Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dahon D7 Roll Review

As I noted in an earlier post one of the Bike Forums members suggested that you can roll a Dahon pretty well - going even as far as saying he preferred it better than rolling the Tikit. I had tried rolling my Dahon D7 when I first got it and was underwhelmed so these statements surprised me. Since I was in TO I decided to give it another go now that I have more folder experience and I can compare it to the Tikit.

On the positive side:
  • I was able to set it up and roll it better than before. I chalk that up to more experience and taking some time to really play around with the bike.
  • resting the bike on both wheels I had to lift less weight than the Tikit.
  • I was able to rest the whole bike on the rear rack with the seat post horizontal to the ground when I wanted to put it down for a moment.
  • It was much easier to move the bike around like this than to carry it.
On the downside:
  • the whole rolling procedure was not very easy. You had to reach down and hold the bike with one hand while you operated the seat post QR and then raised the seat to deisred height. Then you could use just one hand to roll it around. It also required two hands to put the bike back into its compact folded mode when you needed it to be as small as possible.
  • While you don't have to lift as much weight as with the Tikit when the D7 is rolled on two wheels the bike is tilted to one side and rolls awkwardly. Not a huge issue in a wild open space, but it is not very nimble moving around obstacles like in a busy building.
  • I learned the hard way you can't roll it backwards on two wheels. I wasn't paying attention and I managed take a big gouge out of the paint as the crank spun around.
  • Rolling the D7 by the saddle is not very ergonomic. Obviously the saddle wasn't made for this so you have to do your best and grab it awkwardly.
  • The D7 with the seat post extended to roll it is a pain to deal with if you just want to put it down for a bit. Normally the seat post is one "leg" of the tripod and the D7 will stand on up nicely. With the seat post extended the bike wants to fall forward. You can rotated in backwards and lean it on the wheels and rear rack. This position is stable, but now the seat post sticks out a long way horizontally which won't make you popular in a busy shop.
Overall it is worth playing around with how you can roll a D7. Given the more complex fold/unfold procedure you may well prefer to roll it a couple blocks than bother riding it. However, I can't see myself rolling it nearly as much as I would my Tikit.

A good example of the difference between the two bikes came when I was leaving my mom's apartment. I had my backpack on and my laptop in one hand I needed to get the D7 down to the basement storage locker. If it had been my Tikit I would have just reached down, grabbed the handle and rolled it to the elevator. Looking down at my D7 I weighed the hassle of putting down my laptop so I could extend the seat post and roll it. It just seemed more bother than it was worth so I reached down and just lifted the whole bike and carried it folded.

I think in this case you really get what you pay for. The D7 is an inexpensive folding bicycle that performs capably in all respects, but doesn't knock the ball out of the park. The Tikit is quite a bit more expensive, but has a lot of great design features that just make so much sense when you use the bike. Talking to one of the sales people at Urbane we both agreed the Tikit was a bike that you could take with you all day and not have to think about the way you would with most folding bikes. If you need to fold or unfold it the process is so easy you don't even factor in the hassle as you go about your errands. The rolling feature is so well refined that it nicely fills in those gaps where you aren't going far so it would be nice to just keep it folded.


makeinu said...

Hey Vik, it's makeinu from bikeforums.

Although I believe you could optimize the Dahon roll a bit more (In have found that keeping the seat post down and the handlebars up not only gives you a way to rest the bike, but also gives you more control over the front wheel, enabling you to better keep both the front and rear wheels in parallel while rolling straight and roll corners without the front wheel trying to pull out and unfold), I can agree with your general assessment.

I believe the key with the tikit is that although it may not be the best ride, the smallest fold, or the best roller, it folds/unfolds so quickly that you're more likely to make use of the ride, the fold, and the roll that it has to offer. For example, although the tikit only folds slightly smaller than my Downtube, my Downtube is such a hassle to fold that I very rarely fold it completely. For the same amount of folding effort the tikit folds much much smaller. Likewise with the roll. Dahons/Downtubes may roll a bit better when folded just right, but such a fold is rather large and delicate to accomplish whereas the roll of the tikit still offers full compactness and ease of transformation.

Still I think the tikit has some room for refinement. While not as bad as the Dahon, it still has the "busy shop" problem of taking up too much space when you want to put it down. Hopefully Bike Friday will make some kind of kick stand to stand the Tikit up without needing to lay it down horizontally.

Vik said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vik said...

Hola Makeinu,

So seat post down and leave the bars up? Okay...I'll have to try that. One advantage with that approach is that the folding the stem requires three different QRs to be used and you have to adjust the bar and stem rotations when you unfold it. Not dealing with all that would be a plus for sure.

You are right the Tikit isn't perfect, but the good news is that it is one of BF's main focuses at the moment so we should see a continual evolution/refinement over the next few years.

At the same time Dahon makes some very functional folders - especially at the lower price points. My friends who aren't bike people don't want to spend $1000 on a bike and they want to test ride it first. In Calgary that means buying a Dahon.

Even though I am a bike nut I don't really have any desire to have a $1000+ bike sit idle at my Mother's place so I can ride it the 3-4 times a year I am in town. The D7 is a very nice package of performance & price.

Thanks for the tip about how to roll the Dahon.

Christopher said...

I was just asking about this on the Dahon forum. You can roll the D7 folded, but it's not exactly great. I'll have to try the handlebars up method.