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The Rose X-Lite 6 Disc Ultegra Di2 is a quick, sharp-handling disc-brake bike that can thrill and excite as well as the best of them. And with Rose's custom direct-to-consumer business model, it's also excellent value.
When Rose Bikes updated its branding last year, it needed a bike on which to show it off. That bike was the newly updated flagship race machine, the X-Lite, but let's from the outset dispel any ideas that this is just the old X-Lite in drag. As Dave explained in February, it received a complete overhaul that saw it come in rim and disc brake format, and I was excited to get on board one and see what's changed.
It just so happens that I'm familiar with this bike's rim brake predecessor, the X-Lite Team, so am well placed to compare the two, but what about current competitors? Can the X-Lite 6 Disc hold its own against big players such as Canyon's Ultimate CF SLX Disc and BMC's Teammachine 01 Disc?
Let's find out.
Where the Rose has both of those bikes beaten is in the frame weight, coming in at a claimed 790g – the Teammachine Disc is a claimed 815g, the Ultimate 5g more still. The Rose's disc-specific fork adds a further 365g to the mix, resulting in a total frameset bulk of 1,155g.
In the build on test, including deep-section DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels, it tips the road.cc Scales of Truth at 7.08kg. I don't care who you are or what you ride, that's cutting-edge impressive for a disc brake bike with aero hoops.
That weight is achieved in a frame that boasts Rose's top-spec blend of T40/60 carbon fibre, with the aim of achieving a 'golden blend' of lightness, stiffness, aero performance and comfort. A quick study of the geometry chart reveals a reach of 394mm and a 170mm head tube within the boundaries of a compact 992mm wheelbase in a 57cm frame size.
While Rose uses size-specific carbon layups to produce the optimal response across every frame size, the chainstays stick to 410mm in length to preserve rear end responsiveness.
The fork has a maximum tyre clearance of 30mm, and swoops outwards in the style of many current aero bikes. Flat mount callipers and 12mm thru-axles? Check. There's also a Kevlar insert inside the shaft that Rose say helps to damp out road buzz.
On the aero front, Rose has done its research and wind tunnel testing to incorporate kamm tail sections on the rearsides of the fork blades and down tube – to the beneficial tune of 11 watts versus its predecessor, the X-Lite Team – while the compacted rear triangle, smooth frontal areas and small features like an integrated seatpost clamp all help to boost efficiency. In fact, Rose says the new X-Lite is practically the same in terms of aero drag as its CWR aero bikes.
That integrated seatpost clamp sits inside the top tube/seat tube junction, which is naturally low thanks to the downsweep of the top tube. This exposes more of the seatpost, which can then flex more to improve comfort. Narrow seatstays help here too.
The bottom bracket is oversized and low slung with a 69mm drop, and the blend between the bottom section of the squared down tube and chainstays is visibly smooth. It provides plenty of stiffness (around 60N/mm, in case you wanted a figure), something that's also a priority in the head tube (around 100N/mm-rated) to balance the ride as well as optimise directness.
One area that did raise question marks during testing is in the quality of the frame finish. The carbon is neat and tidy, and the new branding is stylish yet understated, but the paint used is very thin. Naturally, this is to aid weight loss – successfully so – but in doing so makes the finish fragile, and that's on top of thinly laid carbon in the top tube that can be visibly deformed by a strong press of the thumb.
One unfortunate incident at a coffee stop where the bike took a tumble onto a heavy metal bike stand resulted in a serious scuff on the top tube, almost exposing the top layer of carbon. That's not ideal, and I'd sooner see Rose add a few grams of paint (or even carbon fibre) for a little more resilience. After all, accidents do happen in the real world and while you can't legislate for all eventualities, logically we all want a bike that can handle the odd knock.
The bottom line is that with the X-Lite, Rose has attempted to do what many other brands are attempting to – namely, create an all-round race bike that can handle everything from mountains to flat roads and everything in between, while incorporating disc brakes and enough comfort to appeal to more than just a lithe racer.
The proof, however, is in the riding.
The first thing to note about the X-Lite 6 Disc is the immediate sense of sharpness right from the first pedal stroke. Instantly, you know that you're riding a precision tool.
Steering is super-quick and direct, with only the lightest touch or lean required to influence the direction of travel. In fact, it takes a little getting used to if you're not accustomed to such quick responses, and for reference makes my own Canyon Ultimate CF SL seem tame by comparison, especially when hammering up climbs out of the saddle.
Certainly, it's lost none of the razor-sharp handling I remember from the old X-Lite, yet there's definitely an added layer of composure at its core. Settle down on a climb and spin away, and the directness transforms into a stable platform, free of any flex or distracting front end runaway, allowing you to really focus on the business of pumping the legs.
It's an incredibly involving ride on descents too. Leaving aside the proven excellence of disc brakes for a moment (the usual superlatives around power, modulation and all-weather performance apply), the frame responds instantly as you lean, carving a very direct line as you aim for your chosen apex.
