This is my final “long-term” review of the Sette Razzo SC XX 29er mountain bike.
You can also read the first two parts of the review- Part One- Initial Impressions and Part Two- the First 100 Miles.
As of this writing (November 2012), I’ve had the bike for about 8 months. So far I’ve logged over 2,000 miles and nearly 300,000 vertical feet of climbing on the Razzo. I’ve ridden it extensively in the coastal mountains of Northern California, Lake Tahoe, Mendocino, and Central Oregon. I even raced it in the Marathon XC National Championships (54 mile MTB race as a Cat 1 Master). In summary, I’ve ridden the snot out of it in all different types of terrain- from buttery smooth, to rocky, technical dualie territory.
Normally, I wouldn’t consider 2,000 miles a “long-term” test of a bike. I typically ride my bikes into the ground for a few years. In the world of bike reviews, 2,000+ miles is definitely at the upper end of the spectrum. I’ve seen extensive reviews written for bikes with little more than a hot lap around the parking lot, so take it with a handful of salt.
The bike rips! It is a light, capable, singletrack loving machine. The handling is very neutral, and it excels in tight, twisty singletrack.
Despite my initial nervousness about buying an “off-brand” bike, I’m totally happy with the Sette Razzo. I have no complaints about the frame, or its longevity. After a couple thousand miles, I’m convinced it’s on par with any of the big names. The frame has taken the “normal” impacts of riding (e.g. pebbles flying off the front wheel and hitting the down tube, squeezing through tight trees and brush, etc.) without showing any significant wear, or any chipping of the clearcoat. The 5-year warranty is reassuring as well. I’d definitely buy another Sette carbon bike.
After my experience with the Razzo SC, I’ve looked at the Sette Dura Ace road bike and cyclocross bikes as well. If Sette releases a ‘cross disc bike in 2013, I’m there. I’d also strongly consider a Sette 29er dual suspension bike (if they make one in the future).
Notes on the 29er Hardtail
29ers have revitalized the hardtail market. After riding a dual suspension bike for years, I swore that I would never go back to a hardtail. When I was demoing dualie 29ers to pick out my next bike, I tried a 29er hardtail and was totally surprised that the hardtail 29er was the bike I had the most fun on.
I’d forgotten how light and nimble hardtail bikes feel. Even with a well designed dual suspension bike, there is always energy lost into the suspension. On a hardtail, you have snappy acceleration and all of your power goes into the drivetrain. The larger 29″ wheels do a good job of rolling over obstacles and minimizing chatter. The larger contact patch of the 29″ tire means better traction as well. Couple this with a good set of tubeless tires, and the 29er hardtail rides like it has a few inches of travel. On the down side, riding a plush dual suspension bike is like riding a couch- a couch that rips! Depending on your local trail conditions, you’ll definitely notice more vibration on a hardtail. There are trade offs for everything…
There are areas where the hardtail just isn’t as fast or comfy to ride as a dual suspension bike. If blasting down rutted fire roads, or hucking off big jumps is your thing, then a dual suspension bike is probably best. If you are more of a cross country type rider and like snappy acceleration and light weight, the 29er hardtail is worth a try.
Riding a hardtail definitely requires more skill in picking a line. In really rocky terrain, I have to flow around obstacles that I can just blast through on a dualie. The 29er excels in technical rocky terrain. The big wheels roll over obstacles that my 26″ wheel can get hung up on. I’ve sometimes been frustrated when swapping back to the 26″ bike finding myself getting hung up on rocks I rolled right over on the 29er. Also, if you’ve been riding a dual suspension bike for a few years, you’ll immediately notice fewer pedal strikes (from the bottom bracket height floating on dualies).
Depending on the terrain I’m riding, I regularly switch back and forth between my 26″ dualie and the Razzo SC. Now that I’m used to the neutral handling of the 29″ wheels, riding a 26er feels like a twitchy kids bike (still fun though). The 26er will only be around till I’ve saved a whole lot of pennies for a 29″ dualie.
I’ve repeatedly heard the same two complaints about 29ers (from my friends who don’t ride them). First, that 29ers don’t handle well in tight, technical singletrack. Wrong. The Razzo SC has a shorter wheelbase than my dualie. I can ride tight switchbacks that I’ve never been able to ride on my dual suspension bike. The second complaint is that 29ers have sluggish acceleration due to the big wheels. Again, Wrong. I don’t notice any sluggish handling at all. Further, the 29ers roll over obstacles so well that they can maintain their speed. Bike designers have really dialed the 29er geometry. Don’t listen to the hype; some people will always be afraid of new technology. Go demo one on a real ride and see for yourself if a 29er fits your riding style. Parking lot demos are a waste of your time for anything but sizing.
