Dawes’ Clubman takes its name from the sort of bike a British club rider would have ridden and lovingly looked after back in the day. Think steam trains, pea-souper smogs, sepia-toned black and white and mistyeyed journos harking back to a world that never existed… Oh, and going for a ride at the weekend with dozens of your cycling mates on your steel-framed three-speed.
Fittingly, the bike has a Reynolds steel frame, made from 520 chromoly rather than the classic 531 manganese molybdenum, though Reynolds claim it has similar properties. The steel is made in Taiwan but traditionalists will appreciate the horizontal top tube and full-length mudguards. It’s a pity the brown saddle, which perfectly complements the bar tape, is imitation leather – we found it slippery.
The frame itself is TIG welded in the Far East, not lugged in Birmingham like club machines of yore. The welding’s neat and the gold outlining around the bottle bosses adds class, though wasn’t perfectly applied. The fork’s thoroughly modern: carbon fibre and dead straight.
Instead of Sturmey Archer three-speed, think Shimano Sora STI. Years of inflation have resulted in three chainrings and 24 gears but this means an impressive range so you can cope with just about any terrain. We might have hoped for Tiagra at this price, but £849 isn’t bad for a Reynolds steel-framed bike with carbon fork. The ride itself is suitably reassuring.
The Clubman wasn’t quite as lively on the open road as we’d expected, perhaps stifled by a somewhat heavy wheelset. The all-up weight of 10.91kg isn’t light, though reasonable for the price. But the wheels account for a hefty proportion of that, weighing in at 3.34kg. The budget 25mm Vittoria Rubino tyres are durable all-rounders but we’d probably replace these with something lighter and grippier when they wear out.
It’s worth considering the audax lean of the bike – it’s well suited to long days out. Not necessarily powering along at speed but taking things steady as you watch the world go by. It also comes with mounts for a rear rack, so light touring and commuting are in its remit too.
This article was originally published in Cycling Plus magazine.