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Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Road Test: Dawes Super Galaxy

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Mick Allan

My first proper shop-bought bike was a touring bike, a Claud Butler Dalesman. It was cutting edge in 1984, and my dream bike. Reynolds 531ST tubing, Blackburn racks, Campag Tipo hubs and mechs and Wolber Super Champion rims. Ten speed and side-pull. I loved that bike until The Mountain Bike appeared on the scene and it became, overnight, old news. And it saved my life, that bike, in its dying moments, but that’s another story.

For a very long time I believed that a mountain bike was the ultimate all rounder. But then, slowly, mountain bikes changed out of all recognition. In the beginning they were steel. they were rigid. And they came with eyelets. Modern mountain bikes are rarely steel, invariably suspended at one end or both and you can’t fit a rack to them.

The mountain bike boom came and went, and the manufacturers in their panic threw everything at us in a desperate attempt to find the Next Big Thing. We got flat-bar road bikes, twenty types of mountain bike and, as the market fragmented into ever smaller niches, the Touring Bike became an ever more elusive machine. I worked in bike shops for over twenty years, and for most of that time the shops I worked in didn’t stock a tourer. And very few of the brands we stocked even made one.

Meanwhile… my friend Tom who owns a second hand bike shop in Bristol can sell any Dawes Galaxy he can get his hands on. Irrespective of age and condition, if it says Dawes Galaxy on it, it’ll command top dollar.

Dawes have been producing touring bikes for A Very Long Time. Their Galaxy is still the benchmark by which all British touring bikes are judged. There is a class of cyclist, men usually, of  ‘a certain age’ (55+) for whom the Dawes Galaxy is still a dream bike. My friend Tom is kept in business by them.

So here it is. This handsome machine a second-from-top-of-the-range Super Gal, just under the Utra Gal. At its heart a Reynolds 653 TIG welded frame which comes fully equipped with all the rack, fender and bottle eyes you could want. A rather nice adjustable ahead stem/system. Shimano throughout with STI integrated shifters.

The first time I’ve sat on a touring bike since mine disappeared under the front of that Audi in 1987. I rode it to and fro work over those last few sunny days, but the funniest thing happened within ten minutes of leaving work the first time. I stopped to take this pic:

Super Gal

I became immediately surrounded by a gaggle of the aforemention ‘men of a certain age’ who wanted to know all about it, picked it up (after asking politely of course) to coo about how light it was.. And generally drool all over it. One was on a Dawes Horizon of uncertain vintage, another was on a Dawes Windsor of uncertain structural integrity and another was on a fairly newish (ie less than ten years old) Dawes Galaxy. Their friend was on a Giant, but he held back from joining in too eagerly into what was quickly becoming a Dawes appreciation frenzy. We talked of different (Reynolds, of course) tubing, a comparison of the pros and cons of welding versus brazed lugs, and then they all saddled up and pedalled off into the setting sun. Four old chums out on bikes.

Before they left I snapped them all together (as ever, right click and ‘view image’ to see full size):

Daweses

It really was a delight to get in the saddle of a proper, sorted touring bike after so many years away. The position was spot on, it felt like a bike I could have spent all day riding, fast rolling and comfy. Which is just about everything you want in a tourer. The only thing I didn’t like was the Shi**no integrated shifters. The picture I have in my mind’s eye of a touring bike still has bar-end shifters which are lighter, cheaper and less fragile than STIs. They consume a very big chunk of the bike’s total cost, money I’d rather that Dawes had spent on a front rack. Would I buy one? Yes I would. Oh, and the chain-ring guard. I’d probably lose the chain-ring guard, even though it saved my jeans, it’s just too ugly.

And here it is bagged up:

Daffs and Dawes

Africa Bike. Episode 152…

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 by Mick Allan

The snow melted faster than it came. Over the weekend I stole the opportunity to fit the new Profile Imperial 44t ring – one tooth smaller than the one I removed for a negligible change to the bike’s gearing. 2.2% lower. Hardly worth mentioning…

The old chain was utterly worn out so I replaced it before it was able to do any damage to the new ring. I abuse and neglect my bikes, my guilt assuaged by the vague notion that I am somehow ‘doing product testing’. It’s not laziness, no. This bike and Big Blue live outside. A true utility bike must be able to withstand anything nature can throw at it. Failing to lube my chain regularly and not replacing it when it’s worn out is something that many people do to their bikes. The Africa bike is now running as well at it should have when I first built it from the box. Where the line is between slackness and product research I’ll leave you to decide.

Africa bike againIs this now the strangest looking Africa Bike on the planet?

Over the years, especially recent years, I’ve been slowly raising my bars. Partly it’s an age thing, but also my riding is more utility oriented these days. My road bike got sold and my mountain bike is in bits. And I don’t miss them. Until the weekend  the height of the bars on the Africa bike was limited by the length of my cables. What was happening, (and which I was very resistant to!) was that every time I raised the bars I wanted to raise them further. Those of you who have been riding about bolt upright in the Euro/Dutch stylee for many years will be reading this with a sense of ‘well duh!’ I’m sorry, it just took me a long time to latch on. With new cables on I was able to raise them higher still. And I think I’m nearly there…

I had the good fortune to encounter a Montego Mamafeits recently, and it scores where my Africa bike falls; the top tube length. If I want to be able to carry Rufus and have my bars nearer to me I really need bars with a greater sweep back and a greater distance from seat to head.

Is the Africa Bike reaching the end of its usefulness? Do I need to commission a new frame from Ricky Feather. Can he weld gas pipe?

