Like beer and sausages, Red Bull bikes (no relation) are big in their German homeland. And while we don’t really like to talk about German efficiency – it’s such a cliché, after all – we’re going to anyway, because that’s what the Pro SL is all about. You’ve only got to take a quick look over the frame to realize that…
The 7005/T6 alloy tubes are oversized throughout. The down tube is absolutely enormous. Think of the pole on a Belisha beacon and you're in the right area. It’s round in profile with a 58mm diameter up by the head tube junction, squashing flatter along its length until it’s over 60mm wide, reaching across nearly the full width of the bottom bracket shell.
The almost-horizontal top tube isn’t quite as huge but it’s still big enough to look after itself if things turn nasty, while the back end comes with tough, square-edged seatstays and deep chainstays, both of which are ramrod-straight.
The bottom bracket is an oversized BB30 option so it presses straight into the frame – it’s a design more and more manufacturers are incorporating right now to add some extra stiffness and drop the weight by a few grams – while the head tube houses a whopping 1 1/2in lower headset bearing to work alongside the standard 1 1/8in bearing up top, again increasing the rigidity.
Red Bull smooth all the welds which makes for a really clean looking finish – you could easily mistake the Pro SL for carbon if you weren’t paying attention – and more neatness is added by the internal cable routing. The entry and exit points for the rear brake cable are on the left hand side of the top tube while the gear cables tunnel inside through the head tube and emerge blinking just in front of the bottom bracket.
The frame is triple butted – the tubes have different wall thicknesses at either end, and are different again in the middle to lower the weight while keeping the strength high in the areas where it’s needed – so despite the stout look, the Red Bull is actually a lightweight piece of kit. Our 59cm model, big enough for 6ft-plus riders, hit the road.cc scales at 8.2kg/18.0lb without pedals.
The spec is based around Shimano’s second-tier Ultegra groupset with Easton EA70 wheels… But more on all that as we go along – we want to crack on with the ride.
Ride – fast and efficient
In these days when carbon rules the road bike roost, it’s easy to think of alloy bikes as second best. That’s true in a way – aluminium can’t compete with high-quality carbon in terms of stiffness to weight – but the Red Bull proves that you can still get a very good mid-range alloy bike.
We liked the Red Bull as soon as we climbed aboard. Okay, it fitted us well, and that’s always a good start, if totally irrelevant to you. (Oh, while we’re talking about fit, this bike comes in eight sizes ranging from 51cm to 66cm; yes, 66cm – that’s what we thought). Anyway, ours fitted well – aside from the 42cm width bars being too narrow for a 59cm bike – but we also fell for the Red Bull’s rigidity.
Now, there are times when it’s good to sit and spin. Lots of times, in fact. But it doesn’t matter what type of rider you are, there are other times when it’s good to get out of the saddle and give the pedals a right good thrashing – like when you’re trying to drop someone with a quick surge, or you want to power to the top of a short climb without losing your momentum – and those are the times when the Red Bull is at its best.
There’s nothing more off-putting or energy-sapping when you’re laying down the power than the bottom bracket going walkabout, flexing from side to side as you try to stay on top of the gear. Even with a fairly large rider (for a cyclist, like: 77kg) on board, the Red Bull stays solid. You get a firm platform at the front end too, 3T’s alloy cockpit components adding extra beef to the full-carbon fork, so there’s very little unwanted movement there.
Combined with the surprisingly light weight, this results in impressively quick responses when you decide it’s time to accelerate or get shirty on a climb. It also makes the Red Bull an assured, planted descender. We had a little bit of flex in the Easton wheels when we leant it over hard, but not enough to bother us much – its one of those bikes you can trust to get you through a fast downhill turn without getting the jitters halfway around.
What else would you like to know about? The Ultegra groupset is as dependable as ever – we’re fans. It works. It’s pretty light. The levers are comfortable to rest on. That’s all good with us. Race Face’s Revolution seatpost is a bit of a curious design, coming with a saddle-tilt mechanism that involves a bunch of pivots. We’ve never had a problem with setting the saddle angle so it seems like a sledgehammer to crack a nut to us, but we guess it does the job. Aside from that, the multi-density Prologo saddle is a comfy option – we did a 100-mile ride on it and didn’t come home tender and squealing – and that’s about yer lot.
We’re not saying this bike is for everyone. The front end is quite low (18cm head tube on our 59cm model) so your position is racy and aggressive – great for speed but not the best choice if you’re after a more relaxed ride. And we know that a lot of people spending this kind of money are not going to be tempted by anything but carbon. But we think this bike is certainly worthy of serious consideration, particularly for larger, more powerful riders who will benefit most from its flex-free nature.
