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The Milanino is De Rosa's cheapest road bike but with its 'handmade in Italy' frame there is very little 'entry level' about it. It has a snappy ride, great handling and decent equipment. The only downside is a slightly basic pair of wheels.
Aluminium still has a lot to bring to the table as a viable alternative to carbon fibre, as the Cannondale CAAD 10 and Canyon Ultimate show. £1699 is still quite a high price for an alloy framed bike so, what do you get for your money and is it worth it?
Constructed by hand out of custom-drawn, triple-butted aluminium tubing at De Rosa's factory in Cusano Milanino, the Milanino (see what they did there) is finished off with smooth welds and a choice of either black or 'azurra' blue paint.
It's a semi compact design so De Rosa can get away with making just four size options (S-XL) as most fitting tweaks can be sorted out with a change of stem and seatpost. The overall look of the tubing is quite classical in traditional race bike style. There's no hydroforming or aero sections here and the only deviation from round tubes is the square profile chain stays.
Our medium size has a 54cm top tube and with a combination of 40cm seat stays and a 74° seat tube angle we're looking at a speed machine, the rear wheel tucked right in against the seat tube. The front end continues the theme with a short 137mm head tube.
The overall build quality is very high and goes a long way to justifying the price tag.
The Mizuno carbon fork has a 1 1/8in non-tapered steerer and the legs look pretty beefy as they leave the crown which should translate into a stiff front end when pushed. The straight legs also provide a platform for a couple more De Rosa stickers.Oh how the Italians love a logo!
The frameset is also available on its own for £699 which includes the frame, fork and seatpost.
A De Rosa just looks right with Campagnolo on it and the Centaur group is a great performer. It may be Campagnolo's fifth groupset from the top, but that does it an injustice; you'll be hard pressed to notice the difference between this and Athena or Chorus in the real world without counting the number of shifts.
The shifting is precise and solid every time as the chain moves across the 12-25 10-speed cassette (higher Campagnolo groups have 11 sprockets). Once set up, the front and rear mechs stayed spot on with no adjustment needed throughout the test period.
The Milanino comes with the carbon wrapped versions of the alloy shifters, they're only a few grams heavier but look loads better than the standard alloy ones.
Being able to move three sprockets on the up shift with one sweep of the lever is also of great benefit when you're riding in unfamiliar terrain or quick acceleration.
Breaking from the Centaur is the Fulcrum Racing Torq R carbon chainset which uses Campagnolo's Ultra Torque axle, a great design that uses interlocking teeth to connect drive and non drive side together. (Fulcrum is a subsidiary of Campagnolo so its still kind of a full groupset.)
It's a compact (50-34) which seems to be the norm these days but should still provide you with enough top end gears for everything except all out racing.
Thats the 'going' sorted so what about the 'slowing'? The Centaur dual pivot brakes have great modulation and plenty of power. Set up is easy and the pad compound is soft enough to grip without wearing too quickly.
The front end is supplied by 3T: Ergosum Pro bars and ARX-Pro stem. Both alloy and oversized diameter at 31.8mm and the bars are safe for attaching tri-bars if you fancy a go at 'the race of truth'.
The alloy seatpost is provided by FSA and it's a good tight fit in the frame. The only downside to this is that moving it up and down has removed most of the lacquer, making it look pretty shabby.
Keeping the white theme going, matching the bar tape and cable outers is the Prologo saddle. It's the Zero model with titanium rails and its certainly stiff giving you a bit of kicking until it beds in a bit.
Fulcrum's entry level wheels, the 7's, are an obvious downgrade to bring the bike in on price. From previous experience they're a decent performer but at around 1900g a pair they aren't what you'd call a race wheelset even with Continental's Grand Prix tyres wrapped around them.
Thankfully the Milanino rides as well as it looks. A combination of the frame's stiffness and that tight geometry sees it accelerate and change direction the instant you ask it to, which gives the rider huge confidence when faced with technical road sections. The steering is quick, as quick as you'd want it without it becoming twitchy and it weights up nicely when the speed increases.
The stiffness of the frame doesn't transfer to an unpleasant ride. It can get a bit bumpy on poor road surfaces but the bars and stem have enough flex to take out the majority of the road buzz plus the compact frame design leaves a lot of exposed seatpost which also provides a bit of give. The lack of any seriously oversized tube diameters also comes into play here and can see vibration resonating through the frame.
Get into the hills and you still won't find anything to ruin your mood. Yes, the climbing is a bit muted thanks to the weight of the Fulcrum 7 wheels. That's mostly only noticeable when the gradient really ramps up; on shallower gradients and short power climbs though the De Rosa flies.
Come back down the other side and the Milanino is beautifully balanced. Get low at the front end and let the bike do the work as everything comes together, the quick steering, stiff frame and fork plus the Centaur brakes control the speed excellently without fear of locking up.
On the up side the wheels are pretty bombproof. They are still running true and the hubs are smooth.
