The De Rosa Idol is a quick and energetic gran fondo/sportive bike that rides a lot like a full-on race bike. If you're after a lively performer, it's well worth a look. The Idol is available in various builds including one with a Campagnolo Athena groupset and Fulcrum Racing 5 wheels for £2,999.99, although upgrades to our review model put the price at £3,600.
There are a couple of different ways that manufacturers do gran fondo bikes. The first way is to offer a very upright, endurance-friendly riding position and add in a bunch of frame and component features designed to soften the ride. Then there's the Italian way, which basically involves taking a race bike and dialling everything back just a little. That's the route De Rosa has taken here.
The Idol started out in life back in 2008 as a race bike. It was eventually superseded in the De Rosa lineup by the King XS and the Protos before being reinvented as a gran fondo bike in 2014. The new version is very different from the old, but it still retains some of its racy roots.
The first thing I noticed when I climbed aboard the Idol was the frame stiffness. The shell for the BB386 standard bottom bracket is a great big chunk of a thing and the down tube is broad for its entire length. I just couldn't get the bottom bracket to budge sideways more than a minimal amount no matter what I chucked at it when sprinting out of the saddle.
If anything, the front end is even stiffer, thanks to a tapered head tube supported by a top tube that flares out massively towards the junction. This results in point-and-shoot cornering. Chuck the Idol hard into the bends and you know that it's going to handle everything just fine.
The Idol is quite a light bike too. We have the 57cm model here, built up with a Campagnolo Athena groupset and Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels, and it weighs in at 7.52kg (16.6lb). You can certainly get lighter bikes for this kind of money if that's your priority, but that's a reasonable weight and, coupled with the frame's directness and efficiency, it means the Idol is quick to pick up speed coming out of tight corners or when you want to get away from persistent wheel suckers.
It's a decent climber too, especially if you tend to spend a lot of time out of the saddle on the hills. Our review bike came fitted with a compact Athena chainset (with 50/34-tooth chainrings) and an 11-25 cassette. That should get you up most stuff without your heart beating out of your chest, but if you feel the need for smaller gears you could go for a cassette that goes up to a 27 or 29t sprocket. Conversely, this is a bike that would easily suit a standard chainset for some bigger ratios.
The Idol's riding position is pretty aggressive. Our 57cm model has a 57.2cm top tube, a 17.5cm head tube, and 73-degree frame angles. The stack (the vertical distance from the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) is 57.7cm, and the reach (the horizontal distance between those points) is 39.6cm.
All that means you ride in quite a long and low position – not as long and low as some, but definitely race-inspired. As usual, you get some control over the exact height of the front end but you're never going to be sitting particularly upright on this bike, not compared with some endurance bikes out there these days. That might be a problem for you, or it might be exactly what you're after. Horses for courses, steeds for needs.
I found the Idol to offer quite a firm ride. That's not a euphemism for harsh, by the way; it's not harsh at all. In fact, I found it very comfortable even over longer rides. You certainly get a degree of flex through the curved seatstays but there's not a whole lot of movement in the 31.6mm-diameter FSA SL-K seatpost.
The Prologo Zero II CPC saddle is a really high-quality item. It's not a standard item on the Idol Athena bike (£2,999.99) – the Prologo Kappa is the stock choice – but I'd urge you to give one a try if you get the chance. That CPC covering might have all the hallmarks of a gimmick but it really does keep you in place if you're the type of rider who tends to slide about on the saddle. The carbon rails help to keep the weight down too.
Interestingly, the Idol is available in both rim brake and disc brake versions. We reviewed the disc brake model here on road.cc much earlier in the year. Stu thought that it performed well but he couldn't quite work out what type of bike it was trying to be, and he found the Shimano RX31 wheels heavy.
This rim brake version is considerably lighter (7.52kg versus 8.5kg) and the Fulcrum Racing Zero wheels we have fitted to our review bike are excellent. They're a high-end aluminium choice, light (a claimed 1,440g) with ceramic bearings. No complaints here. They handle superbly and we've had no problems with durability.
The standard Idol Athena has Fulcrum Racing 5s, so the Zeros are a big upgrade (perhaps an unrealistic one, in that you're not going to see too many bikes around equipped with Campag Athena and Racing Zeros), but they suit the frameset well if you're prepared to stump up the extra cash.
De Rosas are brought into the UK by i-ride and they're built up over here with complete groupsets. Ours is 11-speed Campagnolo Athena right down to the cassette and chain; there are no cheaper alternatives bunged on where you might not notice them to save a few quid.
We're going to run a complete review of Athena on road.cc soon, so I won't go into too much detail here, but it performs well throughout and provides easy shifting from both the hoods and the drops. My only real criticism is that the single pivot rear brake is a bit weedy. Campag figures that you want most power at the front and it offers a single-pivot option at the rear to modulate braking and avoid locking up. I get that, but I'd still go for the dual-pivot calliper at the back, given the choice.
If you're not a fan of Athena, the De Rosa Idol comes in other builds, both Campag and Shimano, right up to a £4,300 model with a Chorus EPS groupset (the same frame takes either electronic or mechanical groupsets) and Fulcrum Racing Quattro LG wheels.
Whatever version you go for, you'll get branded parts throughout, in our case an aluminium 3T Pro bar and stem, and Continental Grand Prix tyres.
And if none of the exact builds does it for you, i-ride can change components and work out a price accordingly – hence our Idol Athena coming with wheel and saddle upgrades.
Lively gran fondo bike that feels like a race bike, especially with our wheels upgrade
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road.cc test report
Make and model: De Rosa Idol Athena/Fulcrum Racing Zero
Size tested: 57cm
About the bike
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
The frame is a carbon-fibre monocoque
Fork De Rosa full carbon
Groupset Campagnolo Athena, single pivot rear brake, compact chainset, 11-25 cassette
Wheels Fulcrum Racing Zero
Handlebar 3T Pro
Stem 3T Pro
Seatpost FSA SL-K 31.6mm
Saddle Prologo Zero II CPC
Tyres Continental Grand Prix, 25mm
Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?
De Rosa sees the Idol as a gran fondo bike, but that can mean a load of different things to different people. It's designed to be ridden fast in reasonable comfort, essentially, and it does that successfully.
Frame and fork
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It's a good looking bike and the matt finish is well done.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Both are carbon fibre. De Rosa says that the frame is made with a blend of T1000 (70%) and T800 (30%) carbon.
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
The head angle is steep, the top tube is long and the head tube is pretty low. That means you end up with quite an aggressive riding position here.
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The geometry has more in common with that of a race bike than it does with most sportive bikes.
Riding the bike
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
I felt the ride was quite firm, but comfortable all the same.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
It feels very stiff both at the bottom bracket and especially at the front end.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Yes, that's one of the Idol's biggest strengths.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral to quick.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
It handles very well. Cornering is a highlight.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
I got on really well with the Prologo Zero II CPC saddle, which is an upgrade over the standard offering on the Idol Athena.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The Fulcrum Racing Zeros feel very stiff to me. Again, they're an upgrade over the standard build.
Wheels and tyres
If you want higher value you can go lower down the Fulcrum range.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? A possibility.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
The Idol puts in a strong performance and the couple of upgrades we made to the standard spec (wheels and saddle) are both excellent additions. They do bump the price up, though, and £3,600 is obviously a lot to spend on an Athena-equipped bike, but this would be £2,999 without our (perhaps unrealistic) upgrades.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.