I’ve been thinking about looking for a folding bike for awhile now, something easier to travel with than a full-sized bike. Putting the Long Haul Trucker inside the car works OK, but it’s a bit of a PITA, and I haven’t invested in a trailer hitch and hitch-mounted bike rack yet.
I stumbled across a Dahon Vitesse D7HG at a local swap meet, and after a bit of haggling, trading, and some $$$ kicked in, it was mine. It was a bit of an impulse purchase. I’d browsed the Dahon line online, but hadn’t really focused on a particular model, or put much research or thought into the search.
I took this bike for a short spin in the parking lot, and it rode fine, and seemed to be in good shape, and was fitted with most of the accessories I’d want, such as fat tires, fenders, and a rear rack. So I pulled the trigger on it.
I think I got a pretty decent deal on it; less than half the current list price.
Based on Dahon web site, the bike is a 2008 model, but not a whole lot has changed in the three model years since then. The 2011 model no longer has the rear rack, but has a better chainguard and an integrated luggage bracket on the front. So basically, the same bike, it appears.
The bike is in good shape. No telling how many miles are on it, but not a lot, based on tire wear. There is a bit of surface rust on a few of the steel bits, but since the frame is aluminum, and most of the components are as well, that shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s not the easiest thing to fold, but perhaps I’ll get better with practice. It does fold into a reasonably-sized package, and it fits well into the back of our car. I may get a bag for it at some point. Not sure whether to go with a cheap “cover” bag that doesn’t provide much protection, or a more rugger but pricier bag. A true travel case, suitable for use as airline luggage, would cost more than I paid for the bike, so I doubt I’ll ever spring for that, given the limited amount of air travel I do.
The rack is a rather tiny affair, and initially I didn’t think my panniers would fit, since the bungie hooks extended far below the hook slots integrated into the rack. However, I scrounged up a solution of sorts, attaching small “L” brackets to the unused holes on the rear dropouts. This seems to work, though I may need to round off the square bracket ends to avoid wearing a hole in the pannier material.
This image shows the silver “L” brackets I added, with a pannier attached to the opposite side of the rack. This appears to be fairly secure.
I also had to modify the rear reflector. The original reflector was rather wide, and interfered with the pannier top hooks, not allowing me to install the panniers as far back as I liked. So I removed the rectangular Dahon reflector, and installed a round one that I had in my parts box in its place. Eventually I want to replace this with a tail light of some kind, but this will do for now.
With the panniers installed, I went out for my first ride around the neighborhood. Since my neighborhood includes gravel as well as paved roads, this would also be a good test of the little bike’s handling on a loose and rough surface.
Here’s the bike next to some roadside flowers … nice!
The bike nearly disappears in this field of soybeans.
The bike crossing some railroad tracks.
I was quite pleased with the first ride of about 4 miles. This might be the friendliest bike I’ve ever ridden.
With the low step-over height and relaxed, upright posture, you just get on and go with no fuss. The small wheels feels a little tipsy at first, but that feeling soon passed, and it soon felt as stable as any other bike. I had expected a bit of a harsh ride on the rough roads, but it wasn’t bad at all. I’m sure the 1.5″ tires at about 50 PSI had something to do with that, but I was soon not noticing most of the bumps.
The internal gear hub is amazing, shifting smoothly and effortlessly. Except the grip shift will take some acclimation. Seems my instinct was to shift “bassackwards” every single time. I had to consciously think about which direction to rotate the shifter: forward is lower gears (slower), and backwards is higher gears (faster).
The gearing might be a little narrow (34″ to 84″, according to Dahon), but there’s not too much I can do about that, short of changing the chainring and/or rear sprocket. I didn’t really try any big hills, but I was able to spin out fairly easily on the flats. Oh well, it’s not a speed machine.
After I took the picture on the tracks, I realized that the bars were set rather high, and I lowered them a few inches, but it’s still a very upright posture. I’m also thinking that I may want to look at a different handlebar, or at least some bar ends, to give me some alternate hand positions.
All in all, for a short ride, I was very pleased. Not sure if I want to do a century on this thing, but 20-30 miles should definitely be doable.
I still need to load up the bike with a full complement of camping gear, to see how it rides with a load, but I expect that it’ll do fine. I’m planning a trip this winter that should put the bike to the test in city traffic and hills. Between now and then, I hope to put in some fun miles on this little bike!