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Review - Entry Level Road Bike: BikesDirect Dawes Lightening DLX

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Review - Entry Level Road Bike: BikesDirect Dawes Lightening DLX

Old 04-17-15, 09:08 PM
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Inpd
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Review - Entry Level Road Bike: BikesDirect Dawes Lightening DLX

Hi,

So I received the bike on Tuesday and put 100 miles on it so far. I'll review it from the perspective of i) Form/Design and ii) Execution/Quality.

Form/Design
========

The bike is aimed squarely at the entry level bike market at $399 shipped to your door. For that audience they got things pretty right.

Versatile and Smooth Changing Gears: The 30/42/52 Triple allows for easy climbing and the 8 speed 12/25 cassette allows for smooth changing. Some entry level road bikes have a 8 speed 12/32 cassette and a 34/52 double which I found makes for less than smooth changing. The Sora/Claris RD and FD ensure for really smooth shifting as well.

Adjustable: The biggest challenge to the new road bike enthusiast is getting the right fit. With adjustable stem, seat (height and angle) its easy to experiment with what feels right.

Comfortable Ride: At first I wasn't thrilled with the 28 Kendra Kwest Tires as they are really commuter tires. But with the carbon fork it really deadens out road vibration really nice. No doubt these will slow you down a bit (maximum PSI is 85) but for riding rough roads its GREAT. But be warned these are not just regular 28 slicks they are really beefy.

Big Boy Shifters: Many entry level road bikes have downtube friction shifters but with this bike your get proper (though bottom of the line) Shimano Claris STIs.

Endurance/Compact Frame: The frame is compact with the unusual requirement that a 50cm is medium and a 54cm is large. Being 5'9 I bought a 50cm and it fits me quite well. The frame is nice and stiff given its so beefy and easy to maneuver. The one downside is that on sharp turns ones foot can tap the front wheel.

Execution/Quality
===========

The bike weights in at 24 pounds (without peddles) which is bordering on being a brick for some of you. But compared to many other entry level road bikes like the Vilano its within the ball park of their 20-25 pound weight. The saddle post, pedals and cranks are rather heavy and if replaced could bring down the bike a pound or two.

This bike is definitely a big step up from a big box store Schwinn. This has all the proper road bike parts such as double pivot brakes (instead of v-brakes), horizontal adjustable anatomical seats (instead of being fixed), carbon fork (instead of steel), STIs etc. But the biggest difference is the smoothness of the shifting. It makes riding lots of fun as one can easily shift up/down.

The frame is also a step up being double butted. The weld quality is excellent though its clearly an older model being a bit "thicker" than normal.

The drive train is bottom of the line but still Shimano Claris STI, FD, RD.

Much has been made of BikeDirect shipping no-name components with their bikes and in this bike the Brakes, Seat post, Saddle, Handlebars, Stem and Fork are all noname. Others are not as high quality parts as Shimano such as the cassette (DNP) and the crank (LASCO). But the no-name components are still good quality and in some cases are from named manufactures. For example the saddle is actually a Velo. The Carbon Fork is also well made. The only cheap part were the brake pads which where hopeless.

Overall
====

For an entry level road bike its hard to beat. Its well made, versatile and cheap. An entry level Schwinn RD cost $300 but for $100 you get a much better speed bike which is really put together well. Compared to other $400 bikes like the Vilano Shadow, this is better speced. The Shadow and similar bike have the older style STIs with thumb shifter, no carbon fork and cheaper shimano tourney drive trains. Most importantly they have 2x7 versus 3x8 chain rings/cassettes. Those extra options make for a much better experience for an entry level rider.

There are caveats: i) I don't know how responsive bikesdirect is to major warranty claims (i.e. cracked frame). The claim a lifetime warranty but I've not heard of anyone using this. However, I've heard they'll send you replacement parts though, ii) Sometimes the bike ships with different components than listed. See below for the bike description on the website and note the actual parts I got. In all cases the bike parts were upgraded from those listed on the website, but still, one should contact BD to be sure.


From BikesDirect Website
================

Main Frame Precision Handmade Dawes Altair 1 Compact aluminum with traditional round down tube, Double water bottle mounts

IMPROVED FOR 2014: New frame design fits more comfortable, wider tires. Well equipped with 700x28c tires, wider tires are more effective at killing road buzz and discomfort. For even more comfort and durability, some riders use their own wider tires up to 700x30c.

