BiciRace.com recently stopped by the De Rosa factory, just north of Milano. The Italian firm is a classic and recognized name in the cycling industry, renowned for producing some of the most safest and advanced frames available. From the street we walked through the doors of the factory and into the heart of the De Rosa legend.
In the showroom BiciRace.com was greeted by De Rosa founder, Ugo De Rosa, and one of his three sons, Cristiano. It was like a dream with the sun shining in the windows on the De Rosa frames, and meeting Ugo, the man who taught Signor Merckx how to build a proper race bike. You can feel the strong beating heart of Ugo, he is proud of his factory and made sure to tell us that he is still there every day welding the aluminum frames. Sure enough, as he took us into the back we saw his area where he creates some of the finest Italian racing frames.
Times have changed since the company was founded over 50 years ago, steel frames are a rarity, aluminum and titanium have been mastered, and carbon frames are the benchmark. Cristiano guided us to the assembly room for their carbon monobloc frames. For 2006 De Rosa is producing the King Xlight and the Protos with the unique monobloc construction process.
Cristiano demonstrated how the frames come together with the different monobloc sections, it was very similar to Tinkertoys in their joining, but it was much more sexy and sophisticated. The top, down and seat tubes, as well as seat and chain stays, are joined with carbon knuckles before they are then glued and wrapped. Then the whole jig assembly is rolled into a giant oven for a baking process that ensures maximum strength in the connections.
The tube sections and heating process also allows for repairs that were not possible before in the world of carbon frames. If you crash your carbon Protos the De Rosa crew can deconstruct and replace damaged sections. That gives great assurance behind the heart of the De Rosa frame, longevity and reparability.
BiciRace.com pointed out that this all looked way too easy, but Cristiano assured us that a lot of time and money has gone into getting to the level of simplicity that they are at today. He said that they are now able to just as easily produce a Protos frame as one of their DualHF aluminum frames, but that that was not the case only a few years ago. The company has invested millions of Euro into patented technics and carbon molds to reach this crescendo of carbon manufacturing.
The famous heart does not appear on the frame until the De Rosa family knows their frames are "perfetto". The safety of the frame is backed up by a stress testing machine that the family is urging other countries to adapt. De Rosa requires that their frames can pass 100,000 cycles on the stress machine, which simulates a 90Kg (200lb) rider putting an unplausible number of watts into the bike.
The new Protos, which is made from unidirectional carbon fiber ("Carbonio Unidirezionale HM"), passed up to 400,000+ cycles and still did not fail. This achievement is something special from the lightest frame that De Rosa produces. It was reassuring to see in the world of super light weight carbon machines that the De Rosa frames are so robust.
The Protos weighs in at 1350g (with fork and headset) and comes in one color, nude. Even when BiciRace.com insisted to Cristiano that he paint the frames red, he said no way, he wants to showcase the new unidirectional carbon and save that extra 100 grams. He did point us to the King Xlight, which comes in Rosso or Azzurro (red or blue), and weighs 1500g. The frame was used by Barloworld-Valsir in 2005 and will be one of the De Rosa models used by Acqua & Sapone this year.
Thanks to the De Rosa Family for showing BiciRace.com around their "casa". If you need to find a De Rosa retailer in the United Stages then contact AlbaBici, or go online and visit the Chicagoland Bicycle.