Dahon Bikes Reviews
Dahon Vitesse D7
I have to drive into work but I wanted to buy a fold up bike so I could throw it in the boot of the car and if necessary, park in the Park n Ride just out of town and cycle the rest of the way in, or I could cycle into town from work to save on the extortionate parking charges. I decided on the Dahon D7 because it seemed good value ... for money. It seemed easy to fold (excellent videos on You Tube demonstrate how to fold the bike) and it didn't seem to be too heavy. I bought the bike over the internet - big mistake, I don't recommend this method, you have to put the bike together yourself and I didn't have a clue, nor did I feel confident in how tight I could get the connections together and I didn't want the bike falling apart whilst I was riding it. In the end I took it to a bike shop and they fixed it up for me for a small fee. They made sure I could fold and unfold it and voila. I was off!
Its light enough for me to lift in and out of the boot and it's great fun to be able to ride the bike in when the weather is nice.
The disadvantage is that I can't find a basket to fit on it. I like a basket to put my shopping in. The second and very big disadvantage is that ideally you should carry it everywhere with you folded. If I want to nip into town, the idea is you fold it up and carry it around with you, not at all practical - why? Because they are easy to steal and thieves are on the look out for fold up bikes to steal. Even with the best locks, the seat post can be stolen, I have to take the seat post out and lock it to the bike, I use 2-3 locks to lock my bike up and I'm lucky to have a secure bike park to leave it in but otherwise I have carrying it into buildings with you isn't always appreciated or allowed!
Having said that, I love my Dahon and it is a great little bike for a good price
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I'm a fairly keen cyclist in the sense that I try to use a bike whenever possible to replace car journeys, especially my commute to work which is always faster and more predictable by bike. I also enjoy the occasional bike ride for pleasure, and if a pub can arrange to heave into view along a quiet canal bank, all the ... better.
What you won't see me doing is churning up and down some hill or forest track, the muddier the better (or worse in my case).
Therefore you won't see me riding an ATB - All-Terrain or more commonly 'Mountain' bike.
You might however think you've seen me on one if I rode past on my latest steed, a Dahon Matrix.
It's got one of those characteristically sloping cross bars, it's got disc brakes and it's got front suspension, making it what the off-road mob call a 'hard tail' bike, another way of saying "it doesn't have any rear suspension except your own bum cheeks".
What you won't see is as I flash past at a blood-curdling 8 mph is that it has somewhat more 'sensible' road-going tyres, which being 'knob-less'* makes them easier to shift on tarmac and it doesn't have a range of gears suitable for climbing Kilimanjaro, but what it does do, is fold in half.
(* Just thought of a good motto for an on-road cycling club - Knoblesse Oblige)
I'm quite a fan of folding bikes, but there are folding bikes like my Brompton, and there are bikes that fold, and believe me there's a difference.
A bike like a Brompton is foldable down to a very small package, making it mere 'luggage' on public transport. Of course, something has to give, and ride quality is the victim. That's not to say that the Brompton is a bad ride, but compared to full-sized bikes, it could be better, especially nowadays as its 16" wheels can all but disappear down a pot hole.
My new Dahon Matrix is a totally different concept. If I hadn't told you it folded you'd never have known. It's got 26" wheels, the standard for most mountain bikes and apart from some discrete Allen key bolts on the cross bar and lower frame, it bears no sign, especially since, in 'Obsidian' or metallic dark grey to you, it doesn't exactly shriek 'Look at me - I fold!" at you.
"You can never go wrong with a nice grey", as my mother says.
Therefore as you'd expect it rides just like any other bike of the same weight and size, i.e. normally. My reasons for buying one are manifold.
a) Firstly, my shed wouldn't stand housing yet another full-size bike, although my existing bike which has now covered many thousands of miles since being rescued from the 'dump' and rebuilt by yours-truly, could well be on its last legs**, and
b) The prospect of a 'proper' bike that can be put in a car boot rather than carried on the outside is an attraction for me too hard to resist.
