After testing German online and mailorder heavyweight Rose over the years, we’ve learnt that the firm knows a thing or two about making aluminium. The Xeon DX disc frame is no exception: smooth welded with full internal cable routing and Di2 compatibility, it’s one of the best looking alloy frames around.
It’s not just the finish however: it’s all very well thought out. Up front an oversized, tapered head-tube is matched to an all-carbon fork: its legs’ wide stance and big crown allows for much bigger tyres than the already generously proportioned 25c standard models. The top-tube tapers and slims along its length to meet a minimal 27.2 seatpost before flowing into slender seat stays.
Highs: Great frame, great kit, great brakes, great bike
Lows: Slab-sided rims aren’t friends with crosswinds
The chainstays are large box sections meeting a small (by modern proportions) BB shell, but under big-effort, out-of-saddle sprints the DX feels completely planted – Rose has engineered just enough size and strength into this crucial area.
The ride of the 4400 is, in a word, smooth: it’s obviously helped by quality carbon bars and a top-class carbon post, both from Ritchey’s WCS range. We love the slightly backward-swept top shape of the WCS bar and its compact drop is mid-size, meaning you get a truly faster tuck when pushing on down in the drops. Big 25c tyres add even more smoothness, but they feel fast and the grip levels are stunning to boot.
The DX’s geometry and ride position are at the racy end of sportive… this is a pleasant place to be, and the bike handles with assured neutrality. The ride is direct and absolutely free of unwanted flex, concerns over the increased torsion effects of the brakes have been well addressed and eliminated by a combination of the clever frame and clever Turn Nine2Ten axle system. These are a halfway house between going through-axle (like on the latest mountain bikes) and remaining quick release. Simply, the axle through the hub has increased in size to 9mm making it substantially stiffer (and providing more contact with the dropout).
The big question is the brakes: they may ‘only’ be Avid BB7 cable discs, but they offer bags of easy-to-modulate power. Throughout the test period they didn’t suffer any pad rub, and we only got the occasional noise once the rotors were hot – no more than you’d expect from a carbon rim, or contaminated alloy brake surface.
The power of the brakes is greater than most callipers, but it’s the way you can control its delivery that’s the biggest benefit. On our well-trodden test loop’s most twisty and technical descent we were able to attack the corners, and up the pace too. Being able to try these brakes on familiar territory goes some way into showing their benefits.
Our only issue with the DX comes from the wheelset. While it’s a stiff, well-built package and remained noise and flex free, its rim section is reasonably deep at 30mm. Add the tyre depth and you get a fairly slab-sided 50mm – and you’ll notice a fair amount of disruption at the front in crosswinds.
We have to admit we’ve been sceptical of whether discs will find a place on straight-up road bikes (as opposed to gravel, commuters, or cyclocross machines), but the DX certainly adds a big tick to the plus column.
This article forms part of Cycling Plus magazine’s Bike of the Year 2014 Awards. Cycling Plus is available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.