Dolans are known for being tough and reliable, like a Le Creuset casserole dish
The snow surprised us when we woke up in the hills above Ullswater. We weren’t very well prepared. With waterproof booties back in Manchester, bread bags had to double as shoeliners, one of us was missing a winter glove and only I had the slightly creepy luxury of a balaclava under my helmet.
At least I had the right bike. Though it’s set up for off-road cyclocross racing – the flattened top tube makes the carbon frame easier to lug over obstacles – the Dolan CDX lends itself to winter adventuring. Designed in Ormskirk by ex-pro Terry Dolan, who once made bikes for Olympic gold medallist Chris Boardman, Dolans are known for being tough and reliable, like a Le Creuset casserole dish. The CDX isn’t afraid of a snowstorm, nor the sleet and sunshine that followed us as we rounded the rainbow-framed lake to buy beer and milk at Pooley Bridge. I was glad of the knobbly Continental tyres when we made our way gingerly down the hill from our holiday cottage. There was all sorts of debris in the road and if I’d been on my usual slicks I’d have ended up in the hawthorn waking up hibernating hedgehogs. The older I get, the more I prefer climbing to descending. I’m rarely more scared than when rattling downhill in midwinter, when most of the snow has turned to grubby mush but you can’t rule out black ice. I’m not sure I’d have dared if the CDX didn’t have disc brakes. Rim brakes are about as practical in the wet as suede boots in a Mancunian winter (autumn, spring, summer).
The gearing was perfectly adequate for the return leg. The compact Shimano 105 groupset comes with a big 28 sprocket on the back, so while the 20% climb back up from Ullswater through Watermillock was hardly a breeze, at least I didn’t have to get off. It is a long slog in a blizzard, but as I rounded the final corner the skies cleared to a brilliant blue and the Lake District hills dazzled under their white blanket. It was a view of such beauty that the pain of the previous 15 minutes was erased, and I stopped cursing Warburtons for making such inefficient shoeliners.
My only real complaint about the Dolan is the sizing. At 5ft 4in, I am an inch taller than the average British woman, according to the Office for National Statistics. Even if that stat is skewed by shrinking older ladies, it doesn’t seem fair that the smallest CDX frame (52cm) is too big for me. Cyclocross, like all forms of bike racing, is still dominated by men, but don’t Dolan want women to buy their cross bikes?
Dolan CDX Shimano 105 5800 carbon cyclocross: in numbers
Fork and seatpost Dolan carbon
Groupset Shimano 105 5800
Disc brakes Avid BB7 – 140mm rotor
Wheels Mavic Aksium One Disc
Tyres Continental cyclocross 35mm