BIKE-PACK­ING VER­SUS TOUR­ING BIKES

ON A GRAND DAY OUT, TECH WRIT­ERS ROBIN AND SI­MON PUT TWO VERY DIF­FER­ENT TOUR­ERS TO THE TEST

Cycling Plus - - CONTENTS - WORDS SI­MON WITH­ERS PHO­TOG­RA­PHY RUS­SELL BUR­TON

Whyte’s Glen­coe goes head to head with Dawes’ Su­per Galaxy to dis­cover the ul­ti­mate multi-day trip­per.

You have brought your tent with you, haven’t you, Si­mon?” The si­lence and blush­ing, shamed ex­pres­sion on Si­mon’s face when met at the sta­tion by fel­low rider Robin and pho­tog­ra­pher Rus­sell said it all. Silently. Elo­quently.

Robin might be spend­ing the night in a small bike-spe­cific tent after a day’s dawdling around Dorset, but Si­mon had dif­fer­ent plans, and can­vas – or its mod­ern equiv­a­lent – was play­ing no part of them. His lack of fore­sight also in­cluded fail­ing to bring any tools, not even a pump, tyre lever or in­ner tube. He did at least re­mem­ber his bike, hel­met and cloth­ing op­tions for pho­tog­ra­phy.

For­tu­nately, the bike was the most im­por­tant. Robin had spent a month get­ting in the miles on his 21st cen­tury gravel/ad­ven­ture/bikepack­ing Whyte Glen­coe. Si­mon was on the new­est in­car­na­tion of the Dawes Su­per Galaxy.

The test pe­riod, and the fi­nal day out along the Juras­sic Coast, had been de­signed to take in as many dif­fer­ent types of rid­ing as pos­si­ble, from long-dis­tance com­mutes on bike paths and canal tow­paths, to road, track, gravel and muddy, long-grassed fields. In fact, when­ever our day’s ride, largely on the Na­tional Cy­cle Net­work, passed an in­ter­est­in­glook­ing high­way, by­way, rut­ted track or field, Rus­sell in­sisted Robin and Si­mon rode on/ through/over it. They were lucky they weren’t al­lowed to ride all the way down to Tyne­ham Beach or he would have had them rid­ing on sand into the English Chan­nel… The road down to Tyne­ham Vil­lage was at least open, which forced Si­mon to make a sweat-in­duc­ing ef­fort on the climb back with cars back­ing up be­hind him on the nar­row road. Robin was mak­ing much eas­ier weather on the as­cent, with his lighter, less heav­ily laden Whyte. Rus­sell, cheat­ing on his elec­tric bike, didn’t even break sweat…

Our day­out

The test was de­signed to as­sess the qual­i­ties of two sim­i­larly priced ad­ven­ture bikes. The Dawes is still made of chro­moly steel, al­beit now TIG-welded rather than lugged, though both Robin and Si­mon reckon you can’t beat the look of the orig­i­nal Galaxy’s lugged steel frame. It has joined the mod­ern world with its disc brakes, cable-pulled rather than hy­draulic, much bet­ter than so-so cen­tre pull brakes of the Galaxy bikes of yore and the can­tilevers of later mod­els.

The fi­nal day out had been de­signed to take in as many types of rid­ing as pos­si­ble

The triple chain set is the same Alivio moun­tain bike model that Trek uses on its 520 (p22), and the 48/38/26 setup is just as wel­come, though Dawes has only gone for a 34-tooth big sprocket rather than the saucer-sized 36. It still rep­re­sents a very low bot­tom gear, and one that is needed even on mod­est climbs such as Tyne­ham and into and out of Kim­meridge when you’re heft­ing a cou­ple of pan­niers. The brakes were ef­fec­tive, and have the big ad­van­tage of work­ing in all weather, but need much more ef­fort than hy­draulic disc brakes.

Whyte takes a dif­fer­ent tack on its Glen­coe, with a bang-up-to­date SRAM 1x driv­e­train, pair­ing a 44-tooth chain­ring with an ul­tra­w­ide 11-42 cas­sette. This coped with ev­ery­thing Robin could throw at it. It is a more lim­ited gear range, how­ever, cov­er­ing 28106in com­pared with the Dawes’ 20.5-118in. It’s the lower gear that’s most im­por­tant for loaded tour­ing, as there will al­ways be an oc­ca­sion when you will need that bailout gear.

