Italian company De Rosa have been lovingly hand-making bikes since 1953 and have added the De Rosa Super King to the top end of their catalogue. De Rosa have released the Super King in three models; two with mechanical shifting (Campagnolo Record and Super Record) and one dedicated electronic (E) version, also running Campagnolo. The mechanical Super Record version arrived, so I had the pleasure of riding mechanical again. And it was a pleasure of a ride.
Like most things Italian made, the Super King is aesthetically pleasing. If you see a Porsche driving down the road, they’re like a dime a dozen and no one takes notice. See a Ferrari and even the grandmother crossing the road turns to look. The Super King is no different. It’s a great looking bike and it turns heads. Not everyone has one, and its lines look great. It’s as aero looking as possible, with twists of style thrown in – literally. The down tube goes from narrow, almost pointed and aero at the head tube, and widens to meet the very solid bottom bracket. The shape of this tube, in association with the paint job, gives the bike the appearance the tube has been twisted. The same treatment has been given to the forks. Simply, it looks cool. The top tube and seat tube maintain a sleek, aero design while the seat tube has a small cutaway to accommodate the rear wheel positioning; similar to a time trial bike, but less pronounced.
Speaking of paint jobs, the matt black of the frame, plus the red, silver and white create quite a flamboyant presence. For me it’s just a little too loud – over-painted if there’s such a thing. It could be more subtle and society would still know you’re riding a De Rosa. The brand name appears on the bike no less than 11 times, 13 if you include just the logo on the front of the headset and seatpost. It’s on the down tube four times alone. Add to that the ‘888’ logo, the ‘Super King SR’ logo, the fact they used ‘Monocoque carbon fibre’, their ‘Harmonic Active Dampening’ (HAD) system, their ’86 integrated bottom bracket’, the Italian flag and you have 31 painted brand names and logos. Just try to find a piece of the frame without something on it. Honestly, back that stuff up a little.
What’s the first thing your mates do when they see a new bike? No, after they’ve squeezed the tyres I mean. Pick it up and comment on the weight, right? No different from my group of friends and training partners. You usually get a whole lot of different comments, but not in the case of the Super King. Everyone that picked it up instantly spat out the words, “Wow, it feels heavy”. It was my first thought too.
De Rosa claim the Super King as their lighter bike build. The bike came set up with FSA Compact bars, Campagnolo Record groupset, Campagnolo Bullet 50mm carbon race wheels, naturally a Selle Italia saddle and Vitoria Rubino Pro tyres. All I added was a set of Shimano Ultegra pedals and two carbon fibre bidon cages before I put it on the scales to see the figure of 7.7kg. I’ve been lucky enough to have ridden some super-light bikes recently and may have lost touch with reality – or perhaps this bike is actually heavy. Don’t get me wrong, it still got me to the top of the hills, but did it get me there slower? Not being the fittest at the moment, I can’t make a call on that. Perhaps the fact that it looks so good and the perception of the brand leads you to believe it will be superlight. It just feels slightly heavy, and it sits almost a whole kilogram heavier than the UCI legal race limit. Having said all that, the 50mm deep Bullet wheels are not the lightest option, weighing in at 1,800g without skewers or cassette.
De Rosa’s intention for the Super King was to offer a race capable bike with a more relaxed riding position and this bike was super comfortable. It didn’t matter whether I was climbing, giving it some serious stick to see what it could do, cruising along a flat or trying to change songs on my iPod, the bike was smooth. The way I see it, my bike should feel like a natural extension of my body and the Super King does this. The angle of the seat tube seems relaxed and leaves you feeling at just the right angle in the cockpit. You can get down on the hangers and sprint it out, yet grind away climbing upwards without feeling you have to move your whole body position. De Rosa calls it ‘balanced geometry’. Definitely a plus for all.
The Super King frame is oversized downstairs; FSA’s 86 integrated bottom bracket combined with De Rosa’s ‘Harmonic Active Dampening’ (HAD) system make this bike as stiff as any high end bike I’ve ridden. Power transfer from your legs to forward momentum is instant. Instant acceleration came to me when I wanted it and again, the bike just felt like it was doing what I wanted it to.
The HAD system is De Rosa’s plan to ensure their carbon frame remains flex free for as long as possible, which means longer term high level response and power delivery for the rider. The theory in the build of this bike is that several layers of the carbon fibre layup are a non-setting resin – yep, non-setting – which constantly works to fill the tiny cracks in the carbon fibre that occur through normal ride use, particularly through the seat- and chainstays. They believe the HAD system effectively dampens the vibration and shock while riding, allowing you the comfort of not feeling every bump in the road and draining extra energy.
While we’re discussing carbon, De Rosa have actually used three different types to create this frame – a rare move. For the tech heads, these are MR-60 (295 GPA/5800MPA), HR-40 (390GPA/4610MPA) and NGF’S 630GPA. They believe these different types of carbon create the perfect combination for optimum responsiveness and damping qualities. After putting the Super King through its paces I’d have to agree; it gives a comfortable, yet desirably stiff and responsive ride. Getting out of the saddle and smashing the pedals down simply felt great as I took off after the imaginary race leader.
