DIrect and purposeful, the Rose Xeon CW 4400 is a blast to ride, as long as high-speed blasting is all you want to do.
Rose bikes are a well-established German consumer-direct (internet) retailer. They have been around a while, with a wide range of frames, and the CW-4000 series is in the upper bracket of their performance road bike range, filed under aero road bikes.
Rose offer a high degree of user-customisation as part of a customer-specific build, and the model that was tested here used a SRAM Force groupset, Ritchey finishing kit for the bars, Mavic Cosmic Carbone wheelset and Selle Italia Monolink saddle and frame-specific seat-pin.
The frames have a very pleasing matt finish, with the rear half in black and the front in a contrasting colour. In the case of the frame tested here it was green – described as Flash Green by Rose – and a bold shade that could easily grace a fashionable interior décor. The alternatives are white, red and an all-over 'stealth' black. The bike benefits from internal cable routing that keeps the carbon free from clutter and cable rub.
Shaped tubing and oversized bottom-brackets have been doing the rounds for a few years, but this is an unusual road frame to have such an oversized head-tube. In fact, it looks a lot more like an aerofoil than a headtube. As a consequence of the colour scheme this large surface area was an eye-catching vivid green, matched by the forks. It certainly looks aerodynamic, although I have no measure of whether it makes any noticeable difference to airflow.
This expansive aerofoil is only let down a little by the matt finish on the light colour tending to pick up dirty finger print smudges a little easily. If you like the colour and the shape, though, then I am sure a little extra cleaning to keep it looking at its best won't be grudged.
The frame felt a little high at the front for what is billed as a performance road bike. Even with the stem slammed it was still over half an inch or so higher than my regular frame, but the benefit of this was in how stable the bike felt when under load and cornering.
The bottom bracket area is another area of the bike treated to an expanse of carbon, although a little more discretely as a result of the matt-black finish. The extra stiffness in the frame as a result of these 'oversized' areas is most obvious in the bike's responding to putting some extra effort; from a standing start bike gives a satisfying kick in reaction to stamping on the pedals, the frame stiffness clearly going a long way in aiding power transfer.
Quite often at junctions, roundabouts or corners I found myself caught a little between two equally appealing options: the sense that the bike would happily carry any speed I wanted into it, or the opportunity to get out of the saddle after slowing and feel the satisfying kick of acceleration. It really does go like the proverbial stink off a carbon-fibre shovel.
The frame's stiffness doesn't seem to result in a savage bone-shaker ride, either. It's not velvet smooth, but neither would I have expected it to be. It is well planted – there was little twitchiness when getting out of the saddle or carrying speed into corners. There is a sense that the frame will handle anything you choose to chuck at it and encourage more, if you have it.
In some ways the bike handles much like the styling; a touch brash but effective at what it intends to do. It's not a subtle, smooth, experience, it's a very stiff frame designed to deliver as much of your power as possible into turning the wheels.
When a lot of manufacturers are releasing discrete black 'stealth' bikes, it is a refreshing to ride something with a definite character – little bit cheeky, a lot of smiles and acceleration like you'd been given a shove in the back. I think I had a Vauxhall Nova like this as a lad.
One part of the build I wasn't totally sold on was the saddle. Rose have chosen to use the extremely light Selle Italia Monolink system, which offers weight savings and a narrower saddle nose for those that like that sort of thing. I found it really fiddly to set up and make adjustments to, and while the saddle wasn't insanely uncomfortable I can't say I was full of the joys of spring after 100 miles on it. You can get a different mounting kit to stik your favourite standard-rail saddle on, if you like.
The frustrating thing is that being a Monolink system you can't pick your tried and tested, arse-already-worn-to-the-right-shape saddle, unless it happens to be a Selle Italia. And because the seat pin is a specific teardrop tubing you can't easily alter that, either.
Selle Italia is a huge manufacturer, though, and so many riders will be fine with their products. Unless you aren't, in which case you may have just closed your wallet.
The reality is that the Rose CW-4400 is billed a high performance frame and has a price tag that puts it among some very challenging, even illustrious, company. For the money there is a lot of bike, and one specced closely to your requirements, but the risk is in not having the chance to ride and be fitted before spending the money. Personally, I think £3,000+ is a lot of money to be comfortable spending in that way, given that is a specific sort of bike, and that there is plenty of competition in manufacturers and retailers where you can.
Don't get me wrong, this is a great frame (and bike, in the case of the model I rode), it was planted, accelerated wickedly and personally I like the styling, but for the money I think I'd struggle to make it my first choice in the dream bike shopping list. It is very much a bike with a specific job – hard, fast riding – and I'm not sure I'd ride it to its potential often enough.
