The British stalwart bears its aero teeth
If there was one bike I regret selling it was an early-2000s Dolan aluminium track frame. Resplendent in replica Team GB livery, it was one of the harshest, most impractical bikes I’ve ever ridden. I knew no better so rode it fixed with a huge gear around the hilly roads of Brighton, but even when I was pushing it up a hill, I still felt Velominati Rulesstyle Fantastic. It had the first one-and-a-half pieces of carbon stuff I’d ever owned – a seatpost and carbon-wrapped stem – along with white rims, saddle and tape. It drew more comments from strangers than any bike I’ve owned since, and it endeared me for life to the Terry Dolan brand.
Yet in recent years I must confess to falling a little out of love with Terry. Team GB has long since stopped racing the brand’s bikes and, in my humble opinion, Dolan has struggled to make the transition from high-end metal to high-end carbon fibre. Don’t get me wrong, it has consistently produced well specced, well priced bikes, but its desirable racing pedigree seems to have eroded somewhat.
Sponsorship of Sean Kelly’s now defunct An-post pro team helped stoke the racing coals again, but – let’s be honest – if you had £5,000+ to spend on a bike, would you go for a Worldtour brand or a Dolan? Maybe this review might make you reconsider…
Five grand is a lot of money, and it puts the Rebus alongside bikes enhanced with windtunnel-tested this and fully integrated that.
The Rebus is clearly a bike with aero on its mind, with dropped seatstays, scooped seat tube and a narrow down tube with truncated trailing edge. It certainly looks aerodynamic, but when I asked Dolan’s operations manager, Paul Norris, if the bike was designed using CFD or tested in a wind-tunnel, he replied, ‘Not as yet.’
Does that matter? My immediate thought was yes. For five grand I want five grand’s worth of R&D, conducted by 19 aerodynamicists from 20 different countries all connected by a supercomputer housed in the core of the Earth. But the more rides I did on the Rebus, the less I cared.
Myth-busting and air-punching
This is not an open-mould frame picked out of a catalogue, says Norris. This is Dolan-designed. The company owns the moulds and has the Rebus made in the Far East, as per pretty much every mainstream brand today. I only mention this because one or two cyclists I talked to seemed to believe that Dolan frames are from open moulds (available to any brand). But I digress.
Whether the aero designs were wind-tunnel certified or not became a mere afterthought when
riding the bike. I found the early acceleration phase – from standstill to around 20kmh – to be wonderfully rapid, exciting similar responses in me to other ‘market-leading’ aero bikes. That is, the clichéd goofy grin, which no one really does of course, because you should never look like you’re enjoying riding, even when you are.
With Mavic’s new Cosmic wheels set up on 25mm tubeless tyres rolling at just 75psi, the ensemble was markedly smooth too. However, once up to top speed, I felt the Rebus fell short of the Trek Madone or S-works Venge VIAS, and I struggled to hold my pace on the flat above 40kmh. And pumping up the tyres to 90psi changed the ride from pleasant to occasionally harsh, indicating the frame isn’t particularly compliant.
In fairness I expected this, and the Rebus was undoubtedly faster across the board than a nonaero bike. In fact, its initial zip pleasantly surprised me, and I think it comes from more than just 45mm deep aero-proven wheels and other aero features.
On paper the Rebus shouldn’t be particularly stiff. The tubes are of the tall and narrow variety,
The Rebus isn’t wind=tunnel tested, but the more I rode it the less I cared
Dress it in fine clothes and the frameset makes more expensive bikes’ spec sheets seem improverished
cross-sections that would normally offer less lateral stiffness than wider tubes. Yet the Rebus is very stiff, and that stiffness breeds efficiency, which breeds rabid get-up-and-go.
Dolan has thrown a lot of material at the Rebus to reinforce high-stress areas. Michelangelo could have a good go at the bottom bracket cluster, the head tube gusset is substantial and the chainstays are chunky. Even the top tube is meaty in a world where many brands push this crucial area to the thinnest acceptable limits, occasionally to the detriment of their bikes, which can feel disjointed – stiff at the front and the rear but flexible in the middle. Not so the Rebus, though that comes with a pay-off: this frame weighs a claimed 1.2kg.
That’s a lot by today’s standards, yet due to the high-grade spec sheet the Rebus only weighed 7.08kg, and thus climbed like you’d imagine a stiff, light bike would. Descending was capable, with neutral handling and reasonable stability, except when things got more technical. Then the wheels came into their own, and with them the bike.
The Cosmic’s brake track, where resin is lasered away to leave a textured carbon braking surface, is excellent. True, it can make a din occasionally and your brake pads would probably last longer in the jaws of a Rottweiler, but even in the wet it was dependable, making many other carbon brake tracks look downright dangerous.
Mavic has really upped its tyre game too. The supplied Yksions are leaps and bounds ahead of their predecessors in terms of compound grip and suppleness, and coupled with stop-on-a-sixpence braking are living proof that a bike is as much about the components as the frame, dare I say, even more about the components, especially when it comes to wheels.
As a frameset, the Rebus does everything well, if not remarkably so (although it’s certainly good value at £1,395). But dress it in fine clothes and it nudges towards superbike territory, where it can stand shoulder to shoulder in performance terms with other bikes in this price bracket, and makes some considerably more expensive bikes’ spec sheets seem impoverished.
Dolan might not currently have the Worldtour poster-boy pedigree, but if it keeps going like this, it won’t be far off. This is a Uci-sanctioned frame as well, by the way. Terry means business.
WHEELS Mavic has reinvented its Cosmic rims, and it has finally gone tubeless. The rims are also wider – 19mm internal width to be precise. Rolling on tubeless Yksion 25mm tyres, the ride was grippy and plush.
BRAKING Thanks to the laser-scribed brake track on the Mavic Cosmic wheels, braking performance was powerful in the dry and decent enough in the wet.
THE SPEC Model Dolan Rebus Groupset Shimano Dura-ace 9150 Di2 Deviations None Wheels Mavic Cosmic Pro Carbon SL UST Finishing Kit Deda Superzero bars, Deda Superzero stem, Dolan carbon seatpost, Selle Italia SLR Kit Carbonio Flow saddle, Mavic Yksion...
AERODYNAMICS Dolan freely admits the Rebus hasn’t been Cfd-designed or wind-tunnel tested. But on the road it is fast, undoubtedly helped by the aeroproven Cosmic wheels and semiaero Deda cockpit.