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On test: De Rosa King 3, March 24, 2009
Fit for a king
De Rosa's latest King 3 might come with a high price tag, but that's accompanied by Giro d'Italia stage winning pedigree. Cycling Plus' Paul Vincent found a smooth and stylish bike under all that carbon fibre.
Gabriele Bosisio rode one to a stage victory in the 2008 Giro d'Italia on De Rosa's stylish King 3. Our test bike's subtly understated matt black finish won admiring glances - and it's clearly good enough for the pros - but is that enough to justify a hefty $5,300 USD frame and fork price in these times of credit crunch? In short, yes. It's fast, refined and makes quite a style statement.
Ride & handling: Light, agile and comfortable - perfect for sportives
Out on the road, the King 3 lives up to its royal moniker. Through blind technical sections it really shows its mettle, with an uncanny ability to make you feel like the bike's a part of you, an extension of your limbs, especially when clicking the bars into a turn or braking hard into a corner. And it combines this with a level of comfort that's absent from some of the super-stiff bikes at this price.
Point the bike towards the horizon and it's easy to see why this would make the perfect mount for riders set on completing a sportive within the gold medal time, as it seems to gobble up those brief-but-irritating 20 second undulations that would have you reaching to change gear on a lesser bike. It's this ability to seamlessly join the short downhills to short climbs that places this bike among the best 2009 spec machines we've ridden - this includes the likes of the Scott Addict, Wilier's Cento 1, Colnago's C50 and the Storck Fascenario.
The King 3's sheer lightness should have you grinning from ear to ear as you tackle those gradients in a higher gear than you previously thought possible. Its weight even means the relatively high gear ratios of the 39/53 cranks and 12-27 cassette were surprisingly manageable around Bath's hilly test circuit. A compact chainset would give more riders a fighting chance of managing the climbs of continental sportives, but a relatively fit rider would do just fine.
Frame: Carbon monocoque chassis built to withstand the rigours of racing
The price tag doesn't get you a BB30 bottom bracket or carbon dropouts, and while De Rosa claims a sub-kilo weight, our 66cm (the size includes the seat mast and equates to a medium) model came in at 1.13kg - no heavyweight, but you might expect less at the price (that said, smaller models would come in at around 950g). What you are getting, though, is a frame built to withstand the rigours of professional bike racing and a pedigree stretching back decades - Eddy Merckx won the Tour, the Giro and the Worlds on a De Rosa, and Francesco Moser the 1977 world title. Not a bad record.
The frame is a monocoque made from Toray's tough 700SC unidirectional carbon fibre, which is pretty much as good as carbon fibre gets. Like De Rosa, Toray has a decent track record - the Japanese company has supplied Boeing with carbon fibre since 1982. The frame has internal cable routing, aesthetically great and very tidy - particularly on the bottom of the down-tube - but it's fiddly to set up. Another area where the King 3 scores on looks is the head badge. This is one of the most attractive motifs out there, and smaller versions of De Rosa's heart logo double as frame protectors, preventing cable rub. Very neat.
In keeping with many high-end bikes, the King 3's seat tube extends well above the top tube. An advantage of this is that it removes the potentially damaging leverage effect that a full length seatpost can have on a frame. But with the frame available in 10 sizes you should be able to make sure you get one that fits perfectly, and you can still adjust the saddle height by up to 2cm using a 5mm Allen bolt. The frame's emphasis on strength over out-and-out lightness extends to the use of Kevlar reinforcements on the inside surface of the seat tube.
Equipment: Lightweight build takes bike under UCI race limit
The full carbon forks may look chunky, but at 315g they're lighter even than the Scott Addict Ltd's. Their stiffness helps them resist twisting when you're accelerating over uneven surfaces but they feel smooth, soaking up vibrations from rough tarmac.
In keeping with an Italian theme, the distributors decked out the King 3 with Fulcrum's top of the range Zero wheels, a 3TTT RRX aluminium oversized stem and flat top carbon Ergonova Team handlebars. As specced and without pedals it weighed 6.69kg, under the UCI's race weight limit, but with Shimano SPD-SL pedals it was bang on.
Campagnolo's flagship 11-speed Super Record groupset uses more carbon fibre and titanium in the gear mechanisms than Record and is a further leap forward in performance. The new Ergopower system has a crisper and lighter action than the outgoing 10-speed system, thanks to a ground-up redesign. This includes a distinct curve to the lever hoods reminiscent of Mavic's Mektronik groupset. Gear changes are swift and smooth even under extreme pedalling pressure and the chain flicks willingly to the next sprocket as you snick the lever inwards to change gear.
One final note: during testing it became apparent that De Rosa has remained rather too tightly attached to its roots, as the traditional right-hand threaded bottom bracket cups needed a firm re-tightening, but in every other respect the King 3 scores a very firm recommendation.
Price: £5900.00, $8,993.98 USD
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Images by www.robertsmithphotography.co.uk