Growing up in the shadow of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, CA (the so-called birthplace of mountain biking), I’ve been riding bikes on dirt most of my life. I’ll paraphrase a friend who is a mountain bike pioneer, framebuilder, and in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. He says:
“We knew we were using the wrong size wheels when we started building mountain bikes in the 70s. At the time, the only fat tires we could get that had knobbies were 26″ BMX kids bike tires.”
So, the 26-inch standard for mountain bikes was an accident of history. 650B and 700C (29″ and 700C are the same) size wheels have been around for decades. Tire companies weren’t going to make a special production run of 700C knobby balloon tires for a bunch of hippy Marin bike weirdos in the ’70s. By the time mountain biking took off, the 26″ wheel had become the standard. There just weren’t any fat knobby tires for big wheels in the early years of mountain biking, and that’s why the 26″ BMX wheel became the de facto standard. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time riding 26″ mountain bikes for over twenty years. I’m probably never going back to the 26″ wheel though- technology marches forward.
Except in sizing, I really don’t care about the minutia of frame details. You won’t hear me talk about head angles or fork rake. Bike geeks (like me) often get caught up in the details of talking about bikes rather than just going out and riding them. What matters to me is that the bike rides well and handles tight singletrack. If it can’t clear tight switchbacks, I’m not interested.
The Razzo SC loves singletrack. Everyone loves singletrack! The Razzo SC is great in tight, twisty singletrack. If climbs and descends well, and is light enough to flick and make bunny hop corrections around corners.
The only weakness in handling of the Razzo SC is a general one. In long descents of rocky, rutted fire roads, a dual suspension bike would be faster. I’ve ruined a couple of rear tires trying to keep up with my friends on dual suspension bikes on rocky fire road descents. A rear suspension would have absorbed impact to the rear tire (and not flatted). Otherwise the Razzo SC does great. You can still ride really fast.
The Razzo SC climbs and descends very well. I’ve noticed no front wheel lifting on steep climbs, and no instability on descents. Due to their larger ground contact patch, 29er tires have great traction.
Keep in mind that the Razzo SC is a lightweight XC oriented bike. At 22+/- pounds with pedals, the Razzo is not a bike to be hucked on the jump track. I’m sure it’s up to the task, but you’ll probably likely be replacing wheels, and other carbon parts regularly. That said, who can resist catching air now and then.
What worked and what didn’t
I mentioned in parts 1 and 2 of the Sette Razzo review that Sette specifically put several components on their flagship XX bike to make the bike come in under 21 pounds. Some of these choices were fine… others not so much. As a consumer, we get caught up in “how much does it weigh?” I certainly was lured by the sub-21 pound weight of the bike. Most of the bike has a great spec. There are a few things that didn’t work out so well.
Stan’s tires– The Stan’s “The Crow” tires that came on the bike would probably be great for racing your MTB on the local ‘cross circuit. They are really light, semi-slick, minimalist tires. They are also ridiculous for real world riding (I couldn’t imagine these on a slick, rooty trail). They are still sitting in my garage, unused. The only use they’d see is for a race tire on a non-technical course. Although they helped the Razzo XX come in under 21 pounds, Sette should just spec better all around tires (especially on a $4400 bike).
Fizik saddle- Well, the saddle is really light and looks cool. After a few months, the foam compressed and I had to raise the saddle. After about 5 months, one of the carbon rails failed and broke. This would be a decent saddle for a road bike. I’m not convinced it’s appropriate for a mountain bike.
KMC chain- Again it’s flashy and is one of the lightest chains on the market. Broke after 2 months without warning on a flat trail (not high torque, missed shift, or out of the saddle climbing). I replaced it with a cheaper, slightly heavier SRAM chain and haven’t had any issues since. The KMC chain also created some extra drivetrain noise that went away immediately with a SRAM chain. Not worth saving 30 grams for an unreliable chain. You may have a different experience.
Chainstay protector- The chainslap on carbon when descending rocky trails is really loud. This bike needs a chainstay protector. I rode without one for a couple months. The bike is much more fun to ride when it’s stealthy and quiet.
Fox Float 29 fork- Great fork. Really easy to set up. Love the 15QR thru-axle (why did it take 20 years to think of it?).
Easton EA90 wheels- Light, and durable so far. I really prefer double walled rims that aren’t drilled out. This makes for a stronger wheel and not messing around with tape for tubeless tires. I did break one spoke on the rear. The spoke was bent so I think I hooked a branch with it. The wheels stayed so true that I didn’t notice the broken spoke for more than 20 miles. I’ve put on several hundred more miles since the broken spoke and it’s still perfectly true.
Internal cable routing- This is my first bike with all internal routing. I was a bit skeptical at first; now I think it’s great. Internal routing keeps the bike looking uncluttered, keeps cables out of the mud, and makes the bike easier to wash. Internal routing will be on my checklist for new mountain bikes.
Mystery creaking- This deserves it’s own section. I had frustrating creaking issues that I finally solved. Read more below.
