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Final Review: SE Lager

by Commute by Bike

SE Lager

After several months of riding the SE Lager for my daily commute, I’ll now give my final wrapup of my thoughts and impressions of it’s performance as a commuter bike. If you haven’t already, check out my first two posts I did as part of this review (Part one and part two). Also be sure to read the comments on those posts as several readers left their impressions of the SE Lager as well.

Comfort and simplicity are the greatest features of the Lager. The steel frame sucks up vibrations and seems to flow the road better than an aluminum equivalent. The geometry of the bike is spot on and I’ve never felt the least bit of discomfort or lower back pain (that tends to plague me) while riding.

The Lager is built from the ground up to be a simple and reliable bike. The steel frame, 1-speed (free or fixed flip-flop hub) drivetrain and overall streamlined features makes it a great choice for someone looking for a no-nonsense bike. I’ve riden this bike for over four months and have not done a single bit of maintenance other than changing the occasional flat.

I do have a few issues with the Lager that I would like to see changed on future models.

The bolt on skewers need to be swapped for quick release. A wrench is not a tool I should be forced to carry on every ride, however if I get a flat halfway home my multi-tool won’t get me very far.

I’d also like to see two sets of brake levers. The current set hangs off the end of the bullhorn handlebars, but I’d like to see a second set added to the middle. It would offer more options for hand position and not force the rider to constantly stretch out over the bars.

The last nit I’ll pick is the bottom bracket. It’s doesn’t conform to the normal standard. Here’s an excerpt from a comment Ed left on a previous post:

My biggest problem was upgrading the crank. The bottom bracket is old school bmx size, so i had to get my hands on a conversion kit which proved to be quite difficult as most people had no idea they even existed.

Even with these few issues, it’s hard to say to much bad about this bike. At a retail price of $540 (and available most places for much less) you get a great bike that is basically maintenance free. If you’re looking to get the most bike for the least amount of money, I would look hard at the SE Lager as the answer to your problems.

The Lager at www.sebikes.com

Read all the posts from this review…

 
Burley nomad 229

37 Responses to “Final Review: SE Lager”

  1. Noah says:

    I was under the (possibly incorrect) assumption that quick release skewers can be dangerous for fixed gear, as they don’t apply as much pressure on the drop-outs. I’d imagine this only relates to stopping ability on a fixed gear.

    I can’t say I’ve ever seen a flip-flop or single speed wheel ever designed for QR, though.

  2. Quinn says:

    IM with Noah ALL my fixie friendsswear by the bolt-on hubs
    Felt (www.feltbicycles.com) has or shortly will have a wrench made for fixies, for sale that bolts to a water bottle mount.

    The BMX BB- Do you expect something else from SE? But I do see your point.

  3. Justin says:

    Bolt on is not on the standard for a fixed gear, but is a great idea for a theft-deterrent commuter bike. I replace my QR with either OnGuard or PitLock skewers. QR on a bike that may be locked up outside are just irresponsible.

  4. Phil says:

    I agree with justin, and don’t recommend a bolt on for the rear skewer if your frame has horizontal dropouts. Horizontal dropouts require very high clamping force, otherwise the wheel will slip forward in the right dropout. From what I can tell bolt locks are designed for vertical dropouts, which do not require high clamping force.

    There sort of like the old style aluminum QR skewers, which can’t be used with older bikes having horizontal dropouts.

    But, bolt on skewers for the front wheel is fine.

  5. Fritz says:

    Tim, the Lager has a normal cartridge bottom bracket and 3 piece cranks; the bike design came from SE’s parent company, Fuji. Ed and others are complaining about the BMX bottom bracket on the much cheaper SE Draft bike, which has cheap Ashtabula cranks.

    As others mentioned, you don’t want QR on a bike with horizontal dropouts, and if you need to carry a wrench for the rear wheel you might as well use track nuts on the front wheel for the extra security.

    Surly already makes a 15mm wrench specifically for the fixed market. That’s $25. Or you can run down to Sears or K-Mart and buy a 4.5″ long 15mm wrench for a third that price, which is what I carry. Here’s another stubby 15mm.

  6. Obscura! says:

    I carry a wrench and it weighs less than most multi-tools.

