Freshening up the winter steed

We’re over half way through Octover now, so it’s officially time to start thinking about winter. Today I pulled out the tired-looking Ribble (which had been sulking in the corner with a broken gear cable) and gave it a good freshen up ready to tackle the forthcoming foul weather commuting duties. I’d been putting it off, riding to and from work on my Kinesis Aithein instead as it’s much more fun.

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Firstly on went the Continental GP 4 Season tyres. I’ve found these to be a fantastic winter road bike tyre; grippy, heard wearing and with excellent puncture resistance without giving up too much in the way of speed. I really should just use them all year round. Then new gear cables, new rear brake, new chain and cassette.

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The winter steed runs a workhorse 10-speed groupset, 50/39/30 up front and 12-27 out the back. The rear wheel is a bombproof (read: heavy and slow) 32-spoke Mavic rim laced to my Powertap SL+ hub. As I won’t be setting many Strava PB’s, training to power keeps me motivated.

image4No winter bike would be complete without a good set of lights. I run two rear lights (one flashing, one constant) and now that it’s dark enough a seriously bright 1200 lumen Lezyne Super Drive XXL on the bars. I’ll be able to spot those suicidal squirrels a mile off with this beast!

Yes I’m aware there’s no mudguards so it’s not a “true” winter bike, but unfortunately the Ribble doesn’t have eyelets or much clearance. I have a set of SKS Raceblades I throw on when it rains. They’re no match for proper full length guards, but they’re good enough. Now here’s hoping the weather stays fine for a while longer!

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Beautifully Loud: De Rosa King XS Dura Ace

The Italian supermodel. Renowned worldwide for her superior style, sassy edge and a reputation for working hard while partying even harder. Sharing many a common trait with supermodels of Italian heritage, the lush looking King XS sits at the top end of Italian manufacturer De Rosa’s road bike range.

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Thanks to the guys at Bike Swanky I was given the opportunity to take out this Italian supermodel for a week-long love affair demo ride.

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Imagine if you will, a bike designed by flamboyant Italians for flamboyant Italians and you’d not be far off the De Rosa King XS Dura Ace in vivid pink. If you’re a shy and retiring type, this colour scheme is not for you (others are availaible). It’s pearlescent violet gleam is impossible to do justice in a photograph. You simply have to see it in the flesh. Turning up to the club ride on this machine is guaranteed to turn more heads than Britney Spears at a bachelor party! It’s bold, it’s brash, it’s brilliantly beautiful.

Adorned with stylish Prologo and 3T finishing kit plus Dura Ace running gear the King XS performs almost effortlessly whether cruising to the cafe or dropping the hammer along your favourite Strava segment. The Fulcrum Racing 3’s supplied on my test bike are a great wheelset, but feel a little under-specced on a bike of this price.

31e3b357-ffb5-4be5-8fa6-e44b0abc0dc0The King XS is a performer – although during the ride you may not notice. It’s one fast ride but does it all without you even realising it, which is the King XS’s blessing and also it’s curse. Comfortable, light, agile and very responsive, the King XS will have you ticking off Strava PB’s with ease and it does all of this without breaking a sweat. Personally I’d like to feel a bit more excitement from this Italian steed. It’s like a Ferrari without that signature exhaust note; still just as much the supercar but not quite the same.

Where you will notice the difference is when you point it up a smooth, winding gradient. Every last drop of power you push through the pedals is transferred directly to the rear wheel, propelling you forwards with ease. I found myself tapping through a few extra cogs on the 11-speed Dura Ace on my way to a PB up the famous Box Hill Zig Zag, even after sitting on the front of the club ride all the way to Dorking.

Coming down the hill on the other hand is not quite as awe inspiring. The rest of the groupset may be top end but the brakes are Tektro, a real let-down on an otherwise full Dura Ace equipped bike. They just don’t have the stopping power you’d expect for a bike of this calibre. It’s akin to making your supermodel girlfriend wear shoes from Tesco, except those shoes increase the risk of hitting an errant squirrel darting across the road in front of you.

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Apart from the braking issue (easily resolved) the King XS is a superb bike. This is the sort of machine that an Italian playboy would load into his Maserati before heading out for a café tour through the Dolomites. You can picture it parked outside a champagne bar in Monaco at 10am in the morning, while it’s proud owner sips an exquisitely crafted espresso. It really is every bit the “supercar” that it looks.

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It does come with a “supercar” price tag to match though. Retailing at around £4800 it’s not a cheap purchase. At this price point I’d like to see it fitted with Dura Ace brakes to match the rest of the groupset and a set of 3T Accelero 40 wheels.

Apart from those points the King XS is hard to criticise. It does everything exceptionally well (except braking) and without you even realising how good it is, but for me it lacked a bit of character. This isn’t a bad thing, it’s one hell of a bike and had me smashing it around the Surrey Hills in style.

Sure she has her faults, but what supermodel doesn’t? And just like any supermodel worth her salt, the more I rode her, the more I fell in love.

BikeSwanky.com