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Whatever next, a steel Audax bike? Oh

We hot-footed it over to glamorous Yatton this week to have a look over the 2011 bikes from British cycling institution Dawes, and came away with lots of steeds added to the testing wishlist. Going just on the evidence of our eyes, before we put bums on seats, it looks like it'll be a strong year for Dawes with the company covering all cycling bases whilst also doing some good work on the bikes it's best known for. Here are some of the highlights of the range...

Clubman and Century

A few years back Dawes used to have dedicated Audax and sportive ranges but last year they were all rolled into one. We're guessing that wasn't the best decision Dawes ever made because a year later they're back as separate bikes. That's given Dawes an opportunity to have a proper think about the new ranges, rather than tinkering with the bikes they've got, and the result is two very distinct model that both look the part in their different ways.

Audax is taken care of by the Clubman and the Century, Reynolds-520-framed gate-framed roadsters with a retro look and a full ship's complement of braze-ons for the budding long distance rider. We're quite taken with them, too; there's more and more bikes of this kind popping up but Dawes have made a better job than some of balancing the retro styling with modern equipment. The £849 Clubman is the looker of the two, in our opinion, finished in a very fetching powder blue with leather-coloured finishing kit. The straight bladed Carbon fork has narrow, straight blades that mimic the look of the tubes and the 24-speed Sora drivetrain should be dependable enough for some serious miles. It's good to see proper rack mounts too. The more expensive Century has a 27-speed Tiagra setup, and if you've already got a shedful of bits to build your Audax Iron you can buy a similar looking Audax LE frameset for £549; it's fashioned from the more expensive 631 tubeset.

Sportif

So while the Audax range has gone back to embracing a historical look and round steel tubes, the Sportive range has headed in the opposite direction. The Sportif and Sportif SL use a hydroformed Aluminium frame with a distinctive kinked top tube (that's 'distinctive' as in 'a bit like a Look') and a Carbon/alloy fork.

The bikes have the geometry tweaks you'd expect from a sportive frame (slightly shorter and higher at the front and they're both available in Dawes' new lady-friendly 43cm size; The £999 SL gets a 20-speed 105 drivetrain whereas the cheaper Sportif makes do with Shimano 2300 gears and also sports mudguard eyelets if you're pressing it into use as a commuter. If you're looking for a more traditional geomtery in an entry-level racer then the Dawes Giro range is essentially unchanged from last year

Nomad

We're guessing there's only so many words that describe moving around a lot that you can pick as the moniker for a touring bike, so the Dawes Nomad isn't the first Nomad we've seen. Even so, given that it's a flat-barred hub-geared expedition tourer we'll guess that there'll be some frowns at the Thorn HQ. The Dawes is based around the new Alfine 11 speed hub gear, of which Dawes had a surprising number on show: two, which is one more than most of the other bike brands we've talked to have so far been able to get their hands on. Dawes told us there'd been a few 'irate' phone calls with regards to supply, but production hubs won't delay the launch.

The Nomad is built about a 631 frameset with a horizontal dropout for tensioning the chain. There's good quality Tubus racks front and rear, an adjustable stem to fine tune your position and good quality touring wheels. It's running the Alfine 45T chainset which with an 18T rear cog (we think that's what's fitted) would give a 35" bottom gear; we reckon you'd need to tinker to get a lower ratio if you're going anywhere hilly with lots of gear. Other than that it looks like a well-thought-out and worthy addition to the Dawes touring range.

Galaxy and Horizon

The first thing you'll notice about the 2011 Galaxy range is that it's all slopey; this year you get a semi-compact geometry across the tourers. The Galaxy has been a compact before – in 2003, we think – but it was a bit ahead of the curve back then. One of the reasons for the change is that the sizing of the bikes has changed quite radically this year. Dawes now offer most of their touring and sportive bikes in a 43cm frame size. Three other sizes – 48 53 and 58 – complete the range and the big gaps are more suited to compact geometry.

Your basic Galaxy sports a Reynolds 631 frame and triple butted fork, and the drivetrain is a Deore mix with Dura Ace bar-end shifters taking care of the changes. You get a Tubus rear rack and guards as standard kit. That'll set you back £1,199 and for an extra couple of hundred quid you can upgrade to the Super Galaxy which sports Tiagra STI levers and a useful height-adjustable stem amongst its upgrades.

Top of the range is the 853-framed Ultra Galaxy at £1,699; Dawes aren't making any Titanium frames this year so there's no Ultra Galaxy Ti. The Ultra gets a Sugino crankset with Deore rear mech and Tiagra shifters, as well as a Brooks saddle. All three bikes spec 36-hole wheelsets with Alex rims and Shimano hubs. The Galaxy and Galaxy Ultra are both also available as framesets.

There's been lots of requests for Dawes to make a Cycles to work scheme-friendly Galaxy but it's never really been feasible to squeeze the bike under the magic £1,000 mark. So, enter the Horizon, which sits below the Galaxy in the Dawes touring range with two models available. Both are built around a Reynolds 520 and Cromoly fork combination with rack and guards as standard. The £999 Horizon Plus mates a Shimano Alivio drivetrain with Dura Ace bar-end shifters, whilst the cheaper Horizon makes do with Sora STIs

Ambassador

Dawes' heritage range is one of its biggest selling: they've done very well bringing that classic bike look to a more affordable price point without the bikes looking cheap. There's a big range of roadsters for gents and ladies but the newest addition – and one of the nicest looking, we think – is the Ambassador, a singlespeed town machine that brings the Pashley Guvnor to mind. The Dawes is only £300, mind, so you can have two. It looks just the ticket for the dapper gent who wants a fuss-free town bike; need to swap that saddle out for a Brooks, mind.

Espoir

Dawes have been having plenty of success with their 24" and 26" wheeled junior race bike, the Espoir. With its cantis and clearance for a knobbly tyre it's a real do-anything option for young racers, you can ride it through the winter and even try a bit of 'cross if you like. The bigger tyres mean they'r not quite as twitchy for novice racers, although you can swap out for race slicks if you want. Cranks and bars are in proportion to the wheel size, and they're great value entry bikes at £299 which means that lots of clubs are picking them up for training, and events such as Go Ride

Dave is a founding father of road.cc and responsible for kicking the server when it breaks. In a previous life he was a graphic designer but he's also a three-time Mountain Bike Bog Snorkelling world champion, and remains unbeaten through the bog. Dave rides all sorts of bikes but tends to prefer metal ones. He's getting old is why.