The new race chassis from Rose is a complete departure from the old X-LIte. Out go the massively oversized round tubes and in comes a selection of squared-off profiles developed on from the CGF endurance bike, which debuted in 2014.
The frame has seen the design team focus on lower weight and increased stiffness where needed, and for the flagship ‘Team’ frames that translates into 800g for the frame and a scant 315g for the fork.
This more standard version weighs in at 910g for the frame, with the same fork being used on both. The latter was developed in partnership with materials experts at Bocholt University and is constructed from 140 unique carbon plies. Rose claims this makes for not only one of the lightest production forks around, but also one that boasts the highest lateral rigidity of all currently available forks it tested.
Ultegra Di2 on a lightweight carbon frame at this price is preposterous
Improving stiffness and reducing weight are all good, but to counter the risk of creating a too-stiff bike Rose has employed slender, minimalist seatstays and fitted a similarly slimline FlexLogic carbon 27.2 seatpost to help with rear end smoothness.
What will make people sit up and take notice of the 3100 though is the phenomenally value packed package it offers – you get DT Swiss RR20 DICUT wheels, a full suite of Ritchey WCS components and a top-notch Selle Italia saddle with the unique single-rail Monolink design. The Monolink system means the saddle's front two-thirds can be made slimmer (SI calls it friction-free), and we like that there's no interference between your legs pumping and the saddle's sides, though it does limit you to Selle Italia saddles.
The final budget-busting addition is a complete Ultegra Di2 11-speed groupset. A couple of years ago we were blown away by Canyon and Rose producing an alloy bike at this price with Di2, but to have one that’s wrapped around a sub-kilo race frame and ultralight fork is simply monstrous – and so far untouchable by anyone else in the value stakes.
Of course, dressing a bike up in such alluring baubles is only worthwhile if the ride itself can live up to the components' potential. Thankfully the X-Lite mostly does – its low, low overall weight makes the X-Lite an immense climbing tool and the gear spread only adds to that. The rock-solid front end makes for an instinctively quick downhill experience, with suitably steep parallel 73.5-degree angles and short 992mm wheelbase demanding that you keep your wits about you at all times. The shallow head tube – just 165mm, and matched to a mid-length reach of 393mm – means we’d have preferred a longer stem than the 100mm Ritchey WCS C-220 fitted, but thankfully Rose’s online ordering makes that a possibility
If you're likely to hit corrugated surfaces we'd strongly recommend choosing 25mm rubber
To return to that stunning spec, Ultegra’s latest Di2 iteration is nigh on flawless with swift and utterly dependable shifting. With the battery now hidden in the seat tube it's great looking too, and rare-interval recharges are simply a case of plugging the charger in at the stem's control box. The new, more minimal brakes are brilliant to boot – in fact there's nothing we’d change about the Rose's shifting and stopping kit.
The DT-Swiss wheels are hugely rigid, and we love the diamond-cut shaping of the flanges with their gleaming mirror-polished finish. These are wrapped with top grade GP4000S II Continentals – casings are supple, grip levels are superb, especially in the wet, and they're tough too.
We would, however, have preferred them to be wider than 23mm. We had the pleasure of testing the new X-Lite in Austria over the summer, and on super smooth well-maintained Alpine roads the 3100 was simply wonderful – sharp, silky and very, very rapid. But on weather-scarred, grimy British lanes in the depths of November things were no longer quite so buttery.
While the X-Lite's rear does a good job of ironing out bumps and road noise, the rock-solid business end transmits more buzz than we’d have expected. We don’t think it’s solely the chassis at fault, but rather the stiff wheelset and skinny rubber. A switch to 25mm should add an extra measure of noise reduction and help make the X-Lite truly one to beat on rougher roads (again this is an option on the Rose web shop) – rather than a machine that leaves the rider feeling beaten.