On December 23rd I had a large box arrive at my door from Rose Bikes UK containing a 2011 Rose X-Lite 4400. This post will hopefully give you a background on the company, the bike and my thoughts after a couple of rides over roads I know very well have everything you need to get a feel for how a bike rides apart from cobbles.
For those of you who don’t know, Rose (http://www.rosebikes.co.uk/) is a very large and very long established German company created back in 1903 when Heinrich Rose opened his shop in Bocholt. Nowadays Rose is a substantial and significant player in the German market with a 17,500 square metre warehouse and 20,000 stock items available for immediate delivery. The company employs over 250 people and can ship 12,000 parcels a day out of it’s German logistics centre including up to 150 bikes being built and shipped each day. It wasn’t until last year that I really started to notice Rose making a push into the growing UK market and I’ve already written before about the company’s mega catalogue earlier this year (http://girodilento.com/is-this-the-worlds-largest-cycling-catalog) and about the London bike show display with the newly branded Rose bikes for 2011 (http://girodilento.com/london-cycle-show-rose-bikes-2011). The bikes were previously marketed as Red Bull as the company was first to use the name in Germany, but here in the UK it wasn’t a simple brand name to use for obvious reasons, so the change has been made to Rose for 2011 and I personally think it’s a good move and I like the new branding.
Rose are a direct seller like a number of other bike brands, but I guess the nearest comparison to their businesses in the UK might well be Wiggle or Chainreaction – large cycling retailers that are also bike manufacturers or have exclusive rights to retail ranges of bikes as well. With 20,000 stock lines on hand at any time – there must be very few mainstream cycling related products that you can’t get from Rose.
The bike that I was fortunate enough to ride is from the X-Lite range which is (when including the Di2 equipped X-Lite ORO) the highest level Rose road frame for 2011 and is available in a number of specs and price points. The 4400 as I had it is a well equipped and well priced – not to mention light bike retailing for £2,649 including VAT (or Euros 3,099). The specification for the X-Lite 4400 includes a full SRAM Force groupset (compact 50/34 and 11-28 cassette on my test bike), Easton EA 90 Aero mid profile alloy clinchers, Continental GP4000 RS (R for racing) clincher tyres, Easton EC90 Aero carbon handle bars and an Easton EA 90 stem and I think it’s a good combination that works really well together.
The saddle is a carbon railed Prologo Evo Nago on a Rose branded carbon seatpost and is in white to match the bar tape and in turn the Rose branding. You’re getting a strong spec for the money including better wheels and bars than you’d probably getting from one of the more mainstream brands at this price point. Many bikes even at this level see costs being cut at points like brake calipers, wheels, tyres, bars and stems to keep the price down. Not here though, except perhaps with the seatpost, which is an own brand rather than a branded one for example but in fairness, it worked perfectly when I had – so it’s a very small quibble on my part.
This particular test bike was a 57cm frame but they can be bought in 7 different sizes and if you’re not happy with any of the standard specs, which include Shimano and Campagnolo builds as well as the SRAM I have here, you can also configure your own build online using a web based configurator.
The frame itself is made of high modulus carbon T40/60 with a 1k finish which is a more premium finish than the Carbon Pro RS and this combination is supposed to provide more stability on the finished bike. The frame also feature what Rose call H.O.C. (Hardening Optimization Carbon Technology) which is a completely new production process in the X-Lite and Pro Carbon RS ranges. Now prior to talking about actually riding the bike, I can tell you several key benefits of the construction of the frame. Firstly the weight. This bike (without pedals or bottle cages but) fully build and straight out of the box weighed 15lbs and 3 ozs according to my scales (6.82kgs) which is a good weight for a bike using a mid level groupset and finishing kit at the price point. I don’t have a frame weight but it has to be under or very close to 1kg. Rose’s confidence in the quality of the frameset also extends to the warranty – which is 10 years on the frame and forks. However very usefully for those who race it also comes with a 5 year crash replacement warranty. This means that if you crash and break the frame or forks in the first five years of your ownership, Rose will sell you a replacement at half price. If you race that could be a very useful benefit to keep in mind when you are considering your next race frame.