  7. Arleigh says:

    Fritz hit everything on the nail. Bull horns (the type of handlebar on the SE) are going out of style with the fixie crowd. Now its track drop bars or flat bars cut short. I have used bull horns but not nearly as long as those. The ones I used were designed to go with aero bars and are made by profile (among other brands.)

  8. CJ says:

    if you don’t want to carry a big wrench with you on your commute. Or a socket and ratchet wrench as I have been known to carry. You could carry one of these.

    http://www.surlybikes.com/stuff/pop_jethro.html

    If that link does not work, try this.

    http://www.surlybikes.com/stuff/pop_jethro.html

    I am sure that most people who frequent this board have heard of the jethro tule. I do not own one myself, but I have held one in my hand while hanging out at my LBS and it seems to be pretty light. It is expensive though IMHO. I think they sell for like 40.00 or something. Pretty expensive when you consider you could probably pick up a cheap wrench at your local hardware store for less then 10.00.

    Peace out

  9. Marrock says:

    I don’t see where the QR is a problem on a fixie if you use the brakes like you’re supposed to…

  10. Fritz says:

    Marrock, I don’t think I’ve heard of wheels shifting while braking. The chain itself will ensure the wheel doesn’t get pulled backwards. It’s applying pressure while pedaling that can yank the wheel forward. I’ve had it happen to me on the road (the wheel popped completely out, yeah it was pretty exciting), and it happens on the track on occasion.

    Sheldron Brown (RIP) believed that QR should be sufficient to hold a fixed wheel in place.

    CJ, thanks for that tip! ;-)

  11. Perhaps having a design with an Allen head bolt for a wheel retention system would allay Tim’s problems with the wrench. Paul Components does this sort of thing on their single speed hubs ( http://www.paulcomp.com/frmhubs.html ) It uses a six millimeter allen wrench to tighten the bolt. A common size on most micro tool kits.

    Anyway, I just carry a Park version of a “peanutbutter wrench” and that works fantastic. I just have to remember it is all! :)

  12. Laura says:

    Did you like where the brakes are located on the handlebars? I’m looking to buy this specific bike and I think if the brakes were on the horizontal, it would be more comfortable. If anyone agrees, what type of brakes would you recommend because I know you’d have to switch them out entirely.

  13. Christoph says:

    I just had a set of interrupter brake levers installed horizontally while keeping the original ones.

  14. AllenTomDude says:

    I’ve had my SE Lager for 8 months, and I love love love it! I did swap out the stock tires for something with a bit more flat resistance, but other than that, the bike is wonderful, and I hardly ride my expensive carbon road bike after I got my SE Lager.

    I love the bullhorns, they feel great. I would appreciate having an additional set of brake levers mounted mounted on the bars though.

  15. TM says:

    No offense to the late SR, but I don’t know that I agree about using a QR skewer on a fixed-gear wheel… there’s no reason that the QR should hold the wheel better than a properly tightened bolt…

    As for “using the brakes like you’re supposed to”… why bother riding a fixed-gear if you’re going to rely on the rear brake?

    Anyway, glad to hear people enjoy their bikes…

  16. TM says:

    whoops, clearly that should’ve read “late SB”

  17. Robin says:

    The other problem with QR skewer if your commuting or ever leaving the bike locked up outside is the ease at which someone can steal your wheel(s).

  18. Mark in DC says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for the review Tim. I saw the first two installments and based my decision partly upon your comments. Took a test ride too of course, but ultimately agreed that, for the money, it’s a great bike. Been using it as a commuter for a couple months now, but really fell in love on a longer ride outside the city…the simplicity, the geometry, the gearing, the bullhorns (they’ve really grown on me!), it’s all good. I was afraid I’d miss my clunky old road bike, but I couldn’t be happier. Regarding the brakes, I like them where they are, but I can see how either way would work.

    Full disclosure: I did replace the tires right away- slapped my armadillos on there and sold the kendas with my old bike!

