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Dahon Vitesse D7HG – Review

Tuesday August 12, 2008
Back on the 26th of June I bought my first Dahon- my first folding bike and my first new bike in about 18 years.  That was a little over two weeks ago so I thought I’d sit down at write my initial review of this rather cool bike.

I’ve taken a few photos to help prospective Dahon buyers get an idea of the bike – if, when reading this, you want an image of another part of the bike to help in your purchase decision, just let me know and I’ll take one.  Also, the photos are also available on my Flickr account with added comments and observations – click on the images below to go to the corresponding larger image on Flickr.

So, having shelved the idea of buying a red Curve D3, I travelled home from Paddington with the Dahon Vitesse D7HG in the back of the car.  A smart, dark coloured bike, folded into a compact chunk of metal and plastic, which sits happily into the boot or back seat of the car.

In terms of basic specification, some of the key facts read as following:

DISTANCE: SEAT POST TO HANDLEBAR Min: 620 mm (24.4″) Max: 640 mm (25.2″)
DISTANCE: SADDLE TO PEDAL Min: 690 mm (27.2″) Max: 960 mm (37.8″)
FOLDED SIZE 30 x 69 x 81 cm (12″ x 27″ x 32″)
WEIGHT D7HG: 11.9 kg (26.2 lbs.)
FOLDING TIME 15 seconds
SUGGESTED RIDER HEIGHT 142 cm – 193 cm (4’8″ – 6’4″)
MAX RIDER WEIGHT 105 kg (230 lbs)

And Dahon’s key blurb states:

The Vitesse is for those who want the ultimate bike for urban commuting. We took our award-winning Vitesse D7, added an internal gear hub plus components from top component suppliers. Then we topped it off with mudguards, a rack and even a trouser saving chainguard so you can ride in any weather. New for 2008, the Vitesse gets upgraded with the robust new Radius handlepost. We’ve also added a new model with a smooth shifting Shimano Nexus 7 speed hub.

I keep looking at the bike, which is next to my computer desk, and thinking that it’s strange to have a bike in the house and that bike is small and unimposing.  Getting home after a ride and simply jumping off and folding it before carrying it inside is a great feeling – easy, quick and very handy.

I’m not a bike expert but the D7HG does seem very well made.  The finish is excellent, from the paint through to the minimalistic graphics, it looks subtle, understated and pretty cool.  The overall build quality

Finish

Finish

is very high and being a folding bike, the high quality of the locking mechanisms is particularly important.  When unfolding the bike, the mechanisms closed together with a solid and reassuring clunk and operating the locking mechanisms keeps everything in place (and you on the bike).

In its folded state, the bike is held together with a strong magnet, located on the rear frame, and a mating plate which is located on the left-hand side of the front fork.  I found that holding the front wheel and giving the back wheel a gentle kick is the easiest way to break the magnetic bond and begin the unfolding process.  Once the magnet is no longer ‘active’, the two halves of the bike swing around the central hinge which is roughly a third of the way along the main frame piece.

Main Hinge & Lock

Main Hinge & Lock

Once the two halves engage, the black locking lever is pushed inwards towards the frame and the safety catch rotated to lock it into place.  It forms a solid ‘join’ and the during riding there’s no discernible flex in the frame – despite the fact that it’s just two ‘halves’ stuck together.

Next step is to rotate the handlebar post up into the upright position.  When folded, the handlebar is alongside the front wheel roughly parallel to it.  To make things all fit neatly, the actual horizontal bar of the handlebar must be slightly rotated towards the rider through the use of a quick-release clamp.  Rotating the bar enables the whole handlebar assembly to fold neatly down and alongside the front wheel and also preventing clashes when the bike folds.

Handlebar folded

Handlebar folded

I found that this was a pretty tricky process to perfect and often because it wasn’t correctly set, the magnet would not engage and keep the bike folded.  But with practise, I’ve managed to set it quickly for each fold.