Speed-orientated alloy road bike that majors in stiffness; the light weight adds to the fleet-footed responsiveness
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Red Bull Pro SL 3000
Size tested: 61cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Triple-butted 7005 Ultralite aluminium, T6 heat treated, smoothed welds
Fork: SL Modulus Concept full carbon
Headset: Xtreme oversize, integrated
Wheels: Easton EA70
Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 4000 S, 700 x 23 c
Sprocket: Shimano Ultegra 6700, 12-25
Crankset: Shimano Ultegra 53/39
Derailleurs: Shimano Ultegra 6700
Levers: Shimano Ultegra 6700 STI
Brakes: Shimano Ultegra 6700
Seat post: Race Face Revolution
Saddle: Prologo Nago Evo T 2.0
Handlebar: 3T Ergonova Pro
Stem: 3T ARX Pro
Bottom bracket: BB90, press fit
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
Red Bull says: "Red Bull's flagship aluminium racer has been for many year the PRO-SL. Several German championship titles and a lot more victories have already been won on it. PRO-SL bikes have also become test winners in multiple international tests. We are especially proud about the fact that it has been chosen as Bike of the Year by the Dutch cycling nation.
"Besides their excellent riding features, the PRO-SL bikes convince by an outstanding, light and stiff aluminium frame."
In short, it's a performance-orientated road bike designed for fast riding/racing.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The build quality is good throughout, with neatly smoothed welds and neat internal cable routing.
The finish quality is good and the graphics are well protected by lacquer.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
The frame is 7005/T6 triple-butted aluminium alloy although the smooth welds make it look as if it's carbon at first glance.
The fork is full carbon - there's no alloy steerer hidden away inside the head tube.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
We had the 59cm model which comes with an 18cm head tube - which is fairly short for a bike of this size. It's not extreme, but the front end is certainly towards the low and aggressive end of the spectrum compared to something like a Specialized Roubaix, which is 4.5cm longer for a similarly sized model.
The head angle and seat angle, as usual, vary slightly between the sizes: the 73.5°/73° arrangement on out 59cm model is nothing out of the ordinary.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
Yes. The racy geometry won't be to everyone's taste but the stiffness doesn't result in a harsh ride. We felt comfortable enough even on a couple of 5-hour rides.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Yes, the frame is very stiff. You notice it most when you get out of the saddle for short power-climbs when you get a really solid platform to work from. We like that a lot. Bigger, more powerful riders will notice this most – and benefit from it most.
The front end feels really solid too. Again, you notice it most when you get up out of the saddle and start getting bolshy. We had quite a long 3T stem (120mm), but it doesn't flex noticeably and the bars are pretty much flex-free too – there's just a little bit of movement when you're down on the drops.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, see above. We had a very small amount of flex in the Easton wheels that we noticed a couple of times on steep climbs, but this bike is big on efficiency.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Not on our 59cm model.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Downhill cornering is a strength - it feels stable and accurate.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
Most people spend a lot of time with their hands resting on the lever hoods – we really like the feel of Shimano's comparatively new shape there. You get a flat perch for your palms and a good, big handful to hold on to securely.
Our 59cm bike came with a 42cm-wide handlebar. Why? We couldn't tell you. You've got to have a 44cm option on a big boys' bike.
Saddles generally come down to personal taste but the Prologo Nago Evo saddle will prove popular with many. You get three different densities of padding and just enough give through the nose and centre sections of the carbon fibre-injected hull to shield you from rough and bumpy road surfaces.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The oversized (BB30) press-fit bottom bracket – in combination with the frame, obviously – helps to keep things firm even when you stamp hard on the pedals.
The aluminium cockpit components are stiff too, so things feels rock-solid when you stand up and throw the bike about.
Lack of front end flex means you can ping it around fast corners without worry.
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
It's Shimano Ultegra - it's reasonably light, it works well. Set up right it'll work reliably for ages with minimal maintenance. No probs.
Wheels and tyres
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
Easton handbuild all their wheels and these came with good, even spoke tension, and they were perfectly round and true.
They've stayed that way without any issues so far, but we can't comment on long-term durability yet.
The EA70s come with 28mm deep rims but they're still pretty light. These are really all-round road wheels for use day-in and day-out, but they're light enough for sportives/racing.
We did get a small amount of brake rub a couple of times when climbing out of the saddle - but only because the brake callipers were off-centre. Once re-centred, they were fine.
Conti's Grand Prix 4000S tyre is a good all-rounder too. It offers a sensible compromise between grip and durability and provides decent puncture resistance too.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
Horses for courses, we guess, but we find Shimano's hoods the most comfortable. We find the lever simple to use from either the hoods or the drops too.
You do get lever adjustment on Ultegra these days, to shorten the reach from the bars for smaller hands. It's essentially a little rubber wedge that goes between the top of the lever and the body of the shifter, so it doesn't pivot out so far. It's not the most technical bit of kit ever, but it does the job.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Very much
Would you consider buying the bike? Probably not, but that's because I already have this ground covered
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? I'd tell them to consider it and not make the mistake of thinking all carbon is good, and all alloy is second best
About the tester
Age: 36 Height: 184cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.