Back From The Brink
Cycling Plus|April 2017

The Dawes Stratos hit the streets in 1992, the same year as Cycling Plus. Dave McLavin has taken his 25-year-old bike that had seen better days and brought it back to life.

I got my first road bike in 1978 when I was 13. It was a 10-speed, BSA Tour de France. It had solid steel cranks attached to the axle with cotter pins, and weighed a ton.

The bike I yearned for was a Dawes Galaxy with a Reynolds 531 frame. I bought one in 1994 from a bike shop in Kettering, which specialised in end of line models and odd sized frames. I tried to convince myself that the Dawes was fine but in the end I had to accept that it was too small for me.

There are plenty of Galaxies available on eBay now but competition has become fierce as people realise the virtues of a classic steel frame. One Sunday afternoon, while I was searching under ‘Reynolds 531’, I came across a Dawes Stratos.

The Stratos dates from 1992. It also has a Reynolds 531 frame and fork combination and was probably one of the first bikes to be fitted with the Shimano 105 groupset. It seemed an ideal substitute for the Galaxy.

I knew from the pictures that it wasn’t in great condition but when it arrived, calling it tatty would have been like calling the Dalai Lama a nice bloke.

My long-term plan is to use it as my daily transport and rationalise the number of bikes I own. I have two other road bikes, a mountain bike and a tandem. My wife, Fionnuala, said I’d grown as a person when I told her about the plan.

Last winter my local council spread thousands of tonnes of salt on the roads. I decided that if the Stratos was going to be my one and only, summer and winter, road bike I had to do something about all the exposed steel on the frame. A total respray means a strip down and rebuild, which offers possibilities... The options were to rebuild the Stratos to its original spec or go hog-wild and bring it up to date.

Cascade effect

I went down that route with an old tourer I rebuilt for my wife. I upgraded the crankset from two chainrings to three to increase the number of gears available, which meant installing a new bottom bracket with a longer axle, a new derailleur and new gear shifters. The shifters didn’t work on the existing sit-up-and-beg handlebar so I had to fit a flatter bar, which then necessitated new brake levers. And so it went on.

I was £650 poorer and all that was left of the original bike was the frame, front wheel and the brakes. Still, it’s a lovely bike and Fionnuala has now forgiven me.

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