When you're paying £4,700 for a frameset you have a right to expect everything to be perfect. This Racer Rosa has bespoke geometry, it's handmade in Italy by Daccordi, it's designed for the type of brakes and gears I want rather than what the industry tells me I need and it has my own paintjob. Basically, if it isn't perfect I've only got myself to blame - so I'm glad to report that it 100% is.
Handmade in Italy
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What if you want a brand-new, high-quality, lightweight, modern carbon bike (opens in new tab) but you prefer rim brakes, a mechanical groupset and you don’t need clearance for balloon tyres to ride ‘all road’?
Call me old fashioned, set in my ways and even grumpy (guilty as charged) but as I see it the bike industry’s efforts over the last decade or so to fix things that ain’t broke means less choice - and more expense - for the consumer.
However, if you know where to look, it’s still possible to incorporate those ‘retro’ elements into a cutting-edge road bike. Not only that, but for around the same price as those flagship disc-brake/electronic groupset-only frames from the big brands, you can get it made to measure and built by hand in Italy with a custom paint job.
Slightly surprisingly, that place to look is Walthamstow. Better known for greyhound racing and a Nineties boy band, London E17 is also home to Racer Rosa, a small brand that basically imports Italian bike culture wholesale. That includes fittings (opens in new tab)with WorldTour bike fitter Giuseppe Giannecchini (opens in new tab), who flies over to the UK one weekend a month to fit UK riders for Racer Rosa.
Back in 2016 I went for a fitting with Giannecchini. Racer Rosa made me a custom aluminium frame (opens in new tab) based on my measurements, which I still love, but I was obviously intrigued (and more than a bit delighted) to be offered a carbon one with the same bespoke geometry.
I don’t have geometric requirements that are particularly unusual, but with bespoke everything is ‘right’. The stem is the perfect length with no tower of spacers underneath; the amount of exposed seatpost is spot on, the saddle is clamped exactly in the middle of its rails… And if you’re paying north of £4,000, you have a right to expect everything to be perfect.
Racer Rosa custom carbon: frame
The frame was made by Daccordi, a historic Italian marque well known to cyclists of a certain age. It is based on the Daccordi Fly model and made from Toray T700 and T800 carbon. Daccordi uses the tube-to-tube construction method, where each tube is cut and mitred individually, joined together with layers of prepreg and then vacuum moulded.
Luigi Daccordi's signature on the top tube reveals the bike's origin - naturally Racer Rosa is proud to collaborate with him.
The tubes are squared off rather than round, but the silhouette is satisfyingly traditional with just a slight slope on the top tube.
The fork is a monocoque with a tapered steerer and that’s one concession to modernity that I’m 100% happy with. I wouldn’t deliberately choose a 1in steerer now that I know how precise tapered feels.
As for clearance, you could squeeze in 28mm tyres if you really wanted to, but 25s are what I prefer.
At the front is traditional cable routing. Although I won’t need to mess around with stack height since the frame is made to measure, when the time comes to change the cables it will be a quick and easy job. Additionally, who doesn’t like a Campagnolo cable with the famous name in silver in a prominent place? You don't want to hide your light under a bushel, or rather inside an integrated cockpit (opens in new tab).
Naturally it takes a 27.2mm seatpost held in by a plain but practical external collar.
The one thing that wasn’t available with this frame was a threaded bottom bracket shell - it’s pressfit. However, a Daccordi frame like this will be meticulously manufactured with a high level of quality control so that creaking shouldn’t ever be an issue.
Being able to design your own paint scheme is liberating, but it’s all too easy to end up with a dog’s dinner or even an accidental German national champion livery.
My idea was to create a ‘sunburst’ bike in the style of a classic Fender guitar with the yellow, black and red fade. Then the music stopped.
So we had a rethink and came up with blue grey metallic going into an intermediate flame red metallic, fading to deep orange metallic and finally pearly white. It’s fire.
Since this is a review of a frameset I won’t go into the build in too much detail, but I’m a big fan of Campagnolo Chorus (opens in new tab). The snappy shifting, the lovely marbled carbon cranks… and even though it’s ‘only’ the third-tier Campagnolo gruppo, its performance and weight are easily good enough for an expensive bike like this.
The Miche 50/50 SWR wheels are already old school since they ‘only’ have an internal rim width of 17mm, but if you’re only running them with 25mm tyres, as I am, then they work. At 1,600 grams they’re not the lightest by modern standards, but the build quality is high.
The finishing kit is all Deda carbon Superzero in keeping with the Italian theme. The exception is the Conti GP5000 tyres, which did sneak the German flag onto my Italian bike after all. The Selle Italia SLR Superflow saddle is my current favourite.
The Racer Rosa's all-up weight is 7.5kg or 16.5lb.
OK, if a top-of-the-range carbon bike handmade to my measurements by Daccordi wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever ridden, there would be something seriously wrong.
The ride is not too dissimilar to that of a classic steel race bike - and that's a huge compliment, since for me that's the benchmark. But since it's so much lighter you get that extra responsiveness, that little adrenaline-like surge that only comes with the best bikes.
The angles are not steep but are designed for fast, controlled riding, which is what I’ve been doing the best of my ability. It has a seat tube angle of just under 74 degrees and a head tube angle of just under 73.
It had no trouble on a group ride that averaged 35kph and I won first road bike when I rode it in a local club TT.
I've also done my fastest ride of the year on my regular test loop that has a bit of everything including a short but steep out-of-the-saddle climb, some lumpy lanes and a stretch of smooth dual carriageway.
And of course it’s light at 7.5kg - something that seems to be bafflingly less important in the era of disc brakes. Even though the idea that a light bike goes faster is something of a dated concept, I don't mind admitting that I love the feel of riding a light bike. Who doesn't, if they're being honest with themself?
Over long distances on rough roads it might not be quite as comfortable as the latest bikes with big tyres, but if you prioritise speed, low weight and responsiveness that’s a small sacrifice to make.
That said, it always feels smooth and refined and never clattery, like some light carbon bikes, no matter what misshapen surface is passing beneath the wheels. Perfection.
For those fortunate enough to have this sort of a budget, does it offer good value? Absolutely. Sure it costs over £4,000 for the frameset, but that’s the same as a Cervelo R5 (opens in new tab), an S-Works Aethos (opens in new tab) or an Enve Melee (opens in new tab) - all of which are off the peg, only compatible with disc brakes and electronic groupsets, and are made in the Far East. And it’s cheaper than a Colnago C68 (opens in new tab)and a Pinarello Dogma F (opens in new tab).
This particular build would come to just under £7,500 if everything was bought from new (rather than transplanted from other bikes, as I did with the groupset and wheels for this one).
I don’t think I’ll ever get this close to my vision of cycling perfection again. Full disclosure, I want to keep this bike and I am currently in negotiations with Racer Rosa with one of my kidneys and both of my children included in my offer.
- Frame: Toray T700/T800 carbon handmade
- Fork: Monocoque carbon 1⅛ -1½
- Groupset: Campagnolo Chorus
- Wheels: Miche SWR 50/50
- Tyres: Continental Grand Prix 5000 25mm
- Handlebar: Deda Superzero
- Stem: Deda Superzero
- Seatpost: Deda Superzero
- Saddle: Selle Italia SLR Flow
- Weight 7.5kg
- Price (frameset): £4,700
- Contact: racerrosabicycles.co.uk (opens in new tab)
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Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor following an MA in online journalism. In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends most of his time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
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