(**Aluminium-framed bikes should be regarded as having a set lifespan, those of 'doubtful provenance' doubly so! Remember the de Havilland Comet 1 - it 'invented' metal fatigue. Since I sometimes ride quite fast, does this make me 'The Stig' Of The Dump?)
Sure I could put the Brompton into the boot and use it when I get there, but riding one in undulating countryside can be hard work on something designed to be unfurled at Waterloo Station and ridden to Canary Wharf.
c) Pot holes are doing my wrists in, so I thought I'd treat myself to front suspension!
d) I want one and it's my 60th birthday present to myself, so there!
LIVING WITH A MATRIX
This has nothing at all to do with Keanu Reeves. The first thing I'd say about a Matrix, is that if you don't have to keep folding it, "don't". It stands to reason that hinges can wear, and presumably work loose, not necessarily to fall apart but no doubt to develop an annoying creak. The frame is made from 'aircraft grade' 7005 aluminium, but as I said before, so was the DH Comet 1.
If you never have to fold it at all, just don't get one. Simples.
There are good (and lighter) bikes with the same ride characteristics for lots less even in the much-maligned Halfords. You could buy a half-decent entry-level mountain bike and put slick tyres on it to get the same effect except that it won't fold unless you let an articulated truck pass its back wheels over it!***
Likewise, don't get dragged into the same 'design year snobbery' that exists with cars. Here I am in 2010, buying the 2009 model for £480 (£250 less than the previous price), just so that Dahon can justify charging a whopping £780 for the 2010 model all over again, which hardly differs except in colour scheme and the make of tyres and other components.
(*** Just don't be sitting on it at the time. Left-turning 'artics' caused an alarmingly high proportion of the deaths amongst cyclists in London last year).
There are three frame sizes to choose from. As luck would have it, at 6'1" tall, I'm on the cusp (aren't we all ducky, aren't we all?!) between medium and large. The actual dimensions, e.g. a 19" frame, mean little these days as crossbars aren't parallel to the ground like they used to be. In the old days you knew where you were when told something had a 23" frame, in my case, talking with a high-pitched voice.
Myself, I opted for the larger frame as these also tend to have a longer wheelbase too, giving you more knee room when steering by sitting you farther back from the handle bars.
The front suspension, using Suntour NEX 4600 forks, is a coil spring and hydraulic affair which is adjustable for spring load and rebound speed, and can even be locked out so it doesn't work at all. Why lock it out? Well, if you're struggling with an uphill section, out of the saddle and standing on your pedals, you don't want a lot of your effort being transferred into bobbing up and down. These forks have around 63 mm of travel so should not really be regarded as having any serious off-road pretensions, hell I've ridden over potholes deeper than that lately! In fact despite appearances, this really applies to the whole bike, especially with its near-slick tyres. Likewise, I'm not sure I'd want to give a frame which hinges in the middle the same rough treatment as a down-hill racer might!
However, as with cars, there's no 'one size fits all' bike, but what this bike does do, it does well.
Joy of joys, the forks and frame will accept 'proper' mudguards, having all the right bolt holes unlike the current fashion among mountain bikes to get you and lots of the moving parts as dirty as possible in as little time as possible.
My model came with 24-speed gears sourced by SRAM, in an 'eight at the back and three at the front (8 x 3) format'. This is not quite the staggering range that it sounds. For a start, the system baulks at letting you use the innermost rear cog with the outermost front cog (and vice versa) as this causes an excessive contortion for the chain, and in any case the resulting gear ratio can be duplicated by using a 'middle' gear at both ends! Then, just when you'd given in and agreed that you've only got 22 gears really, you sit down and work out the permutations of ratios to find that some are so close to each other that you may as well only have 12.
Gear changes are by my preferred method, sequential triggers (separate thumb levers for up and down changes) - I really hate the alternative of twist grips with a vengeance as they are prone to being changed going over bumps by the pad of flesh between thumb and fore-finger. Triggers also allow me to change down and brake at the same time, saving a top gear struggle away from an emergency stop.
