Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

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Brucey
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Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Brucey » 11 Sep 2020, 10:03pm

Q. where do you get a versatile, strong bike, with a UK-built Reynolds tubed frameset, which will take luggage fairly easily, and runs on cheap consumables, all for about £100?

A. that might be a Dawes MTB from the 1980s.

In general they share the following typical features

- lugged frameset built in (for the time) oversized Reynolds tubes
- tubesets from 500 to 531, including 501
- horizontal top tubes
- 1" threaded headsets
- double eyelets in front and rear dropouts
- rack braze-ons on the seat stays
- double bottle bosses
- cantilever braze-ons
- various different cable routings on the top tube
- cable stops on the down tube (so handlebar mounted shifters only)
- bottom pull FD cable routing
- underbracket cable routing to RD
- slotted (early) or vertical (later) dropouts, with built in gear hanger
- forks with a brazed crown although later models (from -1989?) had unicrown forks
- clearance for ~2.1" rubber

By 1991 Dawes had started making more models with sloping top tubes, but the retrotastic 1980s models with horizontal top tubes (like those from several manufacturers in facy) are potentially real workhorses, and can be picked up for buttons. There were many more models and versions than I remembered; I've found photos on the web of several of them (mostly within retrobike).

Dawes have not been dramatic innovators over the years, but they have produced some pretty reasonable bikes, mostly following trends rather than setting them. This meant that when the US-inspired MTBs started selling in the UK in the early 1980s, Dawes produced their own 'homage' which was the Dawes 'Ranger'; they claimed it was the first UK produced bike of its type, and in terms of factory production, it might have been. This has very slack angles, enormously long chainstays (front and rear wheels could be in different time zones) and often comes with one of those seat pins that lets you set the saddle about 3" further back than normal.

Image
early Dawes ranger with (I think) suntour /SR/Dia Compe parts. 1986 model?

Image
RD is seconds away from exploding; ever got the feeling that a longer chain might have been a good idea?

Image

Image
first version in 'burnt cherry' colour (from 1984 or 1985?)

Image
Dawes Countryman; basically a 'Ranger' frameset with less well specced parts.[hub brakes here are a later fitment]

The Dawes Cougar was effectively the updated version of the ranger, with slightly steeper angles and shorter chainstays, still in 531 tubing

Image
1987(?) Dawes Cougar

But there were also these

Nomad
Image
more or less to a Cougar what a Countryman is to a Ranger?

Wildcat (ISTR 501 and 531 versions)
Image
1986? model

Leopard
Image
Reynolds 500 main tubes; groupset may be a one-year-only groupset, so may identify the year accurately

Quest
Image
this model appear to have larger headset

[edit; also the 'Escape' model.]

this more or less takes it to ~1990. For 1991 top tubes were sloping in Dawes MTBs.

So any of these 1980s bikes can make good utility bikes. Perhaps crucially, many of them have horizontal dropouts and 130 or 135mm rear spacing, which means they will readily accept a modern IGH such as an Alfine or even a Rohloff perhaps, no chain tensioner required. They can make good loaded tourers, but they don't usually have eyes on the fork blades for low-riders, so 'proper' front racks only.

I was set off looking at these by the fact that I have a frameset from an unknown (to me) model. After an hour or so's looking, I found most of the above, but as yet I have been unable to identify the one I have. I'll post pictures when I get the chance. I suspect it is from about 1988 or 1989 because it has a fairly unpleasant two-tone paint job (in green and black), 531 tubing and a non-unicrown fork.

cheers
Last edited by Brucey on 15 Sep 2020, 6:09pm, edited 2 times in total.
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peetee
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Location: Cornwall

Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby peetee » 11 Sep 2020, 11:23pm

I well remember the Ranger. In 1988 I had a Ridgeback 501 and my friend a Dawes Ranger. The Ridgeback was not a sprightly beast but it seemed jet propelled compared to the Dawes. The Ranger would expect two weeks notice from you to change direction and, while needing aircraft runway distances to build speed it would take you on an unflinching, magic carpet/bulldozer ride down a forest trail. I had to giggle at the brochures stated bike weight of 28lbs. My custom 531 MTB from three years later is 26lb and is much lighter than the Ranger and the riding experience is totally different. I know this because I had a chance to ride them back-to-back. I was asked to service a Ranger 2 years ago. My opinion hasn’t changed a bit. And IIRC I weighed it; 36lbs.
But Brucey, for all my apparently disparaging comments I totally agree. As a hugely loadable do-it-all bike for anyone willing to put speed and performance a long way behind practicality it’s hard to beat.
Current status report:
Back on two wheels in deepest Pastyland and loving every minute. Mission: to enjoy big, bad hills again.

zenitb
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Contact:

Raleigh 501 tubed MTB from same era...

Postby zenitb » 12 Sep 2020, 1:23am

The early fully rigid steel mountain bikes were actually better for off-road touring than current MTBs in some ways. You could mount panniers on and there were none of the complications of suspension forks. These photos are of me off-road touring around 1990 with a steel Raleigh 501 framed MTB ("Raleigh Discovery") and Carridice Panniers (which I still have and tour with). Nowadays you would have to shell out on something like a Surly Troll to get a similar fully rigid steel frame off road tourer..

