Racer Rosa SC21 road bike review
This custom machine that's handmade in Italy channels the lo-pros of the 1980s with its retro looks but it has a totally modern performance
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The Racer Rosa SC21 is a real head-turner, something really unique: as it's made to measure and custom built you won't see another one quite like it. It has a lovely ride quality, handles impeccably and is fast too. At £6,425 in this build it's more expensive than carbon race bikes with similar specs but it's handmade in Italy and it's one of a kind.
Made to measure
Expensive in this build (£6,425)
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The Racer Rosa SC21 is designed to showcase what the London-based brand can do, blending retro and modern in a unique way.
Racer Rosa bikes are handmade in Italy by a terzista or contractor whose family has been making frames for larger brands since 1947 - but who now builds with modern materials including titanium and carbon-fibre.
Add to that WorldTour bike fitter Giuseppe Giannecchini, who - outside of pandemics - flies in from Italy for sessions with Racer Rosa clients in London in order to measure them up for custom frames or to improve their biomechanics on their own bikes, and you’ve got quite a unique set-up aimed at appealing to the connoisseur of custom Italian bikes.
For its aesthetic it channels the iconic Cinelli Laser of the 1980s, which used inserts or gussets that made the steel tubes look as if they flowed into each other. They were primarily meant to make the bike more aerodynamic but they had the added advantage of making it look very pretty.
Racer Rosa SC21: frame
Rather than the Columbus Air of the Laser, the Racer Rosa SC21 uses oversized Dedacciai Aegis scandium aluminium tubing and has inserts made from 3D-printed carbon-fibre.
Racer Rosa’s Diego Lombardi explained that the SC21’s gussets - or fazzoletti as they’re called in Italian, a word that he unsurprisingly prefers to use - aren’t just there for decoration; they effectively enlarge and strengthen the joints between the tubes, making it stiffer and more responsive, once bonded in place.
BMX and mountain bike frames have used such gussets for a long time - but obviously not quite as elegantly as this.
Of course it would be sacrilege to say Racer Rosa had improved on the look of the Laser, but dropping the seatstays further down the seat tube to move them in line with the bottom of the gusset and parallel with the down tube gives the frame a pleasing symmetry.
The finish is first class - the alu tubing/carbon insert intersections are seamless and the TIG welds are smoothed so that no ‘fish scales’ are visible.
The Racer Rosa SC21 can be made for rim or disc brakes, with the disc brake version costing £300 more and coming with the appropriate Columbus Futura carbon fork with tapered 1 ⅛-1 ½ steerer. Frameset-only prices are £2,140 (rim brake) and £2,340 (disc).
Racer Rosa went for a classic-verging-on-racy geometry with a 74deg seat angle and a 72.75deg head angle based on my fitting session with Giannecchini and the sort of riding I do. His has been the only bike fit I’ve stuck with after a fair few in the last 15 years, so I can say the geometry was perfect, and can recommend his bike fits whether you’re getting a made-to-measure frame or not.
As for the paint, a custom bike obviously gets whatever paintjob the customer wants - if azzurro with a flash of the Italian tricolour is not exactly you, then you can design your own.
Racer Rosa SC21: components
The frame might have been made to my measurements but it was going to be built up to Lombardi’s preference, and that meant Campagnolo. And you have to admit that a bike as Italian as this would look a bit silly with Japanese or American components.
Let’s not have a Shimano v Campagnolo v SRAM debate here but as that other famous Italian export, Frank Sinatra, might have said if he had given up smoking and taken up cycling, the Racer Rosa SC21 and Campagnolo Chorus go together like a horse and carriage.
In any case, the more I’ve ridden the latest 12-speed Campagnolo Chorus the more I’ve enjoyed it. It positions itself between Ultegra and Dura-Ace but really there’s not much point in comparing it to Shimano. Everybody has their own allegiances but both systems have their merits and in reality very few flaws - it just comes down to personal preference and mostly just what you’re used to.
