Dawes is a name synonymous with classic British touring bikes and there were plenty of these on display at their 2012 launch, but it was a mountain bike that caught our eye.
British riders have been slow to accept the 29er but these big-wheeled machines are here to stay, and at just £599.99, Dawes' new XC29 Disc brings the concept within reach of a lot more people. It could be the ideal bike for someone who to tackle the odd off-road ride at weekends alongside the daily commute.
For the money, the spec is very good – the XC29 comes with Clarks Skeletal hydraulic disc brakes, an RST Blaze 29 suspension fork with lockout, 27-speed Shimano Alivio gears and Kenda Nevegal tyres. The latter are fine off road but we'd swap them for something smoother rolling for tarmac use.
There have been changes elsewhere in the mountain bike line, with the 26in-wheeled range now topping out at £549.99 – Dawes know their strengths and have no intention of trying to compete in the premium mountain bike market. They've capped their Giro road bike range at the same price, for the same reason.
We'd be wary of taking the cheapest Dawes 'mountain bikes' further than the towpath due to their high-rise stems, no-name tyres and single-wall rims, but the XC21 Disc looks ready to hit the trails. At £349.99 it has an alloy frame with hydroformed top and down tubes, 21 Shimano Altus gears, Clarks CMD-7C mechanical disc brakes, a Suntour M2025 suspension fork, double-wall rims and Kenda K-901/2 tyres.
The XC24 Disc upgrades to an RST Capa T26 fork and 21-speed Shimano Acera for £50 more, while the top XC27 Disc model (£549.99) has 27-speed Shimano Alivio, an RST Blaze T26 fork with lockout, and hydraulic Clarks Skeletal brakes. Dawes have paid attention to aesthetics this year, with features like colour-matched grip lock-on collars and rim graphics.
It's road, hybrid and touring bikes that form the core of Dawes' range and there have been plenty of changes for 2012. The Sportif range of comfort-orientated road bikes carries over from last year but the racier Giro models have had a refresh.
The entry-level Giro 200 boasts a new frame, with a longer head tube and shorter top tube to create a more upright, beginner-friendly ride position. It also has an alloy-bladed fork instead of the all-steel unit spec'd last year and a new short-drop bar. It certainly looks the part, with a white-based colour scheme and lots of logos, although the 14-speed bar-top shifters reveal its budget price – just £299.99.
The £449.99 Giro 300 upgrades to 16-speed Shimano 2300, and this time the gears are operated via STI shifters. It also has Shimano A050 cranks and Tektro 510A calliper brakes. The £549.99 Giro 400 comes with a carbon-bladed fork, which should filter out road buzz as well as saving a bit of weight.
Dawes' parent group, MV Sports & Leisure, have the licence to sell Team GB branded products ahead of the 2012 London Olympic Games and some of these were on show at the 2012 launch in Congresbury, near Bristol. There are two 'racing style bikes' aimed at kids, along with both junior and adult road bikes.
The Team GB Junior Road Bike comes with a choice of 24in (ages 9+) or 26in (11+) wheels and is one for the patriots out there, with a red, white and blue colour scheme and a lion's head on the head tube. It has a similar spec to the Giro 200, with 14 Shimano gears operated via bar-top shifters. RRP is £349.99, the same as for the adult bike.
Dawes have overhauled their hybrid range for 2012, splitting it into two halves – fast commuters on one side (Discovery), and more comfort-oriented bikes (Discovery XO) on the other. While the Discovery XOs come with suspension forks, disc brakes and sofa-like saddles, the Discovery bikes all use rigid forks and V-brakes to keep weight down,
The range starts with the 7005-alloy-framed Discovery Trail, which swaps Dawes' usual subdued look for a love-it-or-hate paintjob featuring coloured spots (women's model) or squares. It comes with twist-grip 18-speed Shimano gearing for £199.99. At the opposite end of the scale, the Discovery 401 has a 24-speed Shimano 2300 road groupset, Tektro mini V-brakes and Vittoria Randonneur tyres for £449.99.
Touring & audax
The classic Galaxy touring bike had an overhaul last year so there's no change for 2012 but the Super Galaxy and Ultra Galaxy have new gearing. Dawes used to pair road shifters with mountain bike cassettes on their tourers but Shimano's move to 10-speed rear shifting means this mix-and-match approach no longer works (even with the latest 10-speed mountain bike cassettes; they've tried).
The Super Galaxy (£1,499.99) now comes with 30-speed Shimano Tiagra gearing and CX50 cantilevers, while the Ultra Galaxy (£1,799.99) uses 30-speed Shimano 105 and CX70 brakes. Dawes insist the larger number of gears makes up for the slightly narrower range but it'll be interesting to see how this goes down with the traditionalists.
The Century SE audax bike is back, in white, but rising component prices mean Dawes have had to spec 27-speed Shimano Sora instead of last year's Tiagra to avoid raising the price (£999.99). The £849.99 Clubman also has a new paintjob (grey) and groupset (Shimano 2300). An Audax SE frameset is available for £599.99, made from Reynolds 631 chromoly – an upgrade over the Reynolds 520 found on the complete bikes.
Finally, the flat-barred Nomad (£1,499.99) was one of the first bikes to sport Shimano's new Alfine 11 hub. Dawes admit it's been tricky getting the gearing right for touring use but they've now settled on 39x20t. The Reynolds 631 framed bike comes with front and rear racks, V-brakes and SKS mudguards. It's available with either 26in or 700c wheels.