Dawes Super Galaxy  £1499.00

8/10

Still a classic

Weight 14300g   Contact www.dawescycles.com

by rob_simmonds   November 13, 2012  

Generations have passed, empires have crumbled and George Hincapie's varicose veins have finally retired, but the Dawes Galaxy is still trundling around the globe bringing colourful panniers and expedition beards to grateful villagers in far-flung parts - and if someone hasn't started a travel memoir with the words 'a long time ago and on a Galaxy far, far away' then they jolly well should. The latest iteration continues that noble tradition.

The Galaxy has changed shape over the years and the current crop (in three flavours, plain, Super and Ultra) all have a compact frame, 631 steel for the Galaxy and Super, 853 for the Ultra. I've been testing the Super for a large proportion of the year and having racked up well over 700 miles I can confidently say that it's a very nice bike and I'd happily own one. The only downside is the feeble brakes, but that's a problem that can be overcome.

The heart of the Super Galaxy is a Reynolds 631 steel frame. 631 is a popular material for long distance frames, being just a bit stronger than 520 and providing a comfortable ride without sacrificing strength. At least, I think that's what it means and while there's a whole debate to be had about the merits of different steels and whether the numbers mean a great deal in the Real World(TM). I'd be hard pushed to spot much difference between the different grades. What I do know is that the Super Galaxy does have a very nice ride although quite a lot of that might be down to the 32mm Schwalbe Marathon tyres.

The first thing that strikes you about the SG is the front end. It's incredibly high - even with the (butt ugly) adjustable stem set at its lowest, the bars are a full 5cm higher than they are on the Raleigh Sojourn I tested earlier this year. It makes for a stately riding position, but a very comfy one, suitable for enjoying the scenery as you trundle around. The bars themselves are pretty narrow (40cm) which means that fitting a bar-bag is going to be a real challenge, given that the Tiagra shifters still have side-exiting cables. Whether that is a problem is entirely up to you, but the plain-jane Galaxy has bar-end shifters which solve the problem as well as offering a lower-tech option for those tricky arse-end-of-nowhere repairs.

As you might have gathered, the Super Galaxy isn't exactly built for speed. That said, it's not as slow and puddingy as the Raleigh. The handling is as steady as you'd expect from a touring bike but it's still enjoyable to ride. The shallow drop bars (FSA Wing Compact) are a favourite of mine and make it easy to cruise on the drops without putting your back in jeopardy.

The drivetrain is a mix of road and MTB with Tiagra shifters and mechs controlling a 48/38/26 Deore chainset. As a combination it works well and with a 12-30t cassette on the back it gives a bottom gear of 22". That's not quite as low as the 20" that the Surly LHT sported, but it was low enough to get me up the demented goat-track of Peppardon Hill on this years Dartmoor Devil and it's plenty low enough for a loaded tourer. During the test period I did experience two snapped chains - something that I've never had happen to me before - but the second incidence may well be a failure of my initial repair and who knows what the bike had been through before it got to me?

The wheels are a reliable mix - our old friend Deore provides the hubs while the rims are Alex XT19s and the tyres are the tourist's favourite, the Schwalbe Marathon. The tyres in particular impressed me - they roll better than you might expect and are showing very little sign of wear. They also have a reputation for being highly p*nct*re resistant. Touch wood that hasn't been fully tested yet, because they also have a reputation for being a complete pig to remove and fit.

Unlike the Surly, the Dawes comes fully loaded, with a quality Tubus Logo rack, full length mudguards, some perfectly decent Wellgo double-sided SPD pedals and a brace of bottle cages. The saddle, a Selle Italia Flite FLX, suffered a weird injury during a brief intermission in the testing (the bike went to some chap in York for a month or so) so I swapped it out for a Brooks, but it felt comfy enough when I did use it and was the saddle of choice for my mate Andy during his LEJOG last year.

The one thing I didn't like was the brakes. Maybe I've been spoiled by riding bikes with discs, but the Shimano cantis seemed weak and gutless with no bite. They stopped me, eventually, but I found myself moving from the tops to the drops in order to pull harder on the levers. I'd be inclined to try some different brake blocks, but a swap to some different brakes at point of purchase might be worth considering.