Still on the frame, we may as well discuss De Rosa’s E model of the Super King. Now I haven’t seen it myself, but their electronic specific frameset has an internal battery enclosure. It’s located close to the bottom bracket on the underside of the down tube—a perfect hiding spot for it. No more battery tacked on the seat tube or under the down tube near the bottom bracket. It is a fantastic idea; however a possible negative with this design feature is that the E model is only compatible with Campagnolo’s EPS groupset.
The Campagnolo Record mechanical groupset I tested on this Super King model seemed to fit the bike like a glove. I always find it difficult comparing top of the line running gear from Shimano, SRAM and Campagnolo. They’re all different, yet in my opinion, it’s horses for courses and personal choice. Campagnolo Record, with its push-down gear levers positioned on the inside of the brake levers, felt really good attached to the FSA compact bars. The shape of the bars fitted me really well and everything was right there when you want it and need it. The Record is responsive and performed really well in all situations.
The Campagnolo Bullet wheelset also did the job it was supposed to do. Nice looking carbon race wheels which obviously complemented the Super King and aided in a responsive ride. If the Super King was your only bike for both training and racing, would you be riding these wheels every day? For me it’s a clear no, but a second wheelset will only add extra cost and likely exacerbate the weight issue mentioned earlier.
The third Italian company represented on this model of Super King, the Selle Italia saddle proved a comfortable, well-padded race seat. Mounted on the previously mentioned aero seatpost, I loved the rigidity and stiffness of the combination. On some bikes you can feel the seat and post combo flexing when you are really giving it your all. Not on this frame, it felt perfectly efficient.
However, the main disappointment for me on this bike involved the same components. De Rosa’s bolt for securing and tightening the seatpost is on the top tube, right near the seatpost. Insert the seattube and there’s a gap almost a whole centimetre wide where an intricate metal mechanism holds the seat post securely in place. Now, I said I loved the rigidity of this seatpost and I suppose this mechanism is the best way they could find to secure the post, but it is a pain to deal with. If you want to take the seatpost out, you’ve got to unscrew the bolt and whack the seat to remove the metal block, sometimes tipping it upside-down to get the desired result. Undo the bolt too much and the bottom part of the metal block detaches itself and remains lodged in the hole, again requiring you to turn the bike upside-down to dislodge it. And the worst part of this feature is the ‘weather shield’ – the cheap-looking rubber cover that sits over whole area to stop rain or debris getting through the large hole, filling your down tube. Technically it works, but the rubber seal just looks cheap.
There is no doubt the De Rosa Super King is a quality bike. The lines of the frame look beautiful and the HAD system, the three types of carbon and all-Italian componentry come together to provide a high quality bike that you could race or just ride to the coffee shop. It’s a bike for those who want quality and style, not necessarily the lightest, race-weight greyhound on the market.
The Super King performed really well. It was stiff, responsive, had great power transfer and it felt like it didn’t lose anything between me, the pedals and forward movement. It handled well, whether on the flat or the hills. It did feel a little heavy, but again I don’t think that’s such a detractor.
VALUE FOR MONEY
As a frameset alone it’s not on the cheap at $3,199, but it’s not breaking the bank either. Sold as the build I tested, you’re looking at $8,599. The Super King really makes you ask what you want the bike for. If I was going to try to crack A grade fairly down the middle and wanted a race bike to destroy the rest of the field, for eight and a half grand I’d be looking at other options. If you want the Ferrari look to ride around and be seen, then eight and a half grand for an all Italian, beautiful looking, comfortable yet stiff and responsive bike that can also be raced hard should you chose to have a hit out, is money well spent.
The De Rosa Super King SR is a really nice bike. The frame lines are beautiful but the excessive branding takes something away from it. It rides well; it’s definitely comfortable, yet stiff and responsive. It’s all-Italian build is at the higher end of the bike scale and screams rich Euro bike. It’s the perfect buy for the connoisseur of riding, someone who has done the hard yards, loves exceptional quality and more than likely enjoys a fine red or single malt at the end of the day.
Frame: De Rosa Super King SR carbon fibre H.AD
Fork: De Rosa carbon fibre H.AD
Head Set: De Rosa
Stem: FSA OS 150 Forged AL6061
Handlebars: FSA Omega Compact Carbon
Saddle: Selle Italia SL
Seat post: De Rosa Aero
Shift Levers: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Brakes: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Front derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Rear Derailleur: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Cassette: Campagnolo Record 11 speed 12-25
Chain: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Crank: Campagnolo Record 11 speed
Bottom Bracket: FSA 86 Integrated BB
Wheels: Campagnolo Bullet 50mm
Tyres: Vittoria Rubino Pro 23mm
Distributor: Euride www.euride.com.au