If the Carbon Pro SL 4400 looks a bit butch, there’s good reason: it’s actually a bloke’s bike, but with endless customisable options it’s a good bet for women who want a bit more choice by customising your bike for a perfect ﬁt.
It’s a fun, friendly ride that eggs you on and throws you into corners with enthusiasm without ever feeling out of control – something that might come as a shock to women used to riding more safe female-ﬁt bikes, though certainly not an unpleasant one.
Ride & handling: Light, easy handling makes you want to ride fast and have fun
Our testers were experienced female riders and racers, so it’s interesting that they felt at home straight away on our men’s test bike. Its relatively restrained tube girths, high-end carbon build and well-specced kit keep it light, but the featherweight feeling you get on the road seems to come more from the shape and character of the bike than the physical weight savings.
However, one tester, who's an experienced mountain biker, felt the slightly slack angle of the head tube meant the bike was too steady in corners, so bear that in mind if you're a zig-zag descent queen. The reach feels a bit long – probably because of that more traditional shaping and the gender-neutral handlebar – but having your body weight further forward and being able to push the power straight down into the pedals just inspired conﬁdence and energy that we don’t often feel, especially at this price.
It’s a stiff bike which means there’s a bit of clatter on rough roads, but we were too busy enjoying the intuitive handling, getting our heads down and pushing the pace to really notice. The bike’s light nature meant it’s not exactly a cruiser – it takes a little concentration to hold pace – but it’s perfect for short, choppy race courses with lots of long hills, sweeping corners and changes of pace.
It took us a while to get used to SRAM’s double-tap shifting (as habitual Shimano riders) but since you don’t have to ram the whole brake lever inwards to shift, the system works well if reach is a bit of a problem. The only real downside was the saddle, which we had to lose after one ride to avoid painful intimate injury.
Frame: High-quality for the cash
On the face of it, this is quite a traditional racing frame, with an almost horizontal top tube, though the laid-back slope of the head tube suggests a long-distance-friendly bike rather than an all-out speed machine (and to be fair the Rose website does indicate that this bike is suitable for touring as well as racing and training).
Interestingly, though we tested the men’s 4400, the female-speciﬁc WSL 440 has identical geometry in the same size, with the only appreciable difference being a dash of white on the WSL’s paintjob. Tubes mostly stay round, with the top tube meeting the bulged head tube in a beautiful curve underneath and relatively skinny seatstays all helping to give this the feel of a light, manoeuvrable bike.
Take a peek behind the crank and you’ll see where the ﬁght really is in this bike – where the chainstays, seat tube and down tube meet you ﬁnd there’s a considerable amount of bulk, and the chainstays are boxy and ﬂattened towards this beefy bottom bracket. A ‘random carbon’ effect with cool white lettering gives the 4400 a slick, serious look – so if you’re sick and tired of pink ﬂowers, it’s a welcome relief.
Equipment: Fantastic spec
There’s some very decent equipment on this ride. FSA provide the carbon seatpost and stem, as well as the alloy compact handlebar. The groupset is a winner too, with SRAM’s second-tier Force groupset decking out the ride, from the shifters to the derailleurs and brakes. Easton EA70 rims are reasonably light, reliable rolling stock, though given the quality of the overall package we’d consider an upgrade here.
The only area where you’ll really need to consider the WSL women’s option is in the ﬁnishing kit: the Prologo Nago Evo saddle is a tested favourite for blokes, but didn't go down well with any of our testers, while the handlebar might cause problems for women with small hands (though the width was ﬁne).
This article was originally published as part of a women's bike group test in Triathlon Plus magazine.