The Shimano-sourced disc brakes are really smooth in action. Why bother with discs? Well, even a modest puddle can wet the rims of conventional brakes, making braking more unpredictable and even take somewhat longer. Discs, held well out of harm's way, unless you ride through a flood, stay drier and therefore are more likely to feel the same every time. Likewise, they don't wear the rims, so you don't have to worry about the wheel disintegrating several thousand miles down the line, as the rims, now the thickness of baking foil, finally give up in a spectacular and dangerous death throe of spokes and other assorted nasty bits of flying metal. Also, any slight wobbliness the wheel might start to portray with the passage of time and rough treatment has no effect on the brakes, whereas with rim brakes, this would cause an annoying 'rub' until the wheel is sorted out. One thing I have learned whilst becoming a bike maintenance 'person' is that you never touch the discs with bare fingers. Even the oils from your skin can contaminate the brake pads, rendering them ineffective.
I'm glad to see that these are still cable-operated brakes though - at least there's something I already know how to adjust! Some bikes are starting to sport hydraulics these days, but I'll leave that for the 'clever bleeders' who know how to bleed them!
One feature I remain very impressed by ever since I saw it on one of their small wheel folders, and that is the pump. Is it anywhere to be seen? No, but it's there nonetheless, doubling as the seat post. This gives you a very long pump that you use like a stirrup pump with one foot on the end, and deters any light-fingered little buggers from stealing it (unless they also steal your saddle!).
Well, it was never going to feel like a featherweight racer, weighing 32lbs as it does, but it's shade lighter than what I've been used to so I'm happy. The choice of Continental Sport Contact tyres makes for silent and fast riding on the flat, and the 24 (or is it 22?) gears work well, changing with a satisfying snick. I'd even say it feels fast, but of course west London is somewhat short on hills, with the exception of the Richmond area.
The combination of front suspension and nice anatomical handgrips gives my wrists an easier ride and is well sorted for my weight and riding position. I'd go so far as to say the overall feel is 'plush' which, combined with the restricted amount they 'travel', i.e. 63 mm tends to rule out competition use, as does being a lardy old git of 60.
I have to say that the saddle fitted as standard isn't really the most comfortable thing I ever parted my cheeks over, but we cyclists are used to this, and always have as many children as we had planned before taking up cycling seriously. At least with a 19" frame, I won't be in for any of those 'one b*****k either side' high-pitched voice shocks.
A tricky one this.
The Brompton takes about 20 seconds and needs no tools.
The Dahon needs the use of an Allen key on two bolts, which admittedly only need a half turn before folding the frame back on itself using their patented LockJaw system - oh dear, why does this start to feel like the IKEA system from assembling book-cases?!
For extra compactness, you can also remove the handlebars with an Allen key.
The finished article is nowhere near as neat as a true 'folding bike' but then, as I said before this is a full-size bike that happens to fold and there's a difference. I guess if you're really thick-skinned you could take it on a rush-hour train, but it's eminently suited to bunging into the back of a car and touring once at your destination. Dahon have included a clever system to make sure the handlebars always go back on straight, aligned with the wheels.
One improvement I've thought of is the addition of folding pedals, which would cut down on protrusions once folded, and as soon as I've sourced some decent ones, I'll be on the case.
Secondly, it would have been nice if just one size of Allen key was used to release both the frame and the handlebars, instead of needing both a 5 mm AND a 6mm key.
Thirdly, unlike other Dahon 'folders' which have magnetic catches that hold it together, this bike has none, so has a tendency to start wandering apart when folded which kind of rules it out as a 'take it on the train' job. However, I'm not worried as I'm more interested in its ability to be a full sized bike that goes in my car boot. I now realise what the long Velcro strap is for - the manual doesn't mention it.
