The first sub-£2,000 carbon bike from Italian legends De Rosa offers a solid connection with the road.
Frame & equipment: Competently specced without compromising performance
De Rosa is a name associated with superbikes and classic race machines. Over recent years, bikes such as the aluminium Milano trainer and the Italian-designed, Taiwanese-manufactured R838 have brought the brand to a more affordable level. The new R848 follows the same cues as the 838 but brings the price down below £2,000, a first for carbon from the Italian artisans.
Styling-wise it has touches of the 838 as well as the pricier carbon De Rosas. A stout head tube and thick down tube meet the standard bottom bracket and deep chainstays. That gives the 848 a solid, stiff foundation. Contrary to this, a slender tapering top tube and slim seatstays promise comfort from the monocoque frame. The pronounced, deep-crowned fork stays broad through the legs before tapering to slender dropouts.
The R848 is at the cheaper end of the 2013 Bike of the Year test spectrum, and this is reflected in the spec. It mixes Shimano’s 105 mechs with their Tiagra brakes and chainset. It’s a clever way to reduce the overall price without compromising too much in the way of performance.
The chainset, for instance, is from the latest incarnation of the group, so it’s essentially the same as the previous 105 and retains the same slick-shifting tooth profiles and quality finish as its pricier cousin.
The cockpit and post, like most of the Italian-derived bikes in the Bike of the Year test, come from Deda’s wide range of components. The RHM EL bar is a cleverly shaped compact drop that’s easy to move between positions with, but its slim diameter on the tops did feel a little harsh over rougher road surfaces. The same goes for the basic RS alloy post – it does the job but that’s all.
Wheels also come from Shimano, in the form of the R500s. They are firmly budget offerings – middling in terms of weight, well put together and solid. They’re proven to be hard-wearing and make for a great set of training hoops, but you’ll want to invest in some better hoops come race day.
Vittoria’s Rubino Pro tyres are a good match – resilient to punctures, with good grip in foul conditions. It’s good to see that De Rosa have also added in a quality carbon bottle cage from Elite to complete the package.
Ride & handling: Firm and communicative
The R848’s ride is decidedly firm; it’s never an uncomfortable place to be but the frame’s rigidity and stiff front end, aided by the stout crowned fork, constantly communicate the road surface. This never escalates into fatigue or vibration discomfort. If anything, it helps you judge corner entry and exit speed.
On descents it inspires confidence, aiding judgement when it comes to knowing when to push harder and when to back off. The gearing pairs a compact (50/34) with a close ratio 11-25T cassette that favours a more rapid riding style, while the sharp handling backs up that trait too.
The firm overall ride, stiffness and handling won’t appeal to all but the price tag leaves plenty of change from a two grand budget, meaning financial room to improve the R848’s comfort. Add a carbon post and a set of 25c tyres and the bike would make a great do-it-all machine that will still retain its exciting character.
This bike was tested as part of Cycling Plus magazine’s 2013 Bike Of The Year feature – read the full results in issue 273, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.