Dolan L’etape Bike Review

Dolan L’etape Bike.

Dolan’s L’Etape trades on its do-anything approach, and from previous tests we’ve come to rely upon its claims to offer a responsive, lightweight and comfortable machine that’s suited to anything from quick blasts to century rides. We’d be surprised if adding Di2 to the mix removes any of the fire from its belly.

First impressions

Although of comparable bulk to the Boardman, the L’Etape punches far above its weight from the first moment you turn a pedal. A perfectly meshed drivetrain makes progress smooth, while the frame’s balance of stiffness and long-ride comfort is as impressive as ever. Dolan manages to churn out carbon bikes that are just as good as those from bigger brand names but cost almost double the price. This L’Etape build is no exception.

On the road

In a break with tradition, we’ll deal with the negative first. Because there’s only one, and this gets it out of the way early… Despite all three of our bikes wearing the same Ultegra rim brakes, the set-upon the Dolan doesn’t have the initial bite of the other two bikes’ pads (Boardman and Ribble).

Given that they were all straight out of the box and had no time to bed in before testing, we have to assume a level playing field in this department. Right, that tiny niggle dealt with, the L’Etape is the pick of the pack, dishing out thrills when you want them and easy-going, all-day comfort when you need it.

The compact Ultegra chainset works alongside a narrower ration 11-28 cassette than the 11-30 and 32 or the competition, meaning that, while the electronic shifts are faultless on all three bikes, the Dolan’s are better spaced, and suffer no large jumps between ratios. Progress is silky.

When we last rode a L’Etape of similar spec, it was the wheels that marked it down. However, speccing this build with £855 Mavic Ksyrium Pro hoops gives it the edge. They’re lighter than the Elites of the Ribble and the Sevens of the Boardman, and wrapped with tubeless Mavic tires they not only spin up quicken but also allow lower pressures to be used for added comfort. We didn’t even have to contend with any sealant leaks; a rare treat on a tubeless set-up straight from the manufacturer.

Handling

The Dolan’s steering geometry, with a 72° head angle, doesn’t have the instant flick ability of the Boardman when it comes to quick turns, but it still makes for a biddable corner carver. It’s a particularly confidence inspiring mix of predictability and excitement.

The small rear frame triangle created by the steeply sloping toptube makes power transfer near-instant, while a whopping oversized downtube contributes to a solid feel as the L’Etape tips into corners and holds its line until the time comes to power out of the other side.

It’s very hard to upset the handling, which is made more rapid by the fitment of 400 mm diameter handlebars on our test bike. While the tubeless tire set-up for the 25c Mavic Yksion Pro assists in the addition of every day riding comfort, it also creates a larger contact patch when scything through turns once you’ve relieved them of 20psi or so.

We’ve long been fans of this bike, but the fitment of a pair of wheels that do justice to the frameset’s abilities finally makes it worthy of test-winning status. Of course, if you’ve a little more or little less than the £2,500 price, you can specify different finishing kit or wheels when building your bike online. For us, though, adding Di2 takes the already excellent L’Etape to another level of giant-killing.

Frameset of Dolan L’etape Bike.

Frameset

Dolan’s L’Etape frame is an almost organic counterpoint to the straight tubes of the Ribble and the semi-aero design of the Boardman. The curving shape of the steeply sloped oval- section toptube is mirrored in the oversize downtube, and also in the shape of the delicately curving seatstays which emanate from the junction of the toptube and seat tube.

As the angle of the toptube is so steep, this makes for a compact rear frame triangle. Those narrow, organic seatstays minimize vibration due to their shape damping out road buzz. Straighten decidedly more substantial chainstays keep flex to a minimum and allow pedal power to rotate the rear wheel with as little loss as possible.

The cabling is all internally routed, and thanks to the design of the frame the empty entry holes for mechanical cables. A measured head angle of 72° suggests – and indeed translates into – a bike that’s quicker steering than a traditional endurance bike, but sprightly enough when you demand it. Additionally, a headtube of 125 mm in length lets you get over the front of the bike for leverage, without any need to play around with the provided headset spacers.

Groupset

The Di2 groupset is comprised of a 50/34 chainset and closer-ratio- than-most 11-28 cassette operated by electronic mechs. The stoppers are Ultegra rim brakes, offering assured scrubbing off of speed. The only item swapped out for a slightly lower spec component is the Shimano 10511-speed chain, adding a negligible amount of weight but robbing nothing from the drivetrain’s durability.

Finishing kit

There’s no token carbon trinket in the Dolan’s finishing kit; it’s all alloy, and none the worse for it. A 380 mm diameter Deda Zero 100 handlebar is clamped to a 120 mm Zero 100 alloy stem, to create an ergonomically friendly cockpit set-up on our size 44 test bike.

Wheels

Mavic’s Ksyrium Pro tubeless wheelset is a cut above Ribble and Boardman. Besides costing £855 if bought separately, it saves in the region of 100 g of rotational mass compared to the Ribble, and 200g next to the Boardman. The alloy rims have an internal diameter of 17 mm, offering a range of tire fitments from the 25c Yksion rubber fitted to our test bike right up to 32 mm fitments better suited to all-year or mixed terrain use. However, the frame clearance on the Dolan is such that we wouldn’t entertain the idea of fitting anything wider than 28 mm, and even then you’d be pushing it.

Specs

Frame: Dolan carbon frame and forks

Groupset: Shimano Ultegra

Brakes: Shimano Ultegra

Chainset: Shimano Ultegra, 50/34

Cassette: Shimano Ultegra, 11-28

Bars: Deda Zero 100, alloy

Stem: Deda Zero 100, alloy

Saddle: Selle Italia X1

Seatpost: Alpina, alloy

Wheels: Mavic Ksyrium Pro

Tires: Mavic Yksion Pro, 700 x 25, tubeless

Geometry

Size tested: 44(S)Chainstays (C): 415 mm
Weight: 7.60 kgHead angle (HA): 72°
Top tube (TT): 530 mmSeat angle (SA): 73.5°
Seat tube (ST): 440 mmWheelbase (WB): 978 mm
Stacks (S): 545 mmBB drop (BB): 68 mm
Reach (R): 390 mm 

Rating: 8.9/10


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