I’ve done almost 1000km on this now so a chat about it is probably a little overdue but here are my thoughts so far on it.
First up a bit of background. A few years ago I bought my first (official) gravel bike, a Ribble CGR. Initially I was really pleased with it but three years later having just sold it I don’t think I’d have another one. Firstly I think there is better value out there now. It regularly creaked from the rear dropouts and the paint, in my opinion, was quite poor. Too soft, it chipped too easily but overall ride comfort when it was issue-free was fantastic. I had some really good rides both on and offroad on it, home and abroad.
I sold it to buy the Dolan GXC. I’ve had a Dolan GXA (alloy version) for a while now so I had a gravel bike for offroad and one for everything else, touring, commuting, road riding and offroad too if I wanted. I looked at a fast, carbon road bike again but when I thought about it, I didn’t need to go fast anymore and gravel bikes are far more versatile so I decided to buy a posher (carbon) one. Hence the GXC.
The Ribble CGR was my first official gravel bike but I had been riding offroad a la gravel for over a decade beforehand on a Kinesis Crosslight cross bike. Trend-setter? No. Ahead of the game? 100%.
Dolan Bikes is a company that has been assembling bikes under their own name for quite a while. As long as I can remember anyway. Mr Dolan (can’t remember his first name) is very well known and respected in the industry as I found out a Pickwick Bicycle Club dinner once where he got a special mention, had to stand up and hundreds of industry peers in the room clapped their appreciation. Went straight over my head at the time and it’s an odd dinner anyway but you get the jist.
Dolan bikes are based north of Liverpool in Burscough, near Southport and are quite rare around by me. You don’t see many about. That was part of the attraction, having something no one else had and when I dug into the bikes at bit more, great value in my opinion too. My first one, the GXA was a bit of a punt as there were no relevant reviews to go on. That has been a great bike too so an upgrade to the carbon version was an obvious choice.
Onto the bike then. The size and geometry is the same as my GXA (nothing weird) so I was happy I could mirror my position. In terms of colour, they do offer a custom colour option which is a choice of about ten but for the £299 additional cost I was happy to stick with the standard green. My bike sizing calculation is quite simple. None of the stack and reach you see on so many geo charts, I know what I need so I just look at effective top tube length and head tube length and double-check the seat tube isn’t too short I have too much post hanging out. That’s it. I tend to go for a smaller frame for my height and ,in turn, a shorter top tube as I have a short reach. My size is a small and it fits me perfectly.
The major difference between the GXC and GXA and something I’ve never had before but really like is the dropped stay, drive-side. I’m not a fan of rear mech clutches to stop chain slap so the dropped stay allows me to run with the clutch off, chain slap almost never happens and my gear changes are super smooth and light which I prefer.
I opted to have the bike decked out with Shimano GRX 800 series 2×11 speed and took the basic stock Mavic Allroad wheels and Conti Ultrasport tyres. I swapped these for my Hunt wheels on the Ribble. Brand new wheels on the Ribble made it more attractive to buy. I did the same with the saddle too. For the finishing kit I kept it simple and the same as my other bikes. Deda Zero 1 bars and stem. I find the shallow drop and reach of these bars really comfortable. They’re not expensive and quite light too.
If you haven’t heard me say it already. Shimano GRX is the best groupset they’ve ever produced. Mechanically sound, ergonomically perfect.
Dolan’s website allows you to customise and upgrade a lot of options on your prospective bike. As well as the basics like frame size and colour, you can request a specific crank length, cassette ratio and bar and stem sizes too. There are reams of choices available. Wheel and groupset upgrades are possible plus the ability to have accessories like guards and pedals fitted too. It is really fun to sit there and play around with the options to make the bike exactly what you want it to be. It took me an age to decide but I was pleased with what I opted for in the end.
Once I pressed the button and ordered the bike, the after-sales service from Dolan was superb. I got an order confirmation almost instantly which literally lists every component you have ordered and a lead time. Mine was six weeks. On both of my Dolan bikes now I’ve received them within the quoted lead time, built and ready to go. Obviously any new bike I check over and adjust. The standard of PDI was good. Just tweaks to position, no mechanical issues at all. Strava PB’s are a testament to how fast it can be too.
Additionally, any email I’ve sent them about my bikes subsequently have been dealt with really quickly and efficiently. Responses are usually same working day. I can’t fault them so far.
The bike was delivered three days before I left for a week in Scotland gravel-riding so it got christened on some of the best trails in the UK around The Trossachs & Loch Lomond National Park. I was a bit hesitant taking a brand new, unridden, untested bike away with me at the time but I just though fuck it. It’s what I bought it for FFS. And other than some tubeless tyre issues on Day 1 & 2 which were off the Ribble anyway, it performed faultlessly.
The position is a mirror of my GXA (which I took too as a backup and a road bike) so that was dialled in but the ride is just so much plusher and smooth. Something you would expect on a carbon frame vs and equivalent alloy. It is a little lighter too which I think adds value to that choice of frame too. Handling is direct with really good feedback. I feel in control all of the time. And most importantly it’s just quiet to ride. No creaks or squeaks. The paint is pretty robust. It was on a car roof rack for twelve hours with no major scuffs from the grab point and no chips either despite plenty of stones been thrown up on the underside of it. Frame bags haven’t caused any problems either. I love it. Recently I switched out the gravel wheels and popped my 33c roadies on to commute and that took the bike to another level. So comfortable even with a pannier rack fitted but I decided to sack that off and use a bikepacking bag instead. Looks cooler apparently.
On another ride, I took it down the Forest of Dean and got it really dirty. Again a 3.5hr faultless performance in the mud. After 1000km I can say as a bike it’s probably the most versatile and comfortable, in equal measure, I have ever owned.
It’s not quite perfect though. Let me quickly discuss some of my gripes, be them minor. First up, the 140mm rear disc. Not sure why it was such an issue not to have the same size as the front (160mm) but when I had the Ribble, swapping wheels was a pain but now I own two Dolan’s, it’s no longer a problem but I would like to see 160mm as standard front and back. Secondly, does it need four sets of bottle cage bolts? I don’t and I’m just whining really but I guess for a full-on, bikepacking/touring setup they are useful which seems odd there are no fork mounts then. That’s it. Nothing else
4.9 out of 5 for me. Great value and a great ride. I think it’s one of the best bikes I’ve had.
Upgrades I’m considering are some Rotor oval rings as I’m a big fan. 650b wheels + 2 inch knobblies for gnarlier trails and 700c 50mm carbon wheels + 25 or 28c tyres for fast days out on the road. Three bikes in one. Like I said the most versatile bike available right?
Approx 1.5kg for a medium
45mm for 700c/48mm for 650b
Four sets of bottle cage mounts (top tube, down tube (top & underside), seat tube), Mudguard front/rear + Pannier Rack
Front – 12mm x 100mm, Rear 12mm x 142mm
2 thoughts on “Review: Dolan GXC Gravel Bike”
Sounds like an almost perfect fit for you 👍
The top tube bolts are for top tube bags that you can firmly attach. I’ve seen a few of these on gravel bikes on YouTube. Not sure a water bottle would sit there?
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