I have to say that I like the looks – I did at the cycle show back in October. I like the Rose branding for 2011 and feel it really works in simple black and white – its relatively subtle and understated but in a good way. Overall I think it looks like a no-nonsense racing machine that’s designed as simply and as efficiently as possibly for you to go fast. I think it looks stiff too – the headtube is the increasingly common 1 1/8 to 1.5inch to increase front end for stiffness and stability and the whole headtube area is very chunky indeed adding to your impression of frame stiffness. There is also internal cable routing for the rear brake and gear cables and a very chunky bottom bracket (like most of them are now in fairness) that is designed for the BB90 Press Fit bottom bracket standard. The downtube is massive almost as large and round as your guttering but made of high modulus carbon. The top tube and seat tube are respectively smaller – but by no means small reinforcing the perception of strength and stiffness. This also extends to the chain stays and seatstays with the latter looking more chunky than has become the fashion of late – making me wonder a little about the stiffness of the ride and comfort prior to me getting out on it.
All of this had me thinking that this is definitely a bike for racing on – for going as fast as you can and for getting your power transferred as directly as possible to the road. A no nonsense race bike that’s had a good deal of thought gone into the materials and components of its build. It’s a very masculine looking bike and I looked forward to getting out on it as the weather allowed.
Now obviously, the true test of any bike is riding and eventually the snow and roads (and fog and generally ghastly weather) clear sufficiently for me to get out do about 70km on the bike over two rides. To be frank I didn’t feel it was enough for a full review, so this is more of a mini review/first impressions that I hope will be helpful if this is a bike that you’re considering.
The first big surprise and a very welcome one was the ride quality. This bike may look like it’s going to be super stiff (and it is stiff) in a way that makes you worry about comfort – but don’t worry at all. The Rose was really comfortable. Over some generally poorly surfaced roads that I regularly ride – I was very comfortable. The light weight of the bike and the stiff frame made for a fast ride too. The SRAM Force groupset was terrific – an absolute pleasure to ride. I’d not used SRAM’s double tap shifters before, but I was quickly smitten and Force is now my new favourite mid-level groupset.
The Easton EA90 Aero wheelset and Continental GP4000RS tyres were another great combination that worked really well on the bike. The slightly deeper section (30mm) rims seemed to help the bike roll really well at medium to higher speeds, but they weren’t heavy in that they felt sluggish. I’m a big fan of Easton wheels after thousands of happy kilometers on my own set of EA90 SLX clinchers. The EA90 Aero’s gave me the same positive vibes.
I also got on really well with the saddle, I’d not ridden a Prologo saddle before but it was excellent.
All of these components complimented the frame and forks well and made for a compelling and entertaining package. I really enjoyed my rides on this bike and I like the looks. The only “negative” that I could offer about riding this bike is that on descents the front end felt a little “light” – not in a dangerous way or even in a way that affected your confidence because it didn’t I happily descended as fast as gravity allowed on the Rose… it just felt a little light – like not a lot of the bikes weight was over the front wheel but to be clear – the bike descended well. If I was to be really picky I would say I didn’t really like the look of the seatpost and the stem and handlebars (the latter two are also from Easton) but as I said this is being picky. Functionally and for riding, the bike worked very well.
Where the Rose changed my opinion most of all is that when I got it out of the box I was certain this was going to be a race bike – it looked purposeful, stiff and uncompromising. After I rode it I realised that yes you could race it but I almost feel it is better as a fast, light bike for the recreational rider who wants a powerful looking bike. The only negative I encountered with this bike is that not everybody likes the aesthetics. I did, but bikes are extremely personal – so if you like the looks I believe you can confidently consider this bike. There is lots of choice at this price point in the UK marketplace but I believe you can be confident that this is a well specced, light, fast, fun to ride bike that is worth putting on your shortlist as long as you like the looks. Rose is not a brand you see very often on the road in the UK yet – but if they all ride like this you might see a lot more. Don’t forget that 10 year warranty either.
Thanks for reading