I had been interested in obtaining a modern folding bike for several years, but with numerous other bikes including old F Frame Moulton, Raleigh RSW20; Ridgeback mountain bike; 1971 Sun Mist 5 speed derailleur; a modern 21 speed Giant Hyde Park city bike and an old Viceroy 3 speed folder, I was content to wait until something came up that suited my needs.
I was after a bike that could
be folded to take occasionally on the
train, but most often in a car and into buildings. Crucially,
wanted it to have what my old Moulton and old Viceroy folder
did not possess--but the 21 speed Ridgeback and Giant bikes
did--low gears for steep hill climbing. My commute journey home from
work involved a steep long climb which pedaling up
me to use smallest front granny ring and largest rear
.It is too steep for me on the 3 speed SA Viceroy or 4 speed Moulton.
As already stated, the new bike was to be an additional purchase, not actually intended as being my only bike. Being a family man with limited funds to spend on expensive treats for myself, cost was to be an important factor in choice of bike.
When I first started looking a few years ago, the choice I came across seemed to be fairly limited. Most folding bikes I came across were normally Brompton used by other local government officers. I had tried Bromptons and certainly liked them, especially the compact folded size which was much smaller than my 3-speed Viceroy folder. A 3-speed Brompton I found was nippy on the flat and on moderate hills, but not so good on steeper hills. The 6-speed versions were introduced and they were an improvement , especially on those with the optional lower gearing. But I was still reticent to pay out around £500 for a further bike that I was still not totally happy with.
Being a Moulton Bike Club member , I was drawn to looking at other MBC members Moulton machines.They were nice to ride with the suspension, but did not fold for quick movement between bike and public transport or carrying into buildings like Bromptons and were much more expensive than I could justify spending on myself.
I am also a subscriber for A to B magazine and saw other folders such as the Birdy and Bike Friday variants advertised and reviewed. These appeared to be excellent machines, but rather more complicated, expensive and exotic than what I was looking for and prepared to pay.
A colleague at work owned a Philips Boardwalk, this seemed to ride reasonably well and was low priced compare with other folding bikes.
I then became internet enabled at home and found the folding Society web site. Here there were reports of various folding bikes which included the Dahon brand, including the Speed Pro. I discovered the Philips Boardwalk was made by Dahon, also the 6-speed Ridgeback Impulse which I had seen in a local bike shop.
Then in April 2004 a review appeared on the folding society reports page on the new Dahon Speed D6. This seemed to be a bike that met what I was looking for from the review; well specced, a good ride and competitively priced.The rest of 2004 came and went and I continued riding my other bikes with thoughts of potentially buying a Speed D6.
A trip to London by train with my old Viceroy folder was undertaken. Riding that bike on the flat areas of the capital I travelled was easy enough, but the bike was awkward to lug on and off the train and both bulky and heavy to carry, so my desires to purchase a better/lighter new folder were rekindled.
Then in early 2005, adverts appeared on the Dahon web site for a new bike, the Dahon Speed D7.The advert pictures showed a very sleek looking bike, but it did not have mud guards in the pictures, which I wanted to be on the bike.The description details did however state that it came equipped with mudguards. Subsequent email enquiries to adverts revealed that some dealers supplied the bike with mudguards, whilst another did not, although the price was still only a cracking £279.
I decided to phone t the most convenient Dahon dealer to where I live listed on the www.dahon.co.uk website , which was Owens Cycles in Petersfield, Hampshire to find out if they had a Speed D7 in stock. They did, so I arranged to have a long lunch time visit to Petersfield and try the bike out. I had not been to that shop before, it being some 25 miles or so from my home, but I found them very helpful.
My initial reaction to seeing the bike for real was that it certainly looked very neat and smart with its shiny Charcoal grey paintwork.The set up of the bike and fitted componentry of a prop stand , mudguards, rear rack, V-brakes, good semi slick tyres and all important 7-speed Shimano rear cluster looked very promising. I was readily allowed to take the bike out for a test run, so I initially had a few turns around the nearby public car park, before venturing out onto the public roads. I thought it was a dream to ride... very stable, comfortable for my 6 feet and just under 13 stone frame. The gears changed easily up and down, and the lowest gear had me spinning--I thought this would do well on hills.
I returned to the shop and I
was shown how the bike folded. Very
simple and quick. Owens also could offer at that time with the bike a
carry bag at no extra charge.This was too good. The shop also offers a
10% CTC member discount, reducing price from £279 to
That was it, out with the credit card and purchase made for.
lived so far from the shop , I asked if I could have the pre delivery
inspection done then, rather than waste fuel going away and returning
to collect another day.