Rear Triangle Dawes Altair 1 aluminum curved seat stay w/ rack mount, Dawes forged road dropout with replaceable derailleur hanger
Fork Dawes 1.125" steerer, custom tapered Carbon Aero Road
Crankset LSCO Forged Aluminum Road 30T SLx42T SLx52T SIx170MM ALLOY SILVER
Bottom Bracket Semi Cartridge Bearing ST
Pedals Basic Metal pedals
Front Derailleur SHIMANO FD-2303 DOWN PULL (Actually Claris 2400)
Rear Derailleur SHIMANO SORA RD-3400GS
Shifters SHIMANO ST-2300/2303 24-SP (Actually Claris 2400)
Cassette/Freewheel SUNRACE CSR86BQ0SS1 12-25T-8 SATIN (Actually DNP Epoch Hyperwave)
Chain SUN RACE, 1/2"*3/32" Narrow
Front / Rear Hub Aluminum Alloy Road / Aluminum Alloy Cassette Road, 8-speed
Spokes 14G Stainless Steel
Rims 700x14Gx36H HJC-DA14 DOUBLE WALL ALLOY SILVER F/V clincher
Tires Kenda Kwest, 700 X 28c, presta valve tubes
Brake Set Dual Pivot Forged Road
Handlebar Aluminum Alloy Road, W:400MM(42~46CM)/420MM(50~54CM)/440MM(58CM), ALLOY SILVER
Stem Dawes Road Aluminum, ADJUSTABLE ANGLE,
ADJUSTABLE EXT:100MM(42~50CM)/120MM(54~58CM), ALLOY
Tape/Grip Custom cork wrap
Saddle Anatomical with Cro-Moly rails
Seat Post Dawes Comp Micro Adjust Aluminum, 27.2x300mm
Sizes 42cm XSmall, 46cm Small, 50cm Medium, 54cm Large, 58cm Large

Last edited by Inpd; 04-17-15 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 04-17-15, 09:25 PM
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Nothing Dodgy here. Everything sits together nice
.


No name saddle is actually a Velo


Claris drive train pairs nicely with LASCO crank.


Those chunky tires along with the carbon fork really help out. But they are heavy. The tires are nearly a pound each and each rim (with spokes) is 1000 grams.


No name brakes, but good quality and well made.


Pretty good weld quality.
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Old 04-20-15, 06:54 PM
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Paul W.
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Your new bike sure looks pretty. Congrats.

I've always been a Craigslist bike buyer, but Bikesdirect is tempting. Luckily for me, they are out of the correct size of the one I'm coveting so I don't have to make a decision anytime soon.

Here's a question for you or any other Bikesdirect customers: How did the shipping drop off work? Did they leave it at your doorstep? The BD website says that it is delivered "signature required". I'm not home during the day to sign for it and don't have a truck to go pick it up at UPS/USPS.

Thanks all.
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Old 04-20-15, 07:46 PM
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Inpd
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Originally Posted by Paul W. View Post
Your new bike sure looks pretty. Congrats.

I've always been a Craigslist bike buyer, but Bikesdirect is tempting. Luckily for me, they are out of the correct size of the one I'm coveting so I don't have to make a decision anytime soon.

Here's a question for you or any other Bikesdirect customers: How did the shipping drop off work? Did they leave it at your doorstep? The BD website says that it is delivered "signature required". I'm not home during the day to sign for it and don't have a truck to go pick it up at UPS/USPS.

Thanks all.
Your right. Its shipped with a signature required. However, once you get the UPS tracking number you can log onto myUPS (or whatever its called) and change the signature requirement.

In principle Craig's List is a great idea. You can buy great bikes for 50%+ off and they are only a few years old. But I think a relatively inexperience person like myself could be easily conned on CL. I did look at some nice bikes on CL and clearly the owners had replaced a few parts with cheaper ones. One Cannondale CAAD8 I saw had a Tourney Dereilluer! What really got me worried though was that with something like a Carbon fork, how do you tell its not damaged?

But if your an experienced buyer or have a friend who is, then CL is a good deal.
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Old 04-21-15, 05:37 AM
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Sounds like a good deal for $400.

I remember as a kid in the late '70s/early '80s that a Dawes was one of the best bikes around as far as we were concerned. I guess they were made in England back then. My brother's Dawes is still hanging in my parents' garage.
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Old 04-21-15, 06:11 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by dave1442397 View Post
Sounds like a good deal for $400.

