Dawes - one of the UK's longest established bike manufacturers - has been building hardtails for about as long as mountain bikes have been widely available. The Edge Pro is the company's range-topping hardtail, but its modest price tag and unremarkable looks hint at more modest ambitions.
Understatement is the order of the day, although there are some neat touches lurking beneath the stealth black paint finish. Averagely oversized top and down tubes eschew the trend for Coke-can-diameter cross-sections flattened in all directions, while the strengthening gusset at the head tube junction is open-ended at the rear, as it should be to disperse stress effectively. Head tube-mounted cable stops are paint-friendly and tidier than the more common down tube-mounted arrangement, which is a nice touch. Welds are workmanlike rather than works of art.
The British design influence is betrayed by the inclusion of Crudcatcher bosses under the down tube. Edge Pro owners prone to mud-plugging won't be scratching their paintwork with zip ties or oversized O rings, although strangely the frame's mud-friendly approach doesn't extend to clearance at the chainstays, which is miserly with the generously profiled Tioga tyres fitted. The stays' subtle S bends, in keeping with the bike's understated character, are almost apologetically gentle, while there's a set of canti bosses at the rear for anyone mad enough to consider a downgrade from the standard hydraulic discs - although you'll need a new set of rims, because the WTBs don't have a braking surface.
There's even a hint of Dawes' touring heritage in the inclusion of neat mudguard and boss eyelets at the rear - a small touch that's lacking on so many modern bikes, and something that makes the Edge Pro worth considering if you're heading out on a world tour. Finishing kit is all functional enough - if unexceptional - with an emphasis on name-brand bits that'll undoubtedly earn the Edge Pro extra showroom points.
A shortish stem and in-line seat post clamp had us worried that things would be a bit cramped, but the WTB saddle's long rails make it easy enough to set the bike up for most rider shapes. Given the price, it'd be unfair to expect the Edge Pro to perform at the same level as its competitors from Specialized, Kona and Rock Lobster - and so it turns out. Although the ride position's comfy enough, the stubby stem's a tad too short for our liking and the weight distribution doesn't have that feeling of being planted midway between front and rear wheels that defines the very best trail bikes. Heavyish tyres and a slightly leaden feel to the frame contribute to a less sprightly feel than its more costly competitors, and the fork doesn't help matters by tracking both the small and middling sized bumps rather reluctantly.
On the other hand, there are no handling vices to speak of. The Edge Pro goes exactly where it's pointed and does as its told - it just doesn't seem to do it with a great deal of what, for want of a better expression, we'll call joi de vivre. It can't match the lively feel of the higher quality frames of the more expensive bikes we've mentioned, but doesn't counteract this with a sufficiently enticing spec list. As a trail workhorse it's reasonable value, but it's certainly no thoroughbred - and you could probably do better for the money.