One of my colleagues has one of these, albeit a 2012 version. After work one day we cycled for about 15 miles until we went off in our separate directions and during that time I picked up quite a few helpful comments about the bike. First of all it’s worth mentioning my colleague, Tony, has run through the winter with me as I was getting ready for a marathon. We ran together through all kinds of horrible weather and so having a bike ride in perfect conditions around the quiet lanes of Hertfordshire was perfect.
The Dawes Century is billed as an audax type bike. This means it is a road bike with slightly more forgiving features compared to a hard-core time trial bike. The frame angles are a little more relaxed and the gearing is wide enough for some light touring. It is also pitched at around the £1000 mark where the competition is stiff (like the frame itself) and attractive for those thinking of acquiring one through the Cycle to Work scheme.
The 2013 model appears to be a bit of a downgrade from last year, almost certainly to bring the price down. The most obvious difference is the substitution of the Tiagra groupset down to Sora. This gives you a triple chain set with 27 gears, all useful. By the way, I have only ever used the small granny ring on my own bike once or twice in all the thousands of miles I’ve had it but it’s nice to know it’s there – especially after a long day’s cycling. Sora is a modest groupset in the Shimano scheme of things and doesn’t quite have the same finesse of Tiagra or 105 (or even higher) but it does the job. My colleague has his eye on upgrading his Tiagra components when they start to wear out and you’re certainly not wasting money by doing this.
The frame is very traditional in being constructed with Reynolds 520, although again this is modest compared to some frame materials, it does a very competent job. There are useful braze-ons for racks etc and these are neatly done. It is combing the age-old use of Reynolds tubing, modern components, slightly retro-look which Dawes does quite well these days. The carbon forks are, of course, very contemporary and contribute to saving a bit of weight and add to the feeling of nimble handling.
What would you change if you were buying again?
I was half expecting a long list of things to upgrade but after a moments pause, he said “not much really”. The pedals are a cyclist’s personal choice and we’ve already covered the scope for upgrading the drive chain, when the time comes. Probably the most significant gripe were the handlebars – the original equipment ones were simply too narrow. Changing these is straight forward enough for anyone with allen keys and a basic tool kit. Getting the handle bar width right is important and, to a point, down to personal choice but it is reasonable to expect these to be in proportion to the frame size when you buy the bike in the first place. In spite of that minor issue, it is an opportunity to upgrade the bars for some lighter ones.
A good bike. Not the lightest but it’s important to keep this in perspective (i.e. what’s the point in fretting over saving a few ounces here or there, when many of us cyclists could do with shedding some surplus weight ourselves!).
The Dawes Century SE is an excellent all-purpose bike. Having mudguards as standard equipment makes it ideal for day-to-day use as is the comfort of the bike itself. Being able to attach a pannier rack you could go touring providing you didn’t overload it too much.
This bike is undoubtedly aimed at the UK recreational cyclist who’s a bit of an enthusiast – and there are so many with £1,000 to spend. I doubt anyone would have many regrets in buying one of these.