Overall I enjoyed riding the Super Galaxy. It's a sturdy beast, but by no means dull and it should last a lifetime.

Verdict

Still a classic.

road.cc test report

Make and model: Dawes Super Galaxy

Size tested: 53cm

About the bike

State the frame and fork material and method of construction. List the components used to build up the bike.

Sizes 43,48,53,58 cm

Frame Reynolds 631 butted

Fork Triple butted chromoly blades

Headset Alloy 1"1/8 Ahead

Shifters Shimano Tiagra 30 speed STI

Rear Derailleur Shimano Tiagra 10 speed

Front Derailleur Shimano Tiagra triple

Chain KMC-X10

Freewheel Shimano CS-4600-10 12-30T

Front Hub Shimano Deore 36H

Rear Hub Shimano Deore 36H

Rims Alex XT19 double wall alloy with eyelets

Spokes Stainless steel

Tyres Schwalbe Marathon 700x32c

Chainwheel Shimano Deore 48/36/26

Bottom Bracket Sealed semi-cartridge

Brakes Shimano alloy cantilever

Brake Levers Shimano

Handlebar FSA Wing Compact, short drop

Stem NVO alloy

Seatpost Dawes alloy micro-adjust

Saddle Selle Italia FLX

Grips Cork tape with gel

Pedals Wellgo dual purpose

Rack Tubus Logo alloy

Tell us what the bike is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about the bike?

The Super Galaxy features the renowned Reynolds 631 air hardening tubeset with a triple butted chromoly fork. This tubeset is super tough which means the wall thickness can be reduced to save weight without reducing overall strength. This year see's the upgrade to 30 speed with Shimanos' brand new 10 speed Tiagra gears so now there are enough gears to take you almost anywhere.

Frame and fork

Overall rating for frame and fork
 
8/10

Tell us about the build quality and finish of the frame and fork?

Well made and tidy with a tough paint job.

Tell us about the materials used in the frame and fork?

Reynolds 631 for the frame and cromoly for the fork.

Tell us about the geometry of the frame and fork?

71 degrees headtube

73 degrees seat-tube (53cm frame)

How was the bike in terms of height and reach? How did it compare to other bikes of the same stated size?

Feels quite short from seat to bars, but that may well be because the bars are set so high. It's very comfortable though, as you'd want and expect from a tourer.

Riding the bike

Was the bike comfortable to ride? Tell us how you felt about the ride quality.

Velvety smooth. Big tyres iron out bumps and the frame builds in comfort with raked steel fork and compact design.

Did the bike feel stiff in the right places? Did any part of the bike feel too stiff or too flexible?

You don't want a loaded tourer flabbling from side to side and the Super Galaxy is plenty stiff enough to cope.

How did the bike transfer power? Did it feel efficient?

Fine.

Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?

No.

How would you describe the steering? Was it lively, neutral or unresponsive? Quite slow.

Tell us some more about the handling. How did the bike feel overall? Did it do particular things well or badly?

Handling is reassuring, if a little slow. You'd expect that from a touring bike though. It's a large bike and with the high front end it's always going to favour comfort over speed.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's comfort? would you recommend any changes?

I can't think of anything that I'd change so far as comfort is concerned.

Which components had the most effect (good or bad) on the bike's stiffness? would you recommend any changes?

Stiffness isn't what bikes like this are all about. Again, nothing I'd change.

Rate the bike for efficiency of power transfer:
 
7/10
Rate the bike for acceleration:
 
6/10
Rate the bike for sprinting:
 
5/10
Rate the bike for high speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cruising speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for low speed stability:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for flat cornering:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for cornering on descents:
 
8/10
Rate the bike for climbing:
 
8/10

I'm always amazed at how well touring bikes climb - mainly because of the low gearing.

The drivetrain

Rate the drivetrain for performance:
 
8/10

Well chosen mix of road and MTB bits.

Rate the drivetrain for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the drivetrain for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the drivetrain. Anything you particularly did or didn't like? Any components which didn't work well together?

Sensible gearing gives a 22" bottom gear. Not quite as tiny as the Surly LHT I tested recently, but still enough to get you up walls.

