Online giant Rose started out as a traditional bike shop and then concentrated on growing its business through mail order, which evolved into online. So, while you can go to Rose’s online store for bike components from major brands, clothing and energy products, what’s of most appeal to us is its own line of bikes.
- The Rose X-Lite Four Ultegra Di2 is one of our Bike of the Year bikes for 2019. To read reviews of the other contenders and the categories tested across road, mountain and women’s bikes, visit our Bike of the Year hub.
The Rose brand has developed over the years from competent, competitively priced direct-to-market bikes to some properly developed, seriously tech machines that remain excellent value for money.
Take this X-Lite 4 with full Shimano Ultegra Di2, Ritchey WCS components and some excellent wheels from DT Swiss. I have to admit, I had to keep checking the price (which does fluctuate with the exchange rate), because this sort of spec wouldn’t look out of place on a bike costing £1,000 more.
The X-Lite 4 chassis was introduced a few seasons back. It took the original X-Lite frame and added a few aero touches to the tube shaping (saving a claimed 11 watts), revised the geometry a little (to correct for bigger tyres) but remained lightweight.
And lightweight really does mean lightweight: with a claimed 760g frame and a 325g fork this is one of the lightest frame and fork combos around, and perhaps the lightest you’ll find on a bike at this price.
The angles are steep – parallel at 73.5 degrees – and the wheelbase is short. The geometry is an interesting combination of race and endurance: the steep angles put a sharpness in the steering, the longer (170mm) head tube adds a bit more stack and the reach is shy of 400mm.
Rose X-Lite Four Ultegra Di2 ride impressions
What this all means, though, is that on the road the X-Lite feels like a well-sorted ride. It’s comfortable enough to ride for hours on end, but the handling is quick enough to exploit when you want to have some proper fun.
The frame and fork are firm, but the addition of quality components – carbon Ritchey post, Selle Italia saddle, and a Ritchey WCS evo-curve bar with a slight backswept shape and oversized and ovalised tops – means that the firmness is tempered fairly significantly.
The X-Lite can still be a bit chattery over frost-scarred surfaces compared to the latest endurance bikes – and is not as smooth as a Synapse, Domane or Defy – but it’s by no means uncomfortable.
It’s just a chassis that likes to transmit plenty of road surface information without letting the road buzz that can so often become wearing get through to your contact points.
The DT Swiss wheels use their clever Spline hubs with straight pull spokes, a nicely machined brake surface alloy rim and weigh just 1,750g a pair. It’s good to see Rose put its money where it matters, using arguably some of the best clincher tyres around in the form of Continental’s 25mm GP4000 SII’s for assured grip and smooth roll.
We’ve said plenty about Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 over the years, but it’s worth repeating that this latest incarnation is by far the best yet: shift speed is rapid and always accurate. The latest rim brakes are also the best they’ve ever been, and the only thing that would improve the Four’s rim brakes would be if the direct mount standard had been adopted.
That aside, the combination of great brakes, quality pads and a machined brake surface means super brake performance in all weathers.
The gearing is angled towards the speedsters out there with its 52/36, 11-28 combo and on a heftier bike I may have been wishing for an 11-30 on the climbs, but the X-Lite’s low overall mass and light riding wheels mean it’s an exceptionally good climbing companion.
The sporty geometry feels great when honking on the hoods, and digging in on seated climbs with the backswept bar and ergonomically shaped grip is just as good.
When the road tips downwards the X-Lite’s super stable feel is a blessing, and the brilliant tyres offer dependable grip in all weathers.
The braking is good. Rim brakes are always at their best when paired with machined alloy surfaces – they can’t compare to the best disc brakes in poor conditions but you’ll never be left wanting.
Overall, if your priorities are a lightweight bike with great components that’s stunning value for money, and disc brakes are low on your list, then the X-Lite might be just what you’re looking for.
As one of the last bastions of the humble rim brake, this black beauty offers performance and value that very, very few bikes can match.
Rose X-Lite Four Ultegra Di2 specifications
- Sizes (*tested): 50, 53, 55, 57*, 59, 62cm
- Weight: 7.35kg
- Frame: Carbon
- Fork: Carbon
- Chainset: Shimano Ultegra, 52/36
- Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11-28
- Chain: Shimano
- Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Shifters: Shimano Ultegra Di2
- Wheelset: DT Swiss P1750 Spline
- Tyres: Continental GP4000 SII
- Stem: Ritchey WCS C220
- Bar: Ritchey WCS Evo Curve
- Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Flow
- Seatpost: Ritchey WCS Carbon link
- Brakes: Shimano Ultegra
Rose X-Lite Four Ultegra Di2 geometry
- Seat angle: 73.5 degrees
- Head angle: 73.5 degrees
- Chainstay: 40.5cm
- Seat tube: 50cm
- Top tube: 56.3cm
- Head tube: 17cm
- Bottom bracket drop: 6.9cm
- Stack: 57.2cm
- Reach: 39.4cm
- Price: £2,677