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.