De Rosa have always featured prominently in the pantheon of great Italian brands, usually mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Colnago, Cinelli and Pinarello. The R838 represents their attempt at creating an ‘entry-level’ introduction to their legendary world of high performance machines. Considering the overall result, they've succeeded brilliantly.
Visually, it’s extremely sorted and stylish, the sweeping lines the result of a blend of form and function. The carbon fibre monocoque frame features swooping, racy forms, while the curvaceous seatstays and chainstays could have been inspired by the skeletal elements of a bird’s wing, and probably aren’t far off the same weight.
The broad top tube effectively resists lateral twist when you’re forcing the bike through high speed turns or dodging potholes on fast descents, while below, a teardrop-profiled down tube morphs into a massive bottom bracket area, and both remain completely unruffled in the most vicious sprints and panic stops.
Up front, the ridiculously light fork, just 350g, also holds its nerve, helped by a massive monocoque crown and 1½in lower bearing. Substantial carbon dropouts are protected with metal shrouds and provide ample grip and durability for the Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels, which strike the right balance between price point and race-worthy performance.
Tipping the scales at a respectable 1,170g, the feathery frame features internal brake cable routing, and was happily rattle-free even over the roughest roads, while external gear cabling meant the Campagnolo Athena 11-speed shifting was flawless, with easy actuation effort an added bonus. The Power Torque cranks’ need for a removal tool means a headache for home mechanics though.
As with many of the current crop of broad-sided monocoque frames, you could feel a bit of buffeting in crosswinds, but not to an unmanageable extent, and it’s as much at home on easy Sunday morning group rides as it is fighting over the last slot in the gutter of a desperate race echelon. Not bad for a 'starter' bike.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.