At £3,800 just for the frame, the Sarto Seta is the stuff of dreams, and lottery winners. Price aside, the Seta offers a stunning ride, both effortlessly fast on the flats and up the climbs, and it's buttery smooth and the handling is wonderful.
Sarto perhaps isn't the most recognisable name in cycling. However, the company has been building frames by hand for the past 60 years, and they've actually supplied many leading brands with frames, details of which they're not allowed to share. In recent years they've decided to step out of this shadow and offer a range of frames under their own name, and the Seta here is the range-topping, all-singing, all-dancing, superlight carbon race-ready bike.
It's a handsome bike, built using the tube-to-tube construction technique. Precisely mitred tubes of Toray M55J and M46J high modulus unidirectional carbon fibre are bonded and wrapped. It produces clean lines at all the junctions with virtually no hint of the layers of carbon holding the various tubes together.
The Seta has been updated this year, with the main changes focused on revised tube profiles. The changes include a flatter top tube and skinnier seatstays, intended to provide the Seta with more compliance. A nice cross brace joins the seat stays at the rear brake caliper. Weight for a 56cm frame is a claimed 700g, placing it in good company with the lightest frames money can buy.
As well as off-the-shelf frames, Sarto can customise the frame for your requirements and specifications, from such parameters as the thickness of the tube walls depending on what the style of riding you have planned, down to the paint job. This frame features a regular seatpost but you could go for an integrated post if you preferred.
Other details specific to this frame include the modern PressFit386 bottom bracket, with oversize chainstays and a reassuringly large diameter down tube. It all suggests absolute stiffness and riding reveals this; give the Campagnolo Super Record chainset a shove through the pedals and you can feel the frame lurch forward with no lag or slackness. It's very responsive.
All cables for the mechanical Campagnolo groupset have been routed internally, as is the norm these days. The seat tube accommodates a 27.2mm seatpost and the carbon fibre Deda seatpost, with a decent amount of extension aided by the slightly sloping top tube, providing a nice amount of deflection for ironing out crinkled road surfaces.
Up front is a tapered head tube with carbon bearing surfaces and an elegant looking fork with swooping fork blades, and a carbon fibre steerer tube to keep the weight low. The steering through the Deda carbon fibre handlebars and 13cm Deda aluminium stem was reassuringly precise, a little bit slow at lower speeds, but wind up the speed and the steering becomes a lot more responsive.
Wheels always have a great influence on the character of any bike, and the Spin XLR38 Fat Boys wheels proved a fine match for the frame. They're astoundingly fast, spinning up to speed from stationary very rapidly and cruising along at high pace with ease, accompanied by a great soundtrack, a sort of low down echo that just sounds darn fast.
The carbon fibre rims are 38mm deep and have a 25mm width which means the 23mm Continental TT tyres balloon up to 25mm at their widest point. It's a setup that really does seem to boost the speed and reduce rolling resistance, and I found a pressure of about 90psi a nice balance. The wheels are sprightly too with a claimed 1,465g weight.
You're hardly going to spend £3,800 on a frame like this and slap a 105 groupset on it (though there's certainly no reason why you couldn't, and you would probably get a decent weight build), so the Seta was supplied by UK distributor Impact Cycle Trading with a shiny new Campagnolo Super Record 11-speed mechanical groupset. Needless to say, it's a beautiful groupset. I approve of the new chainset and rear derailleur, and the shifting and braking performance is every bit as good as Dura-Ace.
Sarto offer 13 factory colour options and a full bespoke option as well, which is definitely something I would look to do if I was in the position of buying the Sarto Seta.
Aesthetics are a subjective thing. Generally the Seta is a beautiful bike to behold, but I'm not a fan of some of the superfluous decals, especially the one adorning the top tube reminding me of the tensile strength of the frame every time I ride it. To be fair, Sarto aren't alone here, a lot of Italian manufacturers like to slap acronyms and whatnots on their frames,
You're in no doubt you're riding something special with the Seta. It's silky smooth, fabulous in every riding situation, and visually it's very appealing.
The often broken, uneven and lumpy rounds around the Cotswolds often expose an overly stiff bike but the Seta absorbs the ripples and crinkles in the surface of the road, feeding very little of the vibration through to the contact points. It's a very calm and unflustered bike to ride.
You won't fail to get the Seta from the top of a hill to the bottom quicker than just about any other bike. It strings together corners and apexs with accuracy and the high level of damping through the frame and fork ensures it never becomes jittery at higher speeds on rougher road surfaces.
That composure is also highlighted if you hit an unexpected hole or crack in the road at high speed. It's resolutely calm and stable. It's pretty flighty on the way back up the hill too, with the low 6.8kg (14.99lb) weight ensuring it glides up ascents.
However, it's hard to get away from that £3,800 price tag. The closest rival would arguably be the Legend HT 7.5 that I reviewed last year, one of the best bikes I've tested for road.cc, and which costs much less, is handbuilt in Italy and rivals the Seta for performance. The Colnago C60 could also be considered another close rival. It's some £300 cheaper too, and visually more stylish.
Tough decisions for sure, but one thing you can be certain of, you're not going to be disappointed with any of them, and the Sarto Seta certainly joins a very elite club.
Sublimely smooth ride with tons of speed and relaxed stability, but you need to win the lottery to be able to afford it
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sarto Seta
Size tested: 56
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Sarto brings you Seta. This road frame, weighing 700 g , is the latest and most advanced frame Sarto has ever produced.
The Seta features brand new tube designs, starting from the flat shape of the top tube to the ultra thin chain stays.
M55J Carbon : The Seta is made of the best and stiffest carbon the market has to offer.
This type of high modulus carbon fibre ensure great compressive and tensile strength.
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Integrated seat tube
Outer brake and gear cables guide
BSA-BB30-PRESS FIT 386 bottom bracket
Optimization for gear Di2 - EPS or Universal system (mechanical/electronic Di2)
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
Stunning build quality and the finish is first class, but some of the decals are a bit unnecessary.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Tube-to-tube construction, with precisely mitred tubes of Toray M55J and M46J high modulus unidirectional carbon fibre are bonded and wrapped.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Can be tailored to your exact requirements, that's the beauty of a custom frame, but they do offer off-the-shelf sizes.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
Perfect fit for me as it happens.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Supremely comfortable in terms of smoothness and damping road vibrations, up there with the best bikes I've ever tested.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes plenty of stiffness making sure it's a very fast bike.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
No sloppiness in the power transfer at all.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Nicely balanced, stable at all speeds, precise through the corners with pinpoint accuracy, and slower at lower speeds making it a very easy bike to ride.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? If I won the lottery.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? If they won the lottery.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.