Right, so the handlebar is in the correct upright position and the bike frame is locked together.  The penultimate step is to raise the seat post to the correct height by loosening the quick-release mechanism.  A nice, and handy, feature to note at this stage is that the seat post has measurements marked on it so that you can quickly raise the seat to the required height – you don’t need to guess and then re-adjust.  This is a nice touch which really helps you get on the road and moving quickly.

Seat Post Markings

Seat Post Markings

The final stage of the unfolding is to simply rotate the pedals into the correct riding position.  They lock into place with a spring mechanism after a quick rotation of the pedal.

And that’s it!  The bike is now unfolded and ready to ride.  All that takes an ‘advertised’ 15 seconds – although it’ll probably take a little longer until you get the hang of it.  In summary, it is very easy to fold/unfold the Dahon D7HG and there are relatively few steps required to do it.

What I’ll do now is bullet-point a few of the other interesting or cool features of the D7HG.

  • Seat post has a build in Biologic Zorin foot pump.
  • The 7 gear Shimano Nexus 7 hub is controlled via a twist control on the right-hand grip.  You can change gear even when the bike is not in motion – no more struggling away from traffic lights as you had forgotten to change down a gear.
  • The Kwest tyres have a 5mm reflective strip around the circumference.
  • A kick stand is included on the left-hand side of the bike.
  • Chain guard keeps your trousers away from the chain.
  • The rear rack includes a three band elastic strap for securing luggage.
  • The rear rack doubles as a carry handle for the folded bike.
  • A small bell is fitted near the left-hand grip.

The Ride
The bike rides rather well.  My first impression was that it was a little unstable and wobbly, and the steering a little over sensitive.  However, bear in mind that the D7HG has 20″ wheels and a shorter wheel base than other (unfolding) bikes – so the ride will feel a little different.

Cycling around for a few minutes and you’ll soon get comfortable and you will no longer be aware of any difference between this and any other bike.  The steering is pretty good, it’s responsive and ideal for navigating the way around the town or city – just like small cars, the D7HG is great for nipping around town, obstacles and traffic.

The small wheels do however mean that you’ll feel more of the bumps along your journey, compared to your mountain bike, but you soon learn to avoid the bigger pot holes and drain covers.

On the down side, it’s not the fastest bike around.  On the flat, it is easy to ‘max out’ the D7HG, moving along in 7th gear leaving you with a feeling of… needing another seven gears.  I suppose you have to realise that the bike is built for commuting and getting around town as opposed to racing.  On the plus side, moving at slower speeds is safer and allows you to pay more attention to your surroundings – and personally, slowing down an otherwise hectic life!

So…
Am I pleased with the bike?  Well, yes, I am.  It’s not a racer, it’s not a mountain bike.  It’s designed to be relatively light and compact.  It’s a handy bike to have around and perfect if you live in a flat/apartment or have limited storage space.  As a commuting bike it’s fantastic and should save you time, hassle and money.

It’s £399 though and you could get a relatively decent ‘cheap’ mountain bike for £100 from Halfords and still get to work.  Would I change?  Would I go for the £100 mountain bike?  No.  I’m sticking with the Dahon D7HG – but now looking at other (faster) Dahon bikes to satisfy my need for speed!

(If you want to know anything else about the the Dahon Vitesse D7HG then please get in touch!)

[More of my photos of the D7HG can be found here]

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58 comments

  1. [...] Dave On Dahon Dave’s experiences on two wheels « Header Image Created Dahon D7HG – First Ride » The Purchase – Dahon D7HG Sunday July 27, 2008 Bought on Saturday 26th of July 2008, this ‘machine’ represents my first folding bike and my first new bike in… probably around 18 years. [Edit, 17th August 2008 :: My full review of the bike is here] [...]


  2. Great review….love it!

    The people at the Dahon global sales office have seen it as well!

    Have you seen the Dahon forum: http://www.dahon.com/forum/index.php?

    Great stuff!


  3. Thanks Mark!!! Thanks for the feedback.

    Yep, I’ve set up camp in the Dahon Forum, a great place to learn about these little beasts!

