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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.
Still a classic.
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Make and model: Dawes Super Galaxy
Size tested: 53cm
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
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.
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.
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?
Was there any toe-clip overlap with the front wheel? If so, was it a problem?
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.
I'm always amazed at how well touring bikes climb - mainly because of the low gearing.
Well chosen mix of road and MTB bits.
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.
Schwalbe Marathons are very hard wearing.
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.
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.
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.
Anything further to say about the bike in conclusion?
Unflashy but a solid and reassuring companion.
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