SE Racing Stout 29"er: Final Review

Editors Note: Here we have the final review (finally!) of the SE Racing Stout. We got the bike into the hands of Captain Bob just in time for one of our worst winters ever here. After our recent thaw out, the good Captain has finished up his work and has this missive for our enjoyment.

My ride on the Stout was not very extensive. I did get enough rides in to provide a few thoughts. The price… Wow! That’s cheap. But will it deliver where it counts….on the trail.
Upon testing this rig I had two initial thoughts. The ride is much more compliant that I had expected but the fit was not right for my body. Lets start with the bike itself though.

The bike is nice to look at. Great paint. Great welds. Nice oversized tubing (Harsh? read on). Over the clearcoat decals (nice). The parts all looked great too. I am not a huge fan of single speeds that include cable stops for gearing but at this price point I think it is a must have. The first two things I noticed was the lack of steer tube length. I think there is one spacer under that stem. Also, the seatpost was rather short. I am not sure of the actual length but it is less that 350mm for sure. It wouldn’t have worked for me as a xc bike. For me the top tube length was great. However, the stem looked rather long. I think it is a 110mm with maybe 6 degree rise. Overall I was pretty impressed with the finish of the Stout. The grey paint looks really nice in person. The pictures do not do it justice. But how does this Stout ride?

After getting the bike out for a couple of test rides, I came away with the impression that large diameter frame tubing doesn’t have to have a harsh ride. The seat and chain stays are REALLY beefy on the Stout. It looked a little like the old Cannondale stays, huge but without the teeth shattering ride. Very compliant. I would say the rear end feels like something between an aluminum frame and a steel frame. Not quite as compliant as steel but it still has that alive feel that I love. The front of the bike had a completely different feel though. The fork tracks better than any fork I have ever riden out of 26ers or 29ers. I feel good saying that there is zero flex in any direction with this Landing Gear fork. The only problem I have with this fork is the lack of steer tube length. It just seems odd that it is so short. That’s even with an internal headset. I also get a strange steering feeling with the Stout. It feels like the stem is too long or the fork is too long for the geometry of the frame. Since G-Ted did the majority of the test riding as a stock build, we thought it would be best for me to swap a few parts out. We all love swapping parts so this was exciting for me.

Swap time. The first parts I swapped out were the fork, stem, and handlebars. I installed a Bontrager Switchblade 29er carbon fork. I threw on an old Power Tools stem and Salsa Moto Ace 17 degree flat bar. the stem is about 90mm. I also used a different front wheel since the Switchblade is disc and the hubs that come on the Stout are non-disc. The caliper was an Avid BB5. I didn’t do any actual weighing of the parts or the bike after the parts swap but I can tell you that the Landing Gear fork is HEAVY. I would guess that the total weight of the bike dropped between 2-3 pounds after making changes. The ride was much more compliant with the addition of the carbon fork. This Stout could make a pretty lightweight xc rig. I did have a few troubles getting the fit just right for me though. The steer tube sticks up a ways past the headtube. I added a lot of spacers since I didn’t want to cut down this steer tube. I noticed right away the fork weight difference and the changes I made with the stem/bar. I was much more comfortable on the bike when plowing though rough frozen singletrack. I had a couple of good gravel rides also after I made the changes. I still noticed the strange steering feeling that I had with the stock setup but not quite as floppy. I wonder if I were to add a shorter stem if that would help? Maybe, but I never did get the chance to give that a shot.

I guess in the end I was never super comfortable as far as getting the bike to fit me perfectly I still think it is a great bike for the money. I am not sure of what changes SE Racing put in place for 2008, but I think with a few parts changes made in the factory a buyer would have more adjustibility with the bike right out of the box. I am still impressed that the Stout has such great drivetrain parts and a super comfy frame for this price.

