I agree with Neil, Hilary, and Billy, who have all stated things so wisely and so well. I would like to add that if a frame is made of the top-flight tubing of its day (Reynolds 531, Kromo, Columbus, etc.), is properly designed, built, brazed, and aligned, then I fail to see how it is in any way inferior (except, perhaps in appearance and "aura") to a frame built by one of the legendary boutique houses.
I've heard all kinds of stories about the "magic" that enraptures one whilst riding upon legendary frames like Cinelli, Masi, Ephgrave, Herse et. al... Perhaps my senses are a bit dulled, but while I've definitely experienced varying riding characteristics from frame to frame, those differences were most often not so much as to QUALITY of the ride, but more according to the suitability of the TYPE of frame as it related to a particular PURPOSE. That is, my '47 constructeur-built Camille Dardenne touring frame, with incredible 50cm chainstays and a wheelbase somewhere approaching infinity, delivers a ride that is different than my sprightly short-wheelbased racers, but both rides are wonderful when the machines are deployed to their proper purposes.
I've never found, in one particular machine, bike nirvana. Or, expressed another way, I've experienced a good degree of that "magic" riding everything from boutique sliver-brazed frames to mass-produced Japanese sport-tourers.
So I just don't understand turning one's nose up at a marque like Dawes, which has served countless clubmen, clubwomen and tourists and even the odd racer here and there so very well down through the years, and which, put in its proper environment, rides about as well as anything else.
As to Claud Butlers, I agree with Hilary Stone and Neil Foddering as to their excellent quality throughout Claud's reign. My wife owns one of the last Claud lady lightweights built by the pre-Holdsworth firm (a New All Rounder model), and she prefers it to her '67 Schwinn Paramount deluxe. For some reason, perhaps because it uses a lighter gauge 531 tubing than her Paramount, it simply screams up hills.
The above all being said, all that is left in my mind are very minute subtlties in riding characteristics (often too subtle for me to detect), and more pronounced differences in appearance and the somewhat indefinable "aura" of one machine vs. another, which I don't necessarily disparage or dispell. But even there I maintain that Dawes were not the least in either appearance or aura.
I remember Hilary Stone selling a magnificent '57/'58 black Don Juan frameset in Nov. 2004 which came with fancy flourished mudguards, Dawes saddle, signature headset and engraved stem. Those Don Juan machines, with the fancy fenders, are as swanky-looking a bike as the proudest peacock could covet. Perhaps a hard-core "speedman" back in the day might turn up his nose at one, but that's like Mario Andretti disrespectng an early Corvette. No, it's not a Ferrari, but it's still a very groovy ride!
Here are a few DAWES photos. The first two are of Hilary's black Don Juan frameset (posted with his kind permission), and the latter of another Don Juan, a complete machine, which also sold on ebay. Though the photos of the latter bike are fuzzy, with a little imagination you can picture what it might have looked like when new.
As for me, I say hurrah to Dawes, Phillips, Dayton, Hercules, Elswick Hopper, Rudge, Raleigh, and all the rest who produced machines which, while not perhaps the complete works of art that some others were, were nonetheless exciting to look at, gave a good value for their money and rode remarkably well, whether on daily commutes, club runs, tours to Britain's beauty spots, or even the occasional time trial.
Whitewater, Wisconsin USA
> Hi Barrie, all. As i've said before,
\r?\n> i appreciate many of the nuances of skill and construction
\r?\n> of bikes i will never own. But when it comes down to it the
\r?\n> bicycle is a pretty incredible machine no matter who built
\r?\n> it or how [w/in reason]. But i bet Merckx could've ridden a
\r?\n> Dawes Galaxy, well tuned and w/ sprints to nearly as many
\r?\n> victories as he did on the exquisitely built bikes he did
\r?\n> ride. As the great human being Oscar Wilde observed: A cynic
\r?\n> is someone who knows the price of everything and the value
\r?\n> of nothing.