Road Testing my Dawes Super Galaxy 531 in the mighty Pyrenees Mountains
In this article, I’ll share the ride I used to road-test my second-hand Dawes Super Galaxy 531. As a follow-up and support to my other articles on the topic, Why I Love My Dawes Galaxy, which is about my current 853 Reynolds touring bicycle and the more detailed History of the Dawes Galaxy Touring Bicycle.
This post will serve as a buyer’s guide to finding and test-riding a second-hand Dawes Galaxy and indicate some of the excellent reasons why I chose a Dawes as my RTW touring bicycle.
Let me take you on a journey with my trusty companion, Dawes Super Galaxy 531. This isn’t just any old bicycle; it’s an iconic British-made steel touring bike. A machine of memories, roads less travelled, and adventures untold. My journey with this magnificent touring bicycle began in 2010, and with it, a decade-long romance with Reynolds Steel and the open road.
Bestival 2010; Hedonistioc Beginnings
Our adventure started with the mayhem of Bestival 2010. Dressed as Hermione Grainger and Harry Potter, we made the most of the dressing-up box on the Isle of Wight. A long weekend of revelry and hedonism was the best way to prepare for a bicycle adventure on the continent. Naturally, we took a ferry trip from Portsmouth to Santander. Easeful sailing with breakfast and bed.
After a little pitching and rolling, we were ready for some fast kilometres along the coast.
Indeed, the excitement in the air was palpable as we embarked on a journey that was as much about discovering new landscapes as it was about test-driving my new touring bike.
My First Dawes Galaxy
Firstly, I chose the Dawes Super Galaxy for its sturdy frame and comforting reliability. Reynolds 531 steel is the gold standard in touring bike frames and has a legendary reputation among bicycle aficionados. Secondly, having made a couple of tours on an ill-fitting SCOTT USA race bike, I’d decided that if I persist in cycling long distances with a heavy bicycle, it should at least be a proper touring bicycle.
Happily, I found my Super Galaxy on eBay. At the time, these bikes were selling for around £650. Second-hand Dawes hold their value well. So, I was chuffed to find one in my size at £550 with an Altura bar bag, front and rear racks and a few accessories included. I felt like I got a great deal.
Exploring the Basque Country
Cycling from Santurtz to Ondarroa, then through Izaba and Elizondo, the Dawes Super Galaxy 531 proved an exemplary companion. Its resilience on the varied terrains of the Basque country was commendable. Whether the steep Spanish Pyrenees ascents or the winding French descents, the bike’s endurance was a constant reassurance.
Crossing Borders: From France to Spain
Additionally, the journey from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Pamplona blended cultural exploration and physical endurance. Above all, crossing the Pyrenees, especially tackling the Col de Bagargi, was a test of mettle for both me and my Dawes. The bike’s unwavering performance in these challenging conditions was a testament to its superior design and build quality.
One of the most memorable moments was when we, quite unexpectedly, joined the Festival of the Shepherds in a quaint Spanish village. This delightful experience began with a casual day ride in France and became a cultural immersion I never anticipated.
Lost in France
We set off from our gite on the route of the Santiago de Compostela dressed in our full Power Ranger lycra, a fistful of Euros, and a sports drink a piece and off we pedalled. Late in the day, high up in the Pyrenees, we realised we were a looong way from France.
And that we were better finding somewhere to stay for the night. As it happened, we were in a village with plenty going on. The annual festival was kicking in just as dusk fell.
We sat in the village square, surrounded by the busy happenings of the locals and ordered a cold beer at a cafe. Slowly, we saw that this was looking like an event. Papier mache heads emerged from doorways, a brass band blew a signal and the dancing began. A cross between a Christmas pantomime, a Punch and Judy show and a serious treaty signing ceremony, the party took us quite by surprise.
After a few sangrias and a plate of paella with the local nanas, we checked into Hotel Lola for a decent night’s sleep. The next day, we ambled back down the mountain, the memory of the night’s entertainment still vivid as we rolled back into France to collect our belongings and continue on to Rioja.
Reliability and Performance of the Dawes Super Galaxy 531
Throughout my journey across the Basque country, the Dawes Super Galaxy 531 was not just a bike but a testament to the ingenuity of touring bicycle design. Here’s why this model is revered in the cycling world:
The heart of the Dawes Super Galaxy is its Reynolds 531 steel frame. Known for its exceptional strength-to-weight ratio, this frame provides a perfect balance of durability and comfort. It’s tough enough to handle the rigours of long-distance touring, yet it has a natural flex that absorbs road vibrations, ensuring a smoother ride.
With its wide range of gears, the Super Galaxy 531 is a champion of versatility. Whether I was climbing steep mountain passes like the Col de Bagargi or cruising through flat valleys, the smooth gear shifts made transitions effortless. This adaptability is crucial for a touring bike, where terrain and load can vary dramatically.
Comfort and Endurance
Long hours on the road require a bike that prioritizes rider comfort. The Dawes Super Galaxy 531 excels in this aspect. Its geometry is designed for an upright, relaxed riding position, reducing strain on the back and shoulders. The well-cushioned saddle and ergonomic double bar tape added comfort, making even the longest days in the saddle more enjoyable.
Load Carrying Capacity
A key feature of any touring bicycle is its ability to carry loads. The Super Galaxy 531 comes with sturdy front and rear racks, allowing me to carry camping gear, clothing, and supplies without impacting the bike’s stability or manoeuvrability. Consequently, this load-carrying capacity is a game-changer for self-supported long-distance tours.
Reliable Braking System
Safety is paramount, and the Dawes Super Galaxy 531’s braking system instilled confidence on every descent. As a result, the bike’s cantilever brakes provided consistent stopping power, a crucial feature when navigating downhill with a fully loaded bike.
Longevity and Maintenance
One of the most remarkable aspects of the Super Galaxy 531 is its longevity. With proper maintenance, this bike can last for decades. Its simple, mechanical components are easy to repair, even in remote areas, making it a reliable choice for touring cyclists who venture far from bike shops.
In conclusion, the Dawes Super Galaxy 531 is more than just a bicycle; it combines durability, comfort, and reliability. Its design caters to the real-world needs of touring cyclists, proving itself time and again on the road. Whether you’re a seasoned tourer or a beginner looking to start your adventure, the Super Galaxy 531 is a choice you won’t regret.
Reflecting on this epic adventure, the Dawes Super Galaxy 531 was more than just a means of travel; it was a faithful companion that carried me through new worlds, challenges, and unforgettable experiences. For those considering a second-hand Dawes for their adventures, I say, go for it! These bikes are built for journeys, for stories, and for memories that last a lifetime.