There's no doubt that the stiff front end is on the sharp side of 'poised', which means you need to blend confident riding with delicacy to make the most of its racy potential. Bluntly executed inputs at the handlebar result in nervous behaviour from the front end; this isn't an easy bike to ride 'switched off', you need to pay attention.
I'll come on to the finishing kit in detail later, but what the X-Lite 6 Disc does do is highlight the importance of wheel choice and striking a balance. The delicate handling might be great when climbing and descending in still conditions, but when the wind picks up – even to moderate or breezy levels – the deep-section DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels often cause it to become twitchy and nervous, buffeting in the wind and often affecting the direction of travel.
Like I said, you need to have your wits about you. More on that and how you could counter it later, though.
At its core, the stiffness from the bottom bracket and chainstays transfers power very efficiently, allowing for entertaining accelerations when you want, or spinning away efficiently when you don't.
Obviously, the wheels are intrinsic to overall aero performance and it's difficult to identify an 11-watt saving in the frameset alone, but there's no sense that the frame is being overly artificially enhanced by the wheels in an aero sense – just maximised.
Comfort is markedly improved over the previous X-Lite, bringing it closer to its excellent BMC Teammachine and Canyon Ultimate rivals. Still, I find it a touch rigid to really compete with those two standard-setting all-rounders. Anything more than a few pimples in the road feeding into the contact points results in a ride quality that could be described as 'shaky'. The façade of composure in good riding conditions just slips slightly, as it does when the wind gets up, with the front of the bike once again more at fault than the rear.
Certainly, the dropped seatpost junction, integrated clamp and carbon seatpost are doing their best to round off the bike with comfort that'll make it an easier ride for long days in the saddle. However, they can't fully mask the rigid side effect of such a stiff and fundamentally aggressive ride.
That said, I'd hate for that to be the lasting impression that sticks in the mind, especially as the twitchiness in crosswinds (and, to an extent, the overall ride quality) could certainly be improved with a more suitable choice of wheel. The X-Lite 6 Disc is an incredibly quick and entertaining bike to ride, with bags of speed packed away within its understated frame.
Let's address the rolling stock, then. The X-Lite 6 Disc in this build features premium DT Swiss ARC 1100 DiCut rims, revolving on the Swiss brand's highly rated 240S hubs. They're excellent aero wheels, but here produce a slightly unbalanced ride – something you don't need to settle for, given that you can customise the wheelset choice when ordering.
I'd be tempted to swap them for DT Swiss's PRC 1400 Spline 35 wheels. A shallower rim will negate some of the wind-affected twitchiness, while the slightly wider internal rim diameter (18mm vs 17mm) would allow your tyres to blow wider. This would also help with overall comfort, as you could run lower pressures. And you save yourself £265 in the process.
That aside, there's nothing wrong with the Continental GP4000 S II tyres the ARCs are fitted with if you're set on clinchers, though the ARCs are ready for the switch to tubeless should you want to give it a go.
Shimano's latest full Ultegra Disc Di2 groupset is excellent, and here includes the silver-finned rotors (160mm front and rear). Its performance is almost faultless, although I found brake squealing quite a common occurrence in the damp.
Naturally, choices are available for standard, semi-compact or compact chainsets and a range of cassettes, from 11-25t to 11-32t, so you can get your gearing just right. On our test bike, the semi-compact 52/36 chainset married to the 11-28t cassette will be perfectly adequate for most strong(ish) riders.
The rest of the build here relies upon Ritchey components to finish the bike. A Superlogic carbon seatpost provides a decent-if-not-outstanding degree of flex and layback on which the Selle Italia SLR saddle sits, while the WCS alloy stem is attached to a Superlogic Carbon Evo Curve handlebar.
This swoops slightly along the tops, with easy-to-access drops for when you're in a tuck position. Handily, you can specify your chosen dimensions between 40, 42 and 44cm widths too.
What is remarkable is the price – the bike in its tested build will set you back £4,417.79, plus £32 delivery. Yes that's a lot of money, but compare that to its BMC or Canyon rivals and those either fail to match the incredibly high-spec build of the X-Lite 6 Disc for the price, or simply cost significantly more if they do.
The Rose X-Lite 6 Disc is a pin-sharp race bike with an impressive blend of stiffness and lightness, incorporating disc brakes with barely any weight penalty.
In this build, the ride can be twitchy and a little lacking in terms of comfort, while the finish of the frame itself is rather fragile – but for a high-performance road bike at this price, you'll be hard pressed to beat it for value.
