The $100 Solution (Frame Review)

In these frustrating times of high petrol prices, deflating dollar value, and general economic nausea, upgrading my sorely aging Barracuda frame was a little more to ask than my wallet could answer. There’s nothing “wrong” with the Barracuda; it fits as well as any bike I’ve ever had, functions just as well – if not better, and also stands as a piece of local riding nostalgia. But I could not shake this desire inside to ride something a little more “modern”, and maybe a bit more aggressive… and well, it’s been a while since I’ve had a “new” bike…

Given my usual lack of financial resources, objects of desire would have to remain just that, and my solution would have to come from a thriftier source. When one is looking for a bargain, its almost a reflex to check Craig’s list, e-bay, and other online solutions. Nahsbar, Performance, Pricepoint, CBO – are the usual suspects when I look for online bargains, and they have served me well in the past. Don’t misunderstand me – I am all for the LBS, but in these parts, their prices are just too far out of my reach. I do support them as I can by purchasing the staples: tubes, tools, occasional clothing and other, smaller items.

After a couple weeks of online recon, I narrowed down my solution to two (2) different options:

The Zion 660 EB Single Speed Frame, available at Jensonusa.com

and


The Sette Reken, available at Pricepoint.com

Major differences are that the Zion is steel, and has an eccentric bottom bracket. The Sette is aluminum, and is a standard vertical drop out, multi-geared frame.

By process of elimination, mostly, the elimination of the Zion frame in my size from Jenson’s stock, my mind was set on the Sette, even it was semi reluctant.
So, after the entry of my 16 digit mark of the devil, I’m off to the races. for first impressions, and the semi complete build, continue on.

Frame: Sette Reken
Material: 6061 Aluminum
Features: Semi-oversized down tube, fancy drop outs, disk tab and standard mounting posts for linear pull brakes, cable routing, replaceable dérailleur hanger, and seatpost clamp included.

Size: 18 inch frame (measured center to top of seat post – if you measure center of bottom bracket to center of top tube/seat tube juncture, it is 16 inches)
The top tube slopes comfortably down towards the seat tube, so that’s nice for the personal clearance factor.

Top Tube length: about 22 7/8″

Head Tube length: 5 inches

Chain Stays: 16.75 inches

Head Tube angle – varies depending on what fork you have. The geometry on this frame is more “all mountain” than it is twitchy cross country style. Meaning, it steers a little slower, and (theoretically) handles better at higher speeds.

The finishing on the frame is about average to “nice”. It has a “matte black” sort of powder coat – if you want to get technical, its more like a satin, than matte… but I digress. Welds are nice, big and fat, and pretty consistent, maybe one or two little gloops or blubs, but really, not any worse than any other mass produced frame. The dérailleur hanger came separate, in a little baggie – as to protect it during shipping. Nice touch. It bolted on easily and fit solid and tight.

Sette Reken 2

Along with the frame, I also hooked up some Titec Hell-Bent bars, a Titec El-Norte seatpost, and a set of Hutchison Barracuda Tires, sized 2.3. The wheels I received in barter with a local bike shop for some framed photographs: Weinman Disk, black rims, black spokes, black Shimano Deore hubs. Nothing too fancy, but they get the job done. 26 x 2.35 I believe is the size, and yes, they are “double walled” as well. (okay, okay, I know, it’s more than $100… )

The rest of the parts are carrying over from the Barracuda – stem, disk brakes, Tru-Vativ cranks, and Shimano DX-style pedals. Ancient Surly Singulator, Z chain, Avid brake levers and Oury grips.

Forks – I did get these at a local bike shop – $25 – Redline Monocog forks. Straight bladed with that old school BMX look. Can’t go wrong. But I do see a suspension fork in my future.

The combining of the parts went pretty much without a hitch, a nice change from the norm, and I cannot say how nice it is to have disk brakes on the back end again. With a little elbow grease, and for once, the absence of hack-saw usage, the bike was ready to go.

