Posts Tagged ‘folding bike review’

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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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