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Dolan RDX review

10 Jan 2018
Verdict:

Incredible value for money makes the RDX a winner not only in winter but year-round

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
£1,599.97

Buy the Dolan RDX from Dolan Bikes here

The RDX is Dolan’s all-new do-everything aluminium frameset, around which you can specify the groupset, finishing kit, wheels – and even flat bars, should you wish – to suit your requirements, and more importantly, your budget.

The RDX’s frameset is constructed from aluminium. We’ve plumped for the 50cm variant, on the basis of its effective top tube measurement being closer to that which we would normally ride.

It’s worth comparing your current bike to Dolan’s sizing chart on their website to make doubly sure before you hit the ‘order’ button.

Cabling is entirely internally routed, out of harm’s way. Both the top tube and down tube feature teardrop-shaped profiles, while deep section chainstays flare from the bottom bracket.

Where are the welds?

The most stunning thing to be noted about the Dolan’s frame is that the welds are virtually invisible, apart from at the bottom bracket.

It’s a truly wonderful construction, and coated in a deep, lustrous paint finish.

On a practical note, the RDX also comes ready-fitted with Flinger full-length mudguards, replete with rear reflector, so it’s ready to ride into the murk from the moment it’s unpacked from the box.

Its steering geometry also hits the mark, with a measured head angle of 71.9° offering a lightness of steering lacking in the Trek, while the very steep 44.9° seat angle cants you forward over the bars to give immediate control.

You could run wider tyres if you were to remove the mudguards, but it’s wearing 25c Mavic rubber, which is probably the minimum diameter tyre most of us would be running through winter.

Groupset

Where Dolan’s online business model really comes into its own is here – the RDX has a full R8000 Ultegra groupset – on a bike whose cost is very much in the ‘budget’ category!

There are Ultegra logos to be found on the 50/34 chainset, the 11-30 cassette, on the front and rear mechs.

The shifters are RS505 items – equivalent to Shimano’s 105 groupset kit. They operate Shimano’s excellent RS505 hydraulic callipers, which bite on 140mm Aztec discs front and rear.

Finishing kit

The alloy finishing kit on the RDX comes from a number of manufacturers, but as with most elements of the bike, you can change its specification when you order.

Our test bike wears 420mm diameter Deda handlebars (which we might have changed for 400mm items to better suit the size 50 bike’s dimensions), and a 100mm Deda stem, which sets us out in a near-perfect riding position, vindicating the decision to go down a size on the frame.

An Alpina stem wears a Selle Italia X1 Flow saddle, whose flexibility contributes a sizeable amount of comfort to the ride.

Wheels

Mavic’s 30mm deep-section Cosmic Elite UST Disc wheelset – at £419 – might seem a bit like taking a gun to a knife fight… but if you’ve the budget to spare, why not?

Yes, the white graphics are going to take some cleaning, but the wheels spin up quickly enough to offer some fun on your ride home, or a Sunday social spin.

Their 17mm internal width will take anything from the 25c Mavic Yksion Pro rubber fitted to our test bike, all the way up to a 32c fitment.

The Yksions will take pressure up to a maximum of 100psi, but for optimum control on damp roads, we’d opt for closer to 80-85. 

On the road

The Dolan is instantly at home on the road. Some vibrations are noticeable early on, and inherent in the alloy construction, but for now it seems that the carbon fork is doing its best to take the sting out of them…   

The triple-butted frame, while undeniably super-compact in our size 50 test bike, is as zingy as some of the best performance-bred alloy we’ve ridden.

As soon as we up the pace, most of its inherent vibration fades away, to be replaced by what we’d tentatively term ‘proper bike handling and speed’.

Key to the way in which the RDX delivers more than a modicum of pleasure is the kit it’s been festooned with.

Shimano’s latest Ultegra package features near-instant delivery of power from the cranks to the rear wheel, its 505 hydraulic brake set-up hauls you up in no time when it’s urgent, or moderates speed perfectly when you’ve over-cooked it or just want to slow for traffic lights that are about to change.

Plus, the way in which the whole groupset package gels to provide faultless gear shifts is a huge positive. The smallest ratio on the big ring of 50-30 means we weren’t often forced to select the 34-tooth chainring, even when climbing.

And on the few occasions when our aspirations outstripped our ability, even frantic downshifts under load didn’t faze the drivetrain.

The biggest surprise of all is that we’ve every confidence that this bike could quite easily be the only bike you’d need not just for winter, but all year round.

It’s not unfavourably heavy, and you’ll struggle to find a better equipped road bike for the money.

Just remove the mudguards and stash them in the garage come March next year, and you’d be ready to take on some drier roads and really push its limits.

Handling

Hands up here, we’ve never been the biggest fans of Mavic’s Yksion Pro rubber. While it does have longevity and decent puncture protection on its side, it’s always felt a bit lacking in outright grip.

That said, in this package, and for the conditions we’re suggesting this bike is good for, the 25c rubber is a pretty safe choice.

Take a little wind out of them, to around 85psi, and they provide a good-sized contact patch for confident cornering, although not what you’d call banzai bend-swinging.

With a steering angle just the right side of ‘endurance bike-spec’, the response to rider input isn’t instant, but it’s far from ponderous.

A narrower set of bars would aid this further, but we’d keep the 100mm stem for the comfortable reach it gave us to the drops.

We left all the spacers under the steerer, for long-distance comfort, but there’s 30mm to play with if you’re looking for a more aggressive set-up.

Worthy of mention when you really do get the hammer down, or attack a big-ring uphill stretch of road, is that the Flinger 'guards fitted to this bike provide adequate clearance to prevent rubbing from the tyres.

The rattle – and associated fear of disintegration – that is the calling card of many a mudguard is thankfully absent, giving us full confidence to carve some downhill turns with exceptional accuracy.

Put your faith in the RDX and it repays you with a willingness to please that we really weren’t expecting when we wheeled it out of the garage.

 

 

Ratings

Frame: Virtually invisible welds show attention to detail. 9/10
Components: Full Ultegra is astonishing to find at this price. 9/10 
Wheels: Mavic Cosmic Elites are another top-value inclusion for your money. 9/10 
The Ride: Endurance-focused but far from ponderous. 9/10

Verdict

This is a great bike not only for the winter but for year-round riding. You'd struggle to find a better equipped road bike for the money

Buy the Dolan RDX from Dolan Bikes here

Geometry

Claimed Measured
Top Tube (TT) 535mm 535mm
Seat Tube (ST) 500mm 500mm
Down Tube (DT) N/A 624mm
Fork Length (FL) N/A 402mm
Head Tube (HT) 120mm 120mm
Head Angle (HA) 72 71.9
Seat Angle (SA) 75.4 74.9
Wheelbase (WB) N/A 1090mm
BB drop (BB) N/A 68mm

Spec

Dolan RDX
Frame RDX aluminium frame, carbon fork
Groupset Shimano Ultegra R8000
Brakes Shimano RS505 hydraulic discs
Chainset Shimano Ultegra, 50/34
Cassette Shimano Ultegra, 11-30
Bars Deda Zero 100, alloy
Stem Deda Zero 100, alloy
Seatpost Alpina, alloy
Saddle Selle Italia X1 Flow
Wheels Mavic Cosmic Elite Disc, Mavic Yksion Pro 25c tyres
Weight 9.48kg (50cm)
Contact dolan-bikes.com

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