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Dolan DR1 Carbon Disc Road review

9 Jan 2017
Verdict:

Slightly lacking in refinement, but the DR1 consistently performs far beyond what you'd expect from a £3k bike

Price: 
£2,999

If you’ve been around cycling for a while, or at least kept tabs on the successes of some of our athletes over the years, chances are the name Terry Dolan will ring a bell.

This is a marque with a rich heritage. Dolan learned his trade from renowned British custom builder Harry Quinn, before going it alone to form his own framebuilding company.

Notably, Chris Boardman had an association with Dolan’s machines from a young age, using them (at that time named Cougar), in his early years as a pro with Kodak and Gan. 

Stars on bikes

Fast forward a few more years and the likes of Sir Bradley Wiggins, Mark Cavendish, Yvonne McGregor, Rob Hayles, Chris Hoy, Geraint Thomas – the list could go on – have all ridden Dolan track frames in major championships, achieving career highlights along the way, including a haul of National Championship, World Championship and even Olympic medals.

Away from the cream of British Cycling, Dolan bikes were also in the media as the bikes used for the 2010 BBC Sport Relief Million Pound Bike Ride, for which a celebrity team consisting of the likes of Jimmy Carr, Davina McCall and David Walliams rode a non-stop relay from John O’Groats to Lands End, raising more than £1.3million for charity.

So, if the name seems familiar, it’s not really that surprising. In its 30-plus years, though, Dolan has remained a modest brand, still based close to its roots in Ormskirk, Lancashire, with value for the club-level riders at the heart of its ethos.

The DR1 Carbon Disc Road, to use its full title, is new to the Dolan stable, launching in the spring of this year to join the titanium ADX frameset at the top of its price spectrum (the frameset costs £999).

Up to date

It’s bang up to date too, with features such as flat-mount disc brake compatibility, thru-axles and a concealed seatpost clamp. Dolan refers to its livery as ‘battleship grey’, which seems appropriate given the rock-solid appearance of the frame, constructed from oversized D-section tubes, with a seriously purposeful set of boxy chainstays extending rearwards from a mass of carbon around the bottom bracket.

The seatstays are the only tubes not girder-like in their appearance, and interestingly they attach to the underside of the top tube, rather than the rear of the seat tube, something that’s a common feature of Canyon’s top-end road bikes. 

Based on its appearance I wasn’t expecting my legs to trouble the frame too much in terms of flex, a bit like if I gave Mike Tyson my best shot to the chin, I doubt he’d even flinch. The Dolan looked more than ready to do battle with me.

Ding, ding, round one

Sure enough, initial rides revealed the DR1 has a truly solid persona, backed up in this particular guise by a quality set of wheels – Mavic’s Cosmic SSC carbon tubulars, sturdily mounted via thru-axles front and rear.

As such the DR1 displayed an eagerness to accelerate, helped by a decent overall weight and by standing firm to every crank revolution. 

What’s more, it held on to its pace admirably too. It didn’t quite sneak under the 8kg mark (as quoted) but it did hit it on the nose – 8.00kg according to the Cyclist scales.

That’s very respectable for a disc brake bike at this price point, especially considering it’s also got the additional weight penalty (although worth every extra gram) of an electronic Di2 groupset. 

Throwing it into corners it responded predictably and maintained its composure to hold a line consistently.

Stiffness

Attacking a slope its poise was unfaltering, once more its stiffness coming to the fore, although there were times when the back end had a tendency to skip around if I found myself on an uneven surface, mid-surge, and out of the saddle. 

Staying with its stiffness, I found that the harshness of the ride varied depending on my mood or level of fatigue.

It definitely flies close to the mark of being overly stiff (for this 67kg rider) but, based on the fact its rigidity does bring a number of pleasing performance attributes, it deserves the benefit of the doubt. I’d say it’s just on the acceptable side of harsh. 

Compared to frames of similarly high levels of stiffness from the big guns, it lacks just a bit of the refinement they demonstrate in keeping the worst jolts from the road at bay.

But then, it also lacks a £7k+ pricetag, which would have seemed like an astronomical amount of cash to spend on a bicycle just a few years ago but now seems to be standard pricing for top-tier wares. 

I had to continually remind myself that this is a £3k bike. It could easily command a higher price, and I’ve ridden much more expensive bikes that were not as good.

I’d suggest a worthwhile consideration, as there is ample clearance available, would be to upsize the tyres.

The supplied 25mm Mavic Yksion Pro tubulars felt a little on the narrow side compared to most other tyres of the same declared width, but a 28mm tyre might just be all that’s needed to soften the ride feel a fraction.

Finding your fit

The Deda Superzero bar was not a shape that worked for me, but that’s easily resolved. The spec is entirely in your hands. Purchasing a Dolan entails dressing your chosen frame to your budget and/or requirements by picking your components from the online menus.

Of course the price adjusts accordingly but it does mean you’re likely to get exactly what you want from the outset. 

If this inspires you to consider the DR1 as your next purchase, a word of warning on sizing. Dolan uses slightly peculiar size denominations.

A size 54 (as tested) actually has a 57cm top tube (the most vital of all geometric considerations) and is classified as X-Large – a bit confusing and not comparable to the rest of the industry.

It’s not a problem, but simply something to be aware of. Just don’t buy a medium or you’ll end up with a tiny bike.

Spec

Dolan DR1
Frame 54cm
Groupset Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 Hydraulic
Brakes Shimano RS805 flat-mount disc
Chainset Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 Hydraulic
Cassette Shimano Ultegra 6870 Di2 Hydraulic
Bars Deda Superzero
Stem Deda Superzero
Seatpost Dolan DR1 carbon
Wheels Mavic Cosmic SSC tubular
Saddle Selle Italia Flite titanium
Weight 8.00kg
Contact dolan-bikes.com

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