Rose X-Lite Team road bike (Campagnolo Super Record build) - review - Road Cycling UK

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Rose X-Lite Team road bike (Campagnolo Super Record build) – review

The X-Lite Team frame serves up climbing ability in spades, with direct-to-consumer customisation a nice touch

The direct-to-consumer bike market has steadily become more and more popular in recent years as riders are enticed by the great value that comes from brands that cut out the middle men (i.e. the distributor and bike shop).

Whatever you think of the perceived threat to the traditional bike sales model, it’s brought us some top bikes that can rival the biggest brands – you only need to check out the likes of the Canyon Endurace and Ribble R872, which we featured in the RCUK 100, to see some great examples.

Rose follow a similar model from their base in Germany, with a website that allows you to pick from its range of framesets and – unlike Canyon, but in a similar way to Ribble – customise the build with a comprehensive (and sometimes bewildering) array of components.

The bikes are split into five categories: race, aero, marathon, gravel and ladies, so there’s no doubt Rose have most corners of the road market covered.

The X-Lite Team is the flagship frame from German direct-to-consumer brand Rose
  • Specification

  • Price: £5,428 (price varies with build)
  • Weight: 6.11kg (57cm)
  • Sizes: 50, 53, 55, 57, 59, 62cm
  • Website: Rose Bikes

The X-Lite Team we have here is from the race family and is Rose’s flagship frame, making the most of the firm’s ability to offer a top spec sheet for a competitive price. As someone who’s long been impressed with the Canyon Ultimate CF range (I own an SL), which is about as direct a rival as you’re likely to find at the moment right down to the German brand DNA, the X-Lite Team represents an interesting comparison.

This is also the first Rose we’ve had in to test for quite some time so, when unboxing the bike, I wondered whether I would be beguiled by this super-spec, super-lightweight X-Lite Team, or looking for a hasty return to my trusty Canyon when the Rose gets shipped back off to Germany? Genuinely, I was as keen to find out as you may be…

The frame – featherweight, direct and stiff

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this Team frameset is one of the lightest I’ve ridden. Coming in at a claimed 795g for the frame itself, with a svelte 290g fork bolted to the front, it’s got the potential to absolutely rocket up climbs, while the high modulus T60/40 carbon layup is designed to keep things stiff and responsive.

Rose say it’s also designed to offer enough comfort to avoid rattling your fillings out and most of that compliance is sourced through skinny seatstays, while the chainstays are also markedly slimmer than the current trend in road bikes. The fork is also said to be responsible for a great portion of the comfort factor too, designed over a two-year period to give the best road-buzz-reducing performance while keeping the front end as stiff and nimble as possible.

Power is handled by a (comparatively) slimline bottom bracket area – relying on the carbon layup to keep stiffness at competitive levels with bikes that have beefier setups – while the downtube features a boxier undersection compared to the slightly more rounded rider-facing section.

Claimed frame weight for the X-Lite Team is 795g

The distinctive bowed toptube is also a nod to the purposefully skinny design. Those skinny tubes should help add a little more comfort. The minimal mass high up the bike design also has a positive impact when climbing out of the saddle, ala Contador, and its a concept Rose have committed to – you can see similar traits throughout its range of frames.

These features are set around a race geometry which for comparison largely mirrors that of the Canyon Ultimate and Cannondale SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod (another bike I hold in high esteem from our test last year). Naturally, the numbers differ marginally if you’re into your geometry charts, but a 73.5 degree headtube angle, a shortish 992mm wheelbase with a 406mm chainstay length in a 57cm frame keeps things feeling tight-knit when you sit atop it.

The ride – a very light-footed uphill rocketship

There’s one thing the X-Lite Team can do better than most, and that’s climb. A large part of that is inevitably down to the overall build, which at this point bears covering briefly before a more in-depth look at how Rose do things below.

This premium build is kitted out with arguably the most desirable mechanical groupset on the market – Campagnolo Super Record – matched up with Mavic’s flagship lightweight alloy  R-Sys rims, supplied with the French firm’s tyres.

The practically full carbon construction of Super Record keeps weight really low, while the R-Sys hoops weigh in at just 1,295g (without tyres). As a result, the whole bike weighs in at a scant 6.11kg without pedals or bottle cages, and underneath an 80kg rider like myself, that feels like a metaphorical feather.

The lack of overall weight means the bike is remarkably easy to rock from side to side, almost having the effect of injecting energy into your climbing legs where you previously thought your limits lay.

It simply glides up climbs – so much so that, on one quick jaunt riding in trainers, civvies and with a backpack to get the bike home, I accidentally set a Strava PR up a local climb.

