quinta-feira, 18 de junho de 2015

Rose XEON RS 5000, the review (Finally!) - (Pt 3 of 3)

De acordo com o prometido, aqui fica a última mensagem feita pelo meu amigo P., sobre a Rose XEON RS 5000.

Na próxima quinta-feira, publicarei uma mensagem sobre um outro livro de cicloturismo e, na subsequente, uma mensagem sobre uma rota de cicloturismo mundialmente famosa: a Coast to Coast, no Reino Unido, feita por um outro amigo meu!

Boas leituras!

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Before getting into the actual review, I mention that Rose make all types of bikes and use a wide range of materials. Road bikes come in either aluminium or carbon fibre. The XEON RS range is a ‘cousin’ to the CRS range which, as suggested by the letter ‘C’, is made of carbon fibre. All reviews suggest that the XEON CRS and Rose’s other carbon fibre bicycles are also seriously worth considering.

It may be of interest to list the spec of my bike. This follows some customisation, notably the wheels:

7005 T6 Ultralight Aluminium, triple-butted, anodized black, 57cm
XEON Modulus Fullcarbon 11/8"-1.5", UD-carbon
Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLS WTS
Campagnolo Chorus 36/52, 11-speed, carbon, 175mm
Rear Derailleur
Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed
Campagnolo Chorus, standard, 12-27
Shift Brake Levers
Campagnolo Chorus 2-/11-speed, black
Campagnolo Chorus 11-speed
Front Derailleur
Campagnolo Chorus Chorus 2-/11-speed
Rim Brake
Campagnolo Chorus D-Skeleton
Seat Post
Ritchey WCS Carbon Monolink FlexLogic, black, 27,2mm
Selle Italia SLS Kit Carbonio Monolink, black matt/middle stripe black matt, Standard
Handlebar Tape
fi´zi:k Microtex, black + fizik logo
Ritchey WCS 4 Axis, black/matt, 110mm
Xtreme Carbon Spacer 15mm(1x5mm+1x10mm)

I mentioned in ‘Part 1’ that the Xeon RS is a modern aluminium bike. This essentially means some thought and design has gone into it. It is not simply the lower end of the range that Rose Versand make. My understanding is that the intention behind the RS range was to offer a non-carbon fibre alternative to those who want to race. As such, and being a modern aluminium bike, it borrows some features of carbon fibre frame design. Therefore, expect not only a fairly wide down tube but also a fairly ‘beefy’ bottom bracket shell, suitable to house an integrated BB86 unit. Of course ultimately the aim is to provide stiffness in the area. Not too long ago ‘beefy’ bottom bracket and aluminium frame implied a lot of extra weight. Modern alloys, welding and butted tubes means that this is not the case.

The RS, like other modern aluminium ready-for-race bicycles, are usually touted to criterium racers. The crowded, ‘violent’ and fast nature of such races has led to a number of (Anglophone) crit racers to abide by the saying “if you can break it, don’t race it.” Falls are frequent on the amateur crit circuit, usually leading to pile-ups. Carbon fibre is more likely to break that metal. This does not mean that the RS is a one-trick pony. With the standard equipment supplied by Rose, it is hard to make any bike in the RS range heavier than 8kg. My RS 5000 (57cm frame) weighs 7.8kg ALL included. That includes pedals, two bottle cages, two empty bottles, cyclo computer mount (with cadence sensor) and the Mavic SLS WTS wheels (not heavy wheels, but neither the lightest). This makes the RS supremely capable of fast climbing too, of course assuming that the rider is willing to do their part is going uphill fast.

 The XEON RS range is made of aluminium in Taiwan. Up until 2014 (i.e. including the bike I am riding) 7005 / 7051 aluminium was used. [I believe the 2015 range is made of 6066 aluminium which allows for thinner tube walls and therefore lighter frames]. This resulted in my 57cm frame weighing 1,205g (my own measurement), light and competitive with some similarly priced carbon fibre frames. Rose claim that the 2015 6066 version is very close to 1 kg for the frame; that is impressive! My opinion is that bikes made in the Far East should not be dismissed. It is true that you can get some crap, but it must also be kept in mind that the Far East, particularly Taiwan (courtesy of Giant bikes) has decades of experience is mass bike production. 

The fork is Rose’s own design and is shared with the CRS range. It is a very light, full carbon steerer, 330g fork.  As is standard these days (and f**ck you very much bicycle industry for forever changing  fork steerer widths etc and other component sizes ) 1.1/8 inch (28.6 mm) at the top and 1.1/2 inch (38.1 mm) at the bottom. Badmouthing the cycling industry aside, I actually like this head tube sizing. I ride 1 inch and 1 1/8 inch bicycles. I do feel that the thinner at the top and lower at the bottom head tube offers that little bit extra in stability. Of course this also assumes that everything is assembled solidly and competently. This is the case on the RS. 

