Ian Briggs aboard a Dawes, circa 1979

For as long as I can remember… and my memory is still good, I have been involved
with Dawes bikes..

Apparently… I wasn’t around at the time… when my parents got married in the early 1930s,
they cycled off to the sea-side for their honeymoon, my dad on an all-steel black-enamelled
Raleigh complete with Lauterwasser bars and front SA Dynohub, and my mother on her l
ightweight DAWES.

When it came to my turn to have my own bike somewhere in the mid-1940s… my dad sought
out a second-hand Dawes…even though it was a bit above his budget. Dawes bikes were like
very many things in those days, they were for the middle-classes, but working-class folk,
recognizing their worth saved up for them… a type of investment for life.

In the late 40s and early 50s, English cycling club riders would very often buy factory-built bikes,
brands such as Dawes, Sun, FC Parkes, Armstrong, Hercules, Hopper, Raleigh. With a bit more
money to spare then brands such as Carlton, Claud Butler, Viking, Falcon, Wearwell became a
possibility, thereafter followed the hand-built thoroughbred lightweights…the specialists.

Dawes was always perceived as a manufacturer of bikes just a cut above the crowd… a little
aloof… it traded in the middle of the market… did not attempt to sponsor a team in the Tour de
France, nor in the Brighton-to-Glasgow even. Dawes built excellent bikes for, ladies to shop on
elegantly, for ladies to keep fit on, and for tourists… and for Youth Hostellers.. and for Clubmen
….bikes with a sense of integrity and an honesty of purpose… bikes for all the family

To define what DAWES meant to the sporting family cyclist, one had only to visit the annual
Cyclists Touring Club Rally, held in June on the Knavesmire at York. Even though, in the Rally’s
heydey, when there would be displays of handbuilt frames by Bob Jackson, Jack Taylor. MKM,
Mercian, Carlton, Falcon, there would be hundreds of cyclists arriving on their Dawes Galaxies and
Super Galaxies. It was almost as though, at a certain time in the firm’s history, Dawes owned its
existence to the CTC members who bought their touring bikes…and still do. To plagiarize the
slogan about dog ownership…”A Dawes is for life and not just for Christmas”.

Dawes were always proud about their hand-brazed frames, even though, at times the brazing left
something to be desired. Even so, though there have been complaints about paint blistering around
the lugs, I have never heard of a Dawes bike frame breaking… or of being out of track. Dawes
always liked to point out that they used English parts for their frame components, most of them
based either in Birmingham itself or nearby Coventry, hence the reliance on Reynolds tubes, Haden
lugs, Davis brackets… and no doubt those ver-large sheet steel Stallard-ish drop-outs were the
product of a nearby press-tool shop. Only the fork crowns in the later years were imported, in this
case from Wagner… but no doubt only after earlier British manufacturers had gone to the wall.

Mark Hoffman’s early Dawes is a very elegant frame, complete with its cast Brampton lugs (I think)
and curved seat stay bridge. In the early 50s Dawes used a lot of Accles and Pollock KROMO tubing
… another firm from the Birmingham area. Dawes was always sensitive about the components used
in their frames… although I can never forgive the designer who dreamt up the grotesque long and
deeply fluted pressed-in top-eye used on the Galaxy frames from the 70s onwards… and was quite
influential in making manufacturers respond to market trends.

Rather than being satisfied with locally-drawn gas-pipe for some of its lower range models, Dawes
used a high grade carbon-rich mild steel tubing called Mazzucato ( also known for the ORIA brand)
made from Mannesmann steel. In the late 70s and early 80s they then adopted for some of their mid
range and slightly better frames (according to Ron Kitching who negotiated the contract and took
his agent’s commission on the deal) an Ishiwata tubing called Magny-V whose qualities… possibly a
type of 4130 Chro-Mo… were ideal for hearth or oven brazing without loss of quality.

This move by a large and highly respected company, according to Kitching, terrified the boffins at
nearby Reynolds Tubing. That company’s response was to develop the 501 range of tubing… which
was widely adopted throughout the industry by companies such as Raleigh, Peugeot..and Dawes.
Columbus followed suit with its CROMOR set.

Norris Lockley on the Classic Rendezvous email list 2.5.2010

1950 advert for Dawes model "Lustre Superb."

Dawes Distinction plastic brake lever hoods for Weinmann levers. (1955)

1960s Dawes: gallery of 12 pics

Advert for 1962 model "Red Feather"

1950s Dawes owned by Mark Hoffman

Russ Fitzsimmon's Dawes Realmrider 4-speed roadster

“….the bike that got me back into cycling in general and vintage bikes in particular. It is anything but a generic roadster…”
“Most of the Realmriders came stock with drop bars and 4, 5, 8 or 10-speed derailleur setups. It’s some sort of unnamed tubing that is better than gaspipe – the bike is suprisingly light and nimble, and rides more like a mid-grade 10-speed from the 70s than a 3-speed. Racelite lugs, the fancy torch head badge, stamped Stallard dropouts (I think that’s the pattern, anyway!), 42-in wheelbase, and a really comfy ride that still will get up and go when asked. It’s a surprising machine.”