Sette Reken 6Sette Reken 5

When I’m standing next to the bike, it almost looks like its one size too large… but if I stand back, it looks a little more compact.. an effect I’ve not experienced with other bikes at all. With all the parts being black, it has a sort of “bad ass” thing going on, not that it matters really what the bike looks like (even though, deep down inside, we know it does matter just a little). Complete, it’s probably a bit on the heavy side for a single speed, maybe pushing 25 lbs, maybe 26. I think the wheel set is where lot of this dark matter of weight is hiding, as they are wider than the previous set.

On the trail… The bike is stiff, and lives up to the fact that is RIGID… you can feel every bump on the trail, it’s on the unforgiving side – every ounce of trail feedback is transferred to your body… learning to hold tight and ride ‘loose’ will be key to comfort (and general survival)here. The slack head angle of the frame has the bike reacting a little slower than a typical cross-country frame, but its manageable, and you get used to it after the first quarter mile. The upside to this is that is a very good descender, tracks easy and loves to carve. It goes where you point it without complaint, especially if you find yourself in some swoopy turns and carves. Bottom bracket feels like its little low to the ground.. nice to have a lower center of gravity, but you have to mind where your pedals are in the technical sections or you’ll strike them sharply on rocks and obstacles.

The cockpit feels a bit on the sort side for an 18 inch frame, but, I prefer that – others may not dig it so much. And the back and feels a bit longer when climbing.. Coupled with the steel, straight bladed fork – this translates in to a pretty rough ride. To be fair to the frame – it is aluminum. This is a much less forgiving alloy then chro-mo, much stiffer, and absorbs much less trail. One might think difference between the two would be indistinguishable, but really, it does not take a seasoned cyclist to feel this difference. Some people prefer this feeling… I am indifferent really, but surprised enough to raise the point. Overall, nothing about the frame is a detriment to performance though. It does its job well, and by the end of my inaugural ride, I was cooking along quite comfortably.

The bars did their job just fine, nothing to remark on here too much. Same with the Avid disc brakes. They worked great, modulated nicely and didn’t lock up too easily. Just right.

The tires… Hutchison Barracuda 2.3s. I am guessing, that since they are 2.3s, this translates in to have to use more power to drive the bike. These tires do not like to go slow at all. Which is fine too, as the single speed thing is all about maintaining momentum. Going slow, you can feel the knobs, and you really have to grind to push the bike, but once you hit your powerband, get in to a pace, they roll nicely and bite the trail with big, sharp, pointy teeth (okay, treads). At speed, these tires behave very nicely, in fact, probably the best tire I’ve ridden at high speed. I was leaning in to some turns where I was sure I was going to slide out and spill. But you can feel the side knobs biting in and holding, I don’t know that I’ve ever carved so hard in to loose berms ever before, and didn’t slide out. Quite amazing really. But, again, these are not “cruising” tires.. if you like to tread along and smell the daisies, go for another tire – maybe the Pythons, or maybe the 2.1 version of the same tire. I do not look forward to serious climbs on these. If all I rode were downhill trails of varying condition, these are hands down the best tires (in an all-mountain sense) that I have ever tried, but I think labeling them as “cross-country” is… a stretch. Either way, my next tires will be 2.1s again. I just prefer that more technical feel you get with them. Again, in fairness to the tires, I am running the pressure low, as to absorb more bumps. The major penalty to this is just he effect I’ve experienced – it’s harder to pedal uphill… Next ride out, I’ll put the tires up to a respectable pressure, like 50 or 60 psi 🙂

For the record – past tires that I’ve ridden and liked: Panaracer smoke, darts, and XC pros, Tioga Downhills, Motoraptors, Maxxis and Conti’s.
Tires I have not been crazy about: Ritchey tires… really.

Also…

During the checkout process when I purchased the frame, I also picked up a pair of Sette half-finger gloves. Last season, I tried out a pair of Pear-Izumi full fingered gloves – which, while comfortable – only lasted about half the season (even though I used them all year until a few weeks ago when they about disintegrated!).