    David


  4. Really nice review and pictures, Dave. But, as I looked at your Flickr page, I couldn’t help but notice you’ve got a 2008 bike with the 2007 color. Sort of the best of both worlds.


  5. Thanks E. Cruz! Glad you liked it. Thanks for leaving a comment, it’s nice to get feedback.

    My bike is a 2008 UK/Global model and apparently they come in 4 colours. Looking at the US Dahon, the 2008 US version appears to come only in ‘Shadow’.


  6. Loved your review and the photos on Flickr. I’ve been looking at the D7HG for quite a while and, because of your review and a test ride, I’ve gone and ordered one. Pity I couldn’t buy locally but a difference of £40, even taking the carriage charge into account, is not to be sneezed at.

    Robin.


  7. Thanks for the comment Robin. Let me know what you think of yours when it arrives!


  8. Hey all. My Vitesse D7HG arrived a mere 3 business days after I ordered it (from coast to coast). This review is dead-on as I absolutely love this ride. Thanks, ECE


  9. Got the bike on Friday and got out on it on Saturday. I was taking my son to play football so I put the Dahon into the boot and went to where he was playing. It was near the Lagan so I went down to Shaws Bridge and rode along the towpath to Lisburn and back. I did about 15 miles and loved it! http://www.cycleni.com/common/product/documents/Lagan%20&%20Lough%20Map.pdf A lovely ride. I was just in my shirt sleeves and really enjoyed the ride. It is quick and the gear changes are so smooth. I got a Carradice rack top bag for it and it swallowed my jacket. I’m looking forward to getting out more often on it. I have a BikeE recumbent as well. The Dahon will complement it well.


  10. You could replace the chainring with a bigger one. This will give you a higher gear, if you desire more speed.


  11. You may be able to change the sprocket on the Nexus hub to give you gear ratios for greater speed.


  12. Thanks for the gearing advice!


  13. [...] Dahon at the Giants Causeway Tuesday September 30, 2008 Robin Parkes, who has commented on my D7HG review, recently sent me the following photographs of his Dahon and with his permission [...]


  14. I just bought one too! So far so good…

    Click to view


  15. Nice review – I bought the 2007 Vitesse D5 back in July of that year. I like the bike very much, have ridden it virtually every day, and have been busy upgrading those bits that I don’t like so much. I don’t know about you but I found that the bottom bracket kept coming loose – the guy at my local bike shop tightened it the first time but told me that it would come loose again as it was “a piece of junk” – he was right so I had him replace it with a nice Shimano sealed cartridge (cost me about £20 I think) – been fine ever since. I’ve also replaced the grips with Ergon GR-2s, the pedals for MKS detachables, the tyres with Big Apples, the saddle with a Brooks B17 and the seatpost with a Cane Creek Thudbuster (short travel version). The latter 3 changes have made it a much more comfortable ride over a longer distance. I’ve also fitted a block for attaching the excellent Carradice SQR Slim seatpost bag. However, I have never been totally happy with the Sturmey-Archer XRF-5 5-speed hub that was fitted to the 2007 model. I can never seem to keep it in adjustment and usually can only access 4 of the 5 gears. I am also onto my 3rd “indicator chain” (the silly name they give to the control chain) – and this one is already bent! I was considering fitting a Shimano Alfine 8-speed hub until I was quoted £290 for fitting one (ouch!). I have since spotted a great end of year deal from Rutland Cycling for a 2008 D7HG for only £269 – so I will be purchasing a whole new bike for less than the price of replacing the hub just as soon as they open again after Christmas and swapping all my upgrades to the new bike – hopefully make some of that back by selling off the old bike.


  16. [...] #1 – Dahon Vitesse D7HG – Review [...]


  17. So I bought the D7HG from Rutland Cycling and have transfered all my upgrades to the 2007 D5 to the new bike (see my post above). The Nexus 7 hub is a huge improvement on the SA 5-speed, although I agree with you that it could use a bit more at the top end – a Schlumpf High Speed Drive would be a nice option – but at £375 I think I’ll give it a miss! You can see me setting the new bike up on a photostream here: http://tinyurl.com/8jzza7


    • I have recently purchased a Dahon Vitesse and saw your pix of rear luggage and a rear support coming from the rear wheel. Can you give me details of this setup as I would love to duplicate. If you know where I might purchase that would also be helpful. Thanks!!! Alan Frashier, Mount Dora, Florida


      • Hi Alan, thanks for visiting!
        The rear rack is fitted as standard on the D7HG. You should (?) be able to fit any rack but you can buy racks from Dahon’s online store:
        http://www.shopatron.com/index/412.0.56.28363.0.0.0
        If I can help in any other way, give me a shout. Let me know how you get on!
        David


      • Hi David, thanks for responding. I have the rear rack, what I’m looking for is that piece of luggage and that support that seems to extend up from the rack. I’ve never seen that configuration. Thanks!


      • Umm, okay, is it one of my photos or another Commenter’s? Can you give me the URL to the image so I can see it?
        Thanks.
        David


      • Hi Alan, The rear luggage system in the picture is the Carradice SQR (seatpost quick release) system. They are a UK company, but they list a number of US suppliers on their website. There are a number of alternative bags that can be fitted to the SQR bracket from 5 to 16 litres. The bag pictured is the 16-litre ‘slim’, which I use to transport a 15″ laptop as well as other items. You can find further details on the Carradice website: http://carradice.co.uk/sqr-saddlepacks/index.html


      • Forgot to say – it is important to order the larger size steel bands to fit the large diameter Dahon seatpost. These come at no extra charge.


  18. Great photos Karl, nice to see how other owners are modding their bikes. Thank you.


  19. [...] more Dahon reviews: Urban Velo Dave on Dahon [...]


  20. [...] put some extra effort into writing my Dahon D7HG review as I couldn’t find many reviews online when I was looking to buy a Dahon so I thought that my [...]


  21. PC310156

    PC310156

    Sorry David, maybe I’m the source of the confusion as I thought this was your bike in this picture. The number and url are above. Thanks!! Alan


    • Alan,

      Okay I see now. :-)

      Not sure what that bag is but take a look at the saddle-post mounted bags from Topeak.

      Also, looking at that photo you referenced, the ‘vertical’ pole is a foot bump in the background and is not related/connected to the bag or rack.
      :-)


  22. That’s pretty funny!!! Can’t believe I didn’t realize that wasn’t really supporting the luggage. I appreciate you giving me the Topeak info, looks like a great resource. Thanks David!!


  23. Hey David! I found a TOPEAK MTX Bag Ex that I really like. I bought a MTX SeatPost BeamRack EX too. Unfortunately the BeakRack quick clamp is to small for the DAHON seat post. I want to be able to use the TOPEAK bag but now I don’t know what seatpost rack that will work or be big enough to go around the seatpost of the Dahon. Any ideas? Thanks!


  24. You’re the man….that’s the kind of information I was looking for David, but I didn’t see it. I’m running by the bike shop in the AM to see if they say, “yea we have those extended hex bolts” but otherwise I’ll be making it fit on my own. Thanks again, and have a great weekend!! Alan


  25. Hi Dave,

    Just to say thanks very much for your review and your website. I have recently bought a second hand Dahon D7HG to replace my old road bike and I am very satisfied with it. I thought it would take me much longer to get used to a folding bike but I was fine with it from the start, and now I can keep the it in the flat, safe and dry.

    Thanks again,

    Santi


    • Santi,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here!

      The Dahon with its small wheels takes a little time to get used to, it handles a little differently from larger wheel bikes. But once you’ve tried it once… :-)

      I keep my Dahon next to my computer. It’s so compact. I kept my Trek mountain bike inside for a week after I bought it – it basically takes up the whole room! You can’t beat a Dahon if you’re living in a flat.

      Your website is great. Really impressive design and some great photographs!

      Let me know how you get along with your Dahon.

      David


  26. Thanks for the review, surprising how few of these exist.

    How do you find the compactness of the bike?
    Have you used it on a train at peak times, would you recommend it?
    Have you taken it on a bus before?
    Do you reckon that it wold be something to take into the office, or leave outside like a full-sized bike?


    • Hi Joe,

      Yes, I couldn’t find many Dahon reviews when I was looking around so I thought I’d set up this blog to help others and to also log by cycling adventures for myself. :-)

      I don’t commute on my Dahon so the only time I’ve used it on the train and bus is when I recently travelled to Calais for the day (http://davesdahon.wordpress.com/2009/09/03/bonjour-dahon/). Both on the train and bus, the Dahon fitted in very easily, without any complains. I took it on a packed bus which transported us from checking, at the ferry port, to the ferry – didn’t cause any problems and it was relatively easy to manoeuvre around the other passengers.

      I think you could easily take the Dahon into an office. I keep mine in my ‘home office’, next to my desk.

      The D7HG does have 20″ wheels. I think the Bromptons have 16″ wheels which would make it easier to carry and store. The Dahon Curves may be a better option for you. They’re also significantly cheaper than a Brompton – and some may say much better looking too! ;-)

      Good luck with your purchase.
      David


  27. [...] hands on a Brompton and it was very small and very light.  It was much smaller and lighter than my Dahon D7HG, but it was considerably more expensive too.  There were other folders on show too.  Moulton and [...]


  28. I’ve been thinking of buying a folding bike, and have been considering the Dahon D7 and the D7HG. Now that you’ve had the bike for over a year, how do you like the Nexus hub shifting versus the typical derailleur configuration of the D7?


    • The hub is very good. One of the cool features is that you can change gear when stationary (something you can’t do with a derailleur) so you’re not left struggling in traffic if you forget to change down at the lights. Also, as Karl mentioned, it’s clean and tidy which is important when you consider that a folder is more likely to be taken inside a building.

      It’s a great bike. But it’s not a fast bike. It’s also not a small and light as a Brompton. But it’s a good size bike for me (6feet tall). It’s also a different form of cycling, compared to when you’re on a mountain bike:

      http://davesdahon.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/when-to-dahon-when-to-trek/


  29. Very happy with the Nexus 7 hub. It could perhaps do with a little more at the top on occasion, but for commuting the 34-84″ range is fine. As I use the bike for commuting in all weathers and don’t want to spend too much time cleaning and oiling cassettes and adjusting derailler mechanisms the hub gear, where everything is safely enclosed away from the elements, is ideal. One slight drawback is that when you need to take the wheel off, to change a tube for example, getting the thing back on again is rather fiddly. If I were choosing now between the D7 and D7HG I would definitely go for the HG. I note that the current D7HG is also fitted with a clever little device to protect the chain, chainset and sproket, so should be even more weather-proof than the 08 version I have.


  30. Thanks to Dave and Karl for your responses. Well, it’s official, I’ve got the D7HG itch! Now, I’ve got to budget it and help my wife understand why I need yet another bike! :-)


    • As someone once told me: It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission!

      Good luck with the D7HG purchasing ambition! You won’t regret it.


  31. Great review! A few years later and … I’ve just ordered my D7HG (Europe model). I was doubting a bit on whether to order the D7 or D7HG, choosing the latter one in the end. A bit cleaner and yes shifting down when not moving is quite handy indeed I’ve switched jobs so I am going to see the train station a bit more and with some healthy exercise on this Dahon I should manage just fine. Quite curious as to the available gears and what they mean to me though. Let’s wait and see! Thanks for all your time and effort, people!
    Ludo, the Netherlands


    • Thanks for visiting and thanks for commenting here too.

      Good luck with your new Dahon AND the new job!!!