The Whyte stops more im­pres­sively than the Dawes thanks to ex­cel­lent brak­ing from the TRP HY/RD me­chan­i­cally op­er­ated hy­draulic disc

There will al­ways be an oc­ca­sion when you will need that bailout gear

cal­lipers. It turns quickly too, with the sort of crisp, nim­ble han­dling that gives con­fi­dence on sin­gle­track trails, where it cer­tainly had the beat­ing of the Dawes.

The Dawes comes with a rear rack and SKS mud­guards and mounts for a front rack, and even has spoke hold­ers on the seat stays. The Whyte has loads of mounts for mud­guards, racks and lug­gage, and both bikes ma­jor on sta­bil­ity thanks to long wheel­bases. They achieve this dif­fer­ently, Whyte’s ge­om­e­try favour­ing a longer frame and short stem, quick­en­ing the steer­ing feel com­pared with the Dawes. It meant Robin al­ways led the way in Dorset, whether on sin­gle­track or the back­roads of the Na­tional Cy­cle Net­work around Wim­borne Min­ster and Bland­ford Fo­rum.

Own brand bits

Cost-cut­ting is in­evitable on both bikes, each of which comes with a host of Dawes- or Whyte-branded parts, the Whyte’s ex­tend­ing to its forged cranks, but in both cases th­ese com­po­nents per­formed well, and both sad­dles proved pop­u­lar with their re­spec­tive testers.

The Whyte’s alu­minium frame and fork are sturdy with­out feel­ing harsh, and nicely put together, with in­ter­nal ca­bling, hy­dro­formed tubes and an in­te­grated seat clamp. The Glen­coe be­lies its 11.58kg by rolling swiftly on tar­mac, and tran­si­tion­ing to gravel with lit­tle loss in speed. On ei­ther sur­face the 47mm tyres suck up vi­bra­tions, and cope well with loose dirt and gravel. The weight tells a lit­tle when climb­ing, but lev­er­ing that wide 44cm bar from side to side helps to hus­tle the Glen­coe up­wards at a de­cent rate. That’s the point at which Si­mon, on the even weight­ier Dawes, can sit and spin com­fort­ably in the much lower granny gear.

The Whyte makes a great bikepack­ing plat­form, with am­ple room for al­most any bags – the wider bar is help­ful if you want to pack a bar bag, or in Robin’s case, a small tent – To­peak’s £179.99 Bikam­per that weighs just 1.63kg and at­taches se­curely us­ing three straps. It packs into a small com­pres­sion bag that mea­sures just 26x14cm, but the Bikam­per’s real USP is that it uses your bike as part of the sup­port­ing struc­ture. With the front wheel slip­ping in to a sleeve at the low­est end, and the other be­ing held up by the bike’s sad­dle and han­dle­bar, it also acts as a handy se­cu­rity fea­ture.

It’s very much a one-per­son tent, with a 200x90cm foot­print and with prac­tice you can erect it in five min­utes, though Russ and Si­mon had fun watch­ing Robin put it up it in some quite windy and ex­posed con­di­tions.

Frame bags can re­quire long straps to reach the head- and seat-tubes due to the Whyte’s lengthy 595mm top-tube, but all of those we tried fit­ted. When loaded, it still rides and han­dles in much the same way as un­loaded, the front end sta­bil­ity even giv­ing enough con­fi­dence to ride no-handed off-road, and swoop­ing down road de­scents at 40mph is a thor­oughly com­posed ex­pe­ri­ence.

The Dawes was al­ways the more leisurely of the two, but there’s never less than a feel­ing of con­fi­dence in it when you’re rid­ing, though brak­ing on long de­scents may strain your hands and fin­gers com­pared with the eas­ier, lighter ac­tion of the Whyte’s cable/ hy­draulic sys­tem. With a pair of bulging pan­niers you do have to re­mem­ber that you’re wider than nor­mal, and if you’re used to weav­ing through nar­row gaps in traf­fic you’ll have to take more care than usual. Even ne­go­ti­at­ing some of the gates on our day out proved trick­ier with the pan­niers’ ex­tra width. Si­mon usu­ally tours with just rear pan­niers and a bar bag, but if you’re car­ry­ing more kit the Dawes’ fork has fit­tings for low-rider front pan­niers, and dis­tribut­ing the smaller part of your kit here with most of your weight at the back will bet­ter bal­ance the han­dling. A tent will fit in the rear pan­niers or strap to the rear rack, which was how Si­mon toured Australia years ago. He

