Why I Love My Dawes Galaxy Touring Bike

My Dawes Ultra Galaxy Touring Bike Has Carried Me Around The World And Never Let Me Down

There are so many reasons why I love my Dawes Galaxy Touring bike it’s hard to know where to start.

As with all long journeys, it’s perhaps best to start at the beginning. My love affair with the Dawes Galaxy touring bike started in 2009, shortly after I’d cycled the UK Coast to Coast on a SCOTT USA sports bike carrying a backpack.

I’d realised fairly soon into that ride that I loved cycle touring and that I wanted a proper touring bike – just like the ones my mates were riding.

Adrian had inspired me to join the cycle touring fraternity that was Mash-Up and District Cycling Club and now I was hopelessly addicted.

cycle touring in india
Somewhere in North East India, Dawes Galaxy Ultra 853

A Classic Dawes Galaxy Touring Bike

Over the course of a few weeks, I perused Gumtree and eBay in search of a second-hand Dawes Galaxy 531. Finally, after a short while, I found just the bike – a 56cm Dawes Super Galaxy made from Reynolds 531 steel.

I made the purchase and collected the bike. It was a beauty. Classic Dawes Galaxy geometry, solid 531 Reynolds steel and a handful of goodies including an Apidura bar bag that I still use today.

Perfect balance of the Dawes Super Galaxy 531
Look Mum No Hands!

Reynolds 531 Built To Last

Not long after I took possession of this vintage Dawes galaxy, Adrian and I took off on a trip to the Basque country. We sailed from Portsmouth to Bilbao a day after attending Bestival in 2010.

This bike was a revelation. The Dawes Galaxy Touring bike was a game-changer. Compared to the sports bike I’d ridden previously, it was like a Rolls Royce. Sturdy, stable and smooth. It rolled along like it was on rails.

Sadly, the sizing was a little small for me so I sold it and saved up for a new machine – the Dawes Galaxy Ultra 853.

Dawes Super Galaxy 531 at Col d'Ispeguy
Dawes Super Galaxy 531 at Col d’Ispeguy

Dawes Ultra Galaxy Vs Super Galaxy

There are a handful of major differences between the old-school Super Galaxy and the more modern Ultra Galaxy. The main change in the later model was the geometry. Traditionally, the top tube on Dawes Tourers had been straight.

On the 2011 model Ultra Galaxy, the top tube was modified to slope downwards. This slight alteration gave way to a more modern look, like that of a sports tourer. In my opinion, this model was a near-perfect iteration of the now super-popular sports touring bike.

Sports Touring Style

Built from Reynolds 853 steel, the Galaxy Ultra is both strong and comfortable, the steel frame soaks up a great deal of the bumps in the road. The Shimano Deore Groupset combined with a Sugino Crankset offers an impressive gearing range.

The Alex XT 19 double-walled rims are super strong and long-lasting. Coupled with Schwalbe Marathon Plus 700x28C tyres, this touring bike holds the road like a tank. It feels really solid on any surface and carries the weight when loaded really well.

Dawes Galaxy Ultra at the rheinfall
Is there a finer sight than two matching Galaxies?

Ultra Galaxy Review

That said, there are changes I would make to the Galaxy Ultra. Firstly, the frame could be widened to accommodate larger size tyres. This would put the bike firmly in gravel bike territory. A simple update would see the Galaxy enjoy a whole new terrain.

By removing the mudguards, I managed to squeeze on a set of 700x35C Schwalbe Marathon Plus. This upgrade was in Kathmandu ahead of crossing the Pamir Mountains in 2016.

I met Simon from Stanforth Bikes at the Cycle Touring Festival, he said that personally, he would uprate the brakes with a piece of kit he personally designed. I never followed up with him but since then he’s built a bike with Sean Conway that looks not unlike a Dawes Galaxy Ultra 853.

Dawes Galaxy Ultra Specification ‘Off The Peg’

Spec-wise, when we purchased our bikes (Adrian and I bought them simultaneously) from Spa Cycles, they came with excellent components.

As standard, the Dawes Galaxy 2011 came with a Brooks B17 saddle, hand-built wheels and Tubus luggage racks. Everything we needed to get out on our really big bike ride.

dawes galaxy ultra 2011 spec sheet

Cycling Weekly gave the Ultra Galaxy a four and half out of five-star in their review. This is a fair assessment. However, I tend to take the words of bike critics at glossy magazines with a pinch of salt. There’s always an angle to say something negative.

End Of The Line – The Galaxy Is Discontinued

The Dawes Galaxy 2020 was the end of the line for the Galaxy model. Despite a long and illustrious history spanning nearly 50 years, the Galaxy range was retired by the manufacturer.

John Stevenson made a fitting tribute in road.cc about the retirement of the Galaxy touring bike. It would seem that there remains a glimmer of hope for the Galaxy name to make a comeback in the future. The door may not have fully closed on cycle touring most well known and iconic name.


A Brief History Of The Galaxy

Dawes has been making bikes for more than 90 years. The flagship touring bike, the Galaxy, was launched in the 1960’s and became ubiquitous across the UK. It was the go-to touring bike in most bicycle shops.

In its heyday, the Dawes Galaxy was the most popular touring bike in Great Britain. Speak with anyone of age and experience and they’ll tell you that the Galaxy was the ‘gold standard’ in touring.

Since then, the brand has made many iterations of the classic Galaxy. Until it was finally discontinued by the parent company, The Tandem Group. The company appears to be focused on other areas such as e-bikes and leisure machines. And who can blame them? Bicycle touring is still an incredibly niche market.

Do you own a Dawes? Have you got a story about your bike? We’d love to hear it. Share your love for bicycle touring in the comments below.