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Verdict: 
Very decent entry-level, beginner-friendly road bike that's smooth, manoeuvrable and fun to ride
Weight: 
9,800g

The Dolce Sport is Specialized's female equivalent of the Allez Sport, aimed at the sportive market, commuters and road bike beginners. However, it's designed to be more of an all-rounder than the Allez, with a more relaxed geometry comparable with the Trek Domane or Specialized's Roubaix.

Its Specialized A1 premium aluminium frame, with 'Women's endurance geometry' and a Fact carbon fork with Zertz inserts, is fitted with a Shimano Sora drivetrain, with a wide range 9-speed 11-32 cassette and 50/34 compact chainset – pretty standard for this style and price point.

> Find your nearest dealer here

With the aim of balancing comfort with performance, the bike has a fairly upright riding position, well suited to road bike newbies, with some neat features for added comfort including curvy seatstays and a sloping top tube.

Specialized Dolce - seat tube junction 2.jpg

Overall, the ride is very smooth; the aluminium frame and carbon fork absorb road surface imperfections with no discernible buzz or harshness. Thin and curvy seatstays help create a comfortable rear end, and form a continuous line with the sloped top tube. This leaves plenty of the 27.2mm alloy seatpost exposed, helping to damp shocks even on very poor road surfaces, working well with the Fact carbon fork and its shock-absorbing elastomer Zertz inserts up front.

Specialized Dolce - fork.jpg

Decent sized chainstays and a large down tube lend rigidity to the bottom half of the frame and the bottom bracket area, helping to transfer power from the pedal stroke, though it's not as stiff as some and acceleration suffers slightly as a result.

Specialized Dolce - bottom bracket.jpg

Generally, the Dolce Sport provides a great riding experience, being reassuringly steady even at speed, though with that upright position I tended to move back in the saddle on fast, flat corners and descents for extra stability. Tight corners at slow speeds posed no problems, and urban riding is no sweat on the Dolce Sport, if you're looking for a commuter bike.

Specialized Dolce - riding 1.jpg

The Specialized Comp handlebar, with its short reach, is comfortable, and the shallow drop makes finding various positions easy without feeling like a stretch. Brake and gear levers are easily accessible, even for small hands. The Specialized 3D stem sits on top of three spacers, should you want to lower the handlebar and progress to a more aggressive riding position.

Specialized Dolce - shallow drop bars.jpg

The bike comes fitted with 25mm Specialized Espoir Sport tyres, following the current trend for wider tyres. They roll well, providing adequate grip on the road, with a wire bead and double BlackBelt protection to reduce the risk of punctures. Wheels are Axis Classics, and performed well enough.

Specialized Dolce - tyre.jpg

I found the Body Geometry Women's Riva Sport saddle, which is used on many of Specialized's women's bikes, comfortable without being too squishy or too hard.

Specialized Dolce - Saddle.jpg

Looks-wise, to my mind the Dolce has a little bit of the mountain bike about it, with Specialized's distinctive curved, sloping top tube like many of its women's hybrids and road bikes, harking back to the early Tarmac design. The internal routing is pleasing and, while the blocky blue graphics aren't too inspiring, look closer and you'll notice the paintwork has a subtle sparkle that is rather beguiling in direct sunlight, almost imperceptible otherwise.

> Read our guide to the best road bikes between £500 and £750

To balance the spangly paintwork, the Dolce Sport has a rather pleasing blade-like top tube, which tapers from an oval cross-section at the head tube to an almost flat profile where it meets the seat tube, like someone pinched it.

Specialized Dolce - integrated seattube and seatstay.jpg

I was between sizes, so ended up a little cramped on a 51cm frame. Generally speaking, it didn't hamper my enjoyment of the bike, which is smooth, nippy and fun to ride on the open road and in town. Overall, it's an excellent entry-level bike that will not disappoint as a sportive machine or commuter ride.

Verdict

Very decent entry-level, beginner-friendly road bike that's smooth, manoeuvrable and fun to ride

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Specialized Dolce Sport

Size tested: 51

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

CASSETTE Shimano, 9-speed, 11-32t

CHAIN KMC X9, 9-speed, w/ reusable MissingLink

CRANKSET Shimano Sora, 50/34T

FORK Specialized FACT carbon, alloy steerer/crown, Zertz

FRAME Specialized A1 Premium Aluminium, Women's Endurance Geometry, women's fully-manipulated tube sets, 1-1/8" lower bearing

FRONT BRAKE AXIS 1.0

FRONT DERAILLEUR Shimano Sora, braze-on

FRONT TYRE Specialized Espoir Sport, 60TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection, 700x25mm

FRONT WHEEL AXIS Classic

HANDLEBARS Specialized Comp, short reach

HEADSET 1-1/8", integrated sealed Cr-Mo cartridge bearings, 20mm alloy cone spacer, w/ 20mm spacers

INNER TUBES Standard, Presta valve

PEDALS Nylon, loose ball bearings, w/ reflectors

REAR BRAKE AXIS 1.0

REAR DERAILLEUR Shimano Sora, long cage

REAR TYRE Specialized Espoir Sport, 60TPI, wire bead, double BlackBelt protection, 700x25mm

REAR WHEEL AXIS Classic

SADDLE Body Geometry Women's Riva Sport Plus, steel rails, 155mm

SEAT BINDER Alloy, 31.8mm

SEATPOST Specialized Sport, alloy, 2-bolt, 27.2mm

SHIFT LEVERS Shimano Sora STI

STEM Specialized 3D forged alloy, 4-bolt, 6-degree rise

TAPE Specialized Roubaix, w/ 2.5mm gel pads

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

Specialized says: "The Dolce is the perfect bike to introduce you to the sport, or take you to new levels of confidence on your cycling journey."

I would agree with this – it's a neat, comfortable, good quality and attractive bike, well suited to commuting or weekend riding and sportives.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
9/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Attractive frame with smooth welds that, along with the carbon fork, absorbs bumps in the roads as well as providing a relaxed yet responsive ride.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Specialized A1 Premium Aluminium frame with a FACT carbon fork with zertz inserts.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

'Women's endurance geometry" means a fairly relaxed riding position designed to be comfortable over long rides.

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

The bike was fine in terms of height and reach – a more relaxed riding position than some road bikes.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

The ride was smooth and comfortable, with little of the buzz you find in some aluminium frames.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

The bike was stiff enough to be responsive, but not so stiff that it was uncomfortable. It didn't feel like a sprint machine, but for long rides and commutes you might not want this.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Acceleration felt fairly efficient, with just a little flex soaking up some energy.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

None.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Neutral.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

The bike felt easy to control – not twitchy at all.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
5/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
7/10

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
6/10
Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
7/10

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels for value:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for durability:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for comfort:
 
7/10
Rate the tyres for value:
 
7/10

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes

Would you consider buying the bike? No

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
7/10

Use this box to explain your score

It's a well-designed aluminium-framed road bike that hits its mark as a beginner-friendly ride, with quality components and neat design features.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 0  Height:   Weight:

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for:   I ride:   I would class myself as:

I regularly do the following types of riding:

2 comments

Avatar
Bobbinogs [343 posts] 3 years ago
4 likes

Any idea as to why the bike only got 3.5 stars? The article seems very positive and I cannot see anything mentioned that would knock 1.5 stars off?? As an aside, my wife has one of these bikes, albeit a few years old, and it certainly seems to tick a lot of boxes for her, with the usual caveat that Spesh don't offer the best VFM when looking at component spec. Still, she (or rather I  ) bought the bike second hand and got a very good deal  1

Avatar
Super Domestique [1621 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
Bobbinogs wrote:

Any idea as to why the bike only got 3.5 stars? The article seems very positive and I cannot see anything mentioned that would knock 1.5 stars off?? As an aside, my wife has one of these bikes, albeit a few years old, and it certainly seems to tick a lot of boxes for her, with the usual caveat that Spesh don't offer the best VFM when looking at component spec. Still, she (or rather I  ) bought the bike second hand and got a very good deal  1

 

Agreed. My wife has the slightly more basic model called the 'equipped' from a couple of years ago which was bought during an end a kine clearance for sub £500. It has a triple and came 'equipped' with seat pack and 2 cages. My wife was new to road cycling but found it comfy and smooth riding from the start.  Only minor upgrade were some cartridge brake blocks instead of the solid rubber stock ones.