head to head: Dolan Preffisio review

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

Imagine if all the champions who have ridden Dolans — Chris Boardman, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Hoy to name three of the most famous — left behind a bit of their winning magic in the Dolans made for ordinary riders, and we could release it just by pedalling, like Aladdin rubbing the lamp?

The funny thing about bikes is that it sort of does work that way — or at least people think it does — and that’s usually enough. So let’s pedal the Preffisio and see what sorcery we can unleash.

The Preffisio frameset is a bargain at £280 including carbon fork with aluminium steerer, integrated headset, seatpost and clamp. This build, with full SRAM Apex and Mavic Aksium Race wheels, also offers remarkably good value for money.

There’s no messing about with the Preffisio — it’s a basic aluminium frame made capably in the Far East to keep costs down, available in any colour so long as it’s black. Dolan doesn’t only echo Henry Ford’s ethos in its colour way — like the Model T the Preffisio is intended for the ‘great multitude’.

With its race geometry and mudguard eyes the Preffisio is a perfect winter trainer for the competitive cyclist, but it has also been ridden in the highest-profile way by absolute beginners — Dolan supplied these frames to David Walliams, Fearne Cotton, Patrick Kielty etc for the Sport Relief Million Pound Bike Ride from John o’ Groats to Land’s End last March. Just don’t entertain thoughts of a PB next year if any of this lot’s particular brand of cycling ‘magic’ has found its way into the fabric of the Preffiisio…

The Preffisio and SRAM Apex were made for each other. The no-frills frame is the perfect setting for this rather special budget groupset. Its neutral, balanced handling showcases Apex’s accurate shifting and smooth running. Aluminium once had a reputation for being harsh, but the Preffisio’s ride is better described as assertive.

The frame isn’t particularly light but it is stiff, so it steamrollers rough surfaces rather than soaking them up. It depends on your point of view but if you’re after going fast on bikes it makes it feel exciting. The Apex shifting makes it even better — plus Apex’s bottom gear generates a lot of torque so you know it if a frame is not stiff enough.

You really have to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming, because this sort of performance at this price used only to be found in the land of nod. Into the bargain, Apex’s braking power is so much better than that of its budget Shimano counterparts.

Short on head tube

Is there anything wrong with it? For novices or less serious riders the head tube is very short — 13cm on the 56cm size we tested. Even with 3cm of spacers under the stem the position is very aggressive. For a racing man it’s great, but lately bikes have been going a little higher at the front to improve comfort. Then again, if you want to release your inner Boardman, Wiggins or Hoy, you’ve got to put your head down, haven’t you?

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Luxury option: Dolan Mythos Rival/Aksium £1,425

This is a full-carbon frame and fork equipped with SRAM Rival, the next groupset up from Apex, and Mavic Aksium Race wheels. Perfect for sportives, the Mythos is higher at the front than the Preffisio for a more comfortable position.

Cheaper option: Dolan Pre Cursa £660

It’s a track bike for the track, not the street — and it’s entirely appropriate that Dolan’s cheapest bike reflects where the company has enjoyed its biggest successes. The Pre Cursa has a triple-butted aluminium frame, carbon fork, Sugino chainset and BB and Navigator Pista wheels. If you want to get into track racing, start here.

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

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