While the distance-bike market seems to have gone disc-brake mad, Dolan’s Dual proves there are still lots of advantages to sticking with conventional caliper brakes. There are some imbalances with the ride character though and the wheels on the default kit don’t do justice to its performance potential.
The most obvious advantage of using rim brakes rather than discs is they’re lighter. You can also use a lighter frame and fork because braking stress is located away from the tips where leverage has most effect.
That reverse engineering is clear in the relatively skinny fork legs. There are no braking forces at the hub trying to tear the wheel out of its mounts so the quick-release skewers in open dropout slots are perfectly safe, and Dolan uses them at both ends of the Dual.
The potential lightweight fork advantage is reduced by the fact it gets an alloy steerer rather than full carbon construction, and it’s got a straight steerer rather than a tapered tube with larger base bearings.
Riveted-on external cable mounts don’t look as classy as internal routing, although the lack of extra curves and outer cable housing mean actuation is slicker for a super-light shift feel through the low-profile Ultegra levers.
While on the subject of lever feel, in the dry the Ultegra brakes aren’t far off discs in terms of powerful and predictable stopping. They do start to slide in terms of control and modulation during initial stopping in wet conditions, but once the rims are cleaned off they’re not massively far off disc performance again.
While the top ends of the seatstays are very thick above the brake for a positive stopping action, they taper away quickly below that point. The chainstays are relatively skinny too, so while power still gets to where it needs to be, it’s not the sharpest accelerating bike available.
And if you’re looking for a rim-braked sportive bike that’s going to give you an advantage over disc-braked bikes on climbs it’s not the Dolan either.
Once you get their weight bowling along on flat, smooth roads the Shimano wheels have extra momentum and quality adjustable bearings to keep them spinning. Dolan has fitted a full suite of new Ultegra, including chain and cassette, so the transmission is as smooth and slick as it can be.
The Continental tyres roll well and the short head-tube gives it a racier fit than most sportive bikes.
Considering the rims are only 15mm wide internally, and you’re rolling on 25mm tyres, the frame and skinny fork skim over rough surfaces and gravel well.
Hit something bigger when you’re in the saddle, though, and the large diameter 31.6mm seatpost leaves you with nowhere to hide, so rough-road survival depends on you standing up and letting your feet and the forgiving fork ride it out.
As it’s relatively steep for a sportive bike it can be sketchy when you’re pushing the pace on twisty descents too.