Dolan’s Ares frame has all the touches and cues you’d expect on a top-flight carbon bike: fully internal cable routing, slim but deep aero profile down tube and oversized bottom bracket junction, and broad and deep chainstays paired with slim seatstays. The cockpit, from 3T, goes against the current convention of shallow drop bars with the classic curved Rotundo; we’d forgotten how good a classic drop feels, and when paired with our 56cm frame’s 190mm head tube it was still comfortable for less flexible riders.
The finish is top notch and the co-ordinated frame, fork and seatpost make for a bike that looks every bit as complete a package as any from the biggest brands around. Compared with similar priced bikes from major manufacturers, it also represents good value – it has a similar level groupset, and the Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels are definitely a step up from the competition.
On the road the combination of the Ares’ low weight and great wheels gives a sparky and quick ride. The frame and fork handle pedal forces and power transfer admirably; there’s just the right amount of response under acceleration with no undue flex or wandering at the front end. On the climbs the compact gearing of the slick SRAM Force drivetrain combined with the efficient wheels makes for a bike you can really attack ascents with.
If you’re looking for a cushioned ride for long days in the saddle, the Ares may not be the ideal choice. Dolan is a racing brand, and the Ares is really a race machine; it’s no surprise that it’s the team bike for the Pro Continental An Post Sean Kelly team. It’s not uncomfortable, but it’s definitely aggressive. Our 56cm test bike has an effective top tube of 59cm matched to a 73.5-degree head tube angle and 72.5-degree seat tube angle. It makes for a longer reach and sharp handling, perfect for race days.
While the taut frame and stiff wheels don’t offer much in the way of comfort, the chassis – though chattery over rougher roads – doesn’t transmit much in the way of vibration into your hands and feet. On an 80-mile test ride we didn’t experience any discomfort, proof enough for us.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.