I remember as a kid in the late '70s/early '80s that a Dawes was one of the best bikes around as far as we were concerned. I guess they were made in England back then. My brother's Dawes is still hanging in my parents' garage.
This bike is not a Dawes. Its DawesUSA I.e. Bikes direct badge. Dawes still exists in the UK.
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Old 04-21-15, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
This bike is not a Dawes. Its DawesUSA I.e. Bikes direct badge. Dawes still exists in the UK.
I didn't know that, thanks. Kind of like Cadbury and Hershey Cadbury...same name, but very different products.
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Old 04-21-15, 06:38 PM
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Originally Posted by dave1442397 View Post
Sounds like a good deal for $400.

I remember as a kid in the late '70s/early '80s that a Dawes was one of the best bikes around as far as we were concerned. I guess they were made in England back then. My brother's Dawes is still hanging in my parents' garage.
Correct. BikeDirect normally resurrects the manufacturer names of no longer produced bikes but in this case Dawes UK are still being produced. I'm actually pretty happy with the quality of the frame and the how well its put together. Thank God for those 1/2 Billion Chinese workers.
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Old 04-21-15, 07:11 PM
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Bikesdirect is almost unbeatable if you 1) absolutely want a new bike instead of a used bike from CL or ebay and 2) a semi-competent mechanic that knows how to properly assemble and tune your bike from a box.
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Old 04-21-15, 09:34 PM
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Nice bike for the price. Are you going to change out the stem after you get it set right, or just ride it a while as it is?
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Old 04-22-15, 06:11 AM
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Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
Nice bike for the price. Are you going to change out the stem after you get it set right, or just ride it a while as it is?
Gosh, your a mind reader! That's exactly what I was thinking of doing, the adjustable stem is great for experimenting but I heard it can start creaking. So after I find the best fit I'm going to swap it out.

Also, those crappy brake pads were promax ones.
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Old 04-22-15, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by link0 View Post
Bikesdirect is almost unbeatable if you 1) absolutely want a new bike instead of a used bike from CL or ebay and 2) a semi-competent mechanic that knows how to properly assemble and tune your bike from a box.
Agreed. But I would change 1) to be "if you don't have access to the skills to do a knowledgable bike inspection or don't have a lot of time or CL is bad in your area". Correct me if I'm wrong, but with CL there is no warranty or protection against mis specification/trickery right?

with regard to 2) spending the time to learn to adjust things was so worth my time. I love it and will help me going forward as well.
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Old 04-26-15, 08:54 PM
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Just another update.

I got my first flat and had to change the tubes out. The tubes for mediocre quality Kenda tubes.

But two things struck me about the wheel construction.

Firstly, they are completely no name brands. Not a single identifying mark on the rims or even the liner.

Secondly, they are quite well made. Hubs inside and out are very smooth, no spokes poking in. Each rim weights 850grams which is not lightweight but comparable in weight to these (http://www.amazon.com/Vuelta-Corsa-C.../dp/B008B2HGBU) rims found on far more expensive Fuji bikes.
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Old 04-26-15, 09:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Hubs inside and out are very smooth, no spokes poking in.
Haha! What?!?
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Old 04-26-15, 10:52 PM
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Originally Posted by dr_lha View Post
Haha! What?!?
One of the hallmarks of cheaper Big box bikes are poorly seated spokes that poke through the liner.
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Old 04-27-15, 01:31 AM
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I've bought several bikes from Bikesdirect, and initially got flamed here on BF for it pretty bad. The frames are ok usually but nothing to write home about, although I did get a steel frame single speed that was fantastic. The aluminum frames I got from them were pretty 'meh' though (Kinesis frames). Still they usually are a great value if for nothing else than the components you get at the price point. They had a sale on an aluminum Ultegra bike for $1k I was thinking about getting just to get the Ultegra bits and part the rest of it out.
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Old 04-27-15, 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
One of the hallmarks of cheaper Big box bikes are poorly seated spokes that poke through the liner.
OK! You meant rim, not hub I think. You're setting a low bar there!
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Old 05-15-15, 01:54 AM
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500 Mile Update.

Being riding it like I stole it. Now have 600+ miles in 4 weeks.

I can say the bike is holding up really well. Everything is rock solid but I did notice a few things.

As mentioned in other threads the brake pads are poor. Swapped out for $6 promax pads.

Also, the Kenda Kwest tires are 28mm but are under inflated at a max 85PSI for bigger riders. For $36 got two Serfas Secas SC tires, a nice 120TPI folding tire that greatly improves the bike handing.

