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Dolan Titanium ADX Disc review

22 Nov 2019
Verdict:

A titanium frame may last a lifetime, but is the Dolan one you’d want to spend your life riding? It's comfy, versatile and miles from dull

Cyclist Rating: 
For 
Cheap • Customisable • Comfy
Against 
Could do with bolt-through hubs • A tad geeky looking

I rode the Dolan Titanium ADX Disc from one end of the country to the other on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. That’s Land's End to John o' Groats, 980 miles over nine consecutive days. Beset by grizzly conditions, if there were any less than joyful moments, none of them can be blamed on the bike.

I’d picked out the titanium ADX Disc for the job as it looked a good bet for long days. I wanted upright, I wanted comfy, I wanted tubeless, I wanted easy gearing and I wanted disc brakes. Basically, I wanted insurance against my athletic shortcoming, along with as easy a ride as possible.

On top of promising these traits, the Dolan had also piqued my interest because it can be configured before you buy. Meaning you can get something matching an existing bike fit, right down to the crank length - the older you get the more this is the sort of stuff you appreciate.

Starting at two grand for a Shimano 105 hydraulic disc-equipped bike, my very-special-and-important cycling journalist build came in at £2,590, although anyone can get the same treatment via the Dolan website with a lead time of seven to 10 days.

Making up the difference was an Ultegra groupset which added £300, a pair of tubeless Mavic Cosmic wheels contributing £125, while my wimpy wide-ratio 11-32t cassette and swish Deda and Supacaz upholstered cockpit did for the rest.

  

On the road

Arriving ahead of schedule, the Dolan was ready to rock out of the box. Feeling like it’d been built with care, rather than a desire to get off and down the pub, jumping aboard the first time felt eerily familiar, with none of the niggles you normally find with either fit or construction.

Deposited on the tarmac, its low weight and dampening qualities were instantly obvious. Having not ridden many titanium bikes, I’d expected something a bit more woolly. Instead, I found it pleasingly direct. Sharpened by the stiff and moderately aero wheels, it gets up to speed easily and once there, holds onto its pace well too.

 

Made up of a mix of skinny and oversize tubing, the seatstays are diminutive, while the Dolan’s seat tube is a chunky 34.9mm. The downtube is broad too, although its stiffness is more welcome.

All considered, there’s dampening from the road, but not tons of extra movement between the frame and contact points. Likely because of the difficulty of constructing a stiff titanium frame with slender tubes, for one, the carbon seat post’s large-diameter doesn’t leave it much ability to flex.

Buy the Dolan Ti ADx from Dolan here

Yet regardless of this, the overall feeling is of a bike that’s smooth-rolling, but never dull or flabby. Riding it day after day, at some point, I’d expected my hands or back to give out. But whether it was the titanium frame or the relaxed geometry, they never did.

Instead, after nine consecutive days, while most riders were ready to throw their bikes in the nearest skip, me and the bike arrived in John O'Groats still on good terms.

So other than riding LEJOG, what’s the Dolan ADX for? It’d certainly do for fast touring. But despite being able to take tyres up to 35c wide, plus a rack and mudguards, its geometry isn’t actually much removed from most sportive or endurance machines.

High at the front and not too long across the top, it’ll suit any occasion where you’ve got to spend long hours in the saddle and don’t need to get too low down while doing so. From gravel to sportive riding via commuting and bike packing; really, it’ll do most things pretty well.

 

The frame

Given its price, you’d think the Dolan’s frame might hide some cost-cutting measures. But from the curving, tapered head tube to the beautifully machined dropouts, it’s a surprisingly good looking beast. Held together by very neat welds, its internal cable-routing and subtle fixing points are just as pretty.

With a flat-mount brake fixing and cable port, its carbon fork is also pleasingly neat. About the only omission on the standard wish-list are a pair of bolt-thru axles, although I never really felt the lack of them. Certainly, it goes round corners well.

And that’s despite titanium having a reputation for being flexible. After hundreds of miles on this bike, I realised I hadn’t properly tested this theory. After all, when was the last time you contested a proper head-down, haul-on-the-bars bunch sprint? Even a play-fighting one? In the last year? Raise your hand.

Going out specifically to remedy this, I can confirm that, shockingly, the Dolan does flex slightly more than a stiff carbon frame if you mash it like a lunatic. But only to a degree that’s noticeable if you have huge thighs or go looking for it.

 

Components

Reviewing the parts when they can all be swapped might seem superfluous, but the excellent Shimano Ultegra brakes deserve a mention, as does the ability to chuck on a super-wide 11-32t cassette. When has that ever been a bad idea? Never.

The tyres are good too. Much improved over previous Mavic models I’ve tried, they either survived many miles without puncturing or healed themselves seamlessly using the extra sealant I bunged in as a safety precaution.

Conclusion

The short of it is: I liked it. The Dolan Titanium ADX Disc convinced me that if I were to buy a fast touring or Audax bike it’d now be something titanium. And even if I was after something racier, it was easily stiff enough to make a good pitch for taking on that role too.

Not only did I enjoy how little it beat me up while riding back-to-back centuries, there’s also the fact any titanium bike is always only a spit polish and service away from looking like new. Over the years I’ve owned lots of steel racing bikes for these same reasons. However, I always felt held back by their increased weight - not so on the 9.54kg Dolan.

Buy the Dolan Ti ADx from Dolan here

Given its price, I’m struggling for things to grumble about. Still, I’ll give it a go. One would be the stock Selle Italia flow saddle, which is horrible. I suppose bolt-thru axles would also be nice, apparently they’re in the works anyway. The looks could maybe use a tiny overhaul, with there being something a tad geeky about the Dolan’s proportions. The replaceable gear hanger, which like the frame is made of titanium, is also slightly flexy.

But considering the price, these are all easily overlooked on a bike that’s superbly light, versatile, comfy, customisable and good value. Hold on until the bolt-thru version comes out if you must, either way, you won’t be disappointed.

Price: 
£2,590 as built

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