Captain Bob

Editors Note: SE Racing has changed a couple of things for the 2008 model season. First, the Landing Gear fork has been swapped for a very similar fork that is disc compatible. The frame also has disc tabs. Finally the gray has given way to a green hue. For more information go to SE Racing Bikes

Our thanks to SE Racing Bikes for this opportunity.

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No Responses to “SE Racing Stout 29"er: Final Review”

  1. Dust Says:

    I rode one of these at Bike-O-Rama in Madison a couple of weeks ago. The bike was really fun to ride but it felt like a big BMX bike. Kinda cool.

  2. Desert9r Says:

    Dust- of course it felt like that, its from SE 😀

    Hearing this review, this big is back in the running, against 2 steel frames for my next bike. It might even be a x-mas pressent to myself.

  3. Jwiffle Says:

    Dust — wonder what kind of stares I’d get if I showed up on one to race cruiser class at my local track! 🙂

  4. Dirt McGirt Says:

    Jwiffle:

    Please do that and take pictures. That would be priceless!

  5. Mr. Paine Says:

    This frame is manufactured in the same factory as the Gary Fisher and the Motebecane frames.

    All of the companies mass producing these bikes have the frames made in Taiwan. If you think there’s a difference (beyond geometry, or style of dropout, or some such triviality) you’ve been made to play the fool and taken to it. The entire concept is nothing more than a means to prevent the deflation of retail prices (as are the annual changes to componentry, or the adoption of external bearings, or internal headsets). Maintaining the highest possible price point for bikes and components is the almost the entire basis for yearly model and name changes and all the fiddly bell ringing that keeps people thinking that they must ride whatever gear length or wheel size or component setup the retailer bolts on to a frame.

    Not a single cartridge bearing is manufactured in the US – not one. But every year for the last seven years the companies have found a way to cause an upward change in the price of a bike by little more than using a bearing of a few millimeters greater diameter.

    The whole concept of the 29er was adopted as a mass product launch because ofthe retail failure of the cyclocross concept. Market share is what brought us this bike (mtb’s sell better than road bikes (with or with knobby tires)). Some of the rationales (angle of attack to trail obstacles) for buying the current most expensive rig may have some logical bassis – but these rationales are really secondary to the issue of profit.

    We should be celebrating a bike that costs less than $400. Hell, a 29er (also known as 700cc) wheelset costs more than half of that alone.

    In the end it’s all just a dumb game to keep consumers worrying about what to buy, and how often to replace, rather than doing their own maintenance and learning that bike technology in 2008 is no more complicated than it was in 1908.

  6. Mr. Paine Says:

    This frame is manufactured in the same factory as the Gary Fisher and the Motebecane frames. The fact that it’s got and integrated headset make you wonder why the bike co.s try to charge more for that feature alone.

  7. Guitar Ted Says:

    Mr. Paine: I see you have mastered the art of “copy and paste” rather well. 😉

    Ever heard of tubing spec?

    Just because some frame might be made in a certain factory and another frame in the same factory does not make both frames equal. This is an assumption on your part unless you have specific information to share regarding tube spec, research and development, or specific processes involved in each frames manufacturing. I regard your comments here and on the Motobecane post as mere rants.

    If you have some specific problems with foreign manufacturing, marketing, and the bike industry as a whole, fine. Find a forum that discusses these issues and contribute. I don’t have a problem with discussing these issues, but this isn’t the forum that is going to happen on.

    This is a forum about 29″ers. If your comments continue to be copied and pasted across other posts here or if I see similar rants they will be moderated or deleted altogether.

  8. Mr. Paine Says:

    I am not just ranting.

    There are five basic categories of steel tubing used for bike fabrication, 4 for aluminum, and 2 for titanium. You can work out the permutations for a frame based upon accepted mixtures of those frame parts. There are four essential methods of welding, three of which remain in use, all of which yield a tensile strength at the weld greater than the standard mass production tube strength minimum of 80,000 lbs psi.

