Birmingham-based Dawes made their name when holiday essentials were carried in a canvas saddlebag not on a cut-price ﬂight, and they still produce top value touring bikes as well as a range of mountain bikes like the XC2.2.
It's well specced and rack-ready for comfortable cruising, but its low bottom bracket, noisy rear mech and basic fork mean it struggles in technical terrain.
Ride & handling: Solid and enjoyable all-rounder
The basic elastomer and coil spring internals of the Dawes' RockShox Dart fork squeeze up and down okay in the workshop and roll over occasional bumps ﬁne. Start working them hard though and they really don’t like it, with a sticky, mid-stroke thump and noticeable twist and twang when you’re cornering or braking hard.
The materials used in the fork mean it’s heavy and the overall bike weight is high too. This makes for a less lively feel up climbs, out of corners or when ﬂicking the bike about, and limited ground clearance means regular foot taps on rooty/rocky sections.
However, if you stay away from rougher sections, the Dawes is a well balanced and enjoyable ride. The frame is mellow in feel despite the clattering rear mech making it sound rough, while the skinny seatpost takes extra sting out of the trail.
The Shimano hubbed wheels should last well if you maintain them. Add the rear rack mounts and you’ve got a reliable off-road cruiser that ﬁts with Dawes’ long history of building excellent on- and off-road touring bikes.
Frame: Decent quality chassis with useful cargo ﬁxtures
The alloy frame is based around double-butted main tubes. The hydroformed top tube expands downwards to meet the oversized down tube behind the conventional head tube. The down tube ﬂattens towards the bottom bracket from where skinny straight chainstays continue to the open triangular dropouts.
These feature a replaceable mech hanger and extended leg on the disc mount to spread braking stress up the offside stay. Skinny seatstays with a pronounced S-curve complete the rear triangle, with four-point rack mounts too. There are twin bottle cage mounts plus a forward facing clamp slot with bolted collar on the extended seat tube.
Equipment: Durable hub and gear spec but low-grade fork limits off-road performance
The tall Truvativ bars need a bit of twisting to ﬁnd a comfortable position, but stem length and width are ﬁne. Avid brakes with a 185mm rotor up front offer plenty of control and Shimano’s Deore gears are accurate. The old-style rear mech doesn’t half rattle about off the chainstays compared with ﬁxed angle Shadow setups, though.
While they’re not particularly grippy, the Tioga tyres slide predictably if you push them too far and they roll well on hardpack. They’re more like a 2.25in rather than 2.1in tyre in girth, which adds useful puncture protection and comfort on rougher sections.
The RockShox Dart fork is a deﬁnite ride limiter, both in structural and suspension terms. The spring thumps to a halt about 60 percent of the way through the travel when the elastomer kicks in. The skinny legs twist noticeably under heavy cornering or braking loads which also chokes the suspension stroke.