head to head: Apex Twins verdict

29th January 2011   Words: Simon Smythe   Photos: Christopher Catchpole

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The unashamedly utilitarian Dolan Preffisio would be the racing man’s choice of training bike. It has an unfussy, straight-down-the-line feel about it. What you see is what you get. The welds aren’t smoothed, the graphics are simple and it comes in one colour scheme.

As a winter bike — one that you don’t need to worry too much about, because your race bike is the one you take to bed with you (metaphorically speaking) — the Dolan is the one. It has a racy feel, with its very short head tube and stiff ride. Traditionally, the winter bike should not cost too much — and sure enough the Dolan is over £100 cheaper than the Condor.

However, we felt that the short head tube translated into a shortcoming. It pigeonholes the Dolan as a winter training bike — a second bike — whereas the Condor is more versatile. If you were new to cycling and looking for your first bike, one that would be your only bike, you would probably go for the Condor because it has a friendlier position with a higher front end. The ride quality is also slightly more refined than the Dolan’s – comfortable for long sportives at a fairly low average speed and good for riding in town too.

It’s always down to your personal taste, but the general consensus here is that the Condor is a better-looking machine than the Dolan and everybody knows that people mostly buy bikes with their eyes. The curving top tube is an aesthetically pleasing touch and it’s something people comment on. Condor even told us that the curved top tube allows riders to fit a D-lock on a bracket inside the front triangle. Whatever — it’s a bike you can be proud of because it doesn’t look like other bikes and has a nice easy-riding quality.

What is SRAM Apex like?
We were highly impressed with the performance of SRAM’s new budget groupset. SRAM has saved money by using cheaper materials — for example Apex does not feature the carbon-fibre brake levers of Rival, the next groupset up, but that doesn’t affect its performance in any immediately perceptible way. The dual pivot brake calipers are heavier than Rival’s and the Apex chainset has solid C-section cranks rather than hollow, which again adds weight and flexibility — but not so as you would really notice.

Apex on the road feels very smooth — shifting is absolutely precise and the long cage of the Apex rear derailleur makes for plush chain running. As far as set-up goes, our mechanic says SRAM’s DoubleTap shifting system, which uses a single lever, is not as easy as Shimano or Campagnolo, but if Apex comes on a built-up bike, as it does with these two, the shop will set it up for you.

The highlight is the wide-ratio cassette, which means you can go up virtually any hill no matter what your level of fitness. Apex climbs onto the huge 32 sprocket without a problem. Racers would probably prefer a closer-ratio cassette, but for novices or the not so fit, Apex is perfect.

head to head: Apex Twins introduction
head to head: Condor Italia £999
head to head: Dolan Preffisio £895
head to head: Apex Twins verdict

This article first appeared in the January 2011 issue of Cycling Active magazine.