A very good bike with bold styling. It is fun to ride, but it is very much focussed on hard riding – accelerating and constantly pushing. Not a Sunday ride or sportive pottering machine, but something to smash the road up with. And there lies part of its weakness - that's all it does. It does do it very well though, and sometimes you need a specific tool rather than a Swiss Army Knife.
Want to smash up the road? This is a bike for hard, fast, maximum-flog efforts that rewards every watt you stomp into it.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rose Xeon CW 4400
Size tested: M
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Enigmatically, Rose's website offers little by way of spiel for the bike. It is well positioned under the Race department, but the actual bike is described only by its specification. The online catalogue offers a little more:
Aero Road Bikes – racers developed in the wind tunnel.
Aero bikes are the experts among road bikes, designed for the special type of rider. These bikes are developed for riders who break away, who leave the rest of the field and mount an attack. For the most aggressive rider, for the red shirt number. A rider who does not ride in a slipstream needs an aerodynamic and brutally stiff bike. The XEON CW is such a bike: a high performance racer with very good stiffness values and an aerodynamically shaped frame. It is built for high speeds, fast downhill rides and uncompromising sprints.
Besides, the bike is designed for those riders who would like to improve their average speed and gain a few seconds on their after-work tour. With the XEON CW your best time will soon belong to the past.
XEON CW – king of the breakaways
You look back discretely. The person behind looks away, he is inattentive. NOW! You pedal hard, you put your maximum power onto the pedals. Your bike shifts from side to side, an elemental force pushes you forward. A long, soothing second goes by until the others react, too late to ride in your slipstream! You are alone in the wind, now it is really fun! Effortlessly, your bike turns every pedal revolution, be it ever so hard, into speed, the extremely torsion-resistant carbon frame takes it in its stride. The aerodynamic frame shape gives you the decisive advantage – you can save up to 18 watts. For this, your pursuers have to do a lot of training sessions. Your breath gets deeper, you start to pedal more regularly, because you know. This time they won't get you.
XEON CW – for the breakaway in you!
It certainly delivers in stiffness, and would suit a rider wanting something aggressive, fun and uncompromising. I wonder where the 18watts are saved (aerodynamics or frame stiffness), and under what conditions.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The aerodynamic framing is focussed on teardrop shaped tubing (no Kammtails for Rose), and oversized headtube and bottom brackets. Monolink saddle system.
The bike showed no issues in terms of construction. The frame looks neat and well made, with a colour scheme and patterning that isn't common.
It goes like stink when you prod it. Despite the relatively slender seat stays there were no issues with flex around the rear wheels when riding hard out of the saddle. The frame stiffness is impressive. It sets out to be a flat out speed machine and succeeds, but offers little else!
The frame appears to be well assembled, and the only noticeable issue was easy marking of the light-coloured matt surface finish.
The medium frame (56) on test is advertised as 6.8kg without pedals. It doesn't feel super-light when you pick it up, but the proof is in the riding and the extra carbon does the intended job.
For a very stiff frame the bike was pretty smooth on the roads, and didn't leave me feeling like I'd been beaten around the shoulders. It's not a comfort machine, though, and every bit of broken tarmac topping and cracks in the road can be felt.
At approx £3,200 this is a bike with some competition. At that price point I'm not sure how value is measured! My instinct was that for the money this a pretty good deal, particularly given that the precise build can be altered as required.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The bike seems to be about frame stiffness, acceleration and striking looks. It does all three of these with success. There was no shortage of zip from the model tested, and I was in no danger of being caught with the same bike as another rider with the green colour way.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The decisive kick of speed when you get out of the saddle and stamp on the pedals. I liked the colour and the matt finish, but that is probably a personal thing - plenty of others might hate it!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The fiddlyness of the seat-post/saddle fitting. Being a mono-link fitting you are restricted to Selle Italia saddles, and the aero seat post shaping means fitting a different post could be difficult. It's also not on the options list when you buy. Complaining about a super-light and narrow seat and pin might seem odd, but for the money I'd hope for a bit more flexibility and for some people it could be a deal-breaker.
Note – the 2014 brochure appears to now offer an alterative seat pin with 'traditional' saddle rails, and an up-to 50mm forward position ('ideal for triathletes'). The photo they have used makes it look a little peculiar (like it was broken and glued together by me, in the dark).
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? I'd love to say yes, but I'll hold on to my non-existent three grand for a little longer.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they had the budget, loved the styling and were happy to buy online then I'd gladly send them to Rose.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 182cm Weight: 69kg
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport 2008 My best bike is: Moda Tempo 2010
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, Triathlon