Wheels and tyres

Rate the wheels and tyres for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for durability:
 
9/10

Schwalbe Marathons are very hard wearing.

Rate the wheels and tyres for weight:
 
7/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for comfort:
 
9/10
Rate the wheels and tyres for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the wheels and tyres.Did they work well in the conditions you encountered? Would you change the wheels or tyres? If so, what for?

A sensible mix of classic bits - Deore hubs and Schwalbe Marathon tyres. Alex rims are sturdy too.

Controls

Rate the controls for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for durability:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for weight:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the controls for value:
 
8/10

Tell us some more about the controls. Any particularly good or bad components? How would the controls work for larger or smaller riders?

Tiagra shifters perform well, and are excellent value.

Anything else you want to say about the componentry? Comment on any other components (good or bad)

Yes - I was unimpressed with the Shimano canti brakes. They were poor, with modest stopping power and no bite. A change of pad might improve matters.

Your summary

Did you enjoy riding the bike? Yes.

Would you consider buying the bike? Possibly, but I'd want to do something about those brakes.

Would you recommend the bike to a friend? Yes.

Rate the bike overall for performance:
 
8/10
Rate the bike overall for value:
 
8/10

Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?

Unflashy but a solid and reassuring companion.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 5' 8  Weight: er....85kg

I usually ride: Kona Dew Drop, Dawes Century SE, Carlton Corsa  My best bike is: Guess SC1 scandium

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, Audax and long distance solo rides

 

10 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I think the Super Galaxy is a bit of an overpriced dinosaur, tbh.

You can get a Claud Butler Dalesman that's almost identically specced (9 vs 10 spd Tiagra) for £300 less.

If you want really rugged touring the Surly LHT is £400 less, leaving you with cash to spec it up as you want before you hit the price/equipment ceiling equivalent of the Galaxy.

Or, get one of the newer breed all-trail/cyclocross bikes with a triple if you want something more sporty that will take a rack, mudguards and the like.

When I was looking for a suitable bike for LEJOG last year it was pretty much bottom of the list.

posted by thereandbackagain [136 posts]
14th November 2012 - 11:45

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I'd agree - a Ridgeback Panorama is at least the equal, has a better 725 frame and is £250 less - a mate has one and its impressive. The finish is much better than the Dawes, which he looked at, but ruled out because of an unhelpful dealer - yes we can get one in for you to try, but only if you pay for it first.

posted by amazon22 [136 posts]
14th November 2012 - 17:25

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Why on earth have they reverted back to centre pull brakes with all the problems of adjustment and hanger alignment they give. With so many dual pivot brakes to choose from it just seems stupid to me.
And as the tester has said they aren't even very good!

I just wish someone from Dawes would read this.

Binky

posted by davebinks [103 posts]
14th November 2012 - 18:32

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davebinks wrote:
Why on earth have they reverted back to centre pull brakes with all the problems of adjustment and hanger alignment they give. With so many dual pivot brakes to choose from it just seems stupid to me.
And as the tester has said they aren't even very good!

I just wish someone from Dawes would read this.


To be fair I suspect that the problem is with the pads. Better pads would probably fix things, although I'd like to see Dawes embrace the disc revolution.

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [231 posts]
14th November 2012 - 20:28

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Dual pivots don't give sufficient tyre clearance.

I'm not sure what aftermarket pads even fit those Shimano cantis but the stock pads are pretty 'hard'.

I think you'll have to find a shop with stock if you want to get a galaxy at this time of year. There are cheap deals out there if you search.

ctznsmith's picture

posted by ctznsmith [102 posts]
14th November 2012 - 21:13

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ctznsmith wrote:
Dual pivots don't give sufficient tyre clearance.

I'm not sure what aftermarket pads even fit those Shimano cantis but the stock pads are pretty 'hard'.

I think you'll have to find a shop with stock if you want to get a galaxy at this time of year. There are cheap deals out there if you search.


Spa have the SG at £1125.