Somehow, folding bikes always conspire to feel heavier when closed up, although I obviously realise this cannot be. It may have something to do with the denser package limiting the handling of it to one hand.
Well, it's a good job I'm a trained 'Dr. Bike' because the manual as supplied by Dahon is far too generic to be any use. I put this down to the fact that 90% of their output is in the field of small-wheeled folding bikes, this model being something of an oddity. Apart from a separate sheet dealing with how it folds, the rest is general stuff about owning a bike, and so it's no wonder that I had to guess what that Velcro strap was for.
Likewise, there are no specific instructions for adjusting the gears or for what the various knobs on the suspension are for. Accessing the component makers' web-sites seems to be 'a given' in these cases.
The Matrix is a reasonable jack-of-all-trades, with the exception of rugged off-road use.
It's not exactly suited to commuting on public transport, but eminently suitable for chucking into the car and having an easier ride at the other end.
Some bike experience is advisable as the manual is next to useless.
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Dahon Curve D3
WHY ANOTHER FOLDER? It seems a little strange to be writing about yet another folding bike when I already have a Brompton, the doyenne of dinky bikes that really does fold up into a shopping bag. Getting a second was more a question of storage rather than any real need for the bike to be transportable under anything ... but its own rider's steam.
My wife now works at a special teaching unit some two miles from home, and the local council (London Borough of Ealing) has decided that the surrounding roads are to become a residents' parking zone (CPZ), with no exceptions. The school, predictably, doesn't have sufficient parking spaces, even though Ruth drives a Smart, and could almost park it in the sports equipment shed. Parking spaces, it has been decreed, will be allocated on a per-term basis. Since her colleagues are all coming from the four corners of London, a car-share is out of the question, and the local buses are sporadic and packed to the gun-whales with people who think it's OK to play mp3 files loudly through their mobiles.
The school being in a 'dodgy' area, complete with dark-windowed 'pimped' BMWs dispensing drugs like an ice cream salesman, leaving a decent bike outside wouldn't be a good idea, so the idea of a folding bike reared its head again in our household.
Well, she can't have mine: I'm using it!
One thing negated the purchase of another Brompton - well two if you count the fact that the Borough of Ealing is not yet taking part in the Ride2Work subsidised bike campaign, and that is the price. There's hardly a Brompton model to give you any change from 500 quid.
However, the Dahon Curve D3 costs around £400 when you add on the luggage rack, some lights and the bag to put the whole shebang in (don't be misled by claims that it costs £350).
GETTING MY MITTS ON ONE
Even better, I got mine off a geezer in Dublin who had only used it 5 times, and I ended up paying only as many Euros as it costs in £s to get it here, Euro329 to be precise including shipping.
Of course, nothing goes that smoothly, including having to go to the bloody Fedex depot in the beautiful downtown Slough Trading Estate* to pick it up, a journey that made me feel I'd driven halfway back to Dublin, and the fact that it had a flat tyre on collection. But hey, I'm a nationally-accredited cycling instructor; I 'do' punctures. You wonder if the previous owner was a 'fair weather' cyclist - OK till he got his first puncture.
To be fair, apart from a little brake dust to mar its pristine and virginal white paint job, it was 'as new'.
*In amongst all of the seller's conditions that e-bay list, how about a buyer's condition? I.e. "Don't sell me anything if you're not going to use Parcelforce - at least they leave goods at my local Post Office!"
WHY THIS ONE?
Dahon make a daunting array of folding bikes, both under their own name and for other firms (like Trek) starting at the top with full-sized bikes that merely fold (suitable only for transportation in a car boot) down to the Curve D3 which, with its dinky 16" wheels, has the potential for being as compact when stored as the Brompton. We specifically wanted something small, and with a 3-mile round trip in mind, weren't so worried about the extra effort required to propel the bike over west London's rubbish road surfaces.
I had even cherished the notion that at least here was a Dahon that folded neatly into the same space as the Brompton.
I was wrong. The Dahon not only takes more stages to achieve a full fold, but it's considerably more bulky when folded, the carrying bag being even bigger than an IKEA one.