I spent another few hours tinkering with bars, seat, the FD and RD and it now changes as smooth as a Claris drive train can. No doubt a tech could have done,it in 30 minutes, but I learnt enough to service the bike myself.

So for $440 total delivered to my front door I have a good beginner road bike I can ride for a year or so until I work out what I really want/need in a road bike.
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Old 07-11-15, 04:32 PM
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1500 Mile Update

I know many of you hate BD but there are so little reviews of this bike and their other bikes I wanted to update the review for those that are interested in buying them.

So I've had the bike now for 3 months and put 1500 miles on it according to MapMyRide.

The Bad
=====

The paint works looks great but is not holding up well. Leaning it against a metal bike rack caused a scrape all of the way to the bare metal. Leaning it against a tree with rough bark even caused some scuffing.

The adjustable stem is solid but starting to creak. But its served its purpose, I know what stem angle fits well and can buy a solid replacement now.

The compact frame is great for stability (see below) but cornering at speed is a little un-nerving as it seems the pedals are about to scrape the ground.

BD doesn't publish anyway the geometry of this particular frame which doesn't affect my ride quality but is annoying.

The Good
======

Mechanically the bike is still rock solid. Everything is still whisper quiet and there is absolutely no play in the cranks or lateral movement in the chain rings that you'll find on big box store bikes. The wheels have stayed true and when riding in the wind I just drop my head and look down and everything is perfectly aligned.

In addition shifting is smooth and crisp compared to the tourney style FD/RD you get on some cheaper road bikes like the Fuji Sportif 2.5 (2014 Fuji Sportif 2.5 - Components and Reviews)

The 3 chain ring set up is great for beginners particularly the middle ring. I can put it on the middle ring and them climb on the largest cog and ride on the flats or down hill in the smallest. With a compact crank I was doing a lot of shifting b/w chain rings and cogs due to my limited power.

The stability of the bike is nice. I feel comfortable climbing out of the saddle riding the hoods and in the drops.
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Old 07-11-15, 04:36 PM
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You know you can coast through turns right?
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Old 07-11-15, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by rms13 View Post
You know you can coast through turns right?
Where's the fun in that. Imagine coming down a hill at 35 mph and pedaling hard into the turn. Hard to beat that feeling :-)
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Old 07-11-15, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
Where's the fun in that. Imagine coming down a hill at 35 mph and pedaling hard into the turn. Hard to beat that feeling :-)
What's the fun in crashing when your pedal strikes the ground at 35 mph?
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Old 07-11-15, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Inpd View Post
I know many of you hate BD but
no, we hate the people who shill for them Ad nauseam.
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Old 07-17-15, 09:06 AM
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Geometry of Bike

So Bikesdirect have been quite responsive to my after sales question and sent me the geometry of the bike (which is not listed on the website). Here it is in the attachment and also in text form

DAWES LIGHTENING GEOMETRY
SEAT TUBE, CENTER TO TOP 420 460 500 540 580
ACTUAL TOP TUBE LENGTH 493.8 511.1 523.8 546.2 571.7
EFFECTIVE TOP TUBE LENGTH 510 530 545 565 590
CHAIN STAY 420 420 420 420 420
BB DROP 71.1 71.1 71.1 71.1 71.1
FORK OFFSET 50 45 45 45 45
HEAD TUBE ANGLE 71 71.5 72.5 73 73
SEAT TUBE ANGLE 75.5 74.5 73.5 73 73
WHEEL BASE 994.6 997.6 994.3 1004.3 1029.3
STAND OVER HEIGHT 717.9 747.7 781.9 803.6 839.6
BB HEIGHT 268.4 268.4 268.4 268.4 268.4
FORK STEERER LENGTH 195 216 246 251 287
HEAD TUBE LENGTH 105 126 156 161 197
STEM LENGTH 100 100 100 120 120
STEM ANGLE ADJ ADJ ADJ ADJ ADJ
HANDLEBAR WIDTH 400 400 420 440 440
HANDLEBAR RISE NA NA NA NA NA
CRANK LENGTH 170 170 172.5 172.5 175
TOE CLIP SIZE M M M M L
SEAT POST DIAMETER 27.2 27.2 27.2 27.2 27.2



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Old 07-17-15, 09:25 AM
  #25  
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My first road bike was a used 2009 model Motobecane Grand Record. It was fine, serviceable, and durable. I put a lot of miles on it and I felt comfortable spending more on my next bike. It was a little big for me (not its fault) and the aluminum frame was a little buzzy and harsh on rough roads. Whatever.
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