By: kiritozhang Translator: alanyu
Seka is a nobody to most people, as it was founded in 2017 in China and they released their first product Afield in the end of 2019.
You can find more information in this link: http://www.biketo.com/industry/43528.html (in Chinese).
First of all, this is a sponsored review, unlike most of my other reviews or tests. The bike has been returned to Seka after the launch of this review. However, I wouldn’t be biased, though I was paid.
I usually refused to be paid to write a review, due to three points: 1, the big (international) brands are rarely interested in a nobody from China and they usually don’t pay me for a review; 2, the products from Chinese brands are usually not expensive, so I can afford for those products which I am interested in. 3, I’m not willing to review a product I don’t like. (A cycling apparel brand sent me a set of jersey and bib, which I haven’t opened the box yet.)
This is the second Chinese frame which is sponsored to review. The first one is Niuaero Road-01 whole bike. (https://cyclingcollege.com/index.php/2020/04/12/niuaero-road-01-review-1/). They (Seka) really put their hearts into their products and their products have their own highlights.
In today’s Chinese road bike market, dealers take the initiative, consumer are not sensible, the market itself is much smaller than abroad, and the price war is intense. I have to say that it is courageous for Seka to join in the market in this situation. Seka is not similar to Niuaero, whose parent company takes a place in the electric moto market and thus Niuaero itself has a strong financial resource and a high distribution capacity. It requires much more money and time to develop a new bike than to develop an accessory, so if Seka didn’t have enough courage, determination and love, they wouldn’t get involved in this trouble.
This is a stocked bike sponsored by Seka, L size in red, with an uncut fork and pretty many spacers. As a result, it doesn’t look as good as the picture on their website (http://www.sekabikes.com/).
What do you think Seka Afield should have as one of the latest carbon road bikes in 2019? Direct mount brakes? Fully internal routing? Hidden seatpost clamp? Aero tube shape? Oh, sorry, you can see none of these……
Reviewed bike specs:
Frameset: Seka Afield, size L
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8000
Saddle: Fizik Antares R7 14mm
Stem: Seka alloy
Bar: Seka carbon
Seatpost: Seka carbon 27.2mm, 25mm offset
Wheelset: Deltarget 3 carbon
Tires: Continental Ultra Sport 2 700*25c
Weight: 7.5 kg (excl. pedals)
MSRP: 14900 CNY (~2155 USD)
There are only four sizes, without XS, which is opposite to some other Chinese brands’ products. Since there is a tier one fitter in Seka’s founding team, the geometry is designed for average Chinese people. STR is a bit high, very friendly for average Chinese riders. How does a rider feel about a bike mainly depends on how well he/she can control the bike during a long ride.
I chose size L, which could be a bit surprising to many people as I am only 178 cm high. However, the seat tube length is only 530mm and the reach is 387mm, similar to size M of some other brands’ bikes. These two numbers are similar to my bikes including Merida Scultura, S-works Tarmac SL6 and Niuaero Road-03, but the stack of Seka is 35~40mm larger. Thus, the labelled size doesn’t really matter, and it is important to read the geometry. (For example, Giant Defy size L: R = 390mm, S = 605mm, Giant TCR size L: R = 402mm, S = 581mm)
Except the logo and model name, there usually are some “Alien Tech Words” on the frame. Such as XXX material, XXX craft, XXX design, etc., which are not important to be honest. The product on our hands matters.
What is the point of that a brand uses Toray T1000 carbon to produce a very heavy frame? I’m definitely not defaming some Italian brands.
The finish is high quality, which brings a problem that the frame with paint is very heavy, around 1000~1100 g.
The whole bike weighs 7.3-7.5 kg depending on the size, which is similar to other bikes of the big brands at a similar price, but a bit heavier than those of Chinese brands.
The paint of Afield seems to be red black from the far view, but actually the logo part is a clear coat showing the marbling carbon. There are three different paints: satin red, post blue and ice grey, and all paints are finished with high quality. Everyone has a different taste on the paint, so I don’t like to remark the paint is beautiful or not.
The down tube is D-shaped, maybe the only part with a minimal aero design.
The cables are routed semi-internally, which can save you some service fee. If you buy a whole bike, you only need some simple installation and not much adjustment.
UCI certificate cannot show the performance of the frame but it shows the altitude of the brand. What if a rider chooses their bike to join in a UCI race?
Different some racing bikes, the bottom bracket is more streamline instead of sturdy, and the chainstay is flattened and butted, which can improve the compliance. BB86 is a common press fit standard, and bike is equipped with Shimano BB71 bottom bracket, which is very durable.
The stocked saddle is Fizik Antares R7, AKA “chameleon” in their animal concept. Antares belongs to medium flexibility and has a quite good compatibility, while R7 marks the entry level. It is 145mm wide and a lot of people can use this width.
Seka claims that all their accessories are carefully chosen and designed. The stocked carbon seatpost can improve the comfort. You can also change to a seatpost with different length or offset easily as it is a round 27.2mm one.
The stocked cockpits of the size L bike are 100mm stem and 420mm bar. The labelled width of Seka’s bar is measured at drop c-c, and the widths at drop and at hood are the same. Although the retailed bars have 380mm size, it is not offered by the whole bike and size S and M both are stocked with 400mm bar. Though they gave me a 400mm bar, it was still too wide for me.
The 400mm Seka bar weighs 230g on my scale, not so light. Although the stiffness of this bar is pretty good, I have to change the bar to review this bike due to the unsuitable width.
