Aug 05, 2023
State Undefeated review
An aluminium frame with a double-duty purpose This competition is now
An aluminium frame with a double-duty purpose
This competition is now closed
By Oscar Huckle
Published: June 9, 2022 at 4:00 pm
State's Undefeated is a solid road platform for the burgeoning US-based brand, best known for its track and singlespeed urban bikes. The frame represents a high-quality aluminium disc-brake offering, although its parts spec is a mixed bag, as is the 1x groupset.
The Undefeated is currently only available in the USA, but the brand says it can ship globally.
State says the frame is designed as a "first-time performance road bike", suitable for "training and travelling", and also points to its aluminium credentials as a crit bike.
That's quite a wide focus, but State might be onto something here. After all, don't race what you can't replace.
The Undefeated cuts a traditional-looking silhouette, shunning modern design features such as dropped seatstays and alternative welding methods.
The frame uses Y9 aluminium, which State says is 6061 aluminium infused with titanium. This is said to allow the brand to achieve a thinner wall thickness, shaving weight. State also claims the addition of titanium improves tensile strength.
The fork is a full-carbon affair and is produced by Essor USA. The disc brakes are of the flat-mount variety and 12mm thru-axles are used front and rear.
Tyre clearance is rated to 700x28mm.
There are five sizes on offer (49cm through 62cm) and State says the Undefeated fits riders from 5ft to 6ft 6in. I am 5ft 11 and tested the 58cm size – I typically ride a 56cm, but the 55cm would have been too small.
On the scales, my 58cm test bike weighs in at 9.75kg, a little under the expected weight. State estimates a size 58 should be 9.95kg, with a quoted frameset weight of 2,155g.
The Undefeated's geometry is, for the most part, on the relaxed side for a machine with half an eye on crits, although not without its quirks. The stack is generous at 584mm and the chainstay length is 425mm on all sizes.
For comparison, the Cannondale CAAD13 has a 575mm stack and 408mm chainstay length in a size 56cm and the Specialized Allez Sprint is even racier at 558mm stack and 410mm chainstays. The wheelbase on the Undefeated is also fairly long at 1,019mm, which should, in theory, increase stability, though in practice its race-oriented ride didn't seem to correlate with this. This compares to 992mm on both the CAAD13 and Allez Sprint.
The 73-degree head tube angle is fairly middle-of-the-road for road-racing bikes, and the reach is 397mm, which is longer than the 389mm on the Cannondale CAAD13 and almost equal to the 398mm on the Allez Sprint.
The 580mm seat tube length is very tall, compared to the 540 and 530mm measurements on the CAAD13 and Allez Sprint. This results in less exposed seatpost for added comfort.
Although the geometry is decidedly more relaxed than its competitors, State designs the frames around a short 90mm stem length, which is specced on all sizes. This is very short for its size and you would expect most 58cm road bikes to be specced with a 100 or 110mm stem.
A shorter stem will make the steering quicker, because (all else being equal) it creates a smaller turning circle for the handlebars.
I find my personal sweet spot for stems on road bikes to be around the 110mm mark, because I prefer the more neutral steering, but this is, of course, dependent on the specific bike. The Undefeated's 397mm reach, as it comes stock, fitted me well and installing a longer stem would result in an overly extended position for me.
The Undefeated offers a fairly stiff ride and it pushes you to ride faster, springing to life more as you ask for more.
However, it's more comfortable than I envisaged, and that's with the stock Maxxis Detonator tyres, which aren't particularly supple.
It's hard to definitively judge the ascending and descending abilities of the Undefeated given its unusual gearing and braking specs.
You can certainly feel the weight of the bike when climbing, with the heavy stock wheels and 1x groupset holding back the Undefeated's ascending potential. I’ll come on to this.
It's not a particularly poised bike to descend on, either – it's definitely on the nervier side. I’d attribute this partly to the shorter stem length, but I also had to keep the fact I was riding Tektro's C550 mechanical disc brakes (more on those later) at the front of my mind when descending.
The paint scheme is one of the highlights of the bike – gloss white with arresting tie-dye graphics.