  19. BinR says:

    Here’s the solution to bolt-on hubs, that fits in a seat bag…
    http://www.sears.com/shc/s/p_10153_12605_00947923000P?vName=Tools
    GearWrench 15mm Full Polish Stubby Ratcheting Combination Wrench

  20. B says:

    For a small, seat-bag-sized solution to the bolt on hubs…

    Google: GearWrench 15mm Stubby Ratcheting Combination Wrench

  21. rex says:

    I applaud SE for making a quality chro-mo frame with the large bottom bracket. Ashtabula cranks have a certain indestructible charm. Kinda like cockroaches and flat fender Jeeps with “Go Devil” motors; the survivability factor is huge. An adjustable wrench and a big flat blade makes repacking and replacement a snap. Judging by the number of creaking 3-piece cranksets I hear as I ride around town, if we ever get to a post-industrial, peak-oil, Mad Max type of world, Astabula’s blacksmith technology will rule.

    In the meantime, another positive feature is the stealth factor. A quality frame that thieves will think is a gas-pipe special – nice. Sure it costs you a pound or two, but who among us does not a have pound or two to jettison? Is it any heavier than the anchor chain needed to protect a “nice” bike?

    This frame appears to be too tight for my purposes. Are 35 mm tires and fenders a possibility? Kickstand?

    If I ever pull the trigger on that custom frame I think I deserve, it will have a 2.02″ BB. Anyway kudos to SE, this bike looks fun.

  22. adamihs says:

    hi, nice review.
    check out my lager.
    chrome polish color is available in japan.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/27002969@N03/2523669333/sizes/l/

  23. Quinn says:

    Got Mine today!!, as much as I know about it, I never saw one come with a chain gaurd, strangest thing is that with the stock gearing it doesn’t fit! just like every other one I’ve ridden, Love the ride!

  24. Nick says:

    What spacing is the rear hub? I found a line on a cheap SS set but they’re offered in three sizes.

  25. schimschone says:

    I like your review, but there are a few things I’d add:

    I’ve been riding this bike for 6-months, as a commuter, with an average distance of 15-20 miles a day.

    I’ve made quite a few changes, some as personal preference, and a few do to what I feel is necessity..

    First the plastic clips on the pedals suck, and should be switched to something more ridged.. I went with Shamano clip-less myself with a Sidi shoe.

    Second you should absolutely make sure you set the pursuit bars at a comfortable angle so your wrist sit straight with your hands, initially they are set almost parallel to the ground.. which looks better than it feels. Eventually I actually switched out for a narrower set of pursuit bars, and given the fact I have a pretty broad set of shoulders, the stock bars that come with the Lager are way too wide and forced my shoulders to support my weight at an angle greater than 90-degrees.. which is bad for any length of time. However for hill-climbing I absolutely recommend pursuit bars.

    Third and most important, the rims suck ass. If you want to ride single speed the weave of the rear spokes are set with rear spoke running under front spoke.. which simply means that my heavy 230lbs frame was breaking a spoke every week-and-a-half. Additionally the Alex rims wouldn’t hold the Armadillo tires, and instead would cause them to peel off as they heated up.. catastrophic blow-outs suck, especially 4-times in a row at speed. So instead I use Continentals now, and they suit me fine. I had Cycle Analyst in Denver build me a custom wheel.. Mavics with a Surly hub and DT spokes.. and I highly recommend the switch.

    And fourth.. get a new saddle.

    As for QR.. I like the bolt-on hubs, wrenches are cheaper than wheels the last I checked, and the minute longer doesn’t much bother me.

    But I’ve rambled quite enough..

    Rubber side down gi’s and bo’s.

  26. Ringer says:

    I’ve been commuting on the Lager for a couple months now, and I love it. I added some lights and fenders, and, once the fall rains come (gets wet here in the seacoast region of NH), I’ll get some new tires (probably good Continentals). I don’t mind where the brakes are at all, and haven’t found the need to add a second set of levers. I’ve gotten lots of good comments from other riders (and non-riders), too. I’m sure there are better SS commuters out there, but this one’s solid for the value.

  27. Southpole says:

    I bought the Lager in SFO on a trip to the US last week for $400. Not the lowest price as I can see now from some comments. Luckily it was still low enough so it was below the toll threshold or I would have been f*cked on reentry to Germany with a toll penalty roughly the same price as the bike.
    The bike is very nice and fast, but some parts really look cheap. Some pimping is in order (i was actually told this already in the bike shop).
    A big advantage of the Lager that has not been mentioned here is that all the logos are decals and peel of nicely for that silky-smooth look.
    immediately threaded on a 17T track cog and tried
    riding fix… great, but needs some practice.
    my second (technical) mod will be trying a chopped short flat bar. then i’m the coolest dude riding in my city.

