The ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED adds a dash of disco flavour to our gravel bike group test. Are its unique spec and glittery look the secret recipe for a perfect gravel all-rounder? We found out.
A quick overview of this group test: The best gravel bike 2021
What looks to be an understated grey mouse in the shade turns out to be a glittering gravel queen in direct sunlight: the ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED lights up like a rainbow. If you remember the BACKROAD from 2017 (read review), you will find it difficult to believe your eyes when you see the latest model. The direct to consumer brand has come a long way! The carbon frameset of the latest ROSE features four sets of bosses for bottle cages, triple-cage mounts on both sides of the carbon fork and eyelets for mudguards. The seat clamp, like the cable routing, is completely integrated into the frame. A recess in the seat tube moves the clamping area of the proprietary seat post further down, allowing it to flex more. The cable ports are cleverly hidden under the stem in the headset cover. Our € 4,949 test bike comes equipped with a 2×12 SRAM Force eTap AXS groupset with 46/33 t chainrings and a 10–33 t cassette, 160 mm brake rotors front and rear and ROSE GC FORTY DISC wheels. Unlike the Canyon Grail, ROSE chose not to spec the “Wide” version of the SRAM derailleur, which means that it isn’t compatible with the bigger 10–36 t cassette. While the smaller cassette allows you to pedal at 45 km/h, steep climbs demand more muscle power.
ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED
Seatpost ROSE Backroad Seatpost 25 mm
Brakes SRAM Force 160/160 mm
Drivetrain SRAM Force eTap AXS 46/33 (10–33)
Stem Ritchey WCS Toyon 80 mm
Handlebar Ritchey WCS Carbon VentureMax 420 mm
Wheelset ROSE GC Forty Disc
Tires WTB Venture Road TCS 40C
Size 50 53 55 57 59 62
Weight 8.65 kg
High quality effect paintjob
Bolting points on top of the top tube and on bottom of the down tube
Mounting points on fork; 3 per fork side
Mounting points for mudguards and luggage rack
|Seat tube||450 mm||480 mm||500 mm||520 mm||540 mm||575 mm|
|Top tube||515 mm||534 mm||550 mm||568 mm||582 mm||602 mm|
|Head tube||100 mm||120 mm||135 mm||150 mm||165 mm||188 mm|
|Chainstays||427 mm||427 mm||427 mm||434 mm||434 mm||434 mm|
|BB Drop||76 mm||76 mm||76 mm||76 mm||76 mm||76 mm|
|Wheelbase||1,000 mm||1,012 mm||1,021 mm||1,039 mm||1,051 mm||1,072 mm|
|Reach||371 mm||380 mm||386 mm||395 mm||404 mm||417 mm|
|Stack||536 mm||555 mm||570 mm||586 mm||601 mm||623 mm|
The spec of the Rose isn’t entirely consistent. While the cockpit and tires scream off-road, the drivetrain and wheels call more for hard-packed surfaces and all-road conditions.
As with the Ridley Kanzo Fast, the BACKROAD comes fitted with 700 x 42C WTB Venture Road TCS tires, which left a mixed impression in our gravel tire group test, offering lots of grip but also lots of rolling resistance. The Ritchey WCS Carbon VentureMax handlebar combines compact drops with excellent ergonomics.
The ROSE accelerates efficiently when you step on the pedals. It’s not the liveliest bike on test but it’s light-footed enough for the occasional sprint. The comparatively light wheelset and the pleasantly low weight of 8.65 kg in size 57 are noticeable here. The efficiency of the BACKROAD depends heavily on the nature of the terrain. While the WTB tires require you to keep pedalling on hardpack and asphalt, their high grip and good overall comfort help the gravel bike achieve good off-road efficiency.
They provide excellent damping of small bumps and stay securely planted on the ground. The bike itself isn’t phased by bigger hits but the further you extend the D-shaped seatpost, the more it acts like a leaf spring, bouncing taller riders out of the saddle. Apart from that, the ROSE performed convincingly in terms of long-distance comfort. The compliance of the front and rear are well matched and the compact drop of the handlebar keeps the drops within easy reach of those of us with spines and ribs. Compared to the test field, the ROSE is pleasantly manoeuvrable and agile with its 700C wheels. In contrast to the 650B model, the agility of the front and rear is more balanced, helping the bike’s composure. The bike willingly responds to steering input and the handling makes for a dynamic and sporty ride. Both the wide, flared handlebars and the ample grip offered by the WTB tires make you feel confident and in control. Only large compressions while seated might make the rider’s confidence waiver momentarily due to the bouncy seatpost.
Tuning-tips: for hilly terrain and compact surfaces: faster tires with good damping | for mountainous terrain and loose surfaces: ROSE BACKROAD AXS Mullet Build
The ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED offers a balanced mix of agility and stability as well as numerous mounting points for fenders, bottle cages and luggage, proving to be a capable all-round gravel bike for all skill levels that is just as suitable as a daily commuter in hilly terrain. However, the limited gear ratio of the drivetrain and the high rolling resistance of the tires limit the bike’s potential.
- numerous mounting points
- available in lots of different builds
- efficient acceleration
- confidence-inspiring on compact to moderately rough terrain
- concept isn't entirely consistent
- compliance of the seatpost dependent on the extension and setback and it isn't damped enough
Not sure which gravel bike you should buy? This guide will help you for sure: gravel bike buyers guide.
You wonder what tires to put on your gravel machine? We recently tested the best gravel tires against each other in our gravel tire group test.
More information here: rosebikes.co.uk
Get an overview of this group test: The best gravel-bike 2021 – 13 models on review
All bikes on review: 3T Exploro Race EKAR 1X13 (Click for review) | ARC8 Eero (Click for review) | BMC URS 01 ONE (Click for review) | Cannondale Topstone Carbon Lefty 3 (Click for review) | Canyon Grail CF SLX 8 eTap (Click for review) | Fustle Causeway GRX600 (Click for review) | OPEN WI.DE. (Click for review) | Ridley Kanzo Fast (Click for review) | Ritte Satyr (Click for review) | ROSE BACKROAD FORCE ETAP AXS LIMITED | ROSE BACKROAD AL GRX RX600 1X11 (Click for review) | Specialized S-Works Diverge (Click for review) | Trek Checkpoint (Click for review)
No, it’s not about perfect race tracks, it’s about efficiency. Fast, fleet-footed and efficient – those who want to speed along high-speed passages need a defined and spritely bike that accelerates with ease and efficiency. Nevertheless, reliable components are important too. We interpret “Smooth tarmac” bikes as follows: Hard efforts at high speeds with a maximum efficient bike on a consistently well-paved road. Effort-joy ratio: 80:30 (not everything has to be 100%!)↩
… also known as bike riding. Broken-up roads in the hinterland, deadlocked gravel roads, loose surfaces – sometimes muddy, sometimes bone-dry. For this, it takes bikes with super all-round, handling and wearing qualities uphill and downhill. Effort-joy ratio: 50:50↩
If you want to use your bike almost every day, you usually do not need an extremely tuned racing machine. Solid components, which are able to cope with the rigours of continuous usage in any kind of weather, are part of the basic equipment. At the same time, the bike should have practicable details: integrated fenders/assembly options, luggage racks/attachment points and a light system or at least the option of installing bike lights. The position on the bike should be rather relaxed, the overall comfort high, so that the Afterwork Ride becomes a cure and not a curse. Effort-joy ratio: 30:70↩
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Words: Photos: Valentin Rühl