of Campagnolo parts, including a Super Record drivetrain and front (dual-pivot) and rear (single-pivot) brake calipers. The wheels were also Campagnolo in the form of Bora Ultra 35s (RBA, July 2015) that were wrapped in Schwalbe Durano tires. Italian component-maker Deda Elementi supplied the Superleggera handlebars and a 27.2mm Superleggera seatpost. Sarto topped our test bike off with their own carbon saddle that has quite a bit of padding.

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THE RIDE
After just a few rides on the Sarto, it was evident where the model name Seta (Italian for “silk”) was derived. Every kind of ride and over every type of terrain we challenged the Seta with was reciprocated with a silky-smooth and efficient ride. Lightning-fast accelerations were unparalleled thanks to the Seta’s light weight and stiffness, and when it came to high-speed cornering, the Italian stallion always provided the perfect amount of confidence due to the stiff head tube. In fact, only a few sub-15-pound bikes we’ve ridden have exhibited such impressive stability when it comes to cornering. Rear-end comfort and stiffness were equally rated as nearly perfect.

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The only downside we could find with the bike on fast descents was the perceived loss of braking power coming from the single-pivot brake. Maybe the power of these brakes was all the rage a few years ago, but in this day and age of dual-pivot and disc brakes, the single-pivot binders left us feeling the need for better stopping power out back. With the overall performance of 23mm tires now so vastly surpassed by 25mm tires, we prefer to run the bigger tires on all our test bikes. Unfortunately, the Seta just barely had enough room to squeeze a two-fiver in the frame. Tire clearance for bigger tires has now become a requisite detail for modern road frames.

THE VERDICT
If cost was no object and you were in the market for a “forever bike,” the Sarto Seta would definitely be a bike to include on your list of potential life partners. Starting with the lightweight frame, the Sarto still exhibits fantastic handling traits, along with all-day-long comfort, even on rough roads. Even though our Seta had a more traditional race-inspired geometry (72-degree head and 74-degree seat angle with a 989cm wheelbase), the Seta could easily satisfy just about every rider’s needs. All the more so thanks to their custom-build program where just about any option is a possibility. Beyond their frames, Sarto also offers an impressive service center where your frame can be repaired.

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With fewer frames that are truly handmade in Italy surviving the continued exodus to Asia, Sarto is one of the few remaining to both recognize and promote the value of Italian history
and craftsmanship.

PUNCH LINES
• Ultra lightweight
• Stability to its core
• Custom Italian bikes are expensive

STATS
Price: $6200 (frameset)
Weight: 14.45 pounds
Sizes: Non-custom: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL

View their entire custom lineup at sartoantonio.com

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