Bicycles

Dawes Galaxy – Touring Bike Review & Photos

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In the early 1990′s, there weren’t nearly as many available touring bike models as there are today. It was during this time that mountain bikes were becoming mainstream and the image of the rough and tough off-road rider was attracting first-time cyclists to the sport/activity in a way that had never occurred before.

At the time, the touring bicycle was at the opposite end of the cycling spectrum and hidden in the shadow of the mountain bike. The touring bike, therefore, was a minority purchase.

For British cyclists in the 1990′s, there were two main touring bikes to choose from:  The Raleigh Randonneur and the Dawes Galaxy. Both were iconic touring bicycles with steel frames and forks, Brooks leather saddles, Continental tires, and paint jobs that would never go out of fashion. But here we are in the 21st century: The Raleigh Randonneur is no longer and Dawes now sells three different models of the Galaxy touring bike.

The question is… What makes the Dawes Galaxy such a popular seller? How does its design compliment the long-distance cyclist? Does the Galaxy truly live up to its reputation? And most importantly, should you purchase one for yourself?

What Makes The Dawes Galaxy Ideal For Bicycle Touring?

The Dawes Galaxy family, which today includes the Galaxy, Super Galaxy, and Ultra Galaxy, is a range of off-the-peg touring bikes that are ready to use straight off the showroom floor. Manufactured in the far east, but sold mainly in the UK, they come equipped with rear carriers (also known as “racks”), mudguards (“fenders”), bottle cages and are fitted with a group set that, even at the lowest price point, is capable of handling any terrain. After purchasing a Galaxy for yourself, just add a set of panniers and you’re ready to hit the road!

Similar to most touring bike models, Dawes uses steel framesets (frames) on their bicycles; Reynolds 631 butted tubing on the Galaxy and Super Galaxy, and Reynolds 853 butted tubing on the Ultra Galaxy. Steel is a good choice for touring bike models because it gives riders a comfortable yet responsive ride with the bonus that running repairs are a possibility if the worst were to happen and your frame were to crack or break. ‘Butted’ simply means that the frame tubes are thicker at the ends where they are welded together (which makes the weld stronger) and thinner in the middle (which saves weight). If you tap a butted tube with your finger, for example, the sound changes as you move from thick to thin tubing.

Every frameset in the Galaxy range has braze-on mountings for front and rear carriers, mudguards and water bottle cages. These ready-made fixing points offer a secure home for heavily laden carriers and almost anything else you might like to bolt on. All models have two bottle cage fittings, with an option for another below the down tube – a handy place to put the fuel for your cooking stove.

A Tubus carrier is fitted on the rear of each bicycle. These are super high-quality racks normally only seen as an aftermarket purchase, but come included with each Galaxy model.

The Galaxy’s chromoly front fork is ready to accept a front carrier if necessary (but a front rack is not included with each bike). That said, anyone contemplating a self-supported tour would be wise to consider fitting front carriers as they not only they let you carry more gear, but they make the bike more stable, and therefore easier to ride.

Finally, a pair of SKS full-length mudguards help to keep you and the bicycle clean.

The wheels, brakes and drive train on the Dawes Galaxy are also designed with the long haul in mind. After a good quality frame, all bikes benefit from a good pair of wheels. With touring bikes, reliability is the overall aim of the wheel builder as the fatigue that heavy loads and rough roads bring to these components is the touring cyclist’s greatest problem. Even the basic Galaxy has Shimano hubs, stainless steel spokes and double wall alloy rims. In an effort to make the ride more comfortable, and to offer a little insurance to the wheels, the bicycle’s tires are wider than what you find on a traditional road bike, which helps the bike to carry your extra weight and absorb bumps in the road. Finally, all three Galaxy models are equipped with 700×32 Schwalbe Marathon tires. The Schwalbe Marathon is a popular choice among long-distance riders because of their reliability and low wear rate.