I believe the gloves were $9 on sale.


Since I have smaller mitts, I opted for the size small gloves, only seems appropriate. Construction is about like this: The back side of the glove is a vented mesh sort of fabric, with a thick, rubber Sette logo square in the middle. Out towards the fingers, the material changes to a light neoprene type stuff – stretchy and light. The four main fingers are half-fingers – except the index finger is bit longer than the rest, sort of a nice touch for lever grabbing and all that. Thumbs are full coverage, with a little terrycloth back to them for “wiping your brow” when the sweat builds up. The palm is light suede-like material, with an extra reinforced section under the backside the knuckles, and near the palm, there is a small padded section… very lightly padded I might add. So lightly padded, that I’ve ridden with them a half dozen time, and just now noticed there’s a pad in there. Stitching seems sufficient thus far, nothing is coming apart or seems to be splitting yet. Almost forgot to mention the velcro strap on the back, and the small plastic tab at the base of the palm, apparently for helping pull the gloves on/off. It seems to work well so far.

Fit wise – be warned, these run a little small (or, my hands are not as small as I think). Were I to buy these again, I would for sure get the medium size. They are not uncomfortably tight, but rather snug, and the thumb part feels a little short. I predict that is where the gloves will fail first. We’ll see.

Other than that… the gloves do their job – they cover your hands and half your fingers. The do provide a little “grip”, and not much shock absorbing as far as bumpiness on the trail goes. I know – that’s what suspension if for. But in that regard, they do suffer from comparison to the Pearl Izumi gloves from last season, where were generously padded, but not so much you couldn’t feel the trail through your bars. Shame about the disintegration…

The Gel Vent Gloves:

Pearl Izumi Full-Finger Gel-Vent Pro Gloves

To be fair, I did use the full fingered version, and where these failed the hardest was in the fingers. The palm padding and whatever venting system they integrate in this glove worked very well. There is/was a half fingered version available, which might be less prone to wear. I would guess, that if these Sette gloves bite the dust early, I will venture back to a half fingered version of the Gel-Vent gloves. They were very nice.

Okay, so that’s the skinny on the Sette Reken Hard Tail frame… there’s also some other reviews and posts about it on mtbr.com, both in single speed forums and peppered about the various forums. Use the search too, it will bring up a few for you, if you’re curious.

Thanks for looking and ride safe!

-Hazard-

——————————————————————-
User Update….
May 15th, 2008

I assembled the Sette around the first of may, and posted my initial reactions to the bike, frame, build… what follows is a user experience after using and thrashing it for about 2 weeks.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been riding the Sette as my commuter and all-around mountain bike.  The build has not changed since the introduction, except for the stem, I put a block style downhill stem on there because I dig it’s position, and it looks pretty “bad”… Honestly, I’m not sure which is more important, but by now I’m used to it so it does not matter 🙂

The first week, I was having a hard time keeping momentum up, and figured it was the extra knobby 2.3 tires.  Most folk out here use a shallower tread, and I think next time around I will give that a try – it seems to make more sense on a single speed anyhow.  Well, to combat the sort of sluggish feel I was getting on climbs, I upped the pressure in the tires to about 55 psi.  The ride is for sure even less forgiving now, but to me, to be able to keep up momentum – the rough ride is worth it.

Going in to this, I knew this frame was going to be a bone shaker.  And it is.  I’ve gotten a little more used to it, and have also tuned my riding a bit to match as well.  I ride a little looser, and really am watching the trail better, picking lines out much further ahead than I used to.  I would dare say this is improving my riding somewhat.

The build of this bike is heavier than the previous steel Barracuda – a conundrum since the new frame is aluminum.  The wheels though, are heavier, and any time you add weight to a rotational device, its just that much worse.  I am used to it now though, and the bike feels “normal” to me anymore. 

