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Road Test: Dawes Super Galaxy

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by CGIT

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):


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

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15 Responses to “Road Test: Dawes Super Galaxy”

  1. Harvey says:

    Which front pannier rack did you fit to your S.Galaxy?

    I have just purchased a Galaxy 2012 and I am unable to get Blackburn or Dawes front pannier racks to fit to due to short distance between fixings on front fork.

  2. Mick Allan says:

    Hi Harvey, Actually, for the shoot I borrowed the Blackburn Lowrider which was on Caz’s Thorn Raven Tandem. I had no trouble fitting it to the Super Gal. Low-rider mounts should, and usually do, arrive within certain pre-set tolerances.

    You’d imagine that a company with such a long history would get these things right – and they usually do to be fair. But it’s not unheard of for a factory jig to get misaligned by a few mm, for bikes to slip through the quality assurance net and the end user to end up with the sort of incompatibility problems which you are experiencing. I’m afraid that if your racks don’t fit there’s only one solution – take it back to the shop! Dawes have a great reputation for sorting warranty issues. Your retailer shouldn’t have any trouble resolving this issue. Let me know how you get on.


  3. Catherine says:

    hi Mick

    I’m just about to get an insurance replacement for my 2005 super galaxy. I’m not sure about the sizing, as the 2012 models available to me are 48cm or 53cm. I think my old bike that was stolen was 52cm, but I always found the top tube length a bit stretching. What bike size did you test, and how tall are you? any advice on sizing – I am 5′5″ tall.

  4. Mick Allan says:

    Hi Catherine, I’m 6′1″ and tested the 59cm. It’s impossible to give you a 100% accurate size recommendation without seeing you in the flesh. The length and proportions of your limbs and torso have as much, if not more, bearing on frame size as your height. The ‘obvious’ answer, if you felt stretched on your old 52, would be to choose the 48. Except that it might have been the perfect size for you but poorly set up…. There’s a wealth of advice in the Practical Advice section of the Cyclorama website. But there’s nothing to beat the expert eye of a bike shop expert when it comes to bike fitting. I suspect that your insurer has offered to replace your bike via mail order. Avoid this if it’s at all possible. Let me know how you get on.


  5. Tim Fox says:


    I live in Bristol and looking to replace my 1994 Super Galaxy. It’s in very good condition for its age. Would your friend be interested?

  6. Jim Avery says:

    The first bike I ever bought new (with my first “Access” credit card) was a Dawes Windsor. IIRC, it had Weinemann extension brake levers and 2×5 gears with down tube shifters. I agree, those Shimano STI shifters are horrible. I’ve been having a go with Retroshift levers lately instead.

  7. Mick Allan says:

    Thanks for your comments.

    Tim, Tom at Bike Workshop will be very interested indeed in your old Super Gal, but do bear in mind he’ll pay you less than market value as he has to add a mark up.


  8. Jon Bingham says:

    I have a late 90’s Super Galaxy (might even be early naughties) that I’ve had for 7 years. I have messed around with it’s format, including having it stripped down for riding in triathlons but recently have rebuilt it up for touring and I find the STI shifters OK but my preferred setup is for STI shifters for the rear gears and a dura ace bar end shifter for the front gears (this allows fine adjustment)
    I love this bike and can’t ever see myself parting with it
    Steel is real! (my other bike is a 1998 steel framed Rockhopper)

  9. Sophie says:

    Just about to get a 2012 Super Galaxy. Previously ridden mountain bikes. Very excited!

  10. Mick Allan says:

    Nice one Sophie! let me know how you get on with it.

    Cheers, Mick

  11. eddie poole says:

    Nice to hear all about a touring bike My trusty racer is becoming a little wearisome on long days so have decided to give in to father time and get a touring bike the only question is straight or drops?

  12. Mick Allan says:

    Drops Eddie! (with bar-end shifters)

  13. Steve dean says:

    I’ve been trying to fit the tortec front expedition rack to my 2010 super galaxy, either I’m being really dum or it just doesn’t fit, has anyone else had this problem??
    Can anyone recommend a decent low rider rack for the front?

  14. Wilf Forrow says:

    I’m just fitting Tubus Duo Low Riders on two 2011/2012 Super Galaxies and what a nightmare. I’m having to make special brackets and use washers as spacers, and it’s taken me a day and a half. Shame on Tubus for allowing absolutely no tolerances. They don’t even tell you what measurements to check before buying (they seem to expect 165 mms between the fork bosses, but ours were 147 mms).

  15. Mick Allan says:

    Very dodgy Wilf. And it’s not the first time I’ve heard this complaint about Galaxys and Super Gals. Time to complain to Dawes. Or Tubus. Or both!