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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
Wheels and tyres
Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes
Would you consider buying the bike? No
Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes
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.
About the tester
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: