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March 25, 2013 By adminCDS

Dahon Speed P8 : a designers review

I bought my Dahon Speed P8 back in 2008 to use as a commuting bike to my job in London. I’d already been commuting by bike for about four years before that on a second-hand racer that I bought from Brick Lane market. The Dahon was my first new bike in a long time, so it was quite a big deal!

I wanted a folding bike so that I had something I could take on the tube, a bus or taxi if the need should arise, and also inside places rather than locking it outside. In a city like London this is a serious consideration as bikes are stolen all the time. I spent a while reading blogs and articles to see what people were saying, and the Dahon seemed to be a pretty popular choice.

Dahon Speed P8

I’ve been riding it pretty much daily ever since then and I have to say it’s a great little city bike! It doesn’t fold as small as something like a Brompton, but then it is a lot less expensive! The larger 20″ wheels handle most of the pot holes and crappy roads that I ride on, and that includes the roads in Sri Lanka which are really bad in places! It’s easy and quick to fold once you get the hang of it, and it fits easily into the boot of a car, onto a bus rack, into a black-cab style taxi and so on. This is great if you ride to meet some friends for a few drinks and don’t want to risk life and limb cycling while drunk…. and since you can more often than not fold it up and take it inside the venue, you also don’t need to be constantly paranoid about it being stolen.

Design wise there a number of little features that I think show the bike has been well considered. The one that I really like is that there is a pump concealed within the long saddle pole, which due to it’s length is very effective (more so than the little portable ones you would otherwise have to carry). Having said that, the Schwalbe tires that it came with are still going strong, and I’ve only had one puncture in all that time! The only design floor with this pump is that when you fold the bike, the mechanism that holds the pump inside the seat tube can be loosened which means you can suddenly find the pump handle scraping along the floor the next time you ride the bike. I don’t know if on later models this has been improved.

The other thing that I think is a little over-engineered is the handle bar adjustment. There are quick-release levers for the height and the twist of the handle bar itself, but actually these are unnecessary since once you have set it up for your preferred riding position you don’t really need to adjust it again. And because they’re quick-release they’re not as robust as a normal bolt would be so I find that the handle bar twists over time, which rotates the brake levers and lights towards the floor. It’s easy enough to twist it all back into the right place, but a little irritating to keep having to do that every few rides.

The bike comes equipped with an SRAM twist grip style gear system, with eight speeds. This seems to provide a pretty good spread of gears for most of the riding I do, though if you had big hills to go up and down it might not be enough. But it’s easy to cruise at a good 25km/h without your legs spinning out, and the first gear is easy enough for most climbs. However, if I were to buy another I might consider an internal gear system since dérailleurs really suffer from wet weather and road grime, needing regular TLC to keep all the gears working nicely. Furthermore, since you often need to carry the bike when folded, an internal gear system would mean there are less oily bits sticking out ready to stain your clothes.

Riding the Dahon feels a little like riding a BMX, it’s agile through traffic and I cut the handle bars back in length to better fit between wing mirrors of stationary traffic. All in all it’s a great commuting bike for the city, though I think an internal gear system, which is found on the Vitesse model  is probably the better option for long term maintenance free riding.