British brand Dawes have always had a reputation for solid but rather staid bikes. For 2009 that is set to change with the introduction of two titanium frames, a youth-oriented sub-brand and some good-looking new road and cyclo-cross bikes.
Stars of the show at the firm's 2009 launch were the two new titanium bikes, the Ultra Galaxy Ti and Sportif Ultra Ti. But the Dirty range of dirt jump bikes, BMXs and mountain bikes caused a stir with their chunky tubes, loud paintjobs and provocative graphics.
Dawes were also displaying another sub-brand, Barrosa – a range of what the firm calls 'trekking bikes' and mountain bikes aimed at a lower price-point than the main, Dawes-branded range, where prices have been pushed up by the credit crunch.
All of Dawes' top-end bikes are now made in Taiwan, with the cheaper ones being produced in Cambodia.
The Dirty sub-brand has already proved popular, with the BMXs and dirt jump bikes which were launched in September selling out before Christmas – although apparently the risque brochure featuring shots of scantily clad young ladies hasn't proved as popular with parents as it has with teenage riders.
The range also includes five hardtail mountain bikes and two full-suspension models. The bikes range from the £199.99 Ripper BMX to the full-suspension Assassin at £369.99, with Suntour fork and mechanical disc brakes, and all come with a free sticker sheet.
Dawes is perhaps known for its classic Galaxy tourer, and this year there are two new additions to the range – the Ultra Galaxy Ti and Galaxy Plus.
The new 3AL/2.5V titanium bike features a double butted chromoly fork, Brooks B17 saddle, 27-speed Shimano Deore XT drivetrain with STI shifters, Avid Shorty cantilever brakes, WTB Dual Duty Rims on Shimano hubs and Schwalbe Marathon tyres, as well as SKS mudguards and a Tubus rack, and comes in at £2,999.99.
The £1,299.99 Plus features Shimano Tiagra STI shifters instead of the bar-end shifters found on the standard Galaxy, but is otherwise identical, based around a classic Reynolds 631 steel frame.
Road and cyclo-cross
Dawes' second titanium bike, the Sportif Ultra Ti, heads up a three-bike Sportif range. Retailing for £2,999.99, its 3AL/2.5V tubeset features a butted down tube to save weight and curved seatsays to add comfort, along with a carbon fork and full Shimano Ultegra groupset. It's also available as a frameset, which weighs just 2kg including carbon fork and costs £1,999.99.
Other highlights of the road range include the Mono, a new model with a Reynolds 520 chromoly frame and carbon fork which features a flip-flop rear hub so you can run it fixed or as a singlespeed. This retails for £649.99.
The top-of-the-range Giro 500 now features a "Team GB-esque" colour scheme "for aspiring Chris Hoys", along with full Shimano Tiagra and carbon seatstays.
Dawes have also branched out into 'cross with the Edge-X. At £879.99 this features a double butted alloy frame, carbon fibre fork, 18-speed Shimano Tiagra and kit from Tektro, Alex, Selle Italia and Schwalbe – as Dawes say, "a lot of bike for just shy of £900". The firm's four tandems are also looking good value, from £699.99.
Dawes' 'heritage' range has proved popular with traditionalists, and the £279.99 Duchess and Consulate models, new for this year, are seven-speed derailleur versions of the more expensive hub-geared Graduate and Diploma. They still feature leather grips and saddles, chainguards, bells and mudguards, with a Rattan-style basket on the women's Duchess model.
Hybrids can sometimes be a compromise too far, mixing elements of mountain and road bikes but resulting in a machine which is neither fast on the roads nor capable off them. Dawes' Discovery range could change this, as the top-end models in particular, the 501 and 601, look like very desirable machines, perfect for commuting. We hope to have an £899.99 Discovery 601, with its double butted alloy frame, carbon fork and handlebars, on test soon.
Dawes have taken an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach with their folding bikes. For 2009 the only change is a new, white-based colour scheme for the £349.99 Jack, making it the perfect accessory for those with a boat or motorhome. Dawes also offer a full range of town bikes, split into 'Comfort', 'Trekking' and 'City' categories.
Dawes are never going to win any awards for innovation when it comes to mountain bikes but if you're looking for a well-made bike for under £1,000, you could do far worse. The top-of-the-range XC2.4 features a RockShox Tora 302 fork, Reynolds 520 butted tubing, Avid brakes, Truvativ finishing kit and SRAM gearing. It even has an eccentric bottom bracket so you can run it as a singlespeed – all this for £899.99, although the anodised lime paintjob is a love-it-or-hate-it affair.
Lower down the range, the £349.99 XC1.4 stands out with its RST fork with lockout and Quad mechanical disc brakes.
Of course, Dawes have a full range of kids' rides too, including the Shoot 16in-wheeled bike with nifty football-holder – see www.dawescycles.com for details of these and all the firm's other bikes.