Although white is a far from ideal colour to keep scrupulously clean (particularly here in the UK), at least it's a gloss finish, so dirt won't show up quite as much. Scratches on a gloss finish can also be polished out to a degree if necessary, unlike matt.
The internal cable routing of the frame is not the quietest, particularly for the brake cable. The entry points on the down tube and underside of the bottom bracket are quite small and it would be a challenge to fit a foam protector over the outers.
The frame uses a BB86 press-fit bottom bracket. It was creak-free throughout the test and of all the press-fit standards, it's one of the better ones.
The Undefeated is particularly interesting in that State has specced a groupset that's not from Shimano, SRAM or Campagnolo.
The State Undefeated is built around Sensah shifting components that are rebranded as State items in a 1x setup. However, the chainset is State's own, the cassette is from SunRace and the chain is from YBN.
The shifters are Shimano-like in shape, with similarities to SRAM's Double-Tap shifter layout. State says you can upgrade the shifters or rear derailleur to SRAM's 11-speed range and it would be compatible with the bike's stock components because they use the same cable pull ratio.
There is some texturing to the hood for improved comfort. The rubber isn't as tacky as Shimano's (which in itself isn't very tacky) and I didn't particularly get on with it on long rides.
The shifting quality is better than expected, although there is significantly less lever throw required to initiate a shift compared to SRAM. It also has less of a definitive action, but there is slightly more feedback compared to a Shimano shifter.
I found it easy to accidentally down-shift on the State shifters due to the reduced lever throw. This is not an ideal shifter to use if you hesitate between shifts, because it will just chuck you onto a harder gear.
The gear cable is routed on top of the lever body, so you feel it under the shifter hood. It creates an annoying bump on the edge of the hood, which I found uncomfortable on longer rides.
The problem could be further heightened due to the fact that the in-house BlackLabel bar is quite narrow in diameter either side of the conventional 31.8mm clamping area.
The Tektro C550 mechanical disc brakes are the low point of the build, and they really lack power and modulation.
These brakes are a dual-piston design, unlike the more commonplace single-piston design of the majority of mechanical disc brakes. A single-piston design entails one moving brake pad and one static pad. The system is compromised because it means that, each time you brake, you will bend the rotor slightly and you’re very likely to unevenly wear your brake pads.
The C550's are an OEM version of the brand's Spyre's and being a dual-piston design, that means they should offer more consistent braking. Unfortunately they didn't and I would side with our former senior writer, Matthew Loveridge, who opined mechanical disc brakes are a solution to a problem that shouldn't exist. I am yet to test any mechanical disc brakes that can compare to their hydraulic equivalents.
It's not unreasonable to expect hydraulic disc brakes at this $1,500 price point. It's about the entry point for hydraulics and a Shimano Tiagra 10-speed hydraulic disc brake groupset would have been a stronger spec choice.
I had to plan to stop in advance with the C550s and some technical descents were on the nervy side because I had to remember I was using brakes that wouldn't stop me with anywhere near the finesse of a hydraulic system.
On the plus side, the C550s were relatively easy to set up. However, they have quite a tight clearance and there is a trade-off between the amount of lever throw and the point at which the rotor rubs the pads.
The State-branded Sensah rear derailleur shifts without fuss and has surprisingly little play. Cheaper derailleurs often have some play at the pivot, which results in inconsistent shifting, but that isn't the case here.
The derailleur cage is shorter than a Shimano GS or SRAM WiFli though and the easiest 32t cog on the cassette really is the limit for the derailleur, even with the B-gap on the rear derailleur fully wound in.
The State-branded chainset is heavy but functional and the YBN chain meshes nicely with the SunRace cassette.
State has opted to spec a 1x system, with a 46t chainring paired with an 11-32t cassette.
On paper, it would seem the gear ratios are aimed at crit racing. However, State says it wanted to spec a 1x system "for simplicity's sake" and that the 46t chainring is "a good compromise for speed / climbing".
