The latest new arrival here at road.cc is the Dolan l’Etape carbon-fibre road bike in a Shimano 105 build, priced at £849.99. On paper, that looks like a bargain. Let's take a look before we get it out on the road.
Dolan, based in Ormskirk, Lancashire, offers a wide range of road, track, time trial/triathlon, and cyclocross bikes, and even tandems.
The Etape is designed to be a versatile road bike. According to Dolan, it is lightweight, responsive and very comfortable, suitable for everything from general road riding to road racing.
The frame is made from carbon-fibre which is quite unusual for a bike at this price point where aluminium still rules the roost. We’re not saying that all carbon bikes are better than all aluminium bikes – because they ain’t – but aluminium is certainly a more common frame material for sub-£1,000 bikes.
The head tube is tapered which, again, is a feature usually associated with more expensive bikes. It takes a 1 1/8in bearing at the top but a much larger 1 1/2in bearing down below, the idea being to provide a higher degree of front end stiffness and more precise steering.
The Etape is available in just four sizes: 44, 48, 52 and 56cm. Those sizes are a little deceptive, though, in that they’re based on the length of the seat tube, and that’s foreshortened by a sloping top tube.
We have a 52cm bike here and it has a 570mm effective top tube and a 165mm head tube – so it’s more like a 56cm or 57cm frame, according to most brands’ reckoning. The head angle and seat angle are each 73°.
The stack height (the vertical distance from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the head tube) is 563mm and the reach (the horizontal distance between those points) is 398mm.
That’s quite an aggressive geometry. This isn’t one of those very relaxed endurance-type frames, there’s a definite focus on efficiency and speed here. With its curved seatstays and heavily tapered chainstays, the Etape certainly looks the part. The cables are routed internally which adds to the high-end appearance (it’s compatible with Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS electronic shifting), and the frame takes a slim 27.2mm seatpost, which could be good news in terms of comfort.
The fork is a hybrid with carbon-fibre legs and an aluminium steering column hidden away inside the frame.
The Etape is available in a variety of builds, this Shimano 105 model being the cheapest. If you have a bit more money to play with, a Shimano Ultegra (mechanical) model with Mavic Aksium One wheels is £1,049.99, Ultegra with Mavic Ksyrium S wheels is £1,499.99, and Ultegra Di2 with Mavic Aksium One wheels is the same price.
If you’d rather go non-Shimano, a SRAM Rival 22 model is £949.99 while a Campagnolo Veloce build is £999.99.
The other alternative is to bin off all of that lot and build up a £399.99 frameset however you like.
As mentioned, we’ve gone with the Shimano 105 build. As usual with Dolan, though, you can go for the default spec or alter it as you see fit. For instance, you can choose from three different frame finishes and then, as far as the groupset is concerned, choose your chainset length, whether you’d rather have standard (53/39-tooth) or compact (50/34-tooth) chainrings, and select your preferred cassette.
You can also select your handlebar width and stem length.
Then you can alter other components and have the price change accordingly. For example, the standard spec includes Mavic Aksium One wheels but you could upgrade to Mavic Cosmis Elite S for an extra £239.99. You get the idea.
As it is, we have Shimano 105 across the board (apart from a SRAM PC 1130 chain), a Deda RHM01 aluminium handlebar and a Deda Zero 1 aluminium stem. The alloy seatpost is from Alpina and the saddle is a Selle Italia X1, which we’ve had on many review bikes recently.
The Mavic Aksium One wheels I mentioned are fitted with Continental Ultra Sport II tyres in a 25mm width.
The Ribble Sportive Racing Special Edition that we reviewed recently is a similar price at £899.99. Like the Dolan lEtape, it’s a carbon-fibre road bike with a Shimano 105 groupset and Mavic Aksium wheels, but it offers a slightly more upright riding position than the Dolan. Stu thought the Ribble lacked the feedback and excitement of some of the cheaper alloy framed bikes that he’s tested.
The Merlin Fuse 105 is more expensive at £949. Again, it comes with a carbon frameset and a Shimano 105 groupset, and Ash says that it’s a real steal. If you can run to the higher price, it’s a bike you should definitely consider.
Dolan claims that the Etape’s frame weighs 1,200g (in a 48cm size). Our complete 52cm bike hit the road.cc Scales of Truth at 8.56kg (18.9lb).
Right, we’re going to get this out of the office and on to the roads. We’ll be back with a review on road.cc soon.
In the meantime, head to www.dolan-bikes.com for more details.
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.