Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Bike Review - Specialized Dolce
We test ride the Specialized Dolce Comp road bike
Are women-specific bikes the answer for women, or just a marketing tool? Kate Reeves tests the Specialized Dolce road range in a bid to find out
So you're female and want to buy a road bike? Where do you start? If it was a pair of jeans that you were looking for you wouldn't head to a men's store, as the chances are they wouldn't fit, right? Well, the same can apply to bikes.
Now, I admit to being a bit of a 'women's bike design' sceptic. Initially the women's specific bikes on offer seemed to be targeted towards the entry level market, giving the impression that high-end technology wasn't flowing through. However, Specialized has changed my opinion with their line-up of 2005 'Designs for Women' bikes, including the Dolce range of road bikes.
There are three road bikes in the range, starting with the Dolce, retailing at around $1249, the Dolce Elite at $2199, through to the Dolce Comp at $3399.
The frame on the Dolce model differs in weight to the rest of the range, however the all-important frame geometry is the same. The Dolce does come with a Specialized carbon fork and seat-post. While this would be expected at the higher price points, it represents great value on the entry-level model. Having carbon components at these contact areas helps to reduce the level of vibration that the rider feels, giving a more comfortable ride.
So what exactly is women specific about the Specialized Dolce bikes? With women being generally shorter in the torso proportionally to men, with shorter arms and narrower shoulders, there is plenty of scope for improvement in the fit of a bike. Accordingly the Dolce top-tube is shorter and the seat tube slightly lengthened.
Specialized has done a great job of producing a range of components for women. The handlebars are narrower, the diameter slightly smaller, and the drop bar itself is a smaller curve than a normal bar, reducing the reach required. The length of the cranks has been shortened for shorter legs, and a women-specific saddle comes as standard.
I was lucky enough to test the Comp model. I am reasonably short at 157cm, with a particularly short upper body in comparison to leg length. I tested a small frame (44cm) and was able to set the bike up comfortably. I often find that a bike is too 'stretched out' for me, making it hard to reach brake levers and use the drops comfortably. But with the Dolce there were no such issues. Other great features included short-reach brake levers (great for those of us with smaller hands) and a triple chain ring, giving you extra-low gearing for steeper climbs.
The basic model would be a great way to start your road-riding career - for fun, social riding or for that first attempt at road competition or triathlon. If you are a new rider, it is vital that you get comfortable. So if you are struggling with a standard-sized frame, check out the Dolce or the Dolce Elite.
Frame: A1 premium aluminium
Forks: Specialized carbon
Brakes: Shimano Sora
Gears: Shimano Sora with Tiagra rear mech 24spd
Wheels: Alex DA 16 with Specialized hubs
Handlebars: Specialized Women's Comp with Zertz vibration damping
Saddle: Body Geometry Dolce Women's
Seat post: Specialised carbon
Tyres: Specialized All Condition
This review was first published in Bicycle Network Victoria's Ride On magazine, April-May 2005
For specs on the latest Dolce model, go to the Specialized website.