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Rose X-Lite Six Disc review

2 Jan 2019
Verdict:

In the X-Lite Six Disc, Rose challenges the might of its compatriot Canyon in terms of performance and value for money

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Value for money • Low weight • Assured handling
Against 
Overbuilt head tube means the front end is a little firmer than the rear

This review was first published in Issue 79 of Cyclist magazine

It would be easy to assume that Rose and Canyon are very similar companies: they both hail from Germany and both have a direct-to-consumer sales model. Both also produce very accomplished road bikes. Yet that’s where the similarities end.

Rose is not a brand we’ve featured much until now, so it’s worth recounting a little about what sets it apart from its more conspicuous compatriot.

Buy the X-Lite Six Disc bike from Rose Bikes here

Rose has been selling bikes since 1907 (in between also selling sewing machines to keep the business ticking over through the winter), and has been making them since 1979.

It remains a family-run business, as evidenced by its slogan: ‘The price is cheapest in the smallest store’.

I’m not entirely sure the slogan makes sense (maybe it loses something in translation) but it does convey the brand’s commitment to offering maximum value for money.

Hence the decision to take its business online, which allowed it to cut down on overheads and reduce the number of middle men between supplier and consumer.

It’s a similar model to Canyon’s but, where Canyon offers complete bikes, Rose offers buyers a configurator to determine the best option for them in a semi-custom manner.

By stocking parts at its German HQ in Bocholt and assembling bikes to order on-site, the company says it is able to maintain the pricing advantage of a direct-to-consumer business model while giving the customer the flexibility to alter bike builds.

‘This was how business was conducted way back when we had just a tiny bricks-and-mortar shop,’ says Thomas Hetzert, Rose’s international sales manager. ‘So the Rose family were determined not to lose that way of working as we grew and developed.’

That’s how I’m able to test a bike where the components alone have a combined retail price of around £4,500, yet Rose sells the complete bike for less than £1,000 more than that.

It seems like very good value, which begs the question why Rose is not a bigger name in the UK, and remains something of an obscure cousin to Canyon.

‘Our strategies differ quite a lot,’ says Hetzert. ‘Canyon is doing a great job in terms of marketing. We try to focus on product and service and increase our brand awareness in a less aggressive way.

‘Our recent rebrand is evidence of this, but we think that by keeping things simple, with slower growth, we can maintain a better service, which is crucial because we are predominantly online.’

Considering the company has been in business for more than 110 years I wouldn’t be inclined to start questioning its methods now, and Rose’s comparatively diminutive market presence certainly doesn’t seem to have done its ability to develop bikes any harm.

On to the bike

The X-Lite is Rose’s flagship race bike and has been a mainstay of the brand’s catalogue for a number of years. It’s been subject to a number of revamps but its most recent, to turn it from the X-Lite Team into the X-Lite Six, has been the most pronounced yet.

‘The X-Lite was always known for its stiffness and light weight so the next step was to try to build in concessions to aerodynamics and comfort as well to make it a more rounded race bike,’ says product manager Christian Brumen.

He explains comfort was created by building a little more flex into the seatstays, then sloping the top tube to lower the seat tube junction and increase the amount of exposed seatpost that can deflect under load.

It’s a fairly simple solution but it works – the long seatpost unfussily takes the edge off scarred road surfaces and for such a racy bike the X-Lite Six is agreeably comfortable, both over rough roads and on long rides.

Rose spent time in a wind-tunnel to refine the frame aerodynamically. The result is a slimmer head tube and down tube compared to the previous model, and a more liberal use of Kamm-tail tube profiles. Brumen claims the changes means the X-Lite Six saves 11 watts of effort at 40kmh.

What’s more, Rose has also managed to save weight. Despite being built to take disc brakes, the new frame is barely any heavier than the previous generation rim brake design and only 30g heavier than the new rim brake frame – 790g versus 760g.

‘We developed the frames concurrently so we could make them very similar,’ says Brumen. ‘The entire front triangle is the same, we just made the chainstays and fork a little differently.’

At 6.91kg for a size 57cm bike, the X-Lite Six is a disc brake bike that rides with the responsiveness of a rim brake bike. It’s reactive in the corners, it’s quick to accelerate up to speed and it positively skips up 15% climbs. 

Completely racy

In both of those latter situations it was the frame’s stiffness that was the deciding factor in how well the bike performed.

Rose has opted to slim the down tube significantly while bulking up the top tube and the head tube.

Brumen says this was done primarily for aerodynamics, because the down tube is far more exposed to the wind than the top tube, which has the head tube in front of it.

In theory, this should have made the bike more flexy, but I found it gave the front triangle great torsional rigidity when I was pulling and pushing hard on the bars.

Coupled with the low weight this meant the bike accelerated like a startled rabbit and, while I don’t have access to a wind-tunnel, I’d say the revised aerodynamics coupled with the DT Swiss ARC 48 wheels were the reason the bike held on to speed with flattering ease.

Buy the X-Lite Six Disc bike from Rose Bikes here

‘In our development process we try to keep things clear. We have certain stiffness figures we want our race bikes to achieve,’ says Brumen.

‘We want 60Nmm in the bottom bracket and 100Nmm in the head tube. Once we have those it’s up to our R&D team to get the frame as light, as aero and as comfortable as possible.’

It sounds so simple when Brumen puts it like that. But then, simplicity is an art that Rose seems to have mastered.

Spec

Groupset Sram Red eTap HRD
Brakes Sram Red eTap HRD
Chainset Sram Red eTap HRD
Cassette Sram Red eTap HRD
Bars Ritchey WCS Superlogic Carbon Evo
Stem Ritchey WCS C220
Seatpost Ritchey WCS Carbon Link Flexlogic  
Saddle Selle Italia SLR Lite Flow 
Wheels DT Swiss ARC 1100 48 Disc wheels, Continental GP4000 S II 25 tyres
Weight 6.91kg (57cm)
Contact rose.com
Price: 
£5,458.47

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