Serotta has built bikes for almost every 80's and 90's American Pro rider you love. When Serotta closed its doors in 2013, article headlines read like an obituary, "Serotta’s shakeup takes some soul out of U.S. framebuilding". In the cycling industry passion is what makes a bike a bike. Ben Serotta had been inspiring cyclists for over 30 years. The quality of their builds and ingenuity of the staff pushed the limits with multiple materials. With builders like David Kirk developing the Terraplane Seat Stay, or with pros requesting their team bikes be made by Serotta, but painted and badged with other sponsor logos. Unfortunately in the world of business, passion isn't enough and time is money.
When I was looking for a new frame last spring, I was actually looking for something Titanium. Perhaps even something brand new and custom from a local builder here in Seattle. Then the Fierte appeared on ebay from a former licensed Serotta dealer in New York with great feedback (and communication) at a price I could handle (despite the lack of warranty), with a perfect-to-me stock 57cm sizing. Stock being an important element because it meant this example wasn't build for a Clydesdale with overbuilt tubes or a pixie climber with whispy thin wall thickness here and there. It was in the Goldilocks zone.
Though I was searching for a Titanium build, the fact that this was lugged carbon, brought the hunt to a close when the Buy It Now button was clicked. I had my new "forever" bike, and this time I meant it. I had a hard time coming to terms with penny pinching with Shimano 105, simply because I am a bit of a slave to branding, but I've been delighted with every aspect of the groupset.
The first few hundred miles didn't feel extra special. It felt like a bike. Planted and capable but a bit inert. About a week after building the Fierte I embarked on my first double century, riding from Seattle, Washington to Portland, Oregon. It just felt like a "nice bike". But as the epoxy and fibers flexed and started to breathe, and the spokes became seated in their nipples, the bike came alive and each ride has been better than the last. This is a bike that can go all day, regardless of the riders diligence to avoid potholes. It surprises me every ride with its ability to communicate the road noise with me.
It doesn't just communicate details or the road delivered in bulk - the bike is discerning, alive, as if it has A.I. running an algorithm deciding which details the rider will appreciate and at what volume. Despite feeling as comfortable as an Audi A8, when a car cuts me off, requiring evasive maneuvers, the bike swiftly reacts like an Arial Atom. "Watch out sir, car approaching on the right, but I've already adjusted our course."
I've run into a few people who recognize the bike as being "the project that killed Serotta". A lot of work went into the R&D and build quality of their lugged carbon mission. As a graphic designer, I appreciate that time is money. I live and die by the deadline and budget. It's something that separates commercial artists from fine artists. But every now and then, I sacrifice my own time to better a project because I am passionate about what I do, and I see my clients potential. The Fierte is what happens when a master craftsman hires other masters and becomes preoccupied with passion and ambition, ignoring the clock.