I wanted a bike I could put too much kit on and go cycle touring.
For the money I should have chosen a Koga trek bike, even if I couldn’t afford one of their signature builds favoured by so many round-the-world and other long-distance cyclists.
If I was to make the same purchase now, I would probably double my spend and go to Isen Workshop for one of their All Season bikes custom built to suit me. I’m not saying that their funky paint jobs have seduced me but…
The fact that I did neither of the above was probably down to events which I should have left behind long ago. Oh well, I guess baggage would not be baggage if you didn’t carry it around with you. As I was growing up and in my teenage years I inherited my elder brother’s bike. In its day, it had probably been a very good bike. A BSA heavy steel framed steed with a Sturmey Archer three speed rear hub, and a draggy front dynamo hub (I think it was a BSA Star Rider). My brother is a little older than me, so, whilst I had this bike, in comparison with the lighter framed bikes ridden by others, it was a museum piece.
The other thing was the Dawes factor. For decades I had just wanted a Dawes bike. In 1971 it was the newly launched Dawes Galaxy, then a Super Galaxy and so on, to the Hyper Galaxy or whatever the latest iteration of Galaxy range is. I had bikes that were built up around galaxy frames, but I had never visited a bike shop and purchase a brand-new Dawes Galaxy.
Three years ago, I was in a position whereby I could go and buy a new touring bike to replace the entry level Dawes Mojave that I was using most days. Even though I had purchased it new, the Mojave was pretty beaten up with a frame that had been welded back together a couple of times. The most recent welding work resulted from a contretemps with an articulated lorry. This happened near Camborne in Cornwall, when I had been cycle touring and camping in the far South West of England. Fortunately, I had been able to split the chain and create a fixed gear arrangement to get back to Penzance where I was camping.
I used the internet before making my final decision as to which bike to buy. However, the information on what bikes were available was almost too extensive. For every review there seemed to be one giving the exact contrary opinion. Not that this really mattered as, deep down, I knew what I wanted, good reviews or not.
It was Dawes themselves, that finally played the trump card. They knew there were people like me, and they knew what we wanted. They brought out the Dawes Galaxy Classic 531 Touring Bike. A reworking of the quintessential Dawes touring classic, complete with a Brook’s leather saddle, and matching leather toe straps, bar tape and brake lever hoods. Customers for these bikes would not be wearing cleats. Sadly, it no longer came with a Tubus rack – the Tubus Logo stainless steel would have looked magnificent on this bike. If only they were still made at the original Dawes Birmingham works.
It may have taken nearly 45 years from when it was launched, but I now had my Galaxy. Now that’s out of my system, I need to save for the Isen I fancy!
I could have bought the bike for a couple of hundred quid less on the Internet. I chose to order from my local bike shop – Blue Door Bicycles. I’m sure I’ve had that money back in the general care and interest that they have shown for all my bikes. It also saved me and hour or two of cursing whilst trying to assemble what comes in the box in to a roadworthy machine.
I was tempted to move the David Hockney print from above the fireplace and mount the bike in its place, illuminated by a green spotlight. I have a lot of art on my walls and, for me, this bike was an icon and worthy of a place there too. It is a bike however, and bikes are made to be ridden. I set about customising it to my needs. Life and health intervened for a period but I am now back on track and completing the final fettling. Any time now it will be ready for take-off.
In the interim I have not been without bicycles. Currently I have two others. My commute bike is a cheap Evans hybrid that was built around a reasonably sturdy frame. As components were trashed they were replaced with others more suited to my riding needs. Besides the frame, the only other original parts left are the bars and front forks. I now find this a really comfortable bike for longer trips and it currently has Ryde expedition wheels on it. The picture below ia slightly more extreme version of the kind of cyclist I am in my dreams.
I also have an off-road bike which has been even more extensively rebuilt, including new forks. This is an old Diamond Back MTB which I bought a few years ago for £20.00 on E bay. In 1992 I had purchased a similar Diamond Back built with the same frame design and to the same geometry. I travelled many thousands of miles on that bike until it was stolen. When I saw this one for sale I decided, as a I had liked my original DB so much, to buy it.
There will be a follow on to this blog in which I outline the changes I made to my galaxy, and the extras I have fitted. Then, it should be reports of what it is like on the road, and on the places I visit.
This picture is a guide to what is to come.