BIKE-PACKING VERSUS TOURING BIKES
ON A GRAND DAY OUT, TECH WRITERS ROBIN AND SIMON PUT TWO VERY DIFFERENT TOURERS TO THE TEST
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…
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.
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