What’s the Specialized Sequoia Elite got in common with the Volkswagen Bulli hippy wagon? We tested this attractive € 1,899 steel bike to find out whether it’s truly up for Summer of Love style adventure, along with how it compares to its sibling the Specialized Diverge.

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Which is the best gravel bike of 2018? We put 12 of the most exciting to test

Specialized Sequoia Elite
Specialized Sequoia Elite | 11.71 kg | € 1,899

“A premium chromoly tube set for outstanding ride quality and long-lasting durability at a moderate weight”. That’s what California-based Specialized promised. And when we tested the almost twice as expensive Sequoia Expert model last year we were largely in agreement with its makers. So when the box containing the new Specialized Sequoia Elite landed with a thud our reaction was a unanimous… what!? Almost 12 kg for a 56 cm framed bike? That’s quite a chunk more than we were expecting. A quick inspection of the key data solved the mystery of the extra weight. TheSequoia Elite might look exactly like the Expert level model, but it employs a cheaper and heavier tube set. In addition the wheels and tyres are an entire kilogram heavier than those found on our other test bikes. So, would the additional bulk lessen our existing affection for the Sequoia? Or could it still impress with superb riding characteristics? The short answer is no.

Specialized Sequoia Elite

The full answer is a little more nuanced. When touring the Sequoia rolls along in a happy and relaxed manner. On even terrain the weight doesn’t cause too much bother, it’s only when you accelerate or hit a climb that you realise you’re riding a tank. Furthermore, once up to max speed the Sequoia is controlled but struggles with quick steering inputs, feeling sluggish and overly slack. This means you frequently have to adjust your line in corners. Having a more pleasing effect on the handling are the 44 mm wide Specialized Adventure Gear Sawtooth tyres, which run impeccably on the wide rims to offer great grip. However, finding the right pressure in order to strike a good compromise between bouncy-soft and too hard with not enough traction is crucial. Employing Shimano 105 shifters and derailleurs, the range provided by the 48/32 t crankset and 11-36 t cassette allows the Sequoia to climb comfortably, even helping you carry heavy weight uphill in the small gears. Still, the Sunrace cassette and FSA crankset combined with a KMC X11 chain significantly reduces shifting performance compared to a full complement of Shimano parts.

Specialized Sequoia Elite
Tuning-Tip: Lighter wheelset

Counterbalancing these faults are some nice details. Like the colours reminiscent of the Bulli-era Volkswagen hippy van, the many mounting options for racks and mudguards, and the metal logo badge on the seat tube. Also some of the components give the bike an extra injection of charm, like the riser bar with its light flare, which perfectly suits the Sequoia’s comfortable feel.

Specialized Sequoia Elite Specialized Sequoia Elite
Specialized Sequoia Elite
Steel-love, nostalgia, and peace on two wheels? Unfortunately, the reality of the Sequoia Elite is slightly different.

Excluding cyclocross options Specialized now has two off road capable drop handlebar bikes in its range. Compared with its lighter stablemate the Diverge, the Sequoia is slower with a more upright and relaxed riding position. While the Diverge stands for fitness, the Sequoia requires good levels of it to move forward. It forces the rider to adopt a more leisurely pace, whether they like it or not, subscribing to the motto “the road is the goal”.

Specialized Sequoia Elite
Helmet Kask Protone | Glasses Oakley RadarLock | Jersey Café du Cycliste Fleurette | Gilet Café du Cycliste Jacqueline | Bibshort Café du Cycliste Odile | Socks Café du Cycliste Dotted | Shoes Sidi Wire Carbon

The Specialized Sequoia Elite in detail

Drivetrain Shimano 105 Sunrace
Wheelset Specialized
Brakes Shimano RS505
Tires Specialized Adventure Gear Sawtooth
Weight 11.71 kg
Price€ 1,899

Specialized Sequoia Elite
Super bars: the 440 mm wide Specialized riser bar is great for ergonomics and feel.
Specialized Sequoia Elite
Rugged and retro: the badge on the seat tube.
Specialized Sequoia Elite
Good combo: on the wide rims the 44 mm Specialized Sawtooth tyres work perfectly and offer impeccable grip – unfortunately the wheelset is seriously heavy.
Specialized Sequoia Elite
Affordable but not that great: The mix of a Sunrace cassette, FSA crank and KMC X11 chain offers noticeably lower performance than an all-Shimano spec.

Geometry of the Specialized Sequoia Elite

Specialized Sequoia Elite Specialized Sequoia Elite

Conclusion

The Sequoia Elite doesn’t quite live up to its maker’s promise of nostalgia and performance for wild adventures. The question of who this model is right for is not easy to answer. Free spirits on hippy-style camping trips? Featherweight people with relaxed riding styles? The fashion-conscious traveller looking for comfort? Like the original VW campervan the Sequoia is pretty to look at, happy to be loaded up with stuff, but ultimately slow and a little frustrating in its performance.
With a price tag of € 1,899 the Sequoia Elite is by far the cheapest option in our group test and that’s important when considering its performance. Nevertheless the test proved: if you’re after steel, you should dig deeper into your pockets, because the € 3,499 Sequoia Expert is a different world altogether. If you have the extra cash, consider an upgrade. It’s definitely worth it!

Tops

– Cool retro looks
– Relaxed geometry
– Great shape riser bar
– The most affordable on test

Flops

– Excessively heavy
– Cheap and soft steel frame
– Imprecise and sluggish handling
– Mixed drivetrain imparts poor shifting


More info at: specialized.com

For an overview of the test fleet head to the main article: Which is the best gravel bike of 2018? We put 12 of the most exciting to test

All bikes in test: Festka One Gravel | Legor Cicli LWTUA | Merida Silex 9000 | Moots Routt RSL | Open U.P. | Rondo Ruut CF2Salsa Cutthroat Force 1 | Specialized Diverge Comp | Trek Crockett 7 Disc | Trek Procaliber 9.9 SL RSL | Votec VRX Elite

Words: Robin Schmitt, Manuel Buck, Benjamin Topf, Hannah Troop Photos: Valentin Rühl