Swoop­ing down road de­scents at 40mph is a thor­oughly com­posed ex­pe­ri­ence on the Whyte

used the tent once, which is more than he man­aged here…

There’s noth­ing to stop you fit­ting tra­di­tional rear pan­niers to the Whyte, if bikepack­ing bags don’t give you the ca­pac­ity you’re look­ing for. The stiff alu­minium frame will cope with them.

Steel­still­stands

Dawes proves with its new Su­per Galaxy that the tra­di­tional steel tourer is still liv­ing and breath­ing. The qual­i­ties that served it well in the 1970s hold true to­day: it’s tough, com­fort­able and has the abil­ity to carry vast amounts of your kit safely and eas­ily. If you’re look­ing to cross coun­tries haul­ing all your sup­plies, or for sans-tent, credit card tour­ing, the Dawes de­liv­ers and should do for years.

It’s de­signed for travers­ing tar­mac, but you can eas­ily take the Su­per Galaxy on un­sur­faced routes even while fully laden, at least for shorter dis­tances. There are oc­ca­sions in Asia, and even Australia and New Zealand, where tar­mac on prop­erly mapped roads may dis­ap­pear en­tirely to be re­placed by hard­packed earth cor­ru­gated by the heat, and the Dawes will cope, though your lug­gage may bounce around a lit­tle and it’ll be nois­ier than the Whyte. For day-to-day rid­ing its ex­tra weight is no­tice­able, but if you’re pre­pared to put up with this it’ll make a tough, com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal com­muter-cum-shop­ping bike.

The Whyte re­quires more dis­ci­pline when it comes to pack­ing your be­long­ings, and even with

The Dawes will make a tough, com­fort­able and prac­ti­cal com­muter-cumshop­ping bike

prac­tice it takes longer to at­tach bags to the bike. But as Robin demon­strates, you can still go camp­ing with the Whyte, though a light­weight wa­ter­proof bivouac might be an­other op­tion to the To­peak tent.

The Glen­coe’s lower weight makes it a live­lier ride, and it outscores the Dawes over rougher sur­faces. It will strug­gle to equal the Dawes for to­tal load-car­ry­ing ca­pac­ity, but if you’re look­ing for short breaks tak­ing in gravel tracks as well as tar­mac, it’s a ver­sa­tile, high-qual­ity bike.

With its mud­guards, Whyte’s Glen­coe would make a great com­muter, es­pe­cially if you’re a rider look­ing to mix up your route, or want­ing to ex­plore at the week­ends. SRAM’s Apex 1 groupset has all the prac­ti­cal­ity of its Ri­val and Force groupsets for less out­lay, and func­tions very well, and even matched to the own-brand crank and chain­ring, proved to­tally re­li­able. The mod­ern gravel bike, such as the Whyte, is the lat­est and great­est evo­lu­tion of the Bri­tish tour­ing clas­sic, and ev­ery­thing you’d need for a once in a life­time ad­ven­ture. What­ever bike you choose, a tour with mates should be on the bucket list for ev­ery rider.

As for Robin and Si­mon… well, Robin was last seen hun­ker­ing into his To­peak tent while wit­nesses re­port the tent­less Si­mon board­ing the train home. And was that a bot­tle of wine seen peek­ing out from the Ortlieb pan­nier? If so, he’s not go­ing to be able to claim back the cost of that on his ex­penses…

Tough de­ci­sions have to be made over which di­rec­tion to take

Dorset of­fered up ev­ery­thing from gravel track to smooth tar­mac

Robin edges ahead on the Whyte

An all-im­por­tant pit stop to dis­cuss the finer de­tails of the two rides

The 47mm WTB Hori­zon tyres of the Whyte make off-roading eas­ier

Glen­coe’s SRAM Apex 1 gear­ing is matched to own brand cranks

The Dawes proves that steel tour­ers still have a taste for ad­ven­ture

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