2009 Dawes Galaxy Twin Tandem Review
17th Jul 2009, 20:42:30
Ever since we rented a Cannondale MT800, my partner and I had been itching to get hold of a tandem of our own. After much cogitating a near miss with an internet fraudster and a long wait, we finally took delivery of a 2009 Dawes Galaxy Twin. Read on for the review.
Dawes pretty much defined the touring bike when they introduced the Galaxy in 1971. It's long wheelbase and relaxed geometry was something only available on expensive custom builds at the time. The Galaxy Twin has the defining features of a touring bike - relaxed geometry, front and rear racks, mudguards and gearing from 22"-118".
I was expecting the bike to be large, but I wasn't prepared for the massive proportions of this bike. I (the captain) am 5'7" tall and my stoker is 5'1". Even though we chose the smaller of the two sizes (19"/16.5" or 21"/17"), the captain's compartment feels long and, well, like a touring bike not surprisingly. Standover height is generous thanks to the design of the top tube which rather than meeting the head tube is welded half way down the marathon tube. There is loads of seat post left in the seat tube, I would imagine that it could easily accomodate riders over six feet tall with ease. As yet I have not been able to get the bars as low as I would like, despite removing the fugly handlebar extender. The position would be OK if you prefer a more relaxed position, but I like to ride with a flat back in more of a roadie position. I should eventually be able to rectify this by changing the stem, but this is compllicated by the fact that the bike is supplied with a 1 1/8" threaded headset. Finding a suitable quill stem has eluded me so far.
The stoker compartment is generously sized and there is plenty of reach adjustment for the stoker bars, but height adjustment is limited the amount of exposed captain's seatpost. Inexplicably, Dawes supply the stoker with a 600mm flat handlebar which as one would expect protrudes a good 100mm from each side of the bike. I immedately replaced this bar with a 400mm drop bar and fitted a pair of shimano levers, since this was half the price of buying dummy levers. The seat post supplied has a reasonable amount of suspension travel, the saddle is a bit shorter than the captain's is therefore more suited to a lady.
The components are impressive for an off-the-peg bike. The 'groupset', such as it is, consists of some Truvativ Firex cranks, Shimano Deore XT rear mech, Deore front mech and some old-school Dura-Ace bar end shifters. Shifting is nice and crisp, though I really do miss having STI levers. Particularly problematic for me is moving the lever to engage the smallest sprocket, since it involves moving my hand right to the end of the handlebars. If you like bar end shifters I'm sure you'd love them.
The Brakes are Shimano BR-R550 cantilevers with BL-R400 levers. Also included is an Avid BB5 cable-operated disc brake fitted to the rear wheel. The cantilevers are very effective and, as most touring bike nuts know, are at least as effective as V-brakes. The Avid BB5 disc leaves a lot to be desired. I found it impossible to get the disc set up so that the pads did not drag on the disc, but nor did the lever go to the bars when I applied the brake. I ended up taking the damn thing off and just using the front brake levers to operate the cantilevers. As a result, the stoker has no brake to operate and we like this. I am not concerned about overheating the rims since our team weight is just 123kg.
The tandem gives a very pleasing ride, the aluminium frame is stiff enough to cope with our modest power output, but it isn't completely unyielding over rough surfaces. The Cro-Mo fork and Kenda 700x32c tyres help to absorb the worst lumps and bumps, but at the expense of an 85 PSI max inflation pressure. I'm likely to replace these with a nice fat slick like Schwalbe Kojaks. The 48 spoke wheelset isn't exactly what I would have chosen, definetly overkill for lightly loaded road riding, but hey at least we are unlikely to bend them! The wide range 11-32 cassette and 48/36/26 crankset give low enough gears to tackle the worst hills, but the 48-11 top ratio really isn't enough for long downhills, we spin out before we run out of effort. Somewhat disappointingly, there are only two bottle cage mounts, which isn't really sufficient for all day riding.
As would be expected, the bike is much more at home on a long ride than it is for nipping around town, but it does handle acceptably in urban traffic, especially after replacing the daft stoker bars. The supplied pedals are flat one side and SPD clipless on the other. I changed out the captains pedals for some double-sided SPDs ones because I found it very difficult to set off and get clipped in when riding in town and this helped a lot. I often have trouble with toe overlap with the smaller frame sizes I ride, but it was a releif to find that there is no overlap for me on this frame, since this simplifies low-speed manoevering greatly.
There were some build quality problems in the beginning, mainly because the gear cable housings had not been cut correctly at the factory. After fixing this myself I wrote to Dawes who subsequently sent me a complementary set of panniers and a substantial store credit to spend at the bike shop. This really reassures me that they obviously take quality very seriously and the problems I experienced were very much out of the ordinary. In any case, great customer service like that definitely deserves a mention! Well done Dawes for standing behind your products.