The name has changed slightly and the price has increased too, but Germany’s direct seller Rose has kept the Pro SL’s aggressive, fast-riding characteristics for 2018. It's a bike with a superb balance of brutal speed and longer-distance comfort, which should appeal to the wannabe racer.
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Lined up next to the similarly kitted out aluminium Canyon Endurace AL7.0, you can see that the Pro has a slightly shorter head tube in any given size, for a more head down, knees pumping ride.
The Rose’s head tube is also chunkier and barrel-shaped, housing the fork’s super-beefy 1 1/2–1 1/8in tapered steerer, which gives secure and controlled front-end handling. Frame weight is a claimed 1,280g, which is very good for the price.
But compare this year’s model with a Rose Pro from 2010 and you can see both similarities and differences: the 2018 model still has a chunky large-diameter down tube (albeit with more hydroforming these days) but the top tube now slims down along its length, and not only have the seatstays been reduced in diameter they’ve also been dropped, so they now join the seat tube well below the level of the slightly sloping top tube.
The result is that the bike has the same super-sharp, controlled and dynamic ride but its bum-numbing firmness has been dialled down a couple of notches. Okay, we’re not talking plushness in the manner of the IsoSpeed decoupler you’ll find in Trek’s new aluminium Domane ALR 3, or all-rounders such as Giant’s Contend SL1 or Specialized Allez Elite, but riding the 2011 Rose Pro head to head against this bike you can feel the difference. And it’s a welcome one.
The Rose’s kit is pretty much as good as you’ll find on a bike at this price. Shimano 105 does its usual stuff; swift, accurate shifting and controlled, confident braking. If you’re 55 years old with dodgy knees you always welcome the sight of an 11-32 cassette on a new test bike. The 50t chainring and 11t cassette combine for a 120in top gear that few of us will ever overpower and spin out on, while the difference between a 28t sprocket and a 32t is the difference between straining up hills and much more comfortable seated climbing.
Four inches might not sound like much, but when it’s a choice between a 32in bailout gear or 28in, I know what my knees prefer. Want more aggressive gearing? You can spec 11-28 or 12-25 when you order online.
The wheels too are at the upper end for the price, Mavic Aksiums with matching 25mm Aksion tyres. The older Pro SL had 23mm rubber, and this is another welcome change that adds more cushioning over poorer roads.
But as I have found with some other Aksiums over the last year, the joins on the rims weren’t as smooth as I’d have liked, so there’s a gentle thrub-thrub-thrub when you brake. It is annoying and I’d prefer Mavic’s quality control picked this up at source, but it goes away after a few days’ riding.
Something that German bike companies seem to like, and which also appeals to me, is a handlebar with flattened tops. I'm not talking a full-on slice-through-air wing profile, but a widened, ovalised top that’s very forgiving if you ride on the tops a lot rather than the drops.
Cube has long fitted its Wing Race, this year’s Canyon Endurace AL7.0 has its Ergo bar, and the Rose Pro has Ritchey’s heavily ovalised and very comfortable Comp Streem. This is paired with Fizik’s Microtex bar tape. It’s a small thing, but it’s always good to see some quality tape when you’re buying a new bike.
The downside of buying a bike over the internet is that you need at least some mechanical competence to put it together (or nab the services of a friend if wielding a hex key or torque wrench) but this was out of the box and on the road in minutes.
The big advantage is that at this price nothing can compete on price with internet purchases and few can compete on the Rose Pro SL’s ride.
A final small — or larger — plus is that German bikes cater well for the taller rider, with the largest Rose Pro coming in at a mighty 65cm, handy if you’ve got a metre-long inside leg.