The bikes are:
- A Dawes Galaxy
- A British Eagle Touristique
- A Nigel Dean World Tour
- A Claude Butler Dalesman
All were built in the UK, before the UK stopped building things. Also, they all have racks and mudguards, though the bikes are not all from the same period. Two of them have 21 gears, the others just 18 for long rides on British country roads. Each bike is a classic model, names that conjure riding across British pastures and moorland, models that are rightly admired in the history of great British touring bikes. Which one would you choose?
This is a World Tour model, built around 1990, I believe, but that’s just a guess. It was too small for me unfortunately, but I liked it a lot. The paintwork is naively done, of good quality ( as it tolerated an intense clean ), and has everything you’d want of a British tourer: a Reynolds 531ST frameset, carefully crafted with braze-ons like the cantilever brake bosses and rear stop, brazed mountings for a rack, eyelets on the dropouts and cool seat lug cluster. Nigel Dean was a professional racer for Holdsworth and during his brief spell of bike building he was known to make small frames with excellent geometry. The only downside with this bike was the oxidation on the forks.
Ye Olde Claude Butler
I’d never owned a Claude Butler before, even though the name is synonymous with vintage British bicycles. This one I bought was unbranded, so I optimistically concluded that it was a Dalesman. You can’t get more of a British sounding bike than that, can you? It reminds me of a man with rolled up trouser legs, riding his bike through a northern English village in the 1950’s to pick up the milk. It’s traditional, so accept that it’s black, heavy and is all about functionality. Actually, it weighs about 30lbs, and is by far the heaviest of the four bikes. Yet, it is bulletproof. A dedicated touring bike, it oozes reliability and dependability.
British Eagle Touristique
Here is a quote from one of the Cycling UK forums on the Touristique:
“The Touristique was by far the most notable bicycle they produced, objectively superior to the Dawes Galaxy of its day, but usually selling for less. It’s a good buy, worth keeping and upgrading. Apart from a few racing models, which never achieved much recognition amongst that fraternity, the rest of the British Eagle range was distinctly undistinguished. One good model was not enough to sustain the business, which ultimately closed”
I reviewed this bike earlier this year, and what a bike. Why the hell did I sell it??
And Something Called a Dawes Galaxy..
The most famous of British touring bikes, something of a legend, yet surprisingly you can pick one of these up for less than £100 in the UK. Purists would perhaps see the Galaxy as the inferior version of the Super Galaxy, which I guess is the real icon of touring on these isles. Yet, the Galaxy is no-nonsense, functional machine that has no pretensions other than to keep you on the road for long hours at a time. It isn’t lightweight, it doesn’t have high end parts, but it has a strong Reynolds touring frame with proper touring frame features, all the braze-ons and bosses that you need for panniers, mudguards, cantilever brakes and of course, a rack. I believe the 1980’s versions are most collectable, but pass on the version like this one I owned; Dawes stupidly swapped out the cantilevers for Weinmann centrepull calipers on those ones.
Although some would say it would be unfair to compare bikes of different years, these bike do have a lot in common with each other. They were all made in Britain, are steel touring bikes with the same features for long haul riding, and have similar specs and standards in build. In my view, the British Eagle Touristique wins the test: its the smoothest bike on the road, the easiest to ride, and has the best blend of quality, attention to detail and looks. It is lighter than the Claude Butler and has an assured modesty that defines the British touring bike. My only regret about it, is that I sold it.