Following weeks of procrastination, today is the day this particular MR1s from Dare will return to its rightful owner. That sucks for me because this is the best bike I’ve ridden for as long as I can remember.
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For those who aren’t aware, Taiwanese company Dare has been producing a line of direct sale road bikes for a few years already. The brand has yet to make a lasting mark on much of Europe but is gaining real traction in Asia.
Although Dare may appear as the new kid on the block, it’s important to understand that the company has considerably more experience than most, in fact, its founder has been involved in quietly producing bikes for some of the best-known brands out there for a very long time.
The MR1s is Dare’s headline road bike and is available in a range of build kits ranging from Ultegra through to Dura-Ace Di2, while an online tool allows customers to configure their bikes outside of a range of preconfigured builds.
It’s possible to switch individual components from wheelsets through to handlebars and stems. Buyers prepared to pay more can even specify their own paint job, how many spacers they want beneath their stem and the preferred angle of their hoods!
The MR1s certainly isn’t the cheapest direct sale choice but it offers more customisation than the likes of Canyon, and the price still undercuts big bikes such as Specialized’s Tarmac or the Trek Émonda.
This 6.8kg size 58 example is almost exactly what Dare specs with its preconfigured S9 build, with Dura-Ace 9100 groupset, DT Swiss PRC1400 carbon wheels and a smattering of Dare’s own-brand finishing kit.
The Dare has a clean look with uninterrupted lines, neat finishing touches and, in the case of this limited edition bike, a stunning paint job.
Dare’s carbon frame is the company’s own design with many interesting features, the most obvious being a large hole between the top tube and seat tube intersection.
This area, which Dare refers to as the “comfort channel”, uses a different carbon to the rest of the frame. Produced by UK company Sigmatex, its unusual layup bears a strong resemblance to fish scales, and is said to have been chosen for its shock absorption capability.
It’s impossible for me to say exactly how that feature impacts the ride, but there’s no doubting that this is a very comfortable bike, particularly in terms of what is transferred through its saddle. The size 58cm frame was showing nearly all of its available seatpost, and deflection in this area is clear to see when seated.
The slender fork isn’t quite as plush as the rear, so good line choices are an absolute must, but both ends of the bike provide desirable feedback to the contact points at all times.
Much of that comfort can, of course, be attributed to the 25mm wide Vittoria Corsa G+ tyres. These definitely impressed and I found them very comfortable and fast providing I kept more than 75psi between their relatively soft sidewalls.
Their wet weather grip is truly exceptional too and I didn’t suffer a single puncture over several 100 miles of testing.
Credit should also go to DT for its fabulous PRC 1400 Spline wheels. These clinchers come in at a shade over 1,400g for a set and their stiffness and lack of weight ensure the bike accelerates and turns with the precision the rest of the chassis deserves. Their braking is fantastic too, thanks in part to Koolstop pads.
There’s truly something wonderful about the way this bike handles. Clichés relating to telepathic steering response may be annoying, but ride a bike like this and you’ll soon understand why they exist.
The tiny inputs this bike requires to tighten or widen its line make it a real precision tool at speed. I wouldn’t describe it as nervous but it definitely requires respect and concentration where some bikes would not. Commit to the corners and you’ll be rewarded with exciting lean angles, the tyres making a satisfying noise as they’re pushed hard into the road surface.
For a frame that’s so comfortable, the MR1s is also immensely stiff where it matters. Vein-popping sprints reveal the only major flex that can be felt is through the bike’s tyres.
Mechanical Dura-Ace is every bit as lovely to use as it is to look at. The rim brakes, fashionable as they are not, do a superb job of stopping in dry conditions with an incredibly light and progressive feel at the lever. Still, I’d be lying if I said they didn’t fall short of even the cheapest of discs once things get wet.
Luckily, the same bike is also available with Shimano disc brakes (albeit for an extra £330) and that’s an option I’d certainly be ticking. The shifting itself is every bit as crisp and positive as you'd expect. I found it to offer a slight improvement in tactility over the Ultegra group that I'm more familiar with.
I did experience an ongoing creaking problem with Dare’s own-brand seatpost. After liaising with Dare on the matter it was unclear as to exactly what was causing the issue but I found removing the post and its clamp, cleaning all surfaces and reassembling with some gripper paste did remedy the problem — at least for a few 100 kilometres at a time. I had no such issues with Dare’s handlebar and stem.
What really impressed me about the Dare was the way it encouraged me to get out there and truly batter myself repeatedly over the UK’s exceptionally dry and warm summer.
To be honest, it helped me fall for road riding in a whole new way. Apart from its creaking habit and sketchy wet weather braking, I have found it incredibly difficult to pick fault with this bike. Every ride with it has been enjoyable and I’ll miss it dearly.