The Dual, from another established British bike brand, Dolan, is an altogether more assertive affair.
Like the Raleigh Clubman the Dual comes equipped for winter riding, with full mudguards, but there is no looking back with this offering. The Dual is nevertheless an attractive bike. In black and bright green, with a Pixar-esque sheen, the muscular carbon tubing tapers nicely from the head tube into the seat tube and out to the bottom bracket shell.
This bike was specced a little higher than the Clubman, featuring full Shimano 105 drivetrain, shifters and brakes, again with a compact chainset. It has Mavic Aksium wheels with Aksion tyres, and Alpina carbon seatpost, 3T ARX Pro stem and 3T Rotunda compact bars. The bike building system at Dolan means that the Dual can be specced however you like.
You can have full Tiagra – like the Clubman – or Sora, which will bring it roughly in line with the Raleigh in terms of price. Alternatively, you can equip it at the higher end of Shimano’s range or the SRAM equivalent.
But this build is pretty spot-on for a winter trainer, combining the right elements of performance, durability and value for money. The Aksiums are good entry-level race/training wheels with proven bombproof qualities, while the 105 kit is reliable under all conditions, and on this test the brake calipers put the Tektros to shame.
This bike is really designed with serious training in mind. Sure, it comes with mudguards but the geometry only differs marginally from Dolan’s full-on racers, with a slightly shorter top tube, longer head tube and a slight rake on the front fork.
This all makes for a responsive bike both in terms of acceleration and handling. It’s agile, flies along with little persuasion and climbs beautifully.
The ride quality highlights the best qualities of carbon, combining rigidity and suppleness.
I kept the position quite ‘heads-up’ to suit all-weather training and commuting and in some ways the ride was reminiscent of a racy cyclo-cross frame. I was nicely tucked in and comfortable descending on the compact drops, achieved plenty of power when seated and felt really well balanced sprinting and climbing out of the saddle.
Most of the shock-absorbing is done at the front, which makes for great handling on rougher roads, while the straight rear stays and fairly large bottom bracket lead to a more positive relationship with the road at the rear of the bike.
If responsiveness is one half of the equation, the other is a certain directness when riding over bumpier terrain. I like this feel from a bike and it’s a worthwhile trade-off in terms of the performance you are getting but some riders may find this tiring on longer rides.
The Dolan Dual needn't just be a winter bike though. Sans mudguards it will handle any sportive and a bit of racing probably isn't beyond its capabilities. The lack of rack mounts pretty much rules it out as a tourer but its handling and hardiness would make it a great choice for the commuter. It seems something of a luxury item in that context, but the different price points available with this frame make it viable for this use, so why not enjoy your riding every day of the week? The Dolan Dual's true calling though is bossing the club runs, attacking the climbs and eating up all the miles all year round. As a winter trainer I find it difficult to fault.