The basic Galaxy has a Deore rear derailleur married to a pair of Dura Ace bar end shifters, whilst both the Super Galaxy and the Ultra Galaxy have Tiagra STI gear levers and upgraded front and rear derailleurs. The gear shifters mounted on the bars are great for first time cyclo-tourists because you can still control the bike while changing gear. One of the first surprises that newcomers get is how unwieldy a fully laden bike feels; leaving go of the handlebars is initially a very daunting maneuver.

All three Galaxy models have Shimano cantilever brakes and wide ratio chain sets. Cantilever brakes derived from mountain bikes are the ideal choice for a heavy bike, and naturally a wide range of gear ratios are welcome too. The Shimano chain sets used on the Galaxy and Super Galaxy have ratios of 48/36/26 and the nine speeds rear cog is 11-32, giving a low gear of 21.5”, which should get you up any gradient. The Ultra Galaxy has an upgraded Sugino chain set with slightly higher ratios.

Does The Galaxy Really Come Tour Ready?

Because these Galaxy touring bicycles come so well equipped off the showroom floor, they are a perfect bike for a first time long-distance cycle tour or as an upgrade for someone who has tried cycle touring in the past on a bike that wasn’t as well-suited for the job. Even committed cyclo-tourists consider the higher spec Galaxy models to be dream machines.

While any bike can usually fulfill a number of roles, the Galaxy has the potential to take on most tasks. Okay, it isn’t brilliant as a mountain bike, but as a commuting bike it excels; comfortable, weatherproof, it can carry all your shopping or clothes or laptop, and its not that slow either.

The Galaxy touring bikes do come ready to ride. You won’t have to buy pedals, a rear rack, bottle cages or mudguards. But keep in mind that there are three different models in the range and that the higher up in the range you go, the better these extra add-ons become. The Ultra Galaxy, for example, has the highest quality frame and the best components/equipment.

In order for the Galaxy to truly be tour ready you will need to buy panniers and a handlebar bag or a trailer. A set of lights would be a smart addition as well.

How Can You Purchase A Dawes Galaxy?

Apart from the USA, where there is a brand of the same name, Dawes has distributors in most countries. If there isn’t one where you live, FreeFlow Bikes in Glasgow is the company’s main exporter.

Dawes also has a number of specialist touring bike dealers throughout Great Britain who are able to help you. There is nothing like actually sitting on the bike to see how it fits, but if you know what size bike you normally ride that will be a help. Most professional shops will ask a whole bunch of questions to ensure that you buy the right size bike if you can’t be there in person.

Your new bike should come from the dealer absolutely ready to ride. If you are receiving it in the mail, however, you will probably have to fit the pedals and turn the handlebars straight and adjust their position.

How Much Do Galaxy Touring Bikes Cost?

In Great Britain, these bikes sell for:

  • Dawes Galaxy – £1,199 GBP   ($1,910 USD, €1,402 EUR)
  • Dawes Super Galaxy – £1,399 GBP   ($2,230 USD, €1,637 EUR)
  • Dawes Ultra Galaxy – £1,699 GBP   ($2,707 USD, €1,988 EUR)

Do You Recommend The Dawes Galaxy?

Yes. The Dawes Galaxy, Super Galaxy and Ultra Galaxy are dependable bicycles that can be used for commuting, touring and more. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, I’d rate the Galaxy line a solid 8. I own two Galaxy bikes myself, my son has one, and I would buy another in the future if I had to.

Arthur Lamy is a tour guide in Jersey, in the British Channel Islands, who specializes in cycling and walking tours. Among the people he has shown around the cycle-friendly island is five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault. He also writes articles, books and cycling/walking guides, in addition to writing a cycling blog for the local newspaper. For 30 years he ran a well-known local bike store.

About Arthur Lamy

28 Comments

  1. Robert Rasner

    February 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    An interesting review of a product I apparently cannot purchase in the USA. Not very practical it seems?!?!

