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:
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):
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: