Dolan Re­bus

The Bri­tish stal­wart bears its aero teeth

Cyclist - - Bike Reviews - Words JAMES SPENDER

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.

Sar­to­rial im­por­tance

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.

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