The riding experience is much improved if the front end of the bicycle is solid and responsive. To explain this is less jargonistic terms, imagine moving at speed on a long descend with bends. The narrower diameter head tubes often add a sense that the handlebars and fork are too bouncy, not a good feeling when going fast. Additionally, the extra tube width helps to make steering more responsive. On the RS you definitely get the feel that as soon as you turn the handlebars there is a response. Whatever the scientifically measurable advantages the RS’ head tube adds to the ride, it surely adds a confidence boost associated to steering which is invaluable. 

The RS has very thin seat stays. This is nothing new in the bicycle industry and is widely used by a variety of manufactures, particularly on carbon fibre frames. See, for example, various Cervelo and BMC models. I find it optically pleasing. More importantly, it is a good way to add – that bastard of a word – compliance. Real bicycle science shows that some flexibility in the seat stays does not measurably affect the efficiency of the power transfer which makes your bike move forward. I am not sure how this works, and I won’t pretend too much that I do. 

However, make the rear end of the bicycle too stiff and the machine will bounce on the road. The more time spent bouncing, the less time the rubber on the tyres is in contact with the road surface propelling your forward. Long story short, and before I get lost in my own pseudo-scientific explanations about bicycles, the RS is a very comfortable ride. No doubt in my mind that the seat stays add to this experience. I can confidently compare the ride to good quality carbon fibre frames and equally confidently say that it is more comfortable than my old aluminium Bianchi.

Another important contributor to the RS’ comfort is the 27.2mm seat post. The bicycle industry has gone up and down with the diameter of this part of a bicycle. Different diameters have different merits or are necessary depending on the rest of the structure, and / or intended use of the bike. However, the easiest way to put some ‘compliance’ under your backside is to have a smaller diameter seat post. Wider diameters tend to be stiffer, in an area where too much stiffness is not helpful.

The Campgnolo Chorus 11 is an excellent groupset and certainly a well-matched companion to the RS frame. With the Chorus you get all the functionality of the more expensive Record / Super Record groupsets. The only tangible difference is the weight. There are about 220g difference between the Super Record and Chorus. The weight saving will cost you an extra EUR 1000. You decide if that is necessary. The great thing about the top three groupsets offered by Campgnolo are that you can shift-up three gears and shift-down three gears if you need it. I went for a 52/36 crankset, however, 53/39 and 50/36 were available. All my other bikes had 53/39. Pushing past the middle part of my 30s, and starting to possibly lose that extra spring in my legs, I thought that a 52/36 would be an appropriate ‘step-down’. 

Coupled with the 12-27 eleven speed cassette this provides me with ample options for all kinds of terrain. In an ideal world I would have a 53/36 or I would own a 53/39 and a 50/36 crankset and swap as needed. The latter is possible, but not a cost I want to bear at this time. The former has been tried, but achieving a 53/36 ratio is technically challenging. I prefer to go riding rather than spend (more) time on fiddling with my front derailleur.  (PS: Shimano’s and Campagnolo’s new four-arm cranksets now mean that you no longer have to swap the entire 53/39 for a compact crankset. The BCD of the four-arm cranksets allows one to swap standard, semi-compact and compact ratios on the same cranks simply by changing chainrings. Much cheaper, assuming you already have a four-arm crank).

However, let us not forget the all-important (if not most important) contribution the wheels have. As indicated in the bike spec listed earlier, I got my bicycle with an upgrade of Mavic Cosmic Carbone SLS WTS, compared to Campagnolo Zondas which come with the RS 5000 as standard. This pair of Mavics is a deep rim (52mm)/  aero rim. It is the lowest priced Mavic aero wheelset but still retails at around EUR 850 to UER 1,000. As the name suggests, these wheels have some carbon fibre on them, but are not entirely made of this; alloy plays the most vital structural role. I will not dwell on the Mavic SLS WTS in this review. I will say that they noticeable add speed, particularly on flat ground. The down side, is that they are stiff and also add a fair amount of bounce when the road surface is not very smooth. This has an effect mostly on the comfort of the ride. Unless these wheels are used on endless kilometres of very rough and badly maintained tarmac, the net speed gain will be much greater than the loss of speed caused by bouncing around. 

For the sake of comparison, I have also extensively ridden the RS with a pair of Campagnolo Neutron Ultra (usually retail between EUR 600 and EUR 700. I bought these in late 2013 and, ever confusingly, are the 2014 model. These wheels are the best I have ever had. They are shallow rim (23mm deep), lightweight (less than 1,500g without tyres and inner tubes) and bomb-proof. They have a carbon fibre hub while the rest of the construction is alloy. Most importantly, you can effortlessly get them to start rolling and similarly effortlessly get them to continue spinning. The Mavic SLS WTS will keep help me to move fast on the flatter parts. However, when you have proper mixed terrain (for those in the local area in Portugal, throw Montejunto in the mix) the Neutron Ultra will spin fast uphill as well as on the flat. Additionally, the Neutron Ultra strikes a good balance between stiff and comfortable. Descend as fast as you can or accelerate off the saddle without feeling the front wheel flexing excessively (the stiff part). When I added the Neutron Ultra’s to the RS the bicycle was able to eat-up and smoothen out those rougher roads, the ones which years of neglect have left full on holes, cracks and bumps. 

