Mid-priced multi-use bikes have returned with a vengeance, being competent winter trainers, club bikes, commuters and light tourers. At the heart of the Dolan lies a 7005 aluminium cyclo-cross frameset with neat and uniform TIG welding throughout and the finish is good.
We're always pleased to see a properly reamed seat tube so seatposts fit properly and without scratching. The horizontal top tube is a classic design which will appeal to returnees and seasoned riders alike.
At the front end a budget but competent Alpina carbon 'cross fork keeps things sprightly and compliant, and offers plenty of scope for big tyres. The complete Tiagra groupset strikes an excellent balance between performance and practicality; the finish is a little bargain basement in places but it's pretty enough for the club run and will stand up to winter training and commuting.
Less impressive was the Cane Creek integrated headset which took a while to settle down, loosening annoyingly on the first couple of outings. Stopping prowess courtesy of some polished cantilevers proved heart-in-the-mouth good, the front brake taking me unawares at a junction but later proving my saviour when a car pulled ahead then turned sharp left.
Finishing kit is very well thought out: SKS guards will stand the test of time, both handlebar and stem were correctly proportioned and reassuringly stiff, and the seatpost held the Selle Italia Tri-Matic saddle in position faultlessly.
For all its charm though, the Dolan has some shortcomings which limit its potential as an all-rounder. While I might be happy to pop rivet a second set of bosses to an old frame, most riders will expect two from the crate - one cage often carries a lighting battery through the winter months. P-clips will be necessary to facilitate a rack.
From the moment I swung a leg over the top tube, the 58cm test bike almost felt tailor made; everything fell precisely to hand. The frame delivers a good balance of responsiveness, stability and compliance - aluminium frames have come a long way in the last decade and being a cyclo-crosser it delivers a surprisingly forgiving ride along mean city streets and lumpy lanes. Drop the guards, fit 'cross tyres and it's ready for mud plugging. Town manners are excellent too, although lovers of tight gaps might find the broad (44cm) drops a bit of a hindrance (it's also available with a flat bar).
Ultimately, the Dolan is a 'crosser in fast commuter and winter trainer clothes.
If your inclinations are more towards touring and training, there are more versatile machines for similar money.