    A great part of the tube selection for mass production bikes is determined by the cost of the fabrication process appropriate to the tube material. The varying tubesets have different physical properties that may prohibit less or more expensive welding processes or require less or more expensive total fabrication costs based upon purely metalurgical factors. The expense to weight ratio, more than the performance characteristics, helps ordinate pricing models. The performance characteritics of individual frames are all within a single standard deviation of ideal.

    What all of this translates into is the expectation of a statistically insignificant number of frame or frame-weld failures for even the least expensive tubeset/weld combinations. And that means that 5 companies offering five bikes, each produced at the same factory, are essentially offering the same product, from a materials standpoint. (This also benefits each from a production quality standpoint).

    There was an article published in the late 90’s (can’t recall what mag) that had several steel and aluminum frames bead blasted and painted white and set up with a single component group. Testers were not able to accurately distinsguish between frame materials, or quality (as measured by expense).

    However, I am not making an argument against 29ers or new bikes or even new marketing. Quite the contrary; I am saying that the $400 single speed 29er calls into question the validity of a $2500 single speed 29er. Componentry cannot expalin such a wide price differential, and as I’ve explained above, neither can quality. Any consumer with $50 worth of tools can perform any component upgrade themselves at a fraction of the retail cost. But basic material quality has truly neglible differences at the mass market level. (This remains largely true even at higher price points).

    So don’t shoot me for joining your forum, my first in years, being surprised at some of the comments, and perhaps getting a little too enthusiastic. I won’t really have the time to become any more repetitive.

  9. Guitar Ted Says:

    Mr. Paine: Haven’t been on a forum in years? Well, what you have written is generally referred to as a “rant” these days. 😉

    Anyway, so you don’t think expensive bikes are worth it. Fair enough.

    The rest of your comment is specious at best. “….5 companies offering five bikes, each produced at the same factory,….”

    Uh…….not so much. I know better than that.

    Not just ranting? Hmm…….yeah, I agree. Painting with broad strokes maybe, but not just ranting.

  10. Desert9r Says:

    I did it, picked one up Friday, an ’08, 17″ that they had on the floor, 25.85 lbs stock, 25 lbs after a new cockpit, and I am putting on my Black Ops fork and an LX crank.
    I love the snappy handling, This bike was born to carve! And the horizontal/track/bmx drop outs are so friggin easy to deal with, and they allow a 3t varience in cog size. No set screws, no messing with the chain, just pull the wheel back,check the brake pads, and go.
    IM NEVER gonna have another EBB!

  11. Steve Says:

    I just got an ’08, too. The green is much better in real life. In any case, a few details about the bike: the rear disc tabs are slotted to allow for easy adjustment; the new tires I got were WTB Nanoraptors, not the Maxxis Ignitors. No biggie, I am using this as a beast of burden, so these are fine. I like the 2″ rise handlebars that came stock this year. The crank isn’t a BMX style, but a typical ISIS crank by RPM. Still one of the best deals out there. I plan to commute on it soon and that, folks, is material for a different forum…

  12. Desert9r Says:

    I just noticed this morn, as I was prep’ing it for a ride that there is a lot of wear on the chain already, a little suprising, but no matter, its getting a new drive train soon anyway.

    Steve- Nano’s are ’08 spec, and I would say very good for commuting, low weight and faster rolling.

  13. steve Says:

    Took the first long ride last night, mostly pavement, some dirt. The Nano’s are perfect. They roll very well on pavement with just enough bite in the dirt. As far as drivetrain, I have had a chance to convert a buddy’s over to geared, using the der. hanger/chain tensioner (I love that, too). We also installed a rack on his using a seat-post clamp that has the mounts built in, and those silly clamps at the bottom, that work just fine. That seat-post clamp is available through J&B at almost any bike shop. If anyone needs advice on any of this, just post here and I’ll reply. Oh yeah, we tried mounting another friend’s Big Apple 2.3’s and it just barely cleared in the frame. I think the 2.0’s are a better candidate for this bike if anyone’s looking to go slick.

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