Incredibly quick, sharp-handling bike that will appeal to a great many keen riders
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rose X-Lite Six Disc Ultegra Di2
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame - T40/60 UHM/HT carbon
Fork - High Performance Disc Carbon
Wheels - DT Swiss ARC 1100 Dicut 48 DB
Tyres - Continental GP4000 S II 25c
Groupset - Shimano Ultegra R8070 Di2
Seat post - Ritchey Superlogic Link 15 Flexlogic Carbon
Saddle - Selle Italia SLR Lite Flow
Handlebar - Ritchey WCS Superlogic Carbon Evo Curve
Handlebar tape - Fizik Microtex
Stem - Ritchey WCS C220
Spacers- Aluminium spacer 20 mm (2x10mm)
Tell us what the bike is for
- Road racing
- Fast sportive riding
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
The carbon is excellent in terms of giving the desired ride performance. However, in one unfortunate incident at a coffee stop where the bike took a tumble, paint easily scuffed off the top tube.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
A blend of high modulus T40/60 carbon fibre leads to an enviable high stiffness to low weight ratio.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
Certainly race-aggressive, but accommodating enough to suit quick non-racers too.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
If you compare it against Canyon's highly-rated Sport Pro geometry, the height and reach of the bike feels very similar.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
In truth, this is not the X-LITE's strong suit. It's by no means bone-shaking, but there are more compliant rides out there in bikes of a similar ilk, such as BMC's Teammachine and Canyon's Ultimate.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The bike is plenty stiff enough for a rider stronger than me.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
The bottom bracket and head tube rigidity means you feel directly connected with the road.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so
None that affected my normal road riding.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively Yes, very much so. It's one of the sharpest-handling bikes I've ever ridden.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
In terms of quickness of turning, its excellent. For some it might be a little on the sharp side. You need to concentrate to ride this bike with full confidence; you can't switch off, especially with these wheels attached to it.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I rate the handlebar highly in this area (the slight curve is ergonomically sweet), and the seatpost is adequate.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Ritchey finishing kit is well up to the task here.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels are a little too slab-sided for this bike in my view. Downsizing to DT's PRC 1400s would give a more stable ride in crosswinds and a better all-round experience.
Other than to say it's rock solid, the occasional liveliness of the front end can distract slightly, causing you to 'throttle back' slightly.
Despite the deep wheels, it's very impressive. I'd personally spec it with shallower rims, though.
As long as you have the front end under perfect control – and it is something you acclimatise to – it has a very quick turn of speed.
Very good in more still conditions, but gusty winds can significantly unsettle it. As an 80kg rider, that surprised me.
It's the same story at cruising speed as at high speed.
A slight improvement here, but the very lively steering meant I needed to stay concentrated. I never really had the confidence to do a full 180 degree single-handed 'look around'.
Assuming good riding conditions, the bike is very fast to respond to small inputs.
Responds well to leaning and carving an arc, although if a gust of wind catches you it can sap your confidence very quickly.
Climbing is very much the X-LITE's forté, even with the deep wheels.
The latest full Ultegra Disc Di2 groupset is almost faultless, although I found brake squealing quite a common occurrence in the damp.
No real reason to mark it down here, other than the usual wear and tear.
Short of Dura-Ace, naturally, but Ultegra is still no heavyweight.
In terms of a performance-cost ratio, it's one of the best out there.
Wheels and tyres
DT Swiss ARC 1100 wheels are fantastic aero beasts, no question, with the excellent 240S hubs in the mix too.
Can't see any problems here without a brake track to wear down and typically high DT Swiss build quality.
Given their depth, they feel light and nimble, and that's the most important thing.
Impressive too, given the depth.
These are premium hoops and you pay for them, no question. PRC 1400s would be a better deal in my view, saving £285.
Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so
As long as the weather is still(ish), you're good. But I think shallower rims would better suit the very sharp handling of the X-LITE 6 frame.
Continental GP4000 S IIs remain right near the top fo the tree for clincher tyre performance.
No nicks or cuts to note; 8/10 is arrived at via long-term experience with this rubber.
Not the cheapest, but tyre performance is fundamental to ride feel so worth the investment.
Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so
No changes necessary, unless you wanted an even sturdier four-season set of some kind.
Shimano's Ultegra Di2 hydraulic levers are excellent.
No complaints here.
Product weight is excellent, and the controls actuate lightly.
Ergonomically very sound.
Ditto for the drivetrain.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The Ultegra levers offer plenty of reach adjustment and the throw is light and easy. In this build, the Ritchey carbon bar offers ergonomically sound contact points in both the drops and the tops, and the carbon spec will appeal to those after any perceived comfort-enhancing benefits.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
This Rose X-LITE 6 build is premium all-round.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes, very much.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes, but I'd probably opt for a race-type bike with a slightly 'softer' edge – something easier to handle in tough conditions. Yet, it's hard to turn down this kind of value.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes, definitely.
Use this box to explain your overall score
In terms of both performance and componentry you're getting superb value for money here. Of course it's not cheap, and you need to be smart when speccing it – mid-section rims rather than the deep-section hoops here would benefit the overall experience greatly in my opinion – but there's plenty of race-sharp performance and speed to keep almost any rider satiated, even if it's lacking a smidge in the comfort department to be a true long-distance sportive bike.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,