Rose’s Root Miller isn’t the first bike to shoehorn 130mm (5.1in) of rear wheel travel into a 29er chassis – Specialized got there several years ago.
But the extra 10mm over much of the competition is a symbolic gesture that hints that this is more than just another Euro cross-country machine. Has Rose built the ultimate all-round trail bike?
Frame and equipment: attention to detail
In entry-level trim, the Root Miller 1 comes with a budget price ticket attached. But don’t be fooled – the frame is stuffed full of nice details. The compact, tapered head-tube and flared down-tube provide a rigid backbone for a bike that’s likely to be ridden hard, so Rose’s designers have been able to trim weight where it isn’t needed. For example, the top-tube is particularly slender up front, where the down-tube takes most of the strain, and the raked-back seat-tube does without weight-increasing kinks or curves.
The dropped driveside chainstay keeps the metalwork as far away from a bouncing chain as possible, while internal cable routing does away with head-tube spaghetti at the expense of slightly more fiddly maintenance when it comes to replacement time. Bolt-through axles front and rear are a welcome and rare touch at this price, so full marks to Rose for that. But why is there no cable routing for a dropper post? It’s an odd omission.
We’re always happy to see air springs holding up both ends of a full-susser at this price. We’re even happier that Rose’s designers haven’t plumped for the cheapest option up front, opting instead for the thoroughly decent RockShox Recon. With a beefier build than the company’s cheaper forks – and the through-axle and tapered head-tube to make the most of it – it’s noticeably better in the rough than most budget options.
Mountain Kings have become a firm all-rounder tyre favourite, though Continental’s width measurement is deceptive. Tagged 2.4s, the Rose’s treads certainly have decent volume for 29er tyres, but they don’t measure anywhere close to 2.4in in any direction – they’re closer to 2.1in. The 2x10 transmission helps keep overall weight down, as do the DT Swiss wheels, which are lighter than some of the smaller diameter competition in this price bracket. The excellent attention to detail continues with the mahoosive brake rotors – 203mm up front, 180mm at the rear – which are great news for more consistent control on long descents and better cooling.
Ride and handling: a bike of two ends
Despite its suspension travel, the Rose isn’t carrying any excess baggage, and that translates into a feel that’s lively and willing from the get-go. Fast-accelerating wheels and a perfectly centred ride position make for a balanced climber. Point the Root Miller up a steep, technical gully and you wouldn’t think you’re on a machine nudging the limits of big wheel trail travel. It just goes, with no hint of wallow, sag or big wheel inertia.
What makes the Rose’s pedalability all the more impressive is that this hasn’t been achieved at the expense of accuracy. This is no slender racing snake – show it a fast, flowing descent scattered with rocks and roots and it’ll rise to the challenge without flinching.
A short stem and stiff, accurate front end make the front wheel eminently placeable, while subtle changes of direction are just a dropped shoulder away. The Rose’s front end sucks up whatever you throw at it and spits it back out for the rear wheel to deal with. And that, unfortunately, is where things come a little unstuck.
We don’t usually have any beef with RockShox’s Monarch air shock – it’s a fairly basic unit but does a decent job on other bikes we’ve ridden. Yet paired with the Root Miller’s rising rate linkage, the shock on our test bike tended to get bogged down and constipated in the mid-stroke, robbing the Rose of both small-bump subtlety and big-hit plushness – frustrating on a bike that’s otherwise so capable.
We tried a Fox CTD equipped Root Miller and it confirmed our suspicions that the Monarch was the culprit, with the Fox shock delivering a smooth and progressive feel throughout its travel. Rose tell us they suspect our problems were down to a faulty shock; let’s not get too hung up on this though, because the Root Miller’s great handling and accurate steering make for a big-wheel game-changer. With the right shock it has the potential to be a winner.