This new bike from bargain merchant Rose uses the layout of its Unchained downhill bike, but with the rear travel on this aluminium frame reduced to a ‘mere’ 185mm.
Frame and equipment: pick your toppings
Rose Bikes is a direct sales company with a difference. It allows you to take its basic models and ﬁne tune the kit ﬁtted to them.
We opted for the entry-level Soul Fire 1 and left it in factory spec, which matches the four-bar rear suspension to a single crown RockShox Domain fork pushing out 180mm of travel. The Domain uses a steel steerer and stanchions, which mean it’s weighty.
The coil springs mean tuning is limited to rebound damping and switching to a different weight coil spring. It’s also a shame that the damping isn’t up to much and it gets out of shape rapidly on extended rough sections, so despite the long top tube allowing you to shift your weight about, it’s hard to control the front end. It’s also marginally steeper than the other bikes here at 66.5 degrees, though the stubby, stiff 35mm stem and big 785mm bars do help.
At the back end, the RockShox Kage coil shock keeps the suspension under control effectively, with adjustable compression and rebound damping.
Ride and handling: perky pedalling
The Soul Fire’s long wheelbase, stiff back end (with 142x12mm through-axle and longish 429mm chainstays) mean it’s super stable at speed and – fork allowing – quite happy to attack the trail and sustain high speeds. It’s oddly numb and not the most involving ride, however, and does have to be coaxed to change direction.
The bike pedals well, but the overall bulk does dampen its enthusiasm for ﬂatter sections. The twin-ringed RaceFace chainset, complete with chain device and bashguard, at least means you can scrabble up steeper sections in an easy gear, or settle in for the duration on bigger climbs.
The Shimano SLX drivetrain comes with a clutch-equipped rear mech and 11-36T cassette, giving accurate shifting and well-proven durability. The RockShox Reverb Stealth dropper post is also excellent, and its clean internal routing and bar-mounted remote mean you can transition from uphill to down quickly.
The downside is the seatpost height added by the Reverb’s collar – it can make it hard to get the saddle properly out of the way, something that’s really not helped by the bulky, if comfy, Rose-branded perch.
The Schwalbe Magic Mary tyres are high volume and their spiky design works well to dig down for grip on looser terrain, though their hard Performance compound is unwelcome and sketchy on exposed roots. The Sun Ringle wheelset is solid, being tubeless-ready from the off.
It’s a shame the easily confounded fork holds back the standard bike’s potential, though it’s a problem easily cured via upgrades Rose offers when you buy.