  32. Hi Dave,
    Thanks, I’m absolutely sure I’m going to enjoy both! Impressive reply speed you have;)
    Ludo


  33. Well my D7HG is 18m old and done 750 miles, its fantastic around town, for longer rides I’ve put on my spd pedals, max so far 100k. Schwalbe marathons essential upgrade. I liked it so much I have added a Speed TR this year in the sale, that’s really quick (I did replace dynamo front wheel for plain one) and done 160K ride. Best bike I’ve ever owned. Back to the D7HG, just sits in the boot, great for DIY park and ride, and unbeatable in the urban setting.


  34. so how do the two bikes compare Dave?


    • Above comment is not mine, Dave – it was posted by reader ‘Doc’.

      I just have my D7HG and Trek. :-)


    • Hi Karl, the D7HG is a fair bit lighter than the Speed TR, and has a more limited gear range. It folds smaller, and has a more adjustable handlebar height. The Speed TR is a good couple of kilos heavier, but has no frame flex and feels very rigid. It has a massive gear range, like a touring bike, and with the Big Apple tyres is very comfortable.(Keep at 50 PSI). So far I have got it up 25% hills, and down hill at 45+mph. Does not fold as small or as quickly, but still will go in all the but the smallest boosts with ease. The D7HG is a lot cheaper too.


      • Thanks for that Doc. I upgraded the tyres on my D7HG to Big Apples soon after buying it – they are great tyres! The TR sounds like a very nice bike, but I would not welcome the extra couple of kilos you mention, and I don’t understand why Dahon have the handlepost folding to the outside of the folded package on the TR (and their other high-end folders) making the folded package larger and presumably more awkward to carry. I would welcome the increased gear range of the TR as I spend 90% of my time on the D7HG in 7th gear and often wish for a higher gear. At the low end it is usually fine, although for loaded touring I can see where the lower gears of the TR would come in. Regarding your comment on frame flex I have never noticed any flexing of the frame on the D7HG, although the handlepost certainly does flex if you pull on it.


  35. I was considering getting a folding bike because a) I’m moving into a small, inner-city flat, and b) I don’t like the idea of leaving my bike outside work because I know coworkers who have had them stolen. I need quite a low maintenance one and it’s the look of that neat gear hub that has steered me towards a D7HG. After seeing so many people who are pleased with theirs, I’ll probably go ahead and order one.


    • Good luck with both the move and the bike! :-)


  36. I have had my D7HG for a couple of weeks now and it has developed an annoying clicking from the mid hinge, does it when cruising along and seems to be when 2 halves are rubbing, noticed that one of the NON factory threadlocked (tsk tsk) grub screws was sitting proud of the inside of hinge too. Do you have this clicking, any solutions you have found for it?

    Any help gratefully received


    • Hi,
      I haven’t had a problem like this. The only clicking I had was due to the bottom bracket being loose.

      If you have confirmed that it’s the hinge, have you tried tightening it up? I haven’t needed to do this but it looks pretty easy.

      Looks like you unscrew the retaining screw at the end of the silver hinge rod, then rotate the hinge rod screwing it further in (clockwise) to effectively reduce the rod’s length, and then replace the retaining screw. That’s my guess anyway! ;-)

      Try it and see if that tightens the ‘grip’ of the locking mechanism and therefore stops the creak/click.

      Good luck!
      Dave


  37. Hi Dave, thanks for the reply, turns out the click is actually coming from inside the frame where the big Dahon logo is, but of torsion going on, stuck some hazard tape inside the main bracket and clicking hardly happens now.


  38. [...] Dahon Vitesse folding bikes at Wiggle [...]


  39. I’ve had my Dahon for three years and clocked up an estimated 15000 miles including trips to France and Switzerland and, most recently over the Jura mountains. I’ve found it great for touring and it’s easy on ‘planes. (Recommend Easyjet )
    As a 65 year old, I’ve no complaints
    Bernard


    • Hi Bernard!

      Wow, that’s a lot of miles! Mine hasn’t got anywhere near that. Congratulations!

      David



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