Pillars of the cycling community Dawes Cycles have launched a range for the recession with ample numbers of sensible urban bikes for less than £500 and the shop owners at the launch we went to in Bristol agreeing they look great for the money. Despite holding their prices, a couple of the pricier flagship models have even managed to squeeze in the latest 10-speed transmissions and fancy brakes.
The Dawes Galaxy range of classic tourers underwent a bit of a revolutionary move last year with the introduction of sloping top tubes that push down the length of the seat tube to allow better sizing flexibility in the showroom and push up the head tube height to position the handlebars in a potentially more comfortable place for leisurely riders.
Dawes knew this would be controversial with lovers of the classic level top tube on a bicycle and it's true that they may have driven a few Ultra Galaxy purists into spending more money with the classy custom builders - or into buying a Surly Long Haul Trucker - but the bigger result according to their spokesmen at the 2012 launch today is that the bikes are more versatile for a greater number of buyers and a full year's sales have borne out their faith.
This year, they're holding their prices from 2011 of the Galaxy, Super Galaxy and Ultra Galaxy at £1,199.99, £1,499.99 and £1,799.99 respectively although the two better bikes get 3 x 10-speed transmissions based on Shimano new Tiagra and 105 components.
The new models start shipping from March; now read on...
We obviously weren't the only ones that thought the overall gearing was a little high on Dawes' new introduction last year, the otherwise spiffing £1,500 Nomad flat-barred tourer with the Shimano Alfine 11-speed hub. First they fitted a 20 tooth rear sprocket and now they've gone all the way and dropped the chainring size to a 39 as well, making Dawes dealers all over the country except maybe Ben Hayward Cycles in Cambridge deliriously happy. Dawes say they've sold more Nomads fitted with the smaller 26" wheels than traditional road-touring-size 700c perhaps reflecting that customers envisage spending as much or more time on canal tow paths and bridleways than asphalt.
One area Dawes have kept the top tubes strictly horizontal is on their new-last-year, Reynolds-steel Audax models and they seem to have hit the spot with both; the Clubman (above) and Century SE (below) selling out of production well before the season was over, they tell us. Not daring to increase prices from £849.99 and £999.99, they've dropped the spec of the transmissions by one degree in the Shimano scale, the Clubman going from Sora to 2300 and the Century from Tiagra to Sora but both are still 9-speed, obviously, with triple chainsets.
Both Clubman and Century SE also get new shallower drops in the latest style. Colour on the former goes from pale blue to that nice stoney-beigy shade about which we posted this afternoon to universal acclaim from the twitterverse. Well, @John_the_Monkey said, "Oh, I like that Clubman colour a lot!" The Century SE (above) which was one of our Top 10 Bikes of 2011 gets a new almost-white colour, too. Our reviewer Rob Simmonds said about the bike in its first year, "Happily the ride quality matches the good looks with the exact mix of comfort and pace that you want from an audax bike." The componentry, in Dawes' endeavour to keep the price within £1,000 was already the only thing he could criticise, let's hope the drop in spec to Sora won't feel like too much of a compromise.
The four aluminium Dawes Giro models are now three in number for 2012, the top £1,000 model having been dropped entirely. The rest; the Giro 200 at £299.99, the Giro 300 at £449.99 and the 400 at £549.99 all get a new common frame and it's an entirely more svelte affair than the nicely made but heftily overbuilt Giro from last year. Geometry is also changed with no pretense of being a pure racer. The top tubes are a little shorter and the headtubes a tad longer in the Sportive modern style. Carrying on from there and also carrying over unchanged at the same prices from last year are the Sportif and Sportif SL with more a accentuated carbon-style hydroformed aluminium frame for £649.99 and £999.99. Commendably, both of these also come in a 43cm size which will make them worth looking at by any number of shorter women who want to buy a decent first road bike without breaking the £1,000 barrier.
The rise of the Mixte frames among stylish women-about-town continues unabated; what they'll like about this new Cambridge retro model is that it only costs £349.99 without looking in any way 'cheap.' Like many of the Dawes women's 'Heritage' models it even comes with a wicker basket or a close approximation of wicker which will stand up to Miniature Dachshunds and Yorkshire Terriers a lot better than the real thing.
The classic Dawes Galaxy tourer at £1,199.99 comes in its own distinctive metallic green - "We wouldn't dare change it," say Dawes - but if you buy the frame and fork alone for £599.99 to build up to your own spec - this is a Dawes suggestion above - it comes in achingly trendy plain gloss white.
Meanwhile the colour of the Super Galaxy moves several shades lighter to this Royal Blue and more importantly the drivetrain moves to the new Shimano Tiagra gears which of course are 10-speed. Matched with a mountain bike triple chainset, yes, that gives you 30 ratios ranging between 12 and 30 teeth at the rear and 26, 36 and 48 teeth at the front. The cantilever brakes on both the Super Galaxy and Ultra Galaxy will now be Shimano's new CX50 and 70s which were designed for cyclo-cross and show every sign of being powerful, easy to modulate and adjustable.
And here's the new Shimano CX70 cantilever brake on the Ultra Galaxy, also showing the revised shade of grey for 2012.
Unlike the Clubman and Century SE frames which come built up as complete bikes and are made from Reynolds 520 steel tubing, the otherwise geometrically-identical Audax frame and fork is made from stronger and therefore lighter - because they can make it thinner - Reynolds 631. Price for this with a carbon fork and decent headset is £599.99 which is hardly a bargain but neither is it pricey considering the quality of finish and what a homegrown Mercian or Longstaff would need to cost. Similarly, the Ultra Galaxy frame and fork comes in Reynolds 853 for £699.99 although the complete bike also gets the pukka 853 material.
We've not reviewed any of Dawes' growing range of accessories but from looking at the samples today it looks like we might need to put that right. The panniers in particular, which you can buy individually, seem very good considering the best fully waterproof one with a removable liner only costs £39.99.