While bearing a familar name from the Rose lineup, this 2020 Backroad GRX RX810 gets a brand-new carbon frame design which makes it even more fun to ride fast on the road, on gravel tracks, and everywhere in between. The spec is impressive and it's an adept commuter, though the tyres are summer only and the stiff frame is more about performance than comfort.
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Gravel bikes aren't all equal. Some are designed to be very stable when loaded up for adventures and bike-packing, while others are built quicker with performance as their main goal – the Backroad is definitely in the latter camp, and I like that!
Dave Arthur tested the older Rose Backroad for our sister site in 2019, and while he liked it, he had reservations with the height of the bottom bracket. It gave plenty of ground clearance, but meant the Rose didn't feel quite planted at speed.
For 2020 Rose has made plenty of tweaks, and most noticeable of all is the BB – it's 16mm lower.
Get the Backroad out onto the wide, fast and flowing gravel tracks and it absolutely flies.
Stretched out in the drops at speed the Rose feels stable and well planted, giving you plenty of confidence to really push on through the bends even when the tyres are scrabbling.
It's fun, a lot of fun, and the stiff frame gives a lot of very useable feedback which helps you pick your line – you know how the terrain is going to affect that line.
At speed the handling feels quick enough for last minute steering tweaks should the need arise, but it avoids twitchiness or vagueness. You can feel everything that's going on, which means you can change line or direction without waiting to feel if you've over or under compensated.
It's instant, and while pushing the limits I got into trouble a fair few times. Happily, the Rose got me out of it just as quickly. It's a good partner for technical, woodland trails. The flared handlebar gives plenty of stability and control both on the tops and on the drops.
This medium size weighs 8.44kg (18.6lb), which gives a nimbleness that allows bunny-hops over potholes or large rocks with relative ease. It also benefits climbing too, especially with the wide spread of gear ratios provided by the GRX 1x system.
The Backroad is stiff. It really isn't the most supple gravel bike out there, but then, neither is it harsh. It simply has a ride quality aimed more at performance than out-and-out comfort. Also, Rose has made fresh efforts to keep the contact points friendly.
Whereas the earlier model used a standard round seatpost, this new version is D-shaped, as also found on the Giant Revolt Advanced 2.
The idea is the flat rear face allows some flex to damp out vibration. What has a bigger effect, though, is that rubber section at the base of the seatpost – remove it and you see that the seatpost is fully exposed all the way down to the seatstays, allowing plenty of controlled movement.
To achieve this, the Backroad's post is clamped via a bolt on the non-driveside seatstay. Meanwhile at the front, Xtreme Gel Comfort bar tape also does a good job of taming the vibration.
Real-world gravel routes generally include road sections, and the Backroad is quite a joy to ride on tarmac. It's a little more relaxed and calmer on smooth sealed surfaces, but the geometry and riding position allow you to crack on at a decent pace.
Schwalbe's lightly-treaded G-One tyres work well too as they roll easily, thanks mostly to their overall suppleness.
Fit the optional aluminium seatstay bracket (£9.07) and the Rose will take mudguards and a rear rack. That would transform it into a competent all-weather commuter, though if you're mostly on road then some wide slicks would bring more speed.
Frame and fork
The frame is full carbon fibre at a claimed weight around 1,020g. That's pretty good for a frame built to withstand offroad punishment. The carbon fork is 425g.
It's a very angular looking frameset with barely a curve on it, but I like the way it looks kind of aggressive when it isn't even moving. Rose has kept the whole thing very clean and smooth by running all cables and hoses internally from the moment they leave the handlebar.
They're directed down through spacers into the cavernous head tube, which allows them to run either side of the fork steerer before heading off backwards.
It's a neat solution, and if you want to remove spacers from underneath the stem, the spacers as split so all the hoses and cables can remain where they are.
Other smart additions are the downtube protector and the twin shields on the drive side chainstay: one above, one below. There's a metal plate to protect the frame chainsuck damage, too.
There are fixing points all over the frame: you get two cage mounts, a bento box on the top tube, and the fork legs are adorned with three threaded bolt holes either side.
