Dawes' Discovery 601 aims to combine the best of both worlds with its mountain bike-style frame and cockpit, road wheels and smattering of carbon kit. But is this hybrid the perfect compromise for urban riding, or is it a jack of all trades, master of none?
Ride & handling: Nippy about town and no slouch on the cycle path, but comfort is key
When we first saw the Discovery 601 we weren't hugely impressed. It looked like a perfectly decent urban commuter but we weren't convinced it merited its whopping £900 pricetag. Oh well, we thought, it must be all the lightweight carbon fibre kit that's bumped up the price.
Then we discovered that the bars, stem and seatpost were merely wrapped with carbon rather than being made of the stuff, and that the carbon fork legs were attached to a hefty steel steerer tube. Not a good start.
However, when we slung a leg over the Dawes all that was forgotten, as it actually offers a surprisingly good ride.
The sizing is on the short side – our 20in test bike was too small for riders over 6ft, even with the seatpost at full extension and the saddle slammed right back – so it's important to try before you buy.
But if you're the sort of rider who likes an upright cruising position rather than a saddle-up-head-down race stance, the Discovery has a lot to offer.
With its flat handlebar and fairly short top tube, the Dawes puts you in a position that's ideal for weaving in and out of rush-hour traffic, or watching the scenery go by on rides through the countryside.
It's far from aerodynamic, and it's hard work when you're pedalling into a headwind, but this isn't a bike for speed demons – there are plenty of racy road bikes available at this price if that's what you're after.
In fact, the Dawes is more of an urban mountain bike than a flat-barred racer, with some obvious crossover kit from the off-road world such as the powerful V-brakes and the mini bar-ends, which provide an extra position for climbing.
The 700c wheels and skinny Schwalbe tyres mean the Discovery rolls much quicker than a mountain bike though, and its all-in weight of 10.53kg (23.2lb) means it's easy to get up to speed and stay there.
While the 920g (2lb) fork isn't the lightweight item it appears to be on the shop floor, it still gives a more compliant ride than the aluminium equivalent, filtering out road buzz effectively, and the ergonomic Ergon grips give a comfort boost.
In fact, this is the key to the Dawes' appeal – it provides a more comfortable and less intimidating ride for beginners and the dodgy back brigade than most road bikes, while retaining the advantages of big wheels and skinny tyres.
While pricey for a hybrid, it comes within the £1,000 Cycle To Work scheme bracket, and it's just the thing for riding to the office during the week and then hitting the towpath or forest trails at the weekend with the kids.
Frame: Built to last, and with plenty of versatility
The front triangle of the Dawes' double-butted 6061 aluminium frame would be at home on a mountain bike, but out back the long, curvy chainstays and chainstays hint at a bike that's designed to be stable and comfortable rather than twitchy and chuckable.
The whole bike has an air of 'overbuilding' about it – it has clearly been designed to last, rather than provide the lightning-fast speed of a purebred racer.
At 1,848g (4.1lb), it's no lightweight.
As we mentioned earlier, the frame is fairly compact, with a short top tube and steep seat tube. This means that putting the saddle up has little effect on the reach to the bars, so it's important to buy the right size – it comes in 18, 20 or 22in.
It's ready for commuting, with mudguard mounts front and rear, and would even be suitable for light touring, with mounts and cable/hose guides for a rear disc brake and rack. There are two sets of bottle cage bosses.
The 'platinum' colour scheme looks like titanium on the shop floor, but is more of a metallic mauve/purple in sunlight.
Equipment: Decent, reliable stuff but we'd prefer lightweight alloy parts rather than carbon-look kit
The 27-speed Shimano Tiagra gears with Rapidfire shifters provide slick changes and a good enough range to tackle some pretty serious hills.
Shimano alloy V-brakes with Avid levers provide plenty of stopping power, and we like the Speed Dial on the front of the levers which allows you to adjust the feel and leverage of the brakes on the fly.
The wheels – Alex Ace-18 alloy rims on Shimano hubs – threw up no problems during testing, and they're shod with Schwalbe Marathon tyres with Kevlar Guard puncture protection which roll fairly quickly but have enough tread to cope with gently off-road forays
The Selle Italia X0 saddle is bulky but fairly comfortable, although we would have liked a bit more length on the Dawes-branded seatpost.
It would have been nice to see some genuine carbon components for this price – or failing that, some lightweight alloy parts – but other than that, our only complaint about the spec is that the bars can feel a bit cramped.
By the time you've slid on the gear shifters, brake levers, flanged grips, bar-ends and maybe a bell and front light, there's not much room left for your hands. Because the bar bulges at the centre to fit an oversize stem, there's a limit to how far you can move the controls inboard.