The Bike List

2014 Dolan FXE Fixie £695 (frameset £250)

Tested by Tested by Nik Cook, tester for The Bike List

Thankfully the Hoxton Hipster Fixie trend seems to be dying off and it's time to rescue fixed gear bikes from a life of posing on the streets of Shoreditch and return them to their true calling, as the ultimate winter workhorses.

They're practically maintenance free, with no sensitive and expensive components to be corroded by salted winter roads, in one ride you get leg speed on the flats and downs and high gear low cadence strength and power on any climb. The fixed gear means no free wheeling, so every kilometre is earned and it'll give your that elusive "souplesse" pedal stroke. You've got to pick your route but, without getting too hippy about this, there's a real sense of direct connectivity to the drivetrain and a zen like chilled feeling without misfiring gears to stress about.

Although living in the Peak District, much of my winter training is done on the flatter roads and lanes of the Cheshire Plain and, with that in mind, I started looking for a suitable steed. I wanted steel or alloy for robustness, full length mudguards for winter comfort and I set a tight budget of £700. My first port of call, track bike legend and British Dolan bikes, came up trumps with their FXE and I was soon busy speccing it out.

With a standard build price of £575, I had some room for manoeuvre. The 7005 aluminium double butted frame is a no-nonsense but quality piece of kit. The carbon fork, with brake drillings should help soak up rough winter road surfaces. Mudguard, pannier and double bottle drillings fulfil the winter mile muncher criteria and would also please commuters. A Sugino drivetrain is a fairly entry level piece of track kit but is perfectly suited to winter abuse and didn't need upgrading. I opted for a 48t chainring and 18t sprocket giving me a 72" gear. Having ridden fixed on the road before I knew that this suited me but it's worth getting some advice if you're unsure and gearing a bit lower to start with.

Bars and stem, I went for the standard Deda spec and also the standard Selle Italia saddle atop the Alpina alloy seatpost. Black bar-tape seemed a sensible winter choice and, with some lumps and bumps on the way out to Cheshire, front and rear SRAM brakes and road levers.

I saved my upgrade money for the rolling stock and specced the Navigator Street Black wheelset, adding £50. They're not the lightest wheels in the world but with 32 spokes front and rear and Miche hubs they should stand up to plenty of abuse. The profiled rims look pretty mean too. I added another £50 to my spend with the Gatorskin tyres. I don't want to be faffing about with punctures in the winter and these are bombproof. My final upgrade to the spec is a set of full mudguards for £20. For me this was no-brainer. I'd be using the bike on club-runs, so my mates would thank me, for solo winter epics, the difference they make to foot and bum comfort is priceless and, for helping keep the bike clean, they further reduce the already minimal maintenance required.

Within 2 weeks of plugging in my spec, the box from Dolan arrived. At 9.8 kg without pedals, it's hardly a lightweight but I didn't get this bike to be troubling Strava segments, it's a utilitarian beast of burden. It's hardly ugly though, the welds are all neat and tidy and there's always a pleasing simplicity to bikes uncluttered by gears. The rear guard does sit slightly proud but that's so you can remove the wheel from the horizontal drop-outs without needing to take it off. Handy in the event of a winter puncture and a considerate practical touch from the guys at Dolan.

From the first pedal strokes, it felt comfortable but not too sit up and beg. The geometry allowed me to adopt a very similar position to my geared winter trainer, a Condor Italia. The tape on the bars did feel a bit hard and thin, I like a decent double wrap for the winter, so that was remedied when I got home. It was a great bike to be out on. Despite wet roads, the handling was predictable, it never felt flexy and, even with its fairly hefty weight and robust wheels, leapt responsively forward if I gave it a dig up a ramp. Downhills were the usual fixed gear egg-beater legs experience but the front and rear brakes gave good back-up speed control and the bike always remained stable and predictable. Longer climbs are a case of settling into a steady rhythm that almost becomes mesmeric. It doesn't dance uphill but you always feel as though it's working with you rather than against you.

A few rides in though, particularly after one 120 km jaunt, I had to change the saddle. On a fixed it's got to be comfy for those leg whirring descents and high cadences on the flats and the Selle Italia just wasn't agreeing with my backside. Unfortunately my backside has expensive tastes as the saddle that suits it best is a Fizik Arione. Despite being able to source a bargain one for £70 from my local bike shop, this did strictly speaking blow my £700 budget but no savings are worth a sore backside. My only other slight modification was to fit a drive-side chain-tug. This isn't essential but, with fairly tight clearance to the guards, it does make centring the wheel and getting the chain tension just right a bit easier.

With well over 1000 km now logged on the Dolan, I've barely had to touch it. No punctures are a testament to the durability of the Gatorskins and the guards have meant that the only cleaning required has been a quick rub down with a rag. I've had to tension the chain a bit and give it an occasional wipe and re-lube but, for back from a freezing ride chuck it in the shed and forget it-ness, it's hard to beat.

It's been perfect for my long and steady endurance rides out into Cheshire and I've taken it out on club runs. My geared winter bike is hardly getting a look in and, based on last year's post winter service bill, that's a really good thing. Despite a couple of character building slogs back home into a headwind, I always look forward to heading out on it and my legs definitely feel the benefit.

People always joke about n+1 but if you're after a no-nonsense, extremely affordable and fun to ride hack bike to see you through the rest of the winter, the Dolan FXE should definitely be on your list.

Photography by benwinston.co.uk

Size tested: 58 cm

Overall weight: 9.8kg (without pedals)

Frame and Forks
Sizes: 52 cm, 54 cm, 56 cm, 58 cm, 60 cm
Frame: Dolan FXE-7005 aluminium double butted
Fork: Alpina Winter/Road fork 1 1/8 Int, Carbon Fibre Blades, Aluminium Steering Column.

Transmission
Chainset: Sugino RD2 48t chainring
Bottom Bracket: Sugino RD2
Sprocket: Alpina Track 1/8 18t
Chain: KMC 510H 1/8 Track Chain

Wheels
Front: Navigator Street
Rear: Navigator Street
Tyres: Continental Gatorskin 700X25C

Components
Stem: Deda Zero 1
Bars: Deda RHM01
Headset: Alpina 36X25
Saddle: Selle Italia X1
Seatpost: Alpina Alloy
Brakes: SRAM Dual Pivot with SRAM S-500 levers
Mudguards: SKS Bluemels

For more information and full geometry go to: dolan-bikes.com

At a glance

Verdict Great value ultimate winter workhorse
Value
Performance