In this all-important field, this is how they compare.
BROMPTON - Put bike in park position, with back wheel folded under.
Retract single folding pedal.
Undo clamp and fold down handlebar stem.
Undo clamp, and fold frame in half.
Lower seat post - this last action locks the whole bike together.
DAHON - Undo handlebar clamp, and swivel bars till brake handles are vertical.
Undo handlebar stem clamp, and raise handlebars as high as possible.
Undo clamp at base of handlebar stem, and swing handlebars down.
Set pedals at 45 degree angle.
Retract both folding pedals.
Lower seat post, and swivel seat.
Undo clamp and fold frame in half, making sure that a pair of magnetic catches engage.
If all that sounds fiddly, both bikes fold quickly compared to assembling a flat-pack wardrobe, but harking back to the old days of the Le Mans 24 Hour race making drivers cycle to their cars and put their bikes away before starting, would mean the Brompton rider being half a mile down the road before the Dahon rider was even getting in the car.
Like the Brompton, this bike retains the 'good old' Sturmey-Archer three speed hub gears, controlled in this case by a twist grip, whilst others in the Dahon range also offer the choice of more ratios using dérailleur gears as found on mountain and racing bikes.
For an essentially commuter machine, hub gears are a sensible choice since they can be changed standing still (unlike the latter), which is useful if caught out by a traffic light on an uphill section. Yes, I am THAT cyclist who stops at lights!
The two bikes come at rider comfort from a different angle. The Brompton's high-pressure narrower tyres do not bode well for a smooth ride over bumps and potholes, although its rear suspension does help, as does changing the rock hard original-fit saddle for a Brooks leather job. The hard tyres do however make it easy to propel
On the other hand, the Dahon relies on lower pressure fat tyres and a squishy saddle. I'm not really a fan of either of these - Raleigh tried it some years ago with the RSW16 and it put a lot of people off cycling for life. Soft tyres are hard work, and soft synthetic saddles mould themselves too well to your bum, making riding in summer a somewhat sweaty affair. Pumping the tyres up from their recommended minimum of 30 p.s.i. to their maximum of 75 p.s.i. solves one problem by making them easier to propel but make the ride excruciating on anything but a glassy-smooth surface.
However, for a bike you're probably not going to ride far, the combination is fine.
Weight wise, there's nothing in it, with both bikes tipping the scales at the 'low twenties' in pounds.
The Dahon feels reassuringly sturdy, unlike the Brompton's tendency to feel a bit 'whippy' around the handlebars when pulling hard.
The Dahon's brakes are the now more common 'V-Brake' design, which is very easy to keep in fine fettle and to fit replacement parts. They're also damned powerful! Being easy to disconnect them also makes it easy to extract a wheel without letting the tyres down to get them past the brake blocks. Of course, you'd normally be doing this to mend a puncture, so the tyre would already be 'let down'!
One item I really do commend Dahon for and curse Brompton for not having thought of it first, is the built-in pump concealed in the seat post. This is not just some clever way of secreting a conventional pump about the bike's person, but the whole seat post IS the pump of the stirrup variety, allowing the base to be anchored by one of your feet whilst you pump admirable volumes of air by pushing the saddle up and down. Full marks chaps - the Brompton's is next to useless!
The sturdy curved nature (hence the name) of the main frame, with its high quality powder-coat paint does give me reason to make one criticism though. To attain a high degree of rigidity, the Dahon has huge dollops of visible running welds.
Now alumin(i)um does not weld as neatly as steel, and the Dahon does nothing to disabuse me of this observation. The welds look like a novice's attempt to apply bathroom sealant with a garden towel, but this detail aside the build quality has an air of permanence about it - the various clamps and bare metal parts have lustrous sheens to them and the stainless steel spokes and alloy rims glint in the sun.