Tyre clearance has been increased to 45mm with 700c wheels, and you can go up to 50mm with 650b. Rose has achieved this by dropping the drive side chainstay to give more clearance for the chainring, and by using a pressfit bottom bracket.
Pressfit places the bearing cups inside the frame, rather than screwing them on outboard, which allows a wider BB shell for the same width of crank. This means the seat and down tubes can be wider at their bases too, adding stiffness while allowing more room for tyres.
As you'd expect from a modern frameset, those wheels spin on 12mm thru-axles and the disc calipers are flat mounted.
With this being a 1x build, there's no front mech – just a blanking plate over the mounting holes. This looking tidy, but also gives you the option of a 2x system swap.
Rose offers the Backroad in six sizes from 50cm to 62cm, which are all available in this rather snazzy purple or 'Evil Pepper Green'. It looks and feels a very good quality frame and fork, with loads of neat little details.
The Backroad comes in a range of builds divided between 2x and 1x chainset options. We've got the Shimano GRX RX810 version with a 1x 40T chainring and an 11spd cassette, which goes from an 11T sprocket all the way up to 42T.
If I was planning a lot of road work or the local trails were very flat I'd go for 2x, as this 1x is quite gappy between gears. But for technical stuff and hilly trails, I found the spread of gears ideal.
GRX is Shimano's gravel specific groupset and the more I ride it, the more I like it.
This RX810 feels very much like Ultegra in use. You get solid and precise shifting right across the range, and the brakes are powerful and easy to modulate. Rose has gone for 160mm rotors front and rear, which gives plenty of performance.
One of the highlights of the GRX kit are the brake levers and hoods. The levers have a flat fronts which give good grip on really rough sections, and the hoods have raised rubber grippers – especially useful with sweaty gloveless hands.
For the money, the Backroad is a quality build. Rather than an own-brand cockpit, Rose specifies Ritchey's WCS finishing kit.
It's a Toyon stem in an 80mm length and WCS Butano bar. It's 42cm wide at the hoods, then flares out as it heads for the drops.
The snub-nosed Selle Italia Novous Boost Superflow saddle was a personal highlight. It has more padding and hull flex than I'd want on a race bike, but here it offers plenty of damping without feeling squishy.
Wheels and tyres
The wheels are Rose: its R-Thirty Disc with a 31mm deep alloy rim that's 24mm wide externally, 19mm internally. Rose sells them separately for £407.50. Both front and rear are laced with 28 Sapim CX-Ray Aero spokes to Rose-branded alloy hubs.
> 26 of the best gravel bike tyres — get the right go-anywhere rubber
They're a quality set of wheels at a decent weight, and seem able to deal with gravel, dust and poor weather. They're tubeless ready too.
The 40mm wide Schwalbe G-One Allround TLE tyres are a good choice if you want speed on the road, while also offering decent grip on hardpacked gravel. I've ridden loads of these tyres, and their supple compound is comfortable and grippy.
The shallow tread means they're only really useful in dry and dusty conditions off-road, though, so for the wetter months you'll need something like the Specialized Rhombus with its deeper tread and 42mm width.
> 25 of the best gravel bikes & adventure road bikes 2020
That Schwalbe suppleness and grip comes with another price, too – they're a little on the fragile side. I didn't have any issues here over the test period, but my own longterm use has seen them pick up punctures quite easily from thorns and rocks.
The Backroad GRX RX810 costs £2,540.29, though if you're shipping into the UK there's a further £35.90 delivery charge. That's still not a bad overall price though.
With its tweaks and changes to the frame, the 2020 Backroad rides very similarly to the Canyon Grail. Rear end comfort levels are similar, although the Rose lacks the bump-taming front end of Canyon's 'hover bar'. A similarly specced Grail CF SL 8.0 is £2,599, plus £37.99 postage.
Specialized's Diverge is another similar machine – a bike that responds well to being ridden hard on the gravel, but works well on the road too. For 2021 it has its clever Future Shock 2.0 system to tame the bumps at the front end, but to get a spec similar to the Rose you're looking at £3,600.
I really enjoyed riding the Backroad on the gravel and through the woods – it's an absolute blast. Rose has done a very good job of balancing performance against comfort, and the handling works a treat.