So far, the frame has not developed any squeaks or other odd noises.  I put my seat up a little higher I think – at first I thought the frame might actually be on the big side for me – but now I’m confident I got the correct size.  I am sure, that with a 16 inch frame instead, with my seat this high, I would be asking for bent seat posts.

The back end on this bike is deceiving – it looks short… but it measures nearly 16.75 inches, which I think is on the longer side.  What this means is that it takes a little more effort to lift the front wheel in the event you need to bunny hop, or pull back so the tire will roll over a log or other obstacle.  This is not a problem really, but something worth pointing out.

In technical situation, where you have to pick a specific line – like say – between two closely spaced rocks, and the lively hood of some unscarred flesh depends on successful navigation – if you have momentum, the bike tracks very well, and holds its line nicely.  So.. if you ride it like a single speed (always moving, momentum flowing) – the frame loves it.  But, if you slow down a bit, and try to “pick” your way though – it tends to fight you a little bit.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, as it forces one to assume and learn a new amount of control.  But, on a bike with maybe a little more aggressive (steeper) head angle, you’d have an easier time through slow technical stuff.  So, on the slow techy stuff – I’d give it maybe a 7 out of 10… maybe 6.5… 

The same can be said for more technical downhills… if you have a momentum built up, and are pretty much one with the trail – all your lines are picked well in advance, you’re golden.  If you slow down though, and again have to sort of take your time, the frame wants to flop a little bit to either side, depending on the position and trail. 

     

The sweet spot for this frame is in speedy, swoopy singletrack.  As long as you can anticipate a little bit in front of you, this frame loves to dig in and carve.  The Hutchison Barracuda tires are a great compliment to this trait, as they grip in turns like no tire I’ve ever ridden. 

On the whole, I dig this frame and build a lot.  Despite the sort of sluggish handling in the slower technical stuff, it’s a fun ride.  More experienced riders will probably be more accepting of this trait if they ride a technical environment.  Riders that are little less experienced, might find it frustrating, because the floopy nature of it’s slow handling will cause you dab a lot when things get tricky.  So, take that for what it’s worth 🙂 

If your trails are pretty fast, more wide open and swoopy with lots of turns and humps, bumps and jumps, this frame is perfect for all that stuff.  It handles well in the air as well, the geometry is stable and it obeys the slightest of tweaks and mid-air adjustments.  This frame wants to go fast, no doubt. 

All in all, I’m satisfied and content with the build and frame.  I’m growing to understand it better each ride, and it’s become more and extension of me, than a bike I’m riding.  Things I would or might change, given the financial backing:

  1. Suspension Forks.  But lighter forks.. with most forks coming in at almost 5 pounds these day, you have to shop careful.  Or be rich.
  2. Some lighter wheels.  I’m not sure which or what brand/model, I’ve never really shopped for rims before…
  3. Tires with a more shallow tread.  I’ll really miss the way these rubbers corner, but I’m keen to see how well this bike rolls with a little less resistance.

That’s about it.  If I was going to get fancy pants about it, maybe a King Headset, some RaceFace cranks…  maybe some egg beater pedals.
But I have to say, the good ol Tru Vativ 5D cranks are holding up well to the single speed abuse.  The Avid BB7’s are doing their job with no complaints.  To me, a seat post is a seat post, but I suppose a lighter one wouldn’t hurt.  The Titec El Norte is still holding my seat with no complaints though.  And of course, the trusty Oury grips are the bomb – best grips ever made in my opinion.  The gray ones are wearing thin now, I think lime green will be next…

So, that’s the two week update.  I’ll come back again in about a month or so, after a put a couple epic rides in this thing, and we’ll whats what then.  Until then, I still give this frame my “OK”, “endorsement”, or recommendation – if you’re looking for a budget frame to replace yours, or a cheap way in to single speeds….