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      February 9, 2012 at 12:05 pm

      You can purchase the Dawes Galaxy in the USA Robert, but it will likely be both difficult and expensive. We Americans are kinid of used to being able to buy anything we want and get it right here in the USA, but it doesn’t really work that way with some touring bike models. In the touring bike world, only a few models are made and sold in the USA anymore, with others being made in the UK, France, Italy, Poland, Japan, etc. The people in Europe unfortunately have trouble ordering American-made bikes… and people in the US have trouble accessing the bikes that are so commonly produced in Europe or other parts of the world.

      You can always contact an international deal and arrange for that foreign touring bicycle to be shipped to you in the USA (or wherever you live in the world), but there is likely to be a significant shipping cost involved.

  2. Steve from New York

    February 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Darren, Since you do a lot of touring, which bike do you tour on? Steve

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      February 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      That is a difficult question to answer Steve. I have several touring bikes, and which bike I use on a tour depends on the type of bicycle tour that I am conducting.

      My main road touring bike over the past couple years has been the Fuji Touring, but I have the Bike Friday New World Tourist (which is a folding bike) that I have used on tours in the past. And when I leave on my upcoming bike tour in May, I will be using a Co-Motion Pangea, which better equipped for off-road riding (as I will be cycling in Iceland and Africa). So it just depends on where you are going, how much gear you are carrying, what the roads are like in the area you will be traveling, and a whole host of other factors.

  3. Wil Thames

    February 6, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    I really liked the reveiw you have in the Dawes. I am considering buying the Windsor Tourist, I have read a few of the CrazyGuyOnaBike website journals where the tourists used them. I have been impressed both by the price and reliability of the bike.

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      February 9, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Wil, the Windsor Tourist is basically the same bike as the Fuji Touring, which I reviewed here: http://bicycletouringpro.com/blog/fuji-touring-review/ with the difference being the paint job and the fact that some of the parts and accessories on the Windsor Tourist have been downgraded from the Fuji Touring (for example, the rack that comes with the Windsor is super cheap and will probably need replacing, etc). If you are just getting into bicycle touring, the Windsor might be a good introductory bike, but I wouldn’t expect it to necessarily last a lifetime like some of the more high-quality touring bikes that are available.

  4. Martin Fano

    February 6, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    Ok..nice looking bike. Problem #1 for me no disc brakes..a must on a touring bike in my view. Second for touring I would like the option of the internal gears vs the standard system.

    • Bicycle Touring Pro

      February 9, 2012 at 11:53 am

      Martin, I understand how you feel about disc brakes, but disc brakes are actually a new phenomenon on touring bicycles are are really not needed in most cases. They are great for certain situations, but it would be wrong to assume that a touring bicycle must have disc brakes. Just wanted to make that clear!

      The same goes for internal gears vs. standard gears. That is a personal preference sort of thing and there are definitely some reasons as to why standard gearing is better for bicycle touring (especially round-the-world bicycle touring where the parts for internal gears/hubs are going to be difficult or impossible to find replacements for).

  5. Phillip Bissell

    February 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Darren, if I remember correctly Dawes built the bicycle which carried that most intrepid lady Anne Mustoe around the world way back in. . .let me see. . . in the 1960s, I think.

    Anne Mustoe’s book ‘A Bike Ride’ and her other books which followed are available from Amazon and are well worth a read by anybody with an interest in bicycle touring. Highly recommended.

    Cheers from Australia,

    Phillip Bissell

  6. muse

    February 7, 2012 at 1:02 am

    wow… great to see the review. I just built my new ultra gal out of the box last week (a day before it snowed, I might add) and I’m dying to go for a ride. Come on Spring!

  7. muse

    February 7, 2012 at 1:18 am

    also of note… my ultra gal came equipped with a Brooks B17… nice touch.

  8. akbar

    February 7, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    thanks for daren and jian

  9. Lauren

    February 8, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    In 1972 I road my Dawes Galaxy across the US. I was with my Dad and 3 brothers, with a sister driving the sag. Great bike. Does the job!

