Dawes Sportif Elite review

All-weather ride

Our rating 
3.5 out of 5 star rating 3.5
GBP £1,849.00 RRP

Our review

Responsive frame, composed handling, but too few sizes
Skip to view product specifications

Dawes say the Sportif Elite is designed for – surprise, surprise – sportives. But judging by the steel frame with its horizontal top tube, rack mounts and standard-fit mudguards, this looks like an audax bike to us. In truth, a bicycle like this can take on commuting or light touring too.


The Dawes’ stiff frame doesn’t waste any energy but it’s not as comfortable as the best steel bikes, and the narrow sizing range won’t suit all riders.

Ride & handling: Steady and stable without being dull, and descends confidently

Get out of the saddle on a steep climb and there’s very little movement from the bottom bracket, just an immediate response to each pedal stroke. If you think traditional steel bikes are all soft and woolly, the Sportif Elite will surprise you.

The flip side is a firmer ride than you might expect from steel. It’s not uncomfortable, just a little less forgiving than we expected. The 25mm-wide Schwalbe Blizzard tyres help take the edge off road buzz, though. They’re not the lightest, but they’re tough and roll well.

In spite of their low spoke count (16 radial at the front and 20 two-cross at the rear), there’s nothing wishy-washy about the Shimano WH-RS10 wheels when climbing or cornering. The carbon-bladed fork also helps keep steering precise, with steady and predictable handling that is well suited to long days in the saddle.

Frame: Reynolds 853 makes for a stiff, responsive frame that doesn’t waste any power

Sadly, the days of Dawes building their frames in the UK have passed. Instead, the Sportif Elite’s frame is made in Taiwan. There’s no shame in that, though, since some of the world’s finest bikes are put together over there.

It’s made from one of the very best steel tubesets: Reynolds 853. As an ‘air-hardening’ steel, 853 actually gains strength as it cools in the air after welding, which promises long-lasting and robust joins between the tubes. Stronger and stiffer than more humble steels, 853 should build into a resilient and responsive frame.

The Sportif Elite is only available in a limited range of sizes – 54cm, 57cm and 60cm – which means short riders in particular may struggle to find a frame that fits.

Equipment: Ever-reliable Shimano shifting and wheels, but uncomfortable saddle

A pair of traditional 32-spoke handbuilt wheels would look more at home on the Dawes than the RS10s specced here, but we’ve no complaints about the Shimano wheels’ performance. They’re durable, strong and the bearings are easy to service. Schwalbe Blizzards are quality all-weather tyres, with a layer of Kevlar for extra puncture protection.

As well as the wheels, Shimano also supply the 105 groupset. The shift action is lighter and quieter than that of SRAM-equipped bikes, but changes are just as quick. The brakes show impressive bite when you need to slow in a hurry, but are easy to apply smoothly too.

The rest of the finishing kit is a mixture of the humble and the practical – money has been spent on some components and saved on others. The handlebar and stem are workmanlike Dawes own-brand items. The Kalloy seatpost is aluminium and swapping this for a carbon fibre post would be on our list of potential upgrades.

Selle Italia are a big name in the world of saddles, but we found the XO fitted to the Dawes rather unyielding and didn’t get on with the shape. Saddle comfort is very subjective, though, and the XO could easily be replaced with your favourite perch.


It’s good to see a quality set of mudguards included in the price. SKS guards have a deserved reputation for durability and still leave room for wider tyres to be fitted. Unusually, the Dawes also comes with a set of Shimano SPD-SL pedals – a nice touch.

Dawes sportif elite: dawes sportif elite

Product Specifications


Name Sportif Elite
Brand Dawes Cycles

Available Sizes 54cm 57cm 60cm
Rims Shimano WH-R10 pre-built machined alloy aero
Top Tube (cm) 59
Standover Height (cm) 85.5
Seat Tube (cm) 56
Chainstays (cm) 42.5
Bottom Bracket Height (cm) 28
Brake Levers Shimano 105 STI 10spd
Weight (lb) 23.5
Weight (kg) 10.67
Stem 12cm Dawes forged alloy, 4 bolt o/s bar clamp, twin bolt 11/8in steerer clamp
Shifters Shimano 105 STI 10spd
Seatpost Dawes by Kalloy, alu, 27.2x 300mm
Seat Angle 73
Saddle Selle Italia XO, padded vinyl, steel rails
Rear Wheel Weight 1817
Bottom Bracket Shimano 105 external alloy cups, sealed cartridges
Rear Hub forged alloy
Rear Derailleur Shimano 105
Headset Type Cane Creek standard ball and cone aheadset, alloy cups
Head Angle 73
Handlebar Dawes alloy anatomic, 44cm c-c, ovesized clamp zone
Front Wheel Weight 1262
Front Hub forged alloy
Front Derailleur Shimano 105, 31.8mm clamp-on
Frame Material Reynolds 853, forged dropouts, reinforced head-tube.
Fork Carbon blades; alloy crown, steerer and dropouts
Cranks Shimano 105 forged alloy 2-piece, alloy spindle, 175mm arms, 110mm bcd rings
Chain Shimano 105 10spd
Cassette Shimano 105, alloy spider, steel cogs 10spd 12-25
Brakes Shimano BR-R560 medium reach forged alloy dual-pivot
Wheelbase (cm) 104