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Rolo Arabian first look

Rolo Arabian paint
28 Apr 2015

High-end bike brand Rolo is rolling out a revolutionary range of custom carbon frames.

Legend has it that in AD876 a Viking ruler by the name of Rollo sailed into Normandy, conquered the locals and ruled for 50 winters. Luxembourg-based brand Rolo says it has taken inspiration from its near-namesake, and hopes to break into the heavily guarded territory of the custom superbike. But to do so, Rolo will have to challenge conventional ideas about what makes a custom bike. Traditionally, a custom frame is one with geometry and dimensions prescribed by the consumer, but Rolo argues that the basic rules of geometry and handling are too important to be changed from one customer to the next.

‘We don’t have different-sized stairs or different-sized tables for people of different heights, so I don’t think that a frame needs to be designed in that way,’ says Rolo co-founder Adam Wais. That’s not to say we should all be riding the same size bike, but rather that geometry is either right or wrong, and Rolo prides itself on finding the correct geometry for each size of frame to optimise handling and overall performance. The entire philosophy revolves around the stack and reach ratio, which essentially determines how aggressive a frame will feel. (Stack is the vertical distance from bottom bracket to the top of the head tube, while reach is horizontal distance between the BB and the middle of the head tube.)

‘The stack and reach ratio should be 1.5:1 across all sizes, and we work to that principle,’ Wais argues. Frames tend to be inconsistent in the ratio of stack and reach across sizes, with larger sizes having a more relaxed geometry and smaller sizes tending to have a more aggressive position. ‘If you are within our size range, roughly between 1.65m and 1.90m tall [5ft 4in-6ft 2in], with generally standard proportions, each frame size will produce the same optimised geometry for the rider,’ Wais says. While Rolo can offer custom geometry, the concept of keeping to stock sizes is central to the proposition of the brand. It means that riders may have to adapt their fit around the frame using headset spacers and possibly a more versatile seatpost, but Wais argues it’s worth the sacrifice. Rolo’s customisable charm comes from the way it puts the carbon together.

Rolo Arabian frame

Rolo’s frames, which are built in Germany, have been designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics and Finite Element Analysis to optimise the shape and composite structure of the bike. Such technology is rarely available where frame geometry has been built to a customer’s specification. Crucially, the frame is also moulded in one piece, as opposed to the more common method of using pre-fabricated carbon tubes that are joined by wrapping sheets of carbon at the junction points. In theory, this monocoque approach should offer structural advantages at a lower weight, but the specific lay-up of the carbon used in that monocoque design can be adjusted according to the consumer’s personal taste.

Rolo offers three basic standards as a guide: the Shire, the Hackney and the Arabian. The Shire is the stiffest, with the bottom bracket and head tube using Toray M55J fibres to create a frame that’s extremely robust even when subject to all-out sprinting efforts. The Arabian is built to be as light as possible and can come in at well under 600g, depending on the rider’s weight and specification. The frame pictured here weighs 710g in a 56cm size, with paint and derailleur hanger, and 5.78kg for the full build, albeit with some of the most expensive lightweight finishing kit on the market. The Hackney, predictably, falls between the two, and generally weighs 690g in a size 56cm.

In an unusual and unique move, Rolo has integrated the derailleur hanger into the carbon construction of the frame, breaking with the convention of using a sacrificial metal hanger. ‘It’s a decision we’ve made and we’ll see over time if we are right,’ says Wais. ‘It’s a super-strong part of the frame. It’s solid carbon. It would take one hell of an impact to break it, certainly enough that you would question what other damage had been done elsewhere anyway. In the unlikely event of it breaking, we can replace the whole back end.’

The Rolo isn’t just a story of light weight and high stiffness, though, and Wais has employed proprietary technology to target comfort, too. The bearing seats of the head tube and bottom bracket have been layered with a thermoplastic elastomer that should cushion the bike from the vibrations of the road. The elastomer is only 0.3mm thick, and is moulded into the carbon during the lay-up and curing process, essentially becoming integrated into the resin.

It would be a serious omission not to mention the most striking aspect of the bike – the paint scheme. ‘It’s a sort of homage to Klein,’ Wais explains. Retro-bike aficionados will be familiar with the brand, which was famed for its paintjobs, and specifically this style of metallic, two-tone fade. At €8,500, the Rolo is in the company of the most expensive of standard-geometry frames, such as the Cervélo Rca and Specialized McLaren Venge. With that in mind, it will take some convincing that Rolo bikes are worth the money, but we’ll do our very best to find out in a full review…



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