LIVING WITH IT
Like the Brompton, the ride experience falls short of that of a 'full sized' bike, where larger wheels can span potholes with less drama, and the greater innate frame strength without resorting to enough aluminium welding flux to stretch the GDP of a minor country instils greater confidence at speed.
However, it does what it's intended for admirably, with the exception of the manner in which it folds. This leaves you with no logical centre of gravity with which to carry it, and the fact that the folded package is still rather wide means that you have to hold it slightly at arm's length like a muscle-bound body builder taking his Rottweiler for a walk. Mind you, a few hours carrying this and you'll BE a muscle-bound body builder; at least on one side you will.
Of course no-one in their right mind carries a folding bike for a long distance - you just unfold it and wheel it. Basically, as long as you're strong enough to lift it into a car or onto a luggage rack, that's all the oooomph that's needed.
The small rear carrier affords the storage of a set of waterproofs and maybe some vital tools.
Fixing a rear light is problematical since the favourite spot, the seat post, is too thick for most clamps.
Not so a front lamp, as the handle bars are a standard thickness.
The seat post is calibrated to help you find the same height twice, which important if the bike is to be shared.
Slightly rougher ride aside, the Curve doesn't feel too odd compared to a conventional bike and I suppose it's no surprise that it doesn't. After all, the handlebars, pedals and saddle all fall into place as you'd except on an adult bike. If anything, the smaller wheels give you less inertia to overcome when it comes to acceleration, and you can show many a keen 'purist' a clean pair of tyres, especially by making maximum use of the twist grip gear change - just don't expect to be ahead for long!
You COULD fit a speedometer, but you'd be advised to get a radio-cordless version otherwise it's too easy (oh yes, VERY easy) to catch the wires in the hinges. Also, make sure you buy one that can be calibrated for such small wheels; luckily, 16" seems to be the bottom limit for these things.
As I said before fitting a rear light could be problematical since most seem to have standardised on a tube clip for a fixture. When fitting a front light to the handle bars, check it for clearance when folded - it may foul the wheel spokes or the ground and end up with a heavily scratched lens
Tool-wise, there's very little need for any except the correct sized spanner to remove the wheel nuts, plus whatever else you carry to repair punctures 'on the hoof'. Personally, I'd take a new inner tube and non-metal tyre levers and leave it at that. Repairs are much better done at home at your leisure where you can get the offending tube to a sink to check for leaks. Yes, where are the 'nearby puddles' or duck ponds when you need one?
There are two plugged-up holes in the main frame which appear to be for the lugs to hold a drinks bottle, but since that would mean the bottle lying on its side, you'd need one without the current trend for a pop-up drink lip which are not water-tight.
Being quite a rare tyre size, I'd order a spare along with the bike. BikeHut (the 'pro' wing of Halfords) were very helpful and ordered one for me for around £16. Inner tubes, which the bike shares with kiddy-sized "BMX" bikes are easier to some by - around £1.99 each from e-bay!
Given that we didn't want the expense of another Brompton (well, not without the subsidised deal we didn't!) the Dahon Curve is a worthy alternative with a few caveats.
No way is it small enough to take on a bus as luggage, to be put where the baby buggies are stored. Likewise, except to get moaned at by train commuters as they catch their shins on its various "sticky out bits". As a "car boot bike" it's fine though.
At least I can get BOTH bikes in the boot, although no prizes for guessing which one takes up more than half the room!
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Manufacturer: Dahon / Bikes / Type:Folding Bicycle - Folding bicycle equipped with a Dahon Neos rear derailleur that features a crisp, fastshifting and a low-profile design that is protected from damage.
Manufacturer: Dahon / Type: Bikes
Sports Equipment / Bikes / foldable bike.
Manufacturer: Dahon / Type: Folding Bikes - Dahon Cadenza XL 2011. Bikes Folding. The everyday, all weather bike commuter, Rolling smoothly over the nasty, potholed roads you ride on your morning commute, Park and Ride If your ride to work is less about sunny skies and smooth tarmac, and m...
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