Bikes like the Dolan Preffisio are the bread and butter of the UK winter cycling scene. Under the Dolan name or others, you’ll be familiar with the formula: a stout alloy frame with long and low traditional geometry; full mudguards bolted securely in place; and standard rim brakes.
A reassuringly gimmick-free ride
Dolan lets you spec the Preffisio however you want it, and builds start at an incredible £612.99 for a Shimano Sora-equipped bike. We requested what we think is likely to be one of the most popular options – full 11-speed 105 with 25mm tyres and mudguards, the latter costing an additional £19.99 if you don’t want to fit them yourself. Shimano 105 feels like the sweet spot in the Japanese giant’s groupset range for utility – it shares features with its shinier siblings Ultegra and Dura-Ace, but consumables like chains and cassettes are vastly more affordable, and the finish is low-key enough that you won’t feel too guilty for marring it.
In this day and age, 25mm tyres should be a given – in fact, we’d be tempted to go bigger were if not for the fact that the Preffisio’s standard brake calipers will make things very tight if you try, at least with mudguards fitted. And speaking of mudguards, the Flinger units Dolan supplies are the real deal, offering full coverage and better yet, mudflaps both front and rear. Your club-mates will revel in the lack of spray, as will your feet.
Builds start at a little over £600 for a Claris-equipped bike, but we reckon the the 105 model is the sweet spot
The Preffisio’s 7005 aluminium frame is as straightforward as they come. It’s all straight lines and chunky tubes, joined together with welds that are mostly neat, but completely undisguised. The paint job is just the right side of retro: it has a distinctly British flavour and a touch of the old-fashioned that makes it obvious you aren’t looking at a big-brand machine, but it’s tastefully done and pleasing to the eye.
Dolan keeps things traditional on the tech side too. The bottom bracket is a standard threaded unit and the fork steerer is metal and straight. There’s isn’t a single non-standard part on the whole bike – you’ll certainly never want for spares.
As a complete package, the Dolan is just so tidy. There’s an inherent rightness to a simply styled bike with proper mudguards and no gimmicks. It’s like Marmite and the shipping forecast: you don’t necessarily fantasise about them, but you’re so glad that they exist, and you never want them to change.
Dolan out the pain
The Dolan’s road manners are similarly honest; it’s not an especially sophisticated ride. At 10kg dead, it trundles rather than skips across tarmac, and it provides solid feedback from the road beneath your tyres. It won’t batter you to smithereens, but nor will it cosset or cradle; this is an analogue experience. Don’t expect race-bike spring out of the saddle either; the Preffisio is willing enough but it lacks the fizz of more refined offerings.
If you’re looking to replicate your position from an all-out racer, this might be the bike for you. Steep seat angles across all sizes make for long reach, and the head-tube is tiny – just 105mm on our 50cm test bike. For all but the most flexible of riders, that’s likely to mean a small tower of spacers under the stem, but if you need a low front end, it’s certainly not hard to achieve. Handling is thoroughly confidence-inspiring, however, and we were impressed with how stable the bike feels when descending at high speed.
While there are many, many more modern alloy options out there, machines like the Preffisio ooze a timeless appeal
However, the ultimate question is: did we like the Dolan? We may have cursed its slight heft as we toiled up some of Gloucestershire’s steeper climbs, but we appreciated it for what it is, and that’s a thoroughly useful and versatile bike that can be customised to the needs of the rider without undue expense.
It’s incredibly good value, and if you completely destroy the frameset you can replace it with a brand new one for just £200. The sheer customisability simply cannot be matched by the big brands and while rim brakes may not be the cool kids’ choice any more, they have an appealing simplicity, particularly when you compare them with mechanical disc calipers, which require frequent fettling for safe operation.
While alloy road bikes have clearly moved on a long way in recent years (the Giant Defy Disc we were riding at the same time being one good example), there'll probably always be a place in our hearts for machines like the Dolan Preffisio – long may it prosper.