By Karl Wooldridge
First published August 2007
As a regular train commuter I have been travelling with a full sized bike but have found that getting this on and off trains can sometimes be a problem. I have seen a few folding bikes on the trains and spoke to a couple of their owners – one with a Saracen Compact 2 (a badged Dahon I think) and one with a Dahon Presto Lite. Both were very positive about their bikes so I decided to purchase my own folder.
I visited my local specialist bike shop (Cyclops of Syston, Leicestershire), who only had one folding model in stock – a Dahon Speed D7. They were very helpful, however, gave me a Dahon brochure and even recommended I visited one of their competitors – The Bike Rack, Leicester. After that I looked at a number websites (including this one) to get an idea of what people thought was important. I looked a Bromptons and thought they seemed a bit pricey for my pocket so started looking at other brands. After being tempted by the Land Rover City Lite (mainly by the Brand Name, which in the context of a folding bike I found amusing), I selected a Ridgeback Attaché, which I ordered from ActiveSportsKit.co.uk for £399.99, including 'el bolso' carrying bag. However, after a few days I was informed that that model had sold out and they offered me the Dahon Vitesse D5 as a replacement. This was advertised (and at the time of writing still is) for £399.99. They offered it to me at the reduced price of £329.99, including the carrying bag, because of the delay and inconvenience - how could I refuse! The Ridgeback and the Vitesse are virtually identical anyway, the only significant differences appear to be that the Dahon had an integrated seat post pump and a telescopic handlebar post while, instead of the Shimano Nexus 7 hub gear of the Ridgeback, it is equipped with the Sturmey Archer XRF5.
I have had the bike for a couple of weeks now. It arrived within 3 days of ordering (the bag arrived a couple of days later). I will not describe the specs, which you can find on the sites of Dahon and many of their suppliers. I am not an expert and have no experience with other folders, so what follows is just the initial impressions of a novice. Still, I hope it will be useful.
I was expecting a folder with 20in wheels to feel a bit unstable so I was pleasantly surprised. I found the ride to be both stable and comfortable. I particularly like the rather upright riding position, which is reminiscent of Dutch bikes that I have hired before in Amsterdam – without the sprung saddle, unfortunately! The saddle is fairly basic but quite comfortable. My regular commute is only 2.5 miles each way from the station to my place of work but I have taken it for a couple of longer rides of about 10 miles by leaving the train 3 stops early on my way home. I was more than happy riding for this distance and I imagine that I would happily do a lot more (I will find out next week on the Origami ride in Derbyshire).
As I said, I have no previous experience with folders but I found the folding mechanism to be very easy to use. Both folding and unfolding takes me around 15-20 seconds.
After ordering the bike I had come across a couple of reports on Sturmey-Archer 5-speed hub gears and they were not encouraging. One reviewer was not happy with the range and thought there were 'gaps' between some of the gears, another said that they sounded like a coffee grinder! I have no such complaints, the only noise I heard is a gentle ticking sound that I believe is characteristic of all hub gears and takes me back to an old Raleigh Hustler I had as a kid. There is good spacing between the gears, the first gear is low enough to climb quite steep slopes and, while the fifth is not high enough to win any races, it is perfectly adequate to tick along at a good speed.
This is one of the few aspects of the bike that I am not 100% happy about. While the front brake is very responsive the rear brake seems a bit sloppy – it might just need adjusting. However, both front and rear seem to stick on a bit, so that they constantly rub against the wheel rim whilst cycling. I have looked at the mechanism and can not see any obvious reason why this is [The rear brake was not centred, so was rubbing on one side; with this adjusted, and the front brake slackened slightly the problem seems to have been cured - Ed].
I am very impressed with this ingenious idea. However, the two plastic tabs that hold the pump into a bayonet at the bottom of the seat post broke off within a couple of days of having the bike (I don't know how), with the result that the pump tends to slip out a few milimeters while riding – hopefully this will not result in the pump slipping out further and contact the ground!
Matt black – down to taste I guess – I like it.
Two manuals were supplied with the bike – neither of them were specific for the model and both were in multiple languages. It was difficult to find information and I was not impressed with either.
I imagine there must be a technical term for it but when first applying pressure each stroke there is a slight movement of the crank before it engages – just a couple of milimeters but I wonder it something needs to be tightened up? [The bottom bracket bearing lock nut was loose - with this tightened the problem seems to have been solved - Ed.]
There is a rear rack but it does not appear to be suitable for panniers as they would foul your feet while pedalling. There did not appear to be any lugage options on the Dahon website. I have bought a 20L expandable Creek2Peak rack bag but it is not as large as I would like and I can not store a laptop in it. This means that I have to use a rucksack, which I was hoping to avoid.
On the whole I am very pleased so far with my purchase and would highly recommend this bike.
Dahon USA/World: http://www.dahon.com
Dahon UK: http://www.dahon.co.uk
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