Henry Robertshaw puts Dolan's first disc-brake road bike to the test
Dolan is a name steeped in British cycling history. Founded in Liverpool by Terry Dolan, who has built frames since the late Seventies, Dolan frames and bikes have been raced by the likes of Chris Boardman, Bradley Wiggins and Sean Kelly’s An Post team.
The DR1 Disc is the only disc-equipped road bike in the Dolan range, and despite the company’s relatively short experience with discs, it ticks all the boxes.
Watch: eight things to know about disc brakes
That means flat-mount brake calipers from Shimano and thru-axles front and rear, making the frame future-proof if any individual parts need upgrading a few years down the line.
There are two colour options available – this yellow and black option or a grey/red colour way. Both highlight the unusual tube shapes, which look neither classically round nor modernly aero.
There are a few different basic build options available for the DR1. The one we’ve got here sits in the middle of the range with its mechanical Shimano Ultegra and Zipp Course 30 wheels.
The Ultegra groupset has a well documented reputation for performance, so I’ll tell you about the wheels instead.
Watch: Shimano Ultegra groupset review
Zipp is best known for its ultra-exotic, deep-section carbon wheels, but I’d say these Course 30s are probably the highlight of its range, offering superb performance for an aluminium wheelset at a pretty reasonable cost.
However, at this point I should probably say that the beauty of buying through Dolan is that you are given a decent amount of control over the specification.
You can choose your preferred handlebar width, stem length and bar tape, take your pick from a range of three different saddles, specify your gear ratios, swap between Mavic and Zipp wheels and upgrade your tyres.
The DR1 Disc is Dolan’s first attempt at a disc brake road bike, so I wasn’t expecting it to be perfect, but the company has still done a very good job.
It’s a real shame you can’t ride disc brake bikes yet in British amateur races, as that’s where the DR1 Disc would surely be most at home.
Both the front and rear ends are lovely and stiff, meaning sharp cornering through the bends and fairly sharp acceleration out of them.
It also helps you hold your speed very well on flat roads, although climbing feels a little more sluggish.
Unfortunately, this stiffness does hold the bike back a little when it comes to comfort, meaning that light riders in particular will find themselves bounced around over rough road surfaces.
Dolan has a reputation for its no-nonsense pricing, and this is once again the case with the DR1.
Costing £2,599 for the model you see here, the DR1 represents very good value for money.
In fact Dolan could probably stick another £500 on the price tag without too many eyebrows being raised. The DR1 is an impressive package, combining a good all-round ride (maybe steer clear of the cobbles), an excellent groupset and wheels and hydraulic disc brakes.
Dolan has earned a reputation for producing very good road bikes if not for pushing the envelope when it comes to cutting-edge design in recent years. With this in mind, I have to admit to not having particularly high expectations from the brand's first disc-brake road bike, and would have forgiven the odd quick release or mechanical disc brake here or there. But no, Dolan has ticked all the boxes that we'd expect from bigger brands with bigger budgets, and produced a bike that's pretty good to ride at the same time. The choice of Shimano hydraulic disc brakes is excellent, and front and rear thru-axles makes sure that there is no chance of brake rub even when sprinting out of the saddle. It's also proved very responsive in terms of acceleration and handling through twisty lanes. The only hitch for me is the comfort. I found it more suited to short, sharp efforts than long miles.