Incidentally this 30 year old bike is soon to return to me after many years as a "child seat bike" with a young family I know. Not sure what state I am getting it back in but if the old Reynolds 501 frame is still in one piece I will probably renovate it for further service...
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mattsccm
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Joined: 28 Nov 2009, 9:44pm

Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby mattsccm » 12 Sep 2020, 9:23am

First MTB is rode was one of those brown Rangers. I know it was the first MTB any of us had seen or heard of. Would 1984 be possible or was it 85?

mercalia
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Location: london South

Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby mercalia » 12 Sep 2020, 11:03am

seems like my dawes 1-Down is in good company but has better front forks

20190710_060711.jpg
this is not my bike

https://www.tristamjames.com/2019/07/the-bit-about-bicycle.html?m=1

The large 58cm frame I have ( not the one in the image) has the top tube almost horozontal, you can barely see a slant and still have the original front low riders

Image

The last of the line in 1999?

rjb
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Location: Somerset (originally 60/70's Plymouth)

Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby rjb » 12 Sep 2020, 1:26pm

Heres a before and after
Falcon K2 from 1988 bought from SJSC Tange 900 double butted tubing.
Falvon K2.jpg

and as it is now, with the original headset, and shimano Br at50 brakes, everything else has been changed.
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At the last count:- Peugeot 531 pro, Dawes Discovery Tandem, Dawes Kingpin, Raleigh 20, Falcon K2 MTB dropped bar tourer, Longstaff trike conversion on a Falcon corsa. :D

Greystoke
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Location: Lincolnshire

Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Greystoke » 12 Sep 2020, 4:20pm

Brill.
I have an early 90's basic tange frame MTB drop bar tourer, it's my daily rider.
Great stuff

Brucey
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Brucey » 12 Sep 2020, 5:02pm

mattsccm wrote:First MTB is rode was one of those brown Rangers. I know it was the first MTB any of us had seen or heard of. Would 1984 be possible or was it 85?


The ranger was 'new' in the 1984 catalogue;

https://dawescycles.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/1984-dawes-cat-vcc-library.pdf

in 'burnt cherry' only.

The amber coloured one I pictured upthread would be an '85 I think?

cheers
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mattsccm
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby mattsccm » 12 Sep 2020, 6:45pm

84 version then. Defo. A year or two later a white Muddy Fox Courier popped up as well.
Last edited by mattsccm on 13 Sep 2020, 3:17pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Sweep
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Sweep » 13 Sep 2020, 11:08am

You make a convincing case Brucey but maybe seem to favour the horizontal top tube bikes.

Anything against their later sloping top tube bikes?

Do they share the same core qualities?

(While I appreciate the aesthetics of horizontal top tubes I personally prefer sloping top tubes for practicality)
Sweep

Jamesh
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Jamesh » 13 Sep 2020, 11:18am

Do you guys find that they are a bit of a tractor on road unloaded? I have a Raleigh one which I rarely use for that reason.

However when loaded up I expect they are a pleasure to ride for hours on end, albeit at a slower pace.

Cheers James
Last edited by Jamesh on 13 Sep 2020, 8:46pm, edited 1 time in total.

Brucey
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Brucey » 13 Sep 2020, 1:33pm

Sweep wrote:You make a convincing case Brucey but maybe seem to favour the horizontal top tube bikes.

Anything against their later sloping top tube bikes?

Do they share the same core qualities?

(While I appreciate the aesthetics of horizontal top tubes I personally prefer sloping top tubes for practicality)


the sloping top tube MTBs with 26" wheels are almost invariably better focused on offroading, with shorter wheelbases etc so are less good load-luggers. In smaller sizes in particular, fitting a rear rack is usually a rotten compromise; the chainstays are often short enough that you want to have the rack set backwards of the axle (which can cause a rear load to tip the whole bike up...), and the bracket at the top of the rack is often ridiculously long. Fewer such problems with most of those having horizontal top tubes.

cheers
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Brucey
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby Brucey » 13 Sep 2020, 1:38pm

Jamesh wrote:Do you guys fund that they are a bit of a tractor on road unloaded? I have a Raleigh one which I rarely use for that reason.

However when loaded up I expect they are a pleasure to ride for hours on end, albeit at a slower pace.


A lot of that is down to the tyres fitted. Sure they are not going to set the world alight, handling-wise, but they needn't be super slow per se. Remember that the older MTBs usually had nicely tapered fork blades, which in many cases gave a reasonable ride quality; later MTB (rigid) fork designs were built stiffer and the ride quality is more dependant on the tyres soaking up the bumps.

cheers
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jimlews
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby jimlews » 13 Sep 2020, 3:07pm

I have a theory that the Ranger was essentially a Galaxy frameset with 26" wheels.
I recall that one of the first magazine reviews criticised Dawes for using 27" fork blades.

The frame sizes were a bit weird, if I recall. You would need to be about 7' tall to get your leg across the 22".

For that reason, I went for a Raleigh Super ATB 15 which turned out to be a Diamond Back in disguise. Also 'Burned Cherry'.

When I had occasion to service the bottom bracket, it was obvious that build quality was not the best. The frame tubes had been "mitred" with something like a pair of blunt shears! Perhaps I should have bought the Dawes afterall. That didn't stop me cycle camping all over Exmoor & Dartmoor on it.

I also used to think that the tyres sounded like those of a Land Rover. Eventually changed them for Specialized Tricross which had a continuous centre ridge and knobbles only on the sides. So they only sounded like a Landy when cornering,

mumbojumbo
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Re: Dawes MTBs from the 1980s

Postby mumbojumbo » 13 Sep 2020, 4:18pm

I have 2 overburys Cross Fell mtbs built in Bristol using Reynolds 531-easily made into a touring model.