I should point out that the reason I did not go with the Campgnolo Zonda offered with the RS 5000 at no extra price was the fact I already own a pair which I use on the Bianchi. Again, this is not the place to review the Zonda’s but for the price of EUR 300 to EUR 350 for which they usually retail for, you could not ask for a better wheelset.

Other small bits and pieces that I like on the RS include:
-          A bridge between the chainstays, close to the bottom bracket: This is not a new trick but one which carbon fibre has rendered unnecessary. You tend to see such bridges on older steel bikes. In older bikes this added piece of metal also served as an anchoring point for mudguards. As mentioned earlier, the RS is designed for racing and is not designed to take mudguards. Those who don’t like having a wet arse will be disappointed.
-          Internal cable routing: From a maintenance point of view, external cabling is much easier to deal with. However, the ‘clean’ look of internal cabling is vastly cooler. I could also say more aerodynamic but that 0.5 seconds per 50km you save it probably will matter to whoever is reading this (disclaimer: these figures were not obtained in a wind tunnel!). Also, the internal cabling on the RS is designed to take both Shimano and Campagnolo electronic groupsets, should you like to swing that way.

-          Paint work: My one is an anodised matt black finish, with minimal decals which looks great. However, if you get any of the gloss finishes you will not be disappointed. In fact, you may find that it is hard for the casual observer to even notice you are ride an aluminium bike. Unlike the anodised black, the gloss finish hides the - already very tidy welds - very effectively.

-          For Weight Weenies: If you like spending money on getting less (weight), a light pair of wheels, and carbon stem / handlebars will easily take the weight of the whole bike to closer to 6kg. However, and this applies to most bikes the majority of us buy, the super-light wheels alone may cost close to or more than the bike itself.

So what are the bad parts of the RS and specifically the RS 5000? Some, but none too important in my opinion. I list them below:

-          The Monolink saddle system: This is the option I went for; you can get the normal two-rail saddle if you want. The Monolink is easy to adjust, easier than the traditional seat post / saddle system. It is also, allegedly, more aero. This is a dubious claim and not often repeated by wiser people. Too much happens to the air before it reaches the seat post / saddle joint to make a measurable difference to the aerodynamics. My gripe is that the Monolink system is more uncomfortable. I think that the traditional way a seat attaches to a seat post (i.e. using two rails) allows for more flex and hence a more comfortable ride. Also, as the market is now, should I break the seat post and or saddle, replacements will come at a significantly higher cost and difficulty to source. Not to mention that if you are the happy owner of many bikes, you cannot simply swap-in your favourite two-rail saddle. 

-          It is not carbon fibre: I know that this will be a sticking point for some. Get over it!

So how does it ride after almost 5,500km? Amazingly, thanks for asking.  I think describing ‘the feel’ of any bike is highly objective. However, I have never had a bad moment on the RS.  I’m a tall (1.89m / 72kg) rider and ‘relax’ when I feel that I’m riding aggressively. No problem for the RS. Fast descends, steep climbs, flat roads, bad roads, good roads, wet roads etc. all handled aptly. A good bike gives the rider a robust base and solid feeling; which allows one to push their limits. The RS does this more than capably. For example, if I am riding a steep uphill, out-of-the-saddle and full power, I know that as much power as I can hope for is being used to push the bike forward, and not twisting the rear end, resulting in the brake pads rubbing on  the wheels or even the wheels touching the seat stays. Going downhill also feels solid; no wobbles and, as indicated before, the steering is responsive and predictable. Going for flat road speed? My experience is that on a Sunday morning, before you know it, you will be overtaking a bunch of fellow cyclists who will be hanging on to your rear wheel. Assuming that you are physically up for it, the RS will ensure that none of them will be able to take a turn at the front. Of course that might be seen as a bad thing; who does not like drafting? But I take infinite pleasure in having unwanted rear-wheel guests - riding carbon fibre worth as much as small cars or big motorbikes – who are barely holding on and huffing/puffing for dear life.  (Note to all local riders: If you want to draft behind someone at least offer a friendly ‘ola’; it’s a Sunday ride in the Oeste, not the TdF. Leave you silent ‘game-on’ faces for another time! And please take a turn in the front!)

I’m sure that the RS would also perform well as a grandfondo / sportive bike. The comfort is there and you can adjust it to a less race-prone position fairly easily. However, I would say that there are more directly applicable choices in the market (some from Rose Versand even) for those wishing to enjoy less furious, long rides.

So, to repeat the theme, don’t forget about aluminium. The XEON RS wears it and wears its very well!

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