In testing, though, the 46-32 bottom gear was far from an ideal climbing gear, and I found myself out of the saddle very early on some of the lumpier roads around Bristol and the Chilterns in the south of England. If you live in a flatter area, the gear ratios may better suit your riding, although on the flipside, you would spin out on the 46-11 hardest gear on descents quicker.
The frame can accept a front derailleur, although the Sensah offering lacks a trim function. In any case, if you were to convert to 2x, you would need to buy a new shifter because the Sensah brake lever specced doesn't have a shift function.
An upgrade to SRAM's hydraulic disc brake shifters would sort the shifter ergonomics and improve the braking, but it would prove an expensive upgrade and you’d still have the other quirks to deal with.
If you wear out or damage any of the Sensah components, SRAM 11-speed road groupset parts will also work (and may well present an upgrade over the stock components).
In terms of general performance, the groupset is, on the whole, better than I envisaged – the ‘big three’ of Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo dominate to such an extent that it's rare to see shifting components from another brand – but it's not without its quirks.
On paper, the 31.6mm-diameter seatpost shouldn't offer as much compliance as a skinnier 27.2mm seatpost, but in testing, I didn't find it to be overly harsh. An upgrade to a carbon post would add a bit of squish for those with a delicate backside.
A BlackLabel saddle is fitted on top of the seatpost and it's got a fairly long nose and not a great deal of padding. I found it reasonably comfortable on shorter rides, but uncomfortable on anything over two hours. However, it's not unexpected to have to swap a saddle, or for saddle choice to be a personal affair.
The aluminium wheels are State-branded with 28 spokes, a 25mm-deep rim and a narrow 16mm internal rim width. State says the wheels are tubeless-capable, opening up upgrade options for tubeless road tyres. In reality, the wheels are sturdy but unremarkable and would be another component ripe for an upgrade down the line.
The Maxxis Detonator tyres aren't particularly supple or sophisticated. They come up very narrow at 27.36mm for their 700x28mm width on the State-branded rims, though, and you could likely fit a 30mm tyre without issue on the stock wheels.
It's hard to define who the State Undefeated is really for. It aligns most closely with the needs of a crit racer, although the spec is found wanting in some areas for that type of racing. The gear ratios are limiting in hilly terrain, or if you’re looking for a bike to unlock top speed on.
In this build, the Undefeated feels built for the crit racer on a budget, which is admittedly a very limited audience.
If I was going to own the Undefeated, I’d opt for a frame-only, which retails for $699.99. With some smart component choices, you could build yourself a high-performing bike for not too much money, because the frame is a quality item worth hanging some more lust-worthy components off. That would also allow for a build with greater versatility, making it more useful for general road riding and not just crit racing.
That said, the frame is always the heart of a bike and I’d rather a brand compromise on the components rather than the frame. You can always upgrade parts down the line.
The State Undefeated offers a fast and surprisingly more comfortable ride than you’d expect for an aluminium road bike at this price point. Its head-turning pearl with tie-dye paint job stands out from the crowd and is sure to attract other riders admiring it.
Its own-branded groupset generally performs well in isolation, but it has its quirks and the gear ratio choice is perplexing.
For $1,500, the State Undefeated is certainly worth a look but you may want to consider the pricing for a frame-only build for your desired spec.
Oscar Huckle is a technical writer at BikeRadar. He has been an avid cyclist since his teenage years, initially catching the road cycling bug and riding for a local club. He's since been indoctrinated into gravel riding and more recently has taken to the dark art of mountain biking. His favourite rides are epic road or gravel routes, and he has also caught the bikepacking bug hard after completing the King Alfred's Way and West Kernow Way. Oscar has a BA degree in English Literature and Film Studies and has close to a decade of cycling industry experience, initially working in a variety of roles at Evans Cycles before joining Carbon Bike Repair. He is particularly fond of workshop tool exotica and is a proponent of Campagnolo groupsets. Oscar prefers lightweight road and gravel frames with simple tube shapes, rather than the latest trend for aerodynamics and full integration. He is obsessed with keeping up to date with all the latest tech, is fixated with the smallest details and is known for his unique opinions.❚