The Grand Prix tyres are very grippy and seem to be wearing well. The test miles have covered everything the British summer had to offer and the tyre surface is devoid of cuts or visits from the puncture fairy. Dry grip is very good giving lots of feedback as to what is going on while in the wet there was very little of the usual Continental skittishness.
So, 10/10 for the Milanino then? Well not quite, the Prologo saddle is pretty harsh. It does get better as you put more miles in but it is still going to test you on longer rides. The wheels, as I've said are heavy and the Milanino really deserves a lighter set of hoops to get the best out of the frame. Other than those two minor quibbles there is very little to spoil the party.
The Milanino goes a long way to highlight that frame material is largely irrelevant if you know what you are doing with it. It looks the business and rides like a race bike should, everything you put into the pedals you're going to see coming out as forward motion.
It'll happily be ridden all day as well, depending how you get on with the saddle. It's comfortable and not at all harsh as some alloy frames can be. In fact the ride is just as comfortable and forgiving as many carbon frames.
The Centaur kit is plenty good enough but if you wanted to upgrade it the frame will easily match the performance of Chorus or Record no problem.
With regards to price, it sits bang in the middle of Cannondale's CAAD10 105 and Ultegra versions so it's pretty much spot on regarding its competition. Saying that though, even paying the full rrp of £699 for the frameset, with a bit of internet shopping I could buy the parts to build the same spec for at least £100 less than the £1699.99 asking price.
If you're pretty good with a spanner that might be an option worth exploring, it'll also free up an extra hundred quid or so towards a decent lighter set of wheels.
Bellissimo, a top frame and decent finishing kit. Treat it to some lighter wheels though.
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Make and model: De Rosa Milanino
Size tested: 54
State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.
Frame: Triple Butted Aluminium, handbuilt
Wheels: Fulcrum Racing 7
Tyres: Continental Grand Prix
Shifters: Campag Centaur Carbon 10spd
Front Mech: Campag Centaur
Rear Mech: Campag Centaur 10 spd
Cassette: 12-25 10spd
Chainset: Fulcrum R-Torq R Carbon 50/34
Stem: 3T Pro
Handlebar: 3T Ergosum Oversized
Seatpost: FSA De Rosa Alloy
Saddle: ProLogo Zero - Ti rail
Brakes: Campag Centaur dual pivot calipers
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?
It's a thoroughbred Italian race bike. "Thanks to its retro styling and hand-crafted construction, the De Rosa Milanino appeals to lovers of Italian cycling heritage."
Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?
It is a thing of beauty, simple, elegant and finished off with a top paint job.
Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?
Triple butted alloy tubing for the frame which is custom drawn allowing the designers to get the strength where they need it to create the desired ride.
The fork is full carbon fibre
Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?
steep angles and a racy position
How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?
The medium we tested has a 54cm top tube which is pretty consistent for most medium sizes.
Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.
It was comfortable, you can still feel the slight harshness of the material compared to say titanium or steel but for an aluminium frame its a very cossetting ride.
Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?
The components - bars, stem, seatpost took the sting out of the frame especially on our rough road surfaces.
How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?
Very well, you got out what you put in.
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
Yes, a small amount with my size 10 shoes.
How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Lively.
Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?
Lovely, this is the Milanino's high point - it's perfectly balanced. It can get a touch fidgety at slow (<10mph) pace though.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?
The bars and stem have a small amount of give that takes the road buzz out. I'd change the saddle though, it's very stiff
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?
The carbon chainset and bottom bracket area keeps things tight.
Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's efficiency? would you recommend any changes?
The Fulcrum 7 wheels were the only thing that takes the shine off of the performance
the wheel weight can blunt the acceleration from a stand still
Yeah baby, this thing is fun!
lighter than both 105 and Ultegra
Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?
Campag always gives a solid feel and while initially feeling clunky compared to Shimano's groups it beds in very nicely. The Fulcrum chainset looks good and feels very stiff and the Centaur levers are very comfortable
Tyres = great, wheels = heavy
Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?
The Fulcrum Racing 7's are very good wheels they are just out of their depth on a frame of this quality. The Grand Prix's are some of the best Conti tyres I've used, good grip and wearing well.
Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?
The 3T kit is good quality and is a good compromise between comfort and all out stiffness. The lacquer coming off the seatpost looked untidy but hopefully is a one off due to differing rider heights and transportation.
Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)
It's a pretty good spec sheet for the price.
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.
Would you consider buying the bike? Yes.
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.
Age: 34 Height: 180cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Genesis Flyer My best bike is: Ribble Gran Fondo
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
As part of the Tech Hub here at F-At Digital, our senior product reviewer Stu uses the knowledge gained from putting well over a 1,000 products through their paces (including hundreds of bikes) to write in-depth reviews of a huge range of kit. After first throwing his leg over a race bike back in 2000, Stu's ridden more than 160,000 miles on road, time-trial, track, and gravel bikes, and while he's put his racing days behind him he still likes to smash the pedals rather than take things easy. Although, as he spends a fair bit of his time reviewing ebikes these days he's becoming an expert in letting the motor take the strain. He's also waiting for 23mm race tyres to make a comeback!