Horrid Shi**no zinc plated chain will have to do until I can find a chrome SRAM or KMC one. The reflective stickies between the spokes deliver a woosh of light as the wheel spins when illuminated by headlights. Applied only half way around the rim – from valve to weld – gives a better effect in my opinion. A pretty good lightshow when combined with the reflecty side wall of the front tyre methinks.Bling. Ring.

Ru and me

Sunday, February 12th, 2012 by Mick Allan

mickand rutwo

Aero Dyabolical

Friday, February 10th, 2012 by Mick Allan

Yepp windscreen not all it cracked up to be shock!

I haven’t even ridden it with the boy yet but there’s already a problem. An unfortunate side effect of the use of the screen is that, when riding into the wind in snowy conditions it becomes impossible to see. Kind of defeats the object huh? What happens is the falling snow is deflected upwards and rushes over the top of the screen – straight into the rider’s eyes.

unfairingI’m riding along – peering out from under my peaked cap – thinking; ‘Why the hell can’t I see in this?’ It wasn’t until I put a hand up against the edge of the screen to dam the air flow that I could see where I was going. It really was quite horrible, tyres sketching on the slush whilst riding virtually blind. Am I the first person to have noticed this? Shirley not. I dread to think how it will behave riding into rain.

The solution is simple. Install a gutter to disrupt the airflow. So why didn’t they design it so? I’m happy to do it myself – if I can find the right material in a good profile. I just seems a bit odd to me that the Dutch – who get plenty of weather – sell/use something which is so flawed.

How Cool is This?

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Mick Allan

A small boy goes into a bike shop. ‘Scuse me mister, can I have a spacer for my headset please’?

‘Sure!’ Says the man behind the counter. ‘What size do you require?’ ‘Ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fourteen or fifteen millimetres?’

‘Oh. I dunno.’ Says the boy. And he wanders off back to the bus stop to wait for a bus which will take him home to his unrideable bike. The spacer will have to wait until next weekend. If he can work out how to measure it correctly.

Thankfully there’s a new product available which will prevent this sort of unhappy situation ever occuring again. It’s made up of two pieces of thermoplastic, and hopefully you’ll be able to see what it does from the images. Yet another of those ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’ products. It’s very cool, and I’ve got one.

I just need a bike for it to go on, but in the meantime I shall enjoy fiddling with it.

A long term product test report will be along in a while…..

By Australian outfit, Colony BMX, whose products are distributed in the UK by www.tabletopdistribution.com

colony adjustable spacer

colony bmx adjustable spacer

colony spacer

Contropedale. A serious product review..

Monday, January 9th, 2012 by Mick Allan
The Solar System looking south to Selby

The Solar System looking south to Selby

Saturday dawned with a promise of a bright clear morning, a chance to retake the pics I deleted the other day. And no better conditions for a bicycle ride.

(Right click image and ‘view image’ to see full size pics).

front

self

Pedal iron

The addition of a Basil chrome plated front rack has changed the look. My Italian bike with its Dutch rack is now reminiscent of a French ‘Porteur’ bike. The hot trend at the moment amongst Oregon custom builders. ‘Xept this one aint $6,000!

I cut the rack down by one ‘rung’ and redrill it to get it on – designed as it is for high-front-end Dutch style bikes. And there’s still space to lift the bars if I need too. Speaking of which: I fitted a vintage adjustable 3TTT stem. It’s something I’ve had lying around for years, waiting for the right bike to go on. But I’m not yet convinced that this bike is it. Being a road bike stem it requires a shim to accept the bars. I’m also not convinced by the bars. They suit the look of the bike very well but don’t suit my wrists, no matter what angle I aim them. Pedals are loathsome, narrow and slippy. I’m on the lookout for something to replace them with but what? The perfect pedal (a platform in the style of a DMR V12 with short pins) will look totally out of place. Needs some thought….. The gear ratio felt too tall initially but I’m adapting to it. I’d love to have a bit of chrome chain poking out the back of that bobbed chaincase. And would a chrome plated sprocket be too much? David Hembrow kindly reminded me of the environmental disaster that is chrome plating when I ordered the Basil rack via his Dutch Bike Bits on-line shop. How far am I prepared to go in pursuit of the perfect bike?

My love affair with this bike hasn’t diminished. I dream about it. Like a child with a new toy I want to sleep with it, or at least have it in the bedroom. Am I weird? Don’t answer that.

The paint (or is it powder coated?) could be shinier. The mudguards could be a bit longer. The Taurus sticker is on the wrong side of the down tube. The headbadge is skew-wiff. And I don’t care. This is not an expensive bike – and that’s kind of the point of it. It’s just a bike; simple, cheap and utilitarian.

What was a particularly nice discovery was the quality of the bike’s assembly. Though the shipping box was so poor it barely made it to my door, the bike it struggled to contain was, with the installation of the bar and stem and pedals, totally ready for the road. That’s very rare in modern bike. Even the most expensive bikes in your local bike shop will need a minimum half an hour of preparation between it’s shipping box and the road. The Pre Delivery Inspection for this machine was less than five minutes. The spokes are tight, the rims are true and every bearing is adjusted perfectly. In my experience only Brompton bikes fall out of the box as well prepared as this. Exceptional.

The only real disappointment was the truly crappy seat clamp. The temporary black one in the pics has now been replaced by a proper, and I mean proper, Brooks chrome plated clamp. I had to order it specially. It cost a small fortune. Funny, we used to throw them away by the bucket load because no-one wanted old skool seat clamps. But £11? Jeez.

I don’t have a clue how much this bike retails for or if it’s even available in your territory. If you want one badly enough contact the nice folks at Taurus directly. Just please don’t buy one if you live in the UK.

I like having the only one.