Two winter-ready bikes from Dolan and Raleigh: Which is best?
We set out to test road bikes that are ideal for riding in winter so we were looking for them to have a few basic qualities in common; mudguards, of course, and then concessions in their specification and design towards comfort and durability.
Both the Raleigh Clubman and the Dolan Dual offer versatility in their range of uses, converging somewhere around the idea of long winter miles, either to prepare you for your summer sport or simply to enjoy riding all
The Raleigh is probably best suited for summer touring, with its ability to take racks, great ride quality and grown-up handling. But the comfort and durability of its steel frame along with the matching full-length mudguards make it ideal for commutes and long rides through the winter. It’s just a little sedate for full-on training.
The Dolan Dual offers a more committed approach to winter riding. It’s fast, agile and loves the hills and has plenty of scope for finding a position between racy and comfortable. It’s a great ride, offering just the right balance between reassuring handling and exciting responsiveness. You do feel the road more on the carbon Dual than the skinny, steel Clubman and this might be a consideration when choosing a bike for super-long rides.
The fact that Dolan, and others, offers carbon winter bikes shows the ever-growing confidence in the strength and longevity of the material. It does still seem like quite a luxury though. The specification on the Dual that we tested was absolutely ideal for winter riding but did make it significantly more expensive than the Raleigh. It can of course be kitted out with any of the Shimano or SRAM groupsets to bring it down in price a little or, indeed, create a super-trainer.
Both bikes seem a little too nice to have a full winter of harsh riding inflicted upon them. But isn’t that the case with all decent bikes? While the Raleigh looks too lovely to ride in the rain, its sub-£1,000 price makes it an ideal second bike and it therefore fits in well with the idea of garaging your best bike for the winter. It is also tapping in to another agenda — that of nostalgia and style in cycling. It does this really well; its retro good looks were universally well received and represent a clever mix of modern and traditional.
Ultimately this test was something of a mismatch, with the Dolan coming in at more than £500 more than the Raleigh. But it helped to make a point about the different approaches you can take to your winter riding. The Raleigh acquitted itself really well and at £950 with Tiagra kit and a Brooks saddle it offers great value as well as a bit of nostalgic joy.
But forced to choose, the modern Dolan wins out. I liked the shallow drops, the saddle and the feel of carbon. All I can say is that I parked the Dolan Dual in my hall in the evening and couldn’t wait to ride it the next morning.