Although STR of the frame is on the comfort side, there is a drop at the lock part of the stem, similar to some kinds of MTB stems, which is confusing. There is also a bit drop around the hood part of the bar. The stocked bike has 40mm spacers. If you use a normal -6° stem and a bar with little drop around the hood, you may easily remove some spacers and even to slam that stem.
The factory installation of the bike is high quality, including bar angle, level angle and the cable routing. Moreover, the bar tape has a good feeling. It is officially claimed that the accuracy of their factory installation has reached the level of the bike shop, but I consider it as average. Compared with those big shops and high-end workshops, there is still some gap. However, it is enough for those who live in a small city or away from the bike shop.
The bike is equipped with full Ultegra R8000 groupset and KMC X11 chain, no compromise. Speedplay pedals are my own ones. The reviewed bike is equipped with 172.5mm crankset, while size S and size M are equipped with 170mm crankset. These lengths are suitable for most riders.
52/36t crankset and 11-28t cassette is usually enough for different routes, but can be less than enough for steep climbing over 8%.
Though Afield doesn’t use direct mount brakes, the normal R8000 brakes are good enough. There is almost no weakness except the weight. The brake pads are Shimano R55C4 carbon version.
Deltarget 3 is a wheelset of Seka’s brand. Detailed info: 32mm height, 21mm inner width, 27mm brake track width, 28.5mm external width. It is a classic low and wide profile, similar to Roval CLX32. (20.7mm internal width and 28.1 external width)
The hubs are DT350s straight pull and the spokes are pillar 1423 with internal nipples. Neither excellent nor bad. However, the weight is as high as 1502g, (front wheel 655g, rear wheel 852g, including tubeless tape). It is heavy for a 32mm low profile wheelset. For comparison, Roval CLX32 weighs 1280g without tubeless tape.
Continental Ultra Sport is one of my favorite entry-level tires, whose price is low enough on Taobao. The weight is no ideal, but the rolling resistance, grip and mileage are very good considering the price.
The latest Ultra Sport is the third version (Ultra Sport 3), while Ultra Sport 2 is designed and referred to very early ETRTO, whose optimized rim inner width is 14.5mm. If you mount a 25c Ultra Sport 2 on a 21mm inner width rim, its actual width can reach 28~29mm.
I recommend you to use 28c instead of 23c or 25c tire on a 21mm inner width rim, if your tire is not released after late 2019, to meet with old ETRTO standard, to ensure the safety.
Detailed specs which I reviewed
I changed some cockpits to make the bike fit myself better, including: Bontrager Aeolus pro saddle, Farsports F1 integrated bar 380mm * 120mm, and STS. The total weight was reduced by a few hundred grams, while others kept the same, which won’t influence the ride quality.
I still need to push the short-nose saddle forward with 73° seat tube angle and 25mm offset seatpost. If I use a normal saddle, I will need a zero offset seatpost.
I have ridden this bike for two months, including some mountains in different cities.
Talking about the wheelset, I remarked that DT350 either make it or break it. Those brands such as DT Swiss and Chris King compromise the geometry of their hubs to improve the compatibility to the hand-built wheels. The performance is not high and the geometry of DT350 is more suitable for high profile rims.
The wheelset is responsive at low speed, thanks to the low profile. However, it was barely satisfactory when I output hard to accelerate at high speed. This is one weakness of the hand-built wheelset, as it cannot be an overall design like other big brands. The brake performance is good enough for descending with Shimano R55C4.
The internal nipple has a benefit of appearance and a marginal aerodynamics. I didn’t mind it at first. However, it was so annoying after a period of use. Since it was a sample wheelset, the spoke of the rear wheel slacked. I had to tear the tubeless tape to true the wheel.
Since the relaxing geometry, I was more upright on this bike compared to Tarmac or Scultura. You can switch to a -17° stem if you want a more racing setup.
The ride quality is as what it is designed for: simple, harmony and comfort. The thin fork and seatstay, 25mm offset carbon seatpost and a proper tire pressure can afford you a very good comfort, which is more than enough for some bumpy cobble path. The whole bike, including the front and rear, has a high compliance, unlike some bikes whose compliance is not harmonic.
Though STR is not any aggressive, the geometry of the front end (HT angle, rake, trail) is still an agile design. However, the wheelbase is a bit longer than those race bikes, which makes it feel a bit slower when I tried to attack. This style is suitable for those who are weekend warriors or just ride for fun, but it is definitely not suitable for racers. The right is the best, which, however, can be neglected by a lot of people. Appearance, poshness and price are the three main points to attract the consumers.
Considering the frame and the wheelset, the bike made me pedal stably on seat instead of out of saddle. This bike aims at a comfort long ride, but not as dull as other endurance bike. However, this is not my ride style. Maybe after ten years when I get too old to race, I could buy a bike in this style, mounting a pair of 28c tubeless tires, riding onto the mountain out of the city, enjoying the fresh air and the nature.
Seka Afield is a station wagon in sport version instead of a racing supercar.
Pros: Comfort geometry, good compliance, good for average riders
Cons: Lack of size XS, weight, low value to price (among Chinese brands’ products), strange stem geometry.
In today’s road bike market, the price war is so intensity that it is very hard for a brand to offer a product without any gimmick. Seka Afield has a decent ride quality, but is not as posh and as stylish as its competitors, which make it to be a second or even third bike for an experienced rider, who knows about what he/she really wants.
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