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by Iain Treloar
February 26, 2020
Photography by Lincoln Wong (Flickr Commons) and James Huang
Serotta – one of the iconic brands of US cycling – is making a comeback, with new models bearing the company’s name available from March. The relaunch of the brand will take place in two phases, with steel and aluminium bikes available from next month and titanium bikes making a return in the northern summer. Pre-orders are already underway for the titanium models.
It’s the first time that Serotta has manufactured bikes under its own name since 2013, and is the latest twist in a long and winding road for the company.
Founded in 1972 by Ben Serotta, the brand’s long history has seen Serotta’s road bikes ridden to world championships, Olympic gold medals and piloted by leading US teams including Coors Light and 7-Eleven (branded as Huffy). Serotta also built the bikes for the 1984 US Olympic team, although again, these were branded under another name.
Murray was the official bike sponsor for the 1984 United States Olympic cycling team, but the frames were actually built by Ben Serotta. Photo: James Huang
Ben Serotta led the brand’s evolution from lugged steel to the cutting-edge of titanium; at his company’s peak in the mid-1990s, more than 50 employees were working for the firm.
Serotta also helped revolutionise bike fitting, with a fit tool and school that saw more than 1,000 fitters trained by the company.
However, the company’s most fertile years led into a challenging spell early last decade, where Serotta found itself hovering in a purgatory of mergers, acquisitions and financial manoeuvring. In 2012, the brand entered into an ill-fated partnership with a financial services firm, and in June the following year, it was bundled into an equally ill-fated investment group. By July 2013, the company had stopped manufacturing bikes, Ben Serotta had been locked out of the business and his brand name – his name – was owned by someone else.
As a forty-year veteran with unusual insight into the mechanics of the cycling industry – both literally and figuratively – Ben Serotta embarked on a series of side projects. From 2014 to 2016 he consulted on New York’s Citi Bike, and in 2017 he launched Serotta Design Studio in Saratoga, New York, producing US-made steel framesets and Asian-made aluminium ones. Due to trademark stasis, however, the bikes were unable to be branded as ‘Serotta’; the steel line carried the name aModoMio, or, ‘my way’.
Ben Serotta’s aModoMio line of custom TIG-welded steel and fillet brazed road bikes, launched in 2017, signalled the heralded builder’s long-awaited return to the industry after his eponymous brand was shuttered. Photo: James Huang
The investment group that owned the rights to Ben Serotta’s surname has been defunct for some years – a situation that has perhaps incubated a more favourable environment for the reemergence of the Serotta brand. In an interview with Bicycle Retailer, Ben Serotta stated that he was “confident with our position” in regards to trademark rights.
The initial product line will be based around three drop-bar designs – the pavement-focused Duetti, the all-road aModoMio, and the Scappero gravel model. The three designs will in turn be offered in three frame materials, and with a range of build-kits; pricing of complete bikes will reportedly start at US$3,995 and range up to US$11,500.
Serotta told Bicycle Retailer that “we expect to introduce additional products every six months or so after that. It’s hard to imagine a future product line that does not include an e-bike option; whether that is purely in the road range or well outside of it is to be determined.”
While the tubing and forks will be manufactured in Taiwan, the frames will mostly be fabricated and finished on the US east coast, along with assembly of the finished bike. When the first new models roll out of Serotta’s Saratoga base, it will be the latest milestone in an almost 50-year-long brand history marked by many, both positive and negative, and the first time that the Serotta name has graced a downtube in seven years.
“I guess you could say that it’s a fire I have that never went out,” Serotta said. “I just had to notice that it was still there and apply it.”
A classic bike from Serotta’s first era. We’re curious to see what the new dawn brings. Photo: Lincoln Wong (Flickr Commons)