They were happy to oblige, so I took a wander around Petersfield for 20 minutes whilst the shop checked the bike over. On returning to the shop, it was all folded in the carry bag ready for me to take away. I was shown how the bike fitted in the bag and how the carry bag folded itself to form a neat small lunch box size pack which could be carried with its belt. A free service was available at a date to be arranged.
On taking the bike out for a first ride in my own home territory, I was pleased with my purchase. The bike rolled well on its 20 x 1.5 inch tyres, the whole ride was comfortable and relaxed, but with good progress being made along the roads. I have never really liked a head down bent forward riding posture, so the fairly upright position with the highish handlebar height was just right fine for me.Others who have tried the bike since I bought it have felt the same.In the busy suburban areas of Hampshire where I live, the ride position affords a good view of traffic and a feeling of being in complete control when amongst traffic.
My main test was how did it go up my nasty hill on the normal route home from work, for the few occasions I did actually ride to work. It whizzed nicely along and down the hill when I went out on a practice run. I returned after a spin around other roads to the hill and started to climb. I am not a massive mileage cyclist or daily rider. My cycling is mainly for leisure or local journeys when at work on pool bike. I changed down the gears as I went up the hill .I passed the point where I would normally have had to get off and push my single chain wheel other bikes and carried on going. In to bottom gear and I could carry on going whilst still sitting in the seat - like on my 21 speed bikes - to the top. At the top where it levelled out, no puffing wreck of a rider, I could continue on my way. Marvellous, that is what I wanted!
The D7 does not come equipped with mounts on the frame for a water bottle cage. I fitted an attachment bought from Halfords which a bottle cage could be bolted to and mounted it on the seat stem.
With derailleur gears, I like to try to fit a rear mech protector. One from a Giant bike was attached to the rear mudguard and rack bolts.
A plastic cable tie was used to attach the brake and gear cables to the headset/handlebar joint, to keep the cables more tidy when the bike was folded.
The bike has the special Dahon Magnetix system of a steel plate and magnet which are attracted to one another when the bike is folded keeping it locked together. I adjusted this slightly to better match the face of plate to the magnet. This system seems to work very well, the bike when folded needs to be pulled apart, no bungies are needed to keep it folded.
When folded, it can sit upright on the ground on its wheels and the seat pin base, which has a protective plastic collar to prevent damage to the metal work.
I also put a couple of bits of duck tape on the frame, where I thought the cable sheaths might rub on the paintwork in time. I like to avoid potential future paint wear occurring.
The bike has fulfilled and surpassed my hopes. As the reviewer of the speed d6 said last year, the bikes feel well made and of a quality that belies the price. It is very fast and easy to fold, not too bulky, although bigger than a Brompton. It makes you feel good when out and about on it and really does seem like a bike that can handle different roles well; whether it be commuting/shopping/leisure rides or out for a breath of air. I find it is capable of light off road use on decent tracks and towpaths, although Dahon do not recommend it for use off road.
Alll in all, for the price in my view it is an excellent buy and more have been sold since people have tried my bike. If you are thinking of buying a folder, or just a new bike, but do not want to spend a fortune, try one out.
One thing that I did not expect when out on the bike is the comments from young lads on paths when I go sailing past. On my other bikes, I would not get any comment. On this bike, the 10 to 15 year age group have made comments like "Nice bike mister". I must say I agree with them.
Update - February 2006
Further to my report last year on web pages about the Speed D7, after owning bike for 11 months, I can say that I am still delighted with it. The bike really has the feel of a large wheel bike and is great for either commuting, leisure or makes an excellent work bike for those who travel to sites. With the fitted kick stand , the bike can be parked and the saddle used as a resting place for laying papers on to write notes.
The smaller size rear panniers available from Halfords for £27.99 fit the rear carrier nicely, they need to be set back far on the carrier so as not to hit them with your heels. Looking at the 2006 model in Dahon brochure , I note that it has some differences from my 2005 model. The front forks are now curved instead of straight, also there is a slight curvature in the rear of the frame. It now has what are termed Dahon Roulez tyres and a really useful addition is that the long seat tube doubles as an integrated track pump.
The full model range can be viewed at http://www.dahon.com and I understand the new 2006 bikes will be available from end of March.
Folding Society home page
(C)2005 Eric Reed
Original report - 26 September 2005
Last updated - 2 March 2006