The Giro 400 is third in line of a four-model, £350-£850 road bike line-up from British bike ﬁrm Dawes, who celebrate their 85th birthday this year. While it looks and rides sharp, the ride is harsh and dead-feeling. The high frame and wheel weight, combined with beginner-unfriendly gears and cheap kit, makes it impossible to recommend.
Ride & handling: Relaxed and confident on descents, but weight dulls ride feel
While the Dawes' top tube is short for the frame height, the long-reach bar means the bike feels long and low, which should appeal to more competitive buyers. Unfortunately, the racey feel doesn’t extend to the effect when you press on the pedals. It’s stiff enough in terms of what you feel through your feet and the big tubes ensure your power goes directly to the rear wheel. Unfortunately the heavy wheels and high overall weight are a real effort to accelerate.
The tall gearing from the full-size chainrings and eight-speed rear cassette combines with this morale-sapping mass to mean steeper hills are a real struggle. Even if you can provide the large amount of grunt to get over the top, the narrow bars don’t help with out-of-the-saddle leverage either. They also left broader-shouldered members of our test team feeling short of breathing space when they were working hard on the ﬂat or shallower climbs.
The tiny thumbshift levers on the inside of the brake hoods are almost impossible to reach when you’re tucked into the drops, trying to stay out of the wind. That same criticism extends to all Shimano S2300 and Sora shifters though, so it’s more a pricepoint issue than a particular downer on the Dawes. Once you’ve got it going, the big gears, long stretch and extra wheel inertia mean it retains rolling speed well, so if you’re riding mostly ﬂat terrain, the issues above aren’t as important.
While there’s no shortage of power transfer once you’re in the right gear, the high stiffness means it needs to be applied carefully to stop rough climbs bouncing the back wheel off the ground. Comfort levels are similarly affected, with constant jarring and vibration adding to the deadening feel of the extra weight to make the Giro 400 a masochistic rather than luxurious experience. We picked up blisters on the heel of our hands for the ﬁrst time ever on a hilly two-hour ride round our local dales, which isn’t a good sign.
If there’s one area where the Dawes does perform well though, it’s on descents. The high weight means a ﬁrm connection to the ground and the stiff frame means no shortage of feedback from either end. The relaxed head angle keeps the steering stable and surefooted through faster corners, and the tyres are trustworthy too, as long as they don’t get rattled off the road by the stiff frame. The narrow bar does mean it needs more leaning rather than steering in tighter, slower situations.
Frame & equipment: Heavy chassis, weighty wheels and otherwise average kit
The Dynamism frame is certainly eye-catching, with the team paintjob wrapping round triangular to rectangular top tube and down tube. Maximum breadth at the base of the down tube supports the bottom bracket shell for power transfer and chunky rear stays mean no loss of power to the rear wheel either. There are no mounts for a pannier rack, but there’s enough frame and brake clearance to ﬁt proper mudguards for a clean face and dry derriere doing winter work.
The front end gets a hidden headset and the skinny fork legs are carbon ﬁbre with an alloy top and tips for a reasonable weight. The frame itself is extremely heavy at over 2kg though. Generally a more basic frame reaps a bonus in terms of the ﬁtted equipment for a given price, but unfortunately that isn’t the case with the Dawes. You get a Shimano Sora rear mech but otherwise it’s cheaper S2300 kit, with only an eight-speed block at the back (so 16 gears overall).
The chainset uses full-size rings too, which is less forgiving on your legs and lungs when the going gets hilly. Heavy wheels don’t help on climbs either, although the metal-backed cartridge pads sharpen up brakes slightly, despite their longer arms for mudguard clearance. The Dawes ﬁnishing kit is less than impressive too.
This article was originally published in Triathlon Plus magazine.