Until then, Enjoy the Ride…

~Jerry ~ SSD Rogue Reporter

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6 thoughts on “The $100 Solution (Frame Review)

  1. Pingback: Soul Side Down :The Forum For Bike Freaks

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  3. Great detail in your review and build. I just picked up a Sette Shadow Frame (price was the reason) as a 2nd bike and sub for my FS bike. Hard tails are also alot of fun and I had all my old parts knocking around. I am hoping this frame is as strong as the reviews I am reading ? You have the Reken but they are in the same family. Do you still feeel this was a good choice for you ? Did you go with front suspension yet ?

    thanks
    Peter, CT

  4. Hi Jerry,
    Really did my homework on which frame to purchase for an upgrade. And keep comming back to theSette Reken you’ve mentioned in your review. My ole bike (Mongoose xt-100 $250.00 Wal-mart special haha) is finally on it’s last legs & I need a decent bike I can build up for a few dollars without breaking my wallet.My truck broke down a month and a half ago and I’m averaging 70 miles a week to/from work on my POS bike.. I am tired of multispeed bikes and would like to build this up as a sigle speed for easy maintenance. Would this bike kill me riding these distances as a single speed?
    Also want to do a little trail riding as well so don’t mind it being a little heavy.Could I by using some components off my ole bike and parts from Pricepoint.com build this up for under $300.00 ?

    P.S. Is it hard to put a bike together w/o all those fancy shop tools? always wanted to build my own
    TNX Joe

  5. Hi Joe,

    First, thanks for checking out the review – I am very glad you found it helpful. 70 miles a week commuting on any bike is pretty accomplished too, I don’t come anywhere near that here. But, I live only a mile or two from work, so… 😉

    Large distances on a single speed are not too bad. If you’re going about 7-8 miles one way you’ll be fine. When I lived in Columbus, most of my ride to work was uphill, and then the ride home was downhill (and fast). But I’m speaking in relative terms, it wasn’t like I was climbing giant hills/mountains, it was just an upward grind you could feel, but you get used to it pretty quickly.

    I would venture to guess that once your single speed is built up, it will weigh in quite a bit lighter than that Mongoose you’re riding (my first mtb in Columbus was a wal-mart Mongoose, btw). Just the weight difference alone would make a significant difference in the ride (it will be much easier).

    If you scavenge parts from your ‘Goose, you should be able to get your bike built for about $300 or less. Decide which parts you really need to replace, (I’m thinking tires, maybe forks, grips, brakes?, seat and seat post to start with?) then keep an eye on Pricepoint, Jensonusa.com, Cambria Bike, and any other of the big online houses. If you can get all your parts from one place – you’ll save a lot on shipping.

    The hardest parts to switch over are going to be your cranks and forks. I have no idea how mechanically inclined you are, but it’s not very difficult. I would recommend “Zinn and the art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” by Lennard Zinn. Its an easy read and has diagrams/directions for about anything you’ll ever need to do to a bike. If you are really going to make the jump to building the bike yourself, I would recommend getting this book before buying any parts. You’ll also need some tools, assuming you don’t have any – this could put you over your $300 budget, but consider them an investment, as you will indeed use them for the rest of your riding career. Specifically, you’ll need a crank puller, a cog puller, cone wrenches, and a decent set of allen wrenches. Sette makes a fairly standard tool kit that’s pretty affordable, maybe get that with the frame.

    Lastly, single speed conversions are pretty easy. Best sources of info (IMO) are the Sheldon Brown site, the forums on MTBR, and the forums on bikeforums.net. Just skimming through the threads/discussions offers a ton of info, and if you have a question about it, it’s probably been asked and answered there several times.

    Thanks again for reading Joe, good luck and I hope you find some of this helpful!
    (email also sent)

    Cheers,
    Jerry

  6. Hey, Great Review!

    Just curiously, I’m really considering the Reken, but coming off of a Jamis (19″) would an 18 or a 20″ be best? I’m 6’1.5″ w/ a 33″ inseam – your thoughts?

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