  10. James

    February 9, 2012 at 7:04 am

    Hi, I loved reading this article. Thanks for posting. I have ridden the same Dawes Galaxy since 1995/96. [purchased new] I simply can’t fault it and it still in gleaming condition to this day. I am considering changing to either a Long Haul Trucker, or a Koga Miyata possibly the signature with S&S couplings. I have also purchased a Big Dummy [Surly] at the end of last year.
    The thing is I don’t want to give up my Galaxy. The wife says the time is right for a change as we are both 60 this year. She says I should enjoy the change while I can and that I am a big baby. We are both hoping to be able to join up with Darren Alff on his Swiss ride this year. If I can make it I’ll give the Galaxy a great send off. I can’t believe I am writing in such a way about a bike. Yet the pleasure my Dawes has given me over the years is enormous. James.

  11. woyteck morajko

    February 9, 2012 at 4:54 pm

    nice bike, but limited in size. anyone that is 6’5″ (195cm) need not apply. additionally, with Trek 520 no longer available in size 63, and cannondale TOTALLY stopping production of touring bikes (which is another outrage that needs to be addressed), really, does every bike company think nobodu much taller than 6′ rides?

  12. lynne

    June 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    I have now had my Ultra Galexy for a month. First ride I took it in the hills of Austin, Texas. Yes, you can have it shipped, we bought it online via chat and actual phone conversations from a great shop in Glasgow, Scotland. The woman on the phone was well versed in the Dawes bicycles, she helped figure out the size I needed, (we had measuring tapes and guidance from her.) I am IN LOVE with my Ultra Galexy, shipping was 200.00 US. Not so bad, that covered the VAT that I did not have to pay. LOVE this bike. I am coming off of a 1982 TREK, that I rode across the US, and it is hard to give it up, but we spend more time finding components for it than is worth it. The Ultra Galexy is fun and I look forward to my bike time. Thanks for your review, it is one i read in trying to figure out what to buy.

  13. Mike

    July 6, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I rode a Galaxy through Norway, top to bottom in 2003. Around 3200km in total. Wild camping most of the time. The bike was loaded from front to back and top to bottom. Four panniers, saddle bag, front box, and piles of stuff on the rear and front racks. Nobody could pick the bike up, it was so heavily laden. I never had any problems with the bike at all and it was a very comfortable ride. Broke 3 spokes on the front wheel and 1 on the back but after pulling the wheel over to one side to make it run true the bike was fine on the remaining spokes. Crossed several mountain ranges on the trip and the bike climbed them easily……
    All in all I covered about 35000miles on this old bike which was used for many long distance trips, daily commuting, endless shopping trips an many other load-bearing tasks. A real work horse, super reliable, comfortable and well-balanced touring machine.

  14. Wesley

    September 8, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I bought a dawes galaxy recently, i looked it up and seems to be a 60s model. do you know how I can determine it’s model age/price? If it is from then, I am very interested on how well it still rides and shows it’s value!

  15. Rob S

    November 3, 2012 at 7:32 am

    Bought an Ultra Galaxy 2 years ago from Future Cycles in Surrey UK and boxed it and brought it back to Seattle as excess baggage. VAT refund was a hassle,big time,but now know and could do it again better next time. I simply love this bike. Rock solid fully laden. Inspires confidence. Upgraded brakes to avid shorty ultimate and bigger than factory size tires that req’d new fenders. Next bike might have Rohloff. Oh I swapped drop hb’s for flat and XTR brake levers. Love this bike!

  16. Ian

    January 17, 2013 at 5:58 am

    Dear all,
    I am the proud owner of a Dawes Galaxy Super Tourist with Reynolds 531 steel tubes. I purchased this bike circa 1994. It has been to France and taken me over some of Norways spectacular fjords and passes. It has toured round it’s home in Scotland relentlessly. It takes me to and from work. I use it for winter training miles when I wrap up the road bike in cotton wool for the gritty salty months. So, it’s 19 years old… How has it faired? Faultlessly! The frame is in excellent condition and the deraileurs, brakes, bottom bracket and chainset are all still the originals.

