If Raleigh were the everyman’s all-steel wonder of the Golden Age of British cycling, Dawes were their trusty wingman, with a particular talent for producing classic touring bikes. Unfortunately the entry-level Giro definitely falls the wrong side of the ‘how much do you need to pay for decent performance?’ fence.
Ride & handling: Too stiff for comfort on rough roads
The Giro's frame and fork are just too stiff for comfort. It’s not a problem on really smooth roads, but as soon as the surface is less than perfect it's a punishing experience.
Front-end shock from the high-tensile steel fork is amplified rather than reduced by the steel stem, skinny bars and thin bar tape. The big gusseted down tube doesn’t dilute any grief coming through the mainframe either.
On the plus side, such a stiff frame does make getting the power down a very direct experience. But however well it transfers its torque, the Giro's 25lb weight inevitably dulls climbing and any enthusiasm for acceleration.
The large chainrings of the ‘standard’-style chainset leave you short on easier, spinnable gears as soon as the road gets steeper too.
While Dawes quote some relatively aggressive handling angles, our actual bike was a lot slacker, which actually suits beginners and tri-bar use better.
The long chainstays create a stabilising effect on descents and if you normally struggle with going ‘hands free’ to fish out energy bars or remove a jacket, you’ll be fine on the Dawes.
The scarily soft brakes definitely undermine confidence on downhills though, and the harsh frame and fork rattle and skip off-line on rougher corners. The Dawes is such an unnecessarily harsh ride that you'd be better off looking elsewhere.
Chassis: Mudguard-ready, but welding fails to inspire confidence
The frame and forks are shared with the £429.99 Giro 300. That means you get a hidden headset head tube and triangulated down tube that is reinforced with a mountain-bike style gusset plate. There’s even a retro-style bolted mount for a number board under the round section top tube.
There’s spacing and screw holes for mudguards too, which makes it a weatherproof commuting or winter training option. The quality of the big welds leaves a lot to be desired though, with obvious irregularities and extra blobs failing to inspire confidence.
Equipment: Poor wheels and brakes, but gears work well enough
The Giro didn’t do the best to distinguish itself early on in testing. We pumped up the soft front tyre only to hear the tube puncture on a sharp edge of the rim before we got out of the kitchen. Gap taped and re-tubed, we got 200 metres down the lane before it punctured again, this time due to a rip in the thin rubber rim tape. We walked home and added more rim tape, put in another tube, which burst again, so after that we just gave up and used another wheel instead.
Adding to these woes are flexible, underpowered and vague sidepull brakes and a steel saddle clamp that needs supertight spannering to stay put. The steel stem plus skinny bars and thin bar tape have a big impact on ride quality too, although the saddle itself is well shaped and comfy.
On a slightly brighter note, the stubby down tube shifters click up and down the seven-speed freewheel okay. Well, they do once you get used to finding them without looking or sticking your fingers in the front wheel. However, for the price you’re unlikely to get anything better, so it’s not a major gripe and they’re easy to convert into tri-bar tip shifters.