  28. Scott says:

    I was thinking about the lack of skewers and I was thinking that this is a commuter bike. And it is likely to be parked and locked in public. I think the bolt on wheels is to prevent theft. There is plenty of torque applied to skewers with lower gears. I have looked at other commuter bikes and many of them use bolt ons.

  29. Ross says:

    Does anyone have any opinions of the SE Draft Lite 2009 edition?

    I’m aware this is an american website, and this may be a bike exclusively to England (?)

    But I’d really like to get peoples thoughts and opinions on that bike, as I’m considering buying that.

    Thanks for your help.

    Ross

  30. Ringer says:

    Ross,

    My LBS has it, and it looks nice. (Actually, “they” look nice–I think there are two different versions.) I’ve been riding the Lager for a year and I love it. Haven’t been on the new Draft, but, if it’s anything like the Lager, I’m sure it’d be a nice ride–and a good deal.

    I should say that my LBS is in New Hampshire, so this bike is not exclusive to England. (SE is related to Fuji, and I think they operate out of Philly.)

  31. TM says:

    I’ve seen a few SE Draft Lites around Boston (Mass, not England)… it’s a hi-ten frame, so I wouldn’t expect it to be the most spectacular ride ever, but they look to be a decent bike for a low price. I might be wrong but I think the difference between the Lite and the normal Draft is largely components and wheels?

  32. starwarspez says:

    I’ve had mine for about a year now and I’m still a fan of the poop colorway. I’ve since upgraded to mks pedals, soma straps & cages, easton ea70 stem and risers with good ole ourys. Threw on my own san marco saddle as well as a soma everwear, specialized trisport, dura-ace 15t, and an el cheapo chain tug. Making this list, I see I’ve got more upgrades that I remember. It’s been a good project bike for sure, and more than satisfactory for my short commutes to school and werk.

    This week, I’ve met my first problem with the bottom bracket. The thing roars pretty bad, and I’ve been met with the inconvenience of replacing either the bottom bracket or the entire crankset.

    The geo is good, a study chromo frame. Stock seatpost is simple, no funny business there. Alex rims to formula hubs arent bottom of the line, the look average, and at 145, I haven’t been able to break em yet. The lager will take a beating, so I love it and recommend it. Make sure you don’t pay retail for it is all!

  33. beck says:

    i came across an se draft for free so i brought it home and though i would make it a project bike. i stripped the frame and the first thing i wanted to look into replacing was the crank. im reading about needing a conversion kit and that they are hard to find. im not sure exactly what this kit includes (this is my first project bike). can anyone help me find what i need or point me in the right direction?

  34. Ted says:

    Hello! I actually just got an SE Draft Lite and love it and I’m glad you are loving your Lager. To touch on the quick release, one advantage you now have is greater loss prevention. I live in the great bike commuting city of DC where bike theft is HUGE and not just the bike, but the parts. It can get annoying taking the wheel on and off as well as the seat when you lock it up and with a wrench release system, you have a much greater chance of a thief stealing anything. I’m sure you have your reasons based on your location but just thought I’d give you a pro on the topic. Enjoy your Lager and ride responsibly da-da-tshhh ;-)

  35. Another Matt says:

    I just picked up the ’11 Lager from Performance. I fell in love with the look (black and purple,) but when I test rode it is when I knew it was meant to be. It was much smoother than any busted vintage road bike I’ve owned, real easy to go up hills. The brakes are horizontal and not on the end of the bars like on the older ones. Living in Portland, Or road bikes are huge, you can find shops everywhere with new or old rebuilt bikes. For the same price as the rebuilt bikes I chose to get a new Lager and couldn’t be happier. On sale for $479 even Kno sales tax in Or.L plus the 10% back made it quite a deal.

  36. Daniel Farrell says:

    Has anyone actually found a set of quick release skewers that will work with the Lager’s standard axle? Mine measures about 6.5 inches long, or 165mm (without taking it off to get a very accurate measurement). My local bike shop doesn’t have skewers that are long enough, even using rear ones for the front wheel.

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