    Sure, I’ve replaced cassettes, chains, wheels, bar tape and judging by the look of it I probably need to treat myself to a new saddle.

    It’s still going strong and I suspect there’s quite a few years left yet in what is a solidly constructed bike with good (not expensive) parts from shimano.

    Can’t recommend this bike highly enough.

    Cheers
    Ian

  17. David Panton

    February 21, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    I have owned two Dawes Super Galaxys and have cycled thousands of miles across Europe as well as using them for commuting purposes. Better than any other cycles I have owned and in a totallly different class from the Raleigh tourers I used to have. If I could I would buy a Ultra Galaxy, however in the meantime I will continue to nurse my 15 year old Super Galaxy through the highways and byways of Europe.

    Great review of these quality tourers by the way. From the lanes of Devon to the remotest spots on the Euro Velo routes a Dawes Galaxy always invites attention and positive remarks.

  18. david thomas

    June 29, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    I have just read the article..and I want one, but in the mean time I am shopping for another touring bicycle, the one I have is a Kona, I have done three long tours on it, it’s a good bike, but it’s ready to slowdown, rest..I want a “truck” for a bike. what do you recommend?.

  19. brendan

    September 28, 2013 at 11:20 am

    I have had a change of heart with my Dawes Super Galaxy bought a few years ago. I have got used to a Dayon fold away bike wheel which was a quater of the price. I now have grown used to the the upright position and after some serious cycling on the dawes in holland a few weeks ago (the north coast route is great !) i realised that the traditional touring position for cycling does not suit me anymore. I probably getting old or at least not using it like i once would have. My wrists ached and got ‘pins and needles’ regularly. Anyone have any views of if i could ‘convert’ it ? local shop advised not to as its such a ‘fans’ bike and to sell it on ebay and get a new upright bike. I dont do ebay but suppose i could learn…..

  20. Tez Livin

    December 10, 2013 at 4:22 am

    I have late 90s Galaxy, which has been excellent. I tend to look around and enjoy the scenery, mainly in France where cycling is safer. I have cut a couple of inches off bar ends to reposition bar end shifters and turned bars upside down slightly angled. This has given me better access to shifters, a more enjoyable riding/viewing position and still variety in hand positioning, less fatiguing on back and certainly improved riding experience for me.

  21. henrik

    December 18, 2013 at 9:44 am

    üdv a túrázóknak! ha esetleg szeretne valaki venni egy super galaxyit az kérem jelezze nekem. sajnos betegség miatt eladóvá vált

  22. Keven Durand

    April 20, 2014 at 9:05 am

    Hi Darren,

    In your bicycle census document, I though you miss the affordable National, by Mountain Equipment Coop, a great canadian outdoor cooperative (I’m sure you’ve already heard about it). The MEC products are designed by outdoor addicts in Vancouver, BC. I was thinking to buy one for self-supported long distance touring, with a little bit of off-road touring. I want to share with you the bike information, and if you have time, maybe to hear from you important information about it, that is not written on the bike’s website. Does it seem to be a good bike?

    Merci beaucoup! Et je te souhaite de bons voyages en vélo en 2014!
    http://www.mec.ca/fr/product/5030-652/velo-national-de-mec-unisexe/?q=Le%2BNational

  23. Jamie

    May 7, 2014 at 12:50 am

    Hi. I am hoping to buy my first Galaxy. However I have heard that some Galaxy’s are not made with the tradition materials such as steel tubing etc. I live in London UK. where can I buy a Galaxy from that will be reliable source. Please help.
    jamie

  24. JJ

    May 29, 2014 at 6:29 am

    Excellent article. I dont think you will ever please everyone with a off the peg bike.The Dawes Galaxy goes a long way to doing everything for everybody.

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