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [231 posts]
14th November 2012 - 22:13

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Bought exactly this bike in July for touring after I retire in December and I would agree with much of the review, especially the superb quality feel of the ride. Can't comment on all the alternatives as I didn't test ride them all but the ones I did try didn't feel right for me when I tried them. This may be due my body shape and preferred riding position, as I tend to favour a more upright position. Ride on the Dawes SG is silky smooth. Also notable was the lack of almost any problems at delivery, running in and first service. Again this may be due to the good LBS I bought it from. Looked at the Panorama, Hewitt, SHT, Cyclo cross bikes and many others but very glad I bought the Galaxy. Price? well I got a good discount but I think the most important thing is to get something that suits you. I would say the review scoring is a little low because this is a heavy tourer, and some of the scores look like they are rating a light tourer or a road bike. I've only done a few hundred miles so far, out round my favourite road bike route on the North Downs, and also some 20 mile London commutes, and for me, the SG is a dream to ride on , and although it is not as fast as my Specialized road bike I have been surprised at how quick it is. If you want a quality tourer and most importantly, if it fits you, I don't think you will be disappointed.

posted by Grumpyoldbiker [15 posts]
15th November 2012 - 6:32

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Grumpyoldbiker wrote:
Bought exactly this bike in July for touring after I retire in December and I would agree with much of the review, especially the superb quality feel of the ride. Can't comment on all the alternatives as I didn't test ride them all but the ones I did try didn't feel right for me when I tried them. This may be due my body shape and preferred riding position, as I tend to favour a more upright position. Ride on the Dawes SG is silky smooth. Also notable was the lack of almost any problems at delivery, running in and first service. Again this may be due to the good LBS I bought it from. Looked at the Panorama, Hewitt, SHT, Cyclo cross bikes and many others but very glad I bought the Galaxy. Price? well I got a good discount but I think the most important thing is to get something that suits you. I would say the review scoring is a little low because this is a heavy tourer, and some of the scores look like they are rating a light tourer or a road bike. I've only done a few hundred miles so far, out round my favourite road bike route on the North Downs, and also some 20 mile London commutes, and for me, the SG is a dream to ride on , and although it is not as fast as my Specialized road bike I have been surprised at how quick it is. If you want a quality tourer and most importantly, if it fits you, I don't think you will be disappointed.

Yes, bike choice is often about what feels right, not just a paper exercise in spec and price (although these do matter). Don't get hung up on the scoring (and some of the categories really apply more to racing bikes anyway) the important thing is that I really liked the bike and would consider buying one.

How do you find the brakes btw?

Rob Simmonds's picture

posted by Rob Simmonds [231 posts]
15th November 2012 - 23:36

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I've been riding a standard Galaxy for 4 years now. I bought it as a commuter, but since changing jobs (I'm no longer commuting by bike, sadly) I find it makes a good weekend club bike - as long as speed is not the prime concern.

I've done some hundred mile day rides on it, and the ride comfort really comes into its own. Since wearing out the original rims, I got some lighter wheels made and fitted 28mm Gatorskins instead of the Marathons. This all made the bike a lot more sprightly - still not quick, but much less soggy than before. Ride smoothness hasn't suffered for the narrower rubber. The only other change was to the saddle; I didn't get on with the Flite at all so I put a Charge Spoon on instead. Not exactly a touring saddle, but I knew the Spoon fits my butt and it's dirt cheap!

As noted in the review, the bar end shifters on the base model make bar bags more practical, and I actually prefer them to STIs. I've never got on with indexed shifting on a triple, and I find the bar end shifters a lot less fiddly. Retro, but effective!

The brakes on my Galaxy are Tektro cantis rather than Shimano. I doubt they are much different in performance; I find them just about adequate, but I'm fairly light and I generally ride without luggage. They are certainly not great; if I rode with a full touring load I'd consider fitting short-arm V brakes (which will work with road levers).

Overall, I have no regrets as a Galaxy owner. An audax bike might be a better choice for me now, since I rarely carry luggage, but I find the Galaxy so comfortable I am not inclined to change. You only really notice the weight when accelerating; climbing is no bother since the gears go so low, and you can roll along on it all day without getting a back ache.

posted by limitingfactor [16 posts]
18th November 2012 - 14:13

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If you want discs, have a look at this Roux they have just reviewed. It has them and its half the price????

posted by Sneeky [2 posts]
9th May 2013 - 16:39

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