Dawes Sportif Comp £849.99

Steel Audax ride

BikeRadar score 3/5

With their touring background, Dawes know plenty about building long-distance bikes. The Sportif Comp is aimed at the world of compact doubles and skinnier tyres, and it had us scratching our heads.

Its frame, fork and steering geometry mark it out as a light tourer, yet the gearing makes no concessions to that at all; the 12-23T cassette is all racer. There are better value options out there, too.

  • Frame: Good clearances and abundant braze-ons but it’s on the heavy side and the steel fork is arguably a step down from carbon (8/10)
  • Handling: Comfortable, with a shorter reach that suits easier paced riding and a sharper steering response that will still feel fine with luggage (8/10)
  • Equipment: A little under-specced for its price, and the 12-23T cassette makes no sense on what claims to be a sportive bike – especially one that can carry luggage as well as this (5/10)
  • Wheels: The rims are reasonable but the hubs and tyres are economised. More spokes should at least provide better durability with luggage or a heavier rider (6/10)

Dawes are best known for their touring bikes, and some features you’d associate with tourers have found their way onto this audax bike. The fork is chromoly steel and includes eyelets not only for mudguards but also for a low-rider rack and even a dynamo bracket. It also has more offset than is usual, though it’s not light.

The Reynolds 520 frame isn’t either. It doesn’t help that the down tube has a deep teardrop profile reminiscent of aluminium tubing; aluminium needs to be oversized for stiffness and strength, steel doesn’t – it’s fine in more modest diameters. Bigger tubes add weight.

The proportions of the bike are good. The short stem (9cm) gives a more relaxed reach to the bar. There’s no toe overlap and there’s enough space under the fork crown to fit a 28mm tyre plus mudguard (although not pictured here, the Sportif Comp comes with both front and rear 'guards). Contact points are good, with an oversize bar that doesn’t extend forward too far or drop down too deeply, and a comfortable saddle.

We didn’t have any problem with the slightly sharper steering granted by the reduced trail and shorter stem. The Sportif Comp still descends and corners fine, and when you’re climbing at slow speeds the front wheel has less propensity to wander.

Riding uphill presents problems of its own, though, with the 12-23T cassette. We were in the 23T sprocket and wanting something lower on every significant climb, standing more often than sitting. A 25T sprocket would at least nod towards recreational use; a 27T sprocket would be better still. 

What this bike really needs is a 50/39/30T triple and a wider ratio cassette Don’t forget that the Sportif Comp will take a full set of panniers. Only a masochist would fit them to a bike geared like this.

There’s a question mark over the Dawes in terms of value. For this price, we were hoping for a sprinkling of Shimano Tiagra instead of the ubiquitous Sora, or perhaps a carbon fork or something more eye-catching in terms of wheels.

The Alex DA22 rims do have a stronger sleeve joint rather than a pin joint, but they’re laced to no-name hubs and shod with Schwalbe’s budget Blizzard Sport tyres rather than the better Blizzard versions or high-mileage tyres like Schwalbe Duranos.

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