The Ares SL frame is a classic example of a contemporary all rounder. Semi aero design reduces drag without adding weight or compromising comfort and it’s ready for electric shifting if you upgrade later.
Dolan Ares SL, £2500
Terry Dolan is one of the UK’s most experienced bike designers and has played a pivotal role in the success of many of the UK’s top track and road cyclists – not least Chris Boardman. The Ares SL mixes a semi aero race frame with a comfortable ride position to create a versatile high value all rounder.
Fast riders looking for an aerodynamic edge will spot the deep oval down tube, sculpted fat teardrop head tube and tadpole section fork legs that help the front end of the Ares SL slice through the wind better than average. The cables are all routed internally as well, with neat flat profile down tube and top tube entry and it’s electric shift ready too. The relatively high head tube naturally promotes a slightly more upright riding position than the other bikes here. However be aware that while the 52cm Dolan was nominally the smallest sized bike here, the ‘compact’ frame design means that it was actually the longest and tallest bike in the test.
Complete Ares SL options start at £1,549.99 but Dolan built up our test machine as the most expensive ride here, with a mix of Shimano Ultegra rolling on Zipp 60 wheels. The high price (£1,140 bought separately) of the Zipp wheels pushes overall price of the bike relatively high without being lighter or obviously faster than the other bikes’ wheels, so you might want to check out other options from the Dolan build menu.
How it rides
It might be the most expensive bike on test but the Dolan certainly doesn’t disappoint in terms of ride quality. It’s relationship with the road hits a superbly balanced sweet spot ride halfway between the bluntly aggressive Planet X and the super smooth Sensa. The result is a bike that’s not afraid to stand up and hammer a gear with real enthusiasm but is still happy to sit back and cruise comfortably too. The wide range, compact chainring Shimano Ultegra gearing combines with the prompt power delivery to take any climb in its stride. It never struggles to add speed on slopes or the flat and the 60mm deep rims hold onto that momentum really well. The wheels are light enough to pick up pace up OK and while they don’t share the full fat bellied ‘toroidal’ section of Zipp’s full carbon 404 Firecrest wheels the Dolan never struggled to turn them into corners obediently or keep them stable in blustery conditions either. There’s enough chassis feedback and accuracy to push hard and carve through corners too. That meant we soon found ourselves dropping our shoulder lower and lower through turns and taking liberties with the green shouldered Schwalbe tyres even on tight, wet corners. While it’s impressively dynamic when you want to drive it hard, that doesn’t come at the price of punishment on longer rides or rough roads. Even with the stiff, deep section Zipp wheels, scabby or staccato surfaces are helpfully muted by the carefully constructed, sloped top tube carbon frame and extended seat post so that little fatigue amplifying buzz gets through to the bars or your saddle. The mid height head tubes mean you can create as orthopaedic or predatory position as you want just by juggling stem spacers, leaving the Dolan equally ready for a short course race sprint finish or a day long sportive.
Dolan’s Ares SL is an excellent all rounder that climbs, corners and cruises with easy confidence and ego boosting efficiency. Check actual dimensions not listed size when you order though.