Given that the last time I’d ridden the segment hard I’d been fitter, leaner, and obviously kitted out for the job, it served as an enticing opening gambit: if it could do this when I’m not specifically targeting a segment, what could it do if I really decided to have a crack at some hills?

Elsewhere, there’s a finesse to the ride as well. Where some ultra-light frames can feel harsh and overly direct to appeal to everyone, the X-Lite Team manages to remain comfortable enough to avoid shaking you half to death when not heading uphill.

This integrated seatpost clamp keep things clean

I can’t say it’s as comfortable as the aforementioned SuperSix Evo Hi-Mod nor my Ultimate when the miles really rack up, but it’s by no means going to bash you to death if you decided to use it for a century.

Throw in the fact the supplied Mavic Yksion Pro Griplink and Powerlink tyres are a narrow 23c in this build, it means they could be easily upgraded to a pair of 25mm tyres, and we’d opt for either the Michelin Power Competitions or Continental Grand Prix 4000IIs for a little more comfort and reduced rolling resistance, if we were to really pimp the X-Lite Team out.

The frame’s low weight ensures the X-Lite Team is a climber’s dream

The bike’s prodigious uphill prowess is almost matched by its quick and predictable handling heading down the other way. The lightweight construction and relatively short wheelbase allows you to dart the front end into corners with ease (helped along by the reassurance of Mavic’s Exalith brake track on the R-Sys hoops), and while the nimbleness does take a little getting used to thanks to the sheer lack of bulk underneath you, response and feedback from the road is delicate and informative.

There is a downside to this, however. The X-Lite Team is very light, stiff and nimble, but I found it to lack a little solidity when sat in the saddle on the flat. As a comparison, my Canyon feels more planted and assured for general riding, while still very stiff on inclines. The Rose is not unstable per se, but feels less planted when in a big gear than the likes of the Canyon, Cannondale and, to cite another recent test bike, the BMC Roadmachine. It’ll climb quicker than those bikes in this build, but I’d feel more comfortable and at ease when putting the hammer down in the saddle at 40km/h on the others.

All cables run internally on the X-Lite Team

What’s this, I hear you cry: how can you criticise a bike for being too lightweight if it’s clearly stiff enough to seemingly effortlessly provide Strava PRs? But let me be clear: it’s not an outright criticism, more a comment on the bike’s overall characteristics. While the X-Lite Team certainly isn’t skittish, it just doesn’t quite give the same grounded feel and all-round ride quality as some.

However, be under no illusions – the X-Lite Team is a very capable, super-lightweight machine, and as long as you spec it smartly is a bike that can tackle climbs and remain rewarding on the descents too, as well as keep you fairly fresh for longer rides.

The build – fully customisable dream spec bike

The thing about Rose is that you can spec its frames how you like, subject to availability using the Rose customiser. This means you can currently have the X-Team Lite in the following seven basic guises, with the ability to customise the spec down to the kind of spacers you want thereafter:

  • Shimano Ultegra 6800, Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL WTS
  • Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2, Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL WTS
  • Shimano Dura-Ace R9100, Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL WTS
  • Shimano Dura-Ace R9150 Di2, Mavic R-SYS SLR WTS
  • SRAM Force 22, Mavic Ksyrium Pro SL WTS
  • SRAM Red 22, Mavic R-SYS SLR WTS
  • SRAM Red eTap, Mavic R-SYS SLR WTS

As a result, each individual specification can alter the price, although the bike we have on test features Campagnolo Super Record (interestingly, there’s no Campagnolo option at the time of publication), and those Mavic R-SYS WTS wheels.

The bike was finished with Ritchey finishing kit, including a Superlogic carbon seatpost and EvoCurve bars, carbon spacers from FSA, as well as a Selle Italia SLS seatpost that at the time of build cost £5,428. Premium, indeed.

Our test bike came with Campagnolo Super Record build but Rose offer a range of customisable builds

Conclusion

The Rose X-Lite Team bike on test (and I suspect any machine built up to a similar spec as it) is a fantastically quick climbing machine: stiff, light, responsive and featuring the super quick reactions of a housefly – a real uphill KOM crusher.

Where it’s not quite as impressive (although by no means a slouch) is when the going is flat, where it can’t quite give the same overall rounded ride quality as the very best bikes on the market of this ilk.

Still, the value afforded by Rose’s business model can’t be questioned, and the flexibility of the build lends the X-Lite Team an air of exclusivity if it means you can have, near enough, the exact bike you want.

Pros

  • Lightweight and stiff, perfect for climbing
  • Quick, predictable handling
  • Customisable spec

Cons

  • Can’t quite match the all-round ride quality of rival bikes

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