If you want a gravel racer that can double up as a tourer or commuter, the Backroad GRX makes a lot of sense.
Stiff, responsive gravel machine that works well on the road too
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Make and model: Rose Backroad GRX RX810
List the components used to build up the bike.
Wheels: R-Thirty Disc 28"/700 C Road Wheels 12/12 black 28"/700C
Tyres: Schwalbe G-One Allround Performance, Race Guard, TL Easy, Addix, 700x38c Classic Skin 700x38C
Crankset: Shimano GRX FC-RX810 1 x 11-speed, 40T 170mm
Cassette: Shimano XT CS-M8000 11-42
Rear Mech: Shimano RD-RX812, GRX, 11-speed (for single-speed configurations)
Chain: Shimano CN-HG701 11-speed 116 L
Brakes: Shimano RX810 160mm/160mm
Handlebar: Ritchey WCS Butano, black, 42cm
Handlebar Tape: Xtreme Gel Comfort black
Stem: Ritchey WCS Toyon, black, 80mm
Spacers: Spacer - tapered, aluminium black 11/8"x5mm
Spacers: ACROS spacer, black 15mm (1x5mm, 1x10mm)
Saddle: Selle Italia Novus Boost Superflow black/shiny black
Seat Post: Sattelstütze Backroad, 25mm Offset
Rack: For retrofitting a mudguard and/or luggage rack, you need prod. code 2294174
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?
Rose says it's: "...an adventurous bike – on tarmac, on gravel or off paved roads. With a brand-new, lightweight carbon frame as its core and spectacular basis."
It definitely sits at the performance end of the gravel market, but it's a lot of fun to ride both on and off road.
Where does this model sit in the range? Tell us briefly about the cheaper options and the more expensive options
The entry level is a GRX RX600 build at £2,268, and there's a Force 1x build for the same price as our test model. Above you find a GRX RX810 Di2 option (£3,175), and an AXS Mullet build which uses Force eTap at the front and Sram Eagle at the rear for £3,357.
Topping the range is a full Force eTap build for £3,447.
Overall rating for frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
A very good quality frameset which is nicely finished throughout.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both the fork and the frame are full carbon fibre.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The ride position is similar to a road endurance bike: a little more upright than a race machine, but with a more relaxed front end. This keeps the handling fun on the gravel and not too twitchy.
Full geo charts can be found on Rose's website.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The stack and reach figures are pretty typical for this size and style of bike.
This medium has a stack of 570mm and a reach of 386mm.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
The frame is quite firm, but so firm it gets into uncomfortable.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
Stiffness is very impressive throughout.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
A mixture of stiffness and low weight means the Backroad is responsive and feels efficient.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively neutral or unresponsive? Mostly neutral, but quick enough for fun.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
On the gravel the handling is spot on, allowing you to push hard on the loose surface without the front end feeling out of control or needing constant updates. On the road things are a little slower, but it doesn't detract from the ride.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The flex in the seatpost and saddle improves rear end comfort.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Rose wheels didn't show any issues with flex.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The wide-range cassette works well on the gravel, offering plenty of bailout gears, but it's a little gappy for road use.
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Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Shimano's gravel-specific groupset works really well, especially the shape of the levers. Shifting is crisp and the brakes are great.
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Tell us some more about the wheels.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels? If so what for?
Solid performers from Rose – a quality wheelset I see no reason to upgrade.
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Tell us some more about the tyres. Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the tyres? If so what for?
Quick rolling and grippy both on and off the road, especially in the dry. Not the most robust though.
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Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
A good mix of equipment. For this money it's great to see quality components from the likes of Ritchey and Selle Italia.
The short drop of the handlebar allows you to make the most of the flare, which increase stability.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
How does the price compare to that of similar bikes in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's competitively priced, undercutting the Canyon Grail by a few quid. And it's much cheaper than something like Specialized's new Diverge.
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Use this box to explain your overall score
This has a quality frameset that offers lots of great design features, and is a real blast to ride hard and fast on the gravel. It's well specced for the money too – it's a solid eight.
Age: 41 Height: 180cm Weight: 76kg
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
Shimano is Japanese not Taiwanese.
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