Sunday, 11 October 2009

Dawes Duchess review

I had a hard time finding my bicycle. I had my mind set on a classic step-through upright bicycle, capable of handling Edinburgh's many hills, and light enough to carry the two floors up to my flat.
But at 5'2'', and a small-ish budget (around £300), my choices were limited, especially in mountain-bike centric Edinburgh. I came across the Dawes Duchess in a vague state of despair, and though it wasn't love at first sight, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

See? It doesn't look too bad, does it?

My glamorous moutain-biking assistant holding the culprit. "You look so French", he said.

It has a steel frame, 7 gears, a chainguard, mudguards, and a basket.
Sadly, the test ride was disappointing. There was an air of cheapness about it, of over-complication. The colour was more purple than plum, the stitching on the grips was naff, and the rattan "effect" basket was, well, plastic.

Still, I could have overlooked all this if it hadn't been for the rickety feeling when I took it for a test ride. It was light enough, comfortable, and easy on inclines. Perhaps it had something to do with the bike having been assembled that morning, but I could feel every bump in the perfectly smooth road, and just felt like the bicycle would fall to bits beneath me.

Dejected, I walked up the road to find my lovely Falcon... but that's for another post.


  1. Wait, what!
    The venerable Dawes has been resurrected as a plasticky sub par brand? Say it ain't so : (
    (Also: derailleur gearing for a 7-speed?...)

  2. Yes. It's awful isn't it. The more I see it, the more it saddens me. It's like having plastic flowers in a restaurant. Or getting a cubic zirconium engagement ring.
    Dawes have a whole host of futuristic looking monstrosities in pearlescent finishes, I suspect they haven't been venerable for a while...

  3. Well I've just bought the Duchess and I could'nt disagree more! I wanted a nice bike that I can ride purely for leisure and pleasure and this fits the bill perfectly. I've had a good spin in it and found it light, comfortable and pretty smooth!I'd recommend it to anyone - and I have no business links with Dawes!

  4. My daughter think's it looks the business. I'll show her this page.

  5. I'm sure it's a perfectly fine bike, it just wasn't for me. I was looking for what I hoped would become a commuter bicycle, that could handle regularly having to go over badly pitted cobblestones. It just didn't feel like it would stand up to sustained use.

    Having said that I've spotted a couple of Dawes Duchesses at my work, in a more central location. They seem to get regular outings, so I'm sure it's great for shorter rides!

  6. I've had my duchess for about a year now and whilst I notice that the mud guards have loosened a bit (they just need a bit of tightening probably because when you go over as many bumps in the road as London roads offer they do get loose!) I absolutely love it.
    I wouldn't really want a real rattan basket as they get frayed and mouldy and the seat is so comfortable-my ride takes me an hour each way and feels comfortable all the way.
    I would recommend the duchess to anyone.

  7. I borrowed my sister's duchess last week in london and loved it. I'm sick of struggling around edinburgh on a heavy mountain bike and this should do the trick...
    As for the basket - yes it's cheap plastic but edinburgh bike co-op do a proper wicker one for £20. I'll be taking the cheap one off and swapping it for the real thing as soon as my new bike arrives!

  8. I have had this bike since May 2009 and ride a 10 mile round trip on her Monday to Friday too and from work. Also go for longer cycles at weekends. It is an amazing bike that feels very sturdy. For £270 you will struggle to find a bike like it, classic styling and functional for a commute! If you want a wicker basket and subtle stitching i suggest upping your budget.

    I would recommend to anyone!

  9. Spend some more money and buy a proper bike! This thing weighs a ton, and the components are very cheap. These bikes tend to get good reviews from some owners because they haven't ridden anything decent to compare it to! Start with a budget of at least £400 for the bike, and keep it simple as possible. If you are going for a cheap bike stick to the big brands like Specialized, Trek, Giant, Scott etc.. Oh make sure it has a "Cassette" rear wheel, if the shop assistant looks confused, just go to another shop.


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