Notes on SRAM XX
I’m generally happy with the SRAM XX. It’s a bit like driving a Porsche- Light, high performance, race oriented. Like a Porsche, it can also also finicky. To keep the weight down, SRAM/Rock Shox use a lot of plastic parts. I suspect that the SRAM XX group won’t last as long as other component groups (Shimano XT/XTR, or SRAM XO), but it is marketed as a lightweight race group. (I’m still using my original 1989 Shimano Deore DX rapidfire shifters- they don’t make them like they used to!). The shifting and braking are what you’d expect in high end race components.
The 2×10 is great. It reduces the complexity of the drivetrain and has a cleaner chain line. I’m so happy with 2×10 that I don’t think I’ll ever have a 3×10 mountain bike again.
I use only organic brake pads. The metal pads are cheaper and last longer, but also can squeal in wet conditions. Nothing like announcing your presence from 200 yards away. On the down side, the organic pads wear out quickly. In dusty, gritty conditions, I’ve burned through a set of organic pads in about 200 miles. Put brake pads in your riding budget.
The only complaint I have with SRAM XX is the (stupid) design of the rear cassette. Only the three largest cogs have splines allowing the cassette to flex and creak. Read more below.
Creaking Carbon (and how I solved it)
About 3 months after buying the bike, the Razzo developed a mystery pedal induced creaking that reverberated through the frame. I went through everything multiple times- bottom bracket, pedals, saddle rails, seatpost, headset, derailleur hanger, etc. The creaking was maddening and I began to suspect that the bottom bracket shell wasn’t epoxied in properly. After pulling and regreasing the bottom bracket three times, I found the source of the creaking- the SRAM XX cassette. The XX cassette was flexing on the freehub body in certain gears and reverberating through the bike frame. Loud creaking even when soft pedaling. It sounded like a bottom bracket shell or seatpost flex.
At nearly $400 retail, the SRAM XX cassette is the lightest cassette on the market. It also has what I would consider to be a stupid design that only has a spline on the largest (easiest) cog. This allowed the cassette to flex slightly in certain gears, which in turn reverberated through the entire frame. Slathering the free hub body with lube minimized the creaking for a few days, but is not a good solution. I finally changed to a cheaper (heavier) cassette, and the the problem went away immediately. As far as I’m concerned, the XX cassette is for race-day only.
In summary, my creaking issues were’t with the Razzo frame, but with the SRAM XX cassette. Carbon fiber frames can transfer and amplify sounds much like a guitar. My creaking sounded like it was coming from the bottom bracket. I’ve had mystery creaking issues on my Specialized S-Works Tarmac as well (related to the proprietary Specialized crankset). This is not an isolated incident. There are a number of Web complaints about noisy XX cassettes.
How could the Razzo SC be better?
Everyone loves constructive criticism, right? I have just a few suggestions on how to make the Sette Razzo SC a better bike.
Ditch the goofy semi-slick uber light tires. I’m convinced that the Stan’s Crow tires were specifically put on to make the bike come in under 21 pounds. Spec it with solid all around tires. (The WTB Bronson 2.2 is my current favorite rear tire. I also like the Maxxis Ignitor on the rear. For front tires I like the Specialized Captain 2.2, Schwalbe Racing Ralph, or Panaracer Rampage).
Include a chainstay protector with the bike. The chainslap on carbon is really loud and annoying. The bike is sooo much quieter with a quality chainstay protector. Sette sells two inexpensive chainstay protectors. For a $$$, bike, including a chainstay protector is a good customer service move.
Thru-axle rear wheel. When putting on and taking off the rear wheel of the Razzo SC, there is some flex when clamping the quick release. (I’ve also seen it on $10K S-Works bikes too, so it’s not limited to the Razzo). Thru-axle rear wheels are now widely available and a beefy, threaded thru-axle quick release just makes sense for stiffening up lightweight carbon rear ends. The 15QR thru-axle is gaining momentum on forks. I predict that rear thru-axles will be the standard on high end MTBs in the next few years. The technology curve changes rapidly in mountain bikes. Sette got on board early with the internal cable routing and other details. Best to get on board early with the thru-axle.
The Last Word
Hope the review helps. I’ve tried to give a fair, thorough, and unbiased review. I’ve had a great time with the bike and think you can’t go wrong wrong with the Razzo SC. I’ve seen carbon frame on sale as low as $600 with a 5 year warranty.
Sette/Price Point did a good job with component spec in going with tried and true brand name components on the build. In terms of value versus longevity, I think the Sette Razzo XO (at $2900 and 23.4 pounds with “real” tires) is a bit better deal. The XO group seems to be a bit less finicky for a bit more weight, and may outlast the XX components.
I’d definitely buy another Sette carbon bike, and I expect to ride this one several thousand more miles.
See you on the trail…