The Campagnolo Bora WTO 45 wheels, on the other hand, are not up for debate. These could be my favourite wheels of the moment: they’re lightweight (sub 1,500g), aerodynamic with a 45mm rim, wide but not too wide with their 19mm internal rim width and stiff thanks to Campagnolo’s excellent G3 spoking pattern. The ride feel with the supple Vittoria Corsa 25mm clinchers is just sublime.
Deda Superzero finishing kit (carbon aero bar, carbon seatpost and alu stem) completes an all-Italian build.
Lombardi himself didn’t know exactly what difference the 3D-printed carbon inserts would make to the frame stiffness. In the world of handmade bicycles there’s no finite element analysis. There’s just experience - and obviously, his contractor in Padova has it in abundance.
The first obvious difference the inserts make is to fellow riders’ reactions. This bike really stands out from the crowd. People will climb over a £12,000 Pinarello to ask what it is and where it comes from.
As for the ride, without an identical frame that doesn’t have carbon inserts to ride back to back, it’s also difficult for me to say what difference the fazzoletti make - but having previously reviewed one of Racer Rosa’s all-aluminium frames I was in a good position to compare.
Good, modern aluminium frames are rarely harsh any more but, as with any material, it depends what the builder does with it. I found the Racer Rosa SC21 frame beautifully balanced between stiffness and smoothness.
Compared to the all-aluminium frame with alu finishing kit, the ride felt more damped - as you’d expect. I’d say the SC21 also felt stiffer: the all-alu frame felt whippy - a feel I actually enjoy being a fairly lightweight rider at 68kg - but with this bike there was very little flex out of the saddle. Comparing it with carbon race bikes I’ve recently ridden, I would put its stiffness somewhere between that of the Giant TCR Advanced and the BMC Teammachine, and I went faster up Box Hill than I managed on either of those two bikes.
The weight at 8.2kg is slightly higher than those two bikes, with the Giant at 7.2kg and the BMC at just over 8kg, but it has a nimble ride feel.
Handling - as with the all-alu Racer Rosa bike - is absolutely impeccable. This bike is beautifully balanced and will go round any corner as fast you dare.
Value and conclusion
OK, it’s not a cheap bike and neither does it pretend to be. At £6,425 the Racer Rosa SC21 is edging into superbike territory in this high-end build with the wheels accounting for £2,000, but it’s difficult to compare a handmade aluminium bike like this for value with carbon race bikes at the £5K price point such as the Giant TCR Advanced Pro 0, the BMC Teammachine SLR TWO, the Specialized Tarmac SL7 Expert and the Scott Addict RC 15. However, the price of the made-to-measure frameset (£2,140) looks like good value if you’re wanting to spec it yourself.
If you’re after a pro replica carbon race machine the Racer Rosa SC21 isn’t the bike for you, but if you’re looking for a statement bike that’s a real head-turner and that no one else will be riding - and that actually doesn’t lose out in performance terms compared with those bikes - the Racer Rosa is it.
|Racer Rosa SC21||Header Cell - Column 1||Header Cell - Column 2|
|Frame||Dedacciai Aegis with 3D printed carbon inserts||Row 0 - Cell 2|
|Fork||Columbus Futura tapered steerer||Row 1 - Cell 2|
|Groupset||Campagnolo Chorus mechanical/rim brake||Row 2 - Cell 2|
|Wheels||Campagnolo Bora WTO 45||Row 3 - Cell 2|
|Tyres||Tyres Vittoria Corsa G2.0 25mm||Row 4 - Cell 2|
|Bar||Deda Superzero carbon||Row 5 - Cell 2|
|Stem||Deda Superzero alu||Row 6 - Cell 2|
|Seatpost||Deda Superzero carbon||Row 7 - Cell 2|
|Saddle||Selle Italia SLR Superflow||Row 8 - Cell 2|
|Weight||8.2kg||Row 9 - Cell 2|
|Price||£6,425||Row 10 - Cell 2|
|Contact||www.racerrosabicycles.co.uk||Row 11 - Cell 2|
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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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