- Custom fit
- Smoothes rough pavement
- Spot-on handling
- Stable on fast descents
- Understated beauty
- You might have to sell what’s left of your 401(k) to afford this frame
Price: $4,295 – $4,795 for custom frame/fork with carbon and polished titanium tubes
Source: Serotta dealers
Colors: tinted clear coats available in red, blue, green or pearl. Reverse matte graphics or decals.
How obtained: cold cash
RBR advertiser: no
Tested: 25 hours
In 28 years of cycling, I’ve never had a custom bike. At 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, I always thought that stock frames should fit me fine. Custom frames were for people 6-6. Why spend the extra money?
I got the answer during fit sessions at the Boulder (CO) Center for Sports Medicine. Andy Pruitt verified thatI have unusually long legs for a person of my height, with a correspondingly short upper body.
Hey, no wonder I’ve never been as comfortable on my bikes as I thought I should be. To accommodate my short upper body, I’ve had to jam the saddle forward and use a short stem. To some degree, these adjustments compromised my power output and the bike’s handling.
So last summer I went to Wheat Ridge Cyclery in Denver to consult with former Tour de France rider Ron Kiefel, who, with his family, owns the shop. Ron fit me on the Serotta SizeCycle, using a nifty computer program that allowed him to put me in a “perfect” riding position. Then we ordered a Serotta Ottrott to be custom built for my physical idiosyncrasies.
The resulting bike fits me, well, “perfectly.” It has a 58-cm seat tube with a 54.8-cm top tube. Normally, a top tube that short is a recipe for major toe/front-wheel overlap. But the Serotta system enabled Ron to custom design a fork so that even with my size 45 shoes, my toes barely graze the front tire. And because the computer rejects all head tube angles and fork rakes that won’t work together, the bike handles perfectly.
The Ottrott (say Oh-troh) puts me in the position that Andy Pruitt has advocated all along but which I couldn’t achieve because stock bikes are made for “normal” bodies. Interestingly, my most comfortable bike ever, a Gios I got in 1979, has virtually the same frame dimensions as this Serotta because Italian bikes from that era had short top tubes. (Yes, I still have that Gios to measure. It’s on my indoor trainer.)
But the problem with the Gios — and most other bikes I’ve ridden — is that I can’t get the handlebar high enough. The seatpost sticks way out of the frame, courtesy of my long legs, so the bar is always too low for my relatively short arms. I’m quite flexible, rating a 9 on the 10-point Serotta scale used in a fit session, but even a former hurdler’s flexibility has never been enough to let me stretch out comfortably in such a low position.
On the Ottrott, the bar is only 5 cm (2 in.) below the top of the saddle. At first I thought I was sitting too high. I was afraid that I’d look like a circus bear on a tricycle. But I found that it felt natural to simply bend my elbows more, putting my back at the same angle as before. And I’m no longer getting numb fingers caused by too much weight on my hands.
With the short top tube and higher handlebar position, I can move the saddle back so my knee is over the pedal axle rather than slightly in front. Now I’m sitting in a more powerful and more relaxed position.
Components & Wheels
I ordered the bike with Shimano Dura-Ace components. Nothing against Campy, but I have bad ligaments in my right thumb, which makes it difficult to press the “ear” on the brake/shift lever. Shimano’s design works better for me.
The seatpost is a lightweight, Serotta-labeled carbon model. It has a trick saddle clamp that uses an expander bolt. I was afraid it might slip, but so far it’s been solid. The handlebar is a Deda 215 coupled with a TTT Forgie stem. I like the Deda bar’s bend but was never able to use it because it also has a long reach. I didn’t want to compensate by switching to shorter stems. But with the Ottrott’s geometry, the bar is fine.
The bike came with Mavic Ksyrium wheels and Continental 3000 700x25C tires. The wheels and fatter rubber definitely help ride quality. To experiment (and save the Ksyriums for summer events), I put on some training wheels. They’re completely standard with 32 spokes, Mavic rims and 23C Michelin tires, but the Ottrott still feels plush and smooth over rough pavement.
Handling, despite the custom fork rake and short top tube, is perfectly predictable. The bike behaves exactly like I want it to. Besides fit, my main priority in a bike is stable descending. I ridesteep, long, windy descents here in western Colorado and I hate bikes that shimmy. The Ottrott flew down the road from Black Canyon National Park at over 45 mph with impeccable manners.
As I’ve gotten older, a bike’s comfort has become more important, too. Here I’m talking about compliance on bad pavement. On the rough and cracked macadam that’s my norm, the Ottrott is the smoothest bike I’ve ridden. Even on dirt roads it just floats along. I always thought that tire width and pressure were bigger variables than frame material, but this bike’s combination of titanium and carbon fiber soaks up rough pavement.
All Ottrotts are custom built. Mine took nine weeks to deliver. Ron Kiefel says the time can be as short as four weeks, depending on the season.