A big name in the track bike scene, Dolan has provided bikes for Britain's best. The Dolan DF4 is a pleasure to ride, and great value too
In and around track cycling you don’t have to look too hard to see that Dolan bikes are the mainstay of track riders and racers. That’s not only true in the amateur ranks but the professional scene too. Bradley Wiggins has ridden a number of Terry Dolan track bikes, many sporting a custom paint job paying tribute to his latest world championship victory.
Video: Is a skinsuit for everybody?
The Dolan DF4 has been around a while now and won the track bike grouptest we featured in Cycling Active. So from the off I knew it’ll be a good ride. You can’t have this much experience and not produce a solid, well-made frameset.
The DF4 followed the DF3, which racked up an impressive 80 world and European titles in its time and, thanks to its development and I’m sure use by the best track cyclists in the world, the DF4 is 115g lighter and said to be 18 per cent stiffer than its predecessor. The DF4 isn’t discipline-specific either: the all-carbon frame is a favourite among sprinters and endurance riders alike.
As listed you can buy this as a frameset costing £1,249.99. This exact build at the time of testing is a penny under £5,000, which is a lot of money for a track bike. However, with a set of Mavic wheels (IO front and Comete disc at the rear) you have here one of the best track wheelsets money can buy.
The savings on the frame against the carbon alternatives like Cervélo, Pinarello and BMC (over which you’ll save around £2,000) means that if you have the cash you can splash out on a set of high-end hoops.
Dolan also provided the very stiff PRO Vibe Sprint stem and sprinter-style narrow Alpine bars, but I did wipe these off for something a little more traditionally shaped. These all performed as well as they should and only enhanced the ride of the Dolan.
The Sugino cranks and chainring are definitely good enough (though maybe they don’t look as nice as Shimano or Campag options) and if I had the cash to buy a set of Mavics then I’d certainly finish off the bike with a Shimano or Campagnolo chainset.
Track bikes tend to come down to being light enough and stiff enough, and very few can’t do the job they’re invented for. As a result, the right choice mostly comes down to personal preference and price. Dolan’s DF4 is very solid – it is plenty stiff and I never felt like it would let me down in any way.
It was never twitchy but felt responsive and very planted at full speed – even with a mixture of five-spoke wheels, disc wheels and traditional spokies placed in the bike. It might not be the lightest frameset money can buy, but I feel safe in the knowledge that it won’t be bending under load. If the big sprinters can ride these bikes without issue then the rest of us will be fine.
It isn’t as stiff as the BMC Track TR01, though it it’s no slouch. Yes, it was a little slower off the line, mostly down to the BMC’s sheer rigidity, but I felt very assured riding the Dolan. It gave me confidence being so planted.
This is by far the best-value carbon track bike on the market. The carbon alternatives from BMC, Pinarello and Cervélo are a clear step above the Dolan in terms of price but I wouldn’t say in terms of performance. At half the price of those bike industry giants you’d be mad not to consider this as your track machine.
There is a reason why you see Dolans everywhere you go in the track cycling circle and it isn’t just down to price. When you hear ‘for the money you get a great bike’ it can often shout buying on the cheap, but the DR4 really is a professional-level track machine. I can’t find fault in the DF4, and with the bike builder service on Dolan's website you can find a performance frame at a wide range of price points.