Dahon Vitesse Speed D7
By Mike Street
Whenever I am thinking about making a significant purchase, I always hunt around for reviews, check out blogs and generally search the web for word, be it good or bad.
So as I have this blog platform, I thought it the perfect opportunity to bore you all with my thoughts and feelings about this bike I have owned for 9 months - the Dahon Vitesse Speed D7. Naturally, this bike will often be compared to the top-end Brompton bikes, as they are what every fold up bike strives to be.
I obtained this bike through a cycle to work scheme as I was living in Croydon and my office was moving from central Brighton to Hove. To walk to the new office would have involved getting a ridiculously early train - whereas cycling enabled me to get up at the same time.
I decided upon a fold up bike because there was not much room at my flat to store a full framed one. Also, Southern Rail have a bike restriction and thus will only allow fold-up bikes during rush hour. Despite signs everywhere informing me of this I have only ever seen this enforcement put into practice 3 or 4 times. However, during these times I have been able to stroll past full framed cyclists with a smug look on my face as they've been turned away.
So I chose this fold up bike online and headed to my local Evans to pick it up. I was able to give it a test ride before accepting it into my family, however, I was pretty sure it would be accepted with open arms.
The first impression you get is it's size and weight. It's not like those expensive, super fold up Brompton bikes, nor is it as light. However, it was two thirds of the price. With the Dahon, you get sturdiness. Granted, it doesn't fold down as small and its a bit heavier, but you get what you pay for.
I was allowed to take it out for a spin, and soon discovered the the gear ratio is quite well spread out. The lower gears are perfect for tackling those hills and the higher ones allowed you to get a bit of pace up. If you are going for a fold up bike I highly recommend you go for one with gears if you are cycling for anymore than 2 minutes.
The gear changes were smooth and the riding position is brilliantly comfortable. Whereas on a standard bike, the lowest saddle position is level with the handlebars, the Speed D7 allows you to sit in a more vertical position, one which is comfortable and one that I will miss when I head back to a full framed bike.
When it comes to the fold up bit - its simple but not small. There are 5 steps compared to the Brompton's seemingly 3. The fold up size is awkward and struggles to fit in the boot of my Ford Fiesta. Width wise (in comparison to the car) it is fine, but depth of the boot compared to the height of the bike is a squeeze. However, when hopping on and off the trains, I very rarely fold it up the whole way - just snapping it in half keeps it out of the way and allows quick deployment at the other end.
I chose the Vitesse version of the D7 as it has internal hub gears, chain guard, nicer style & more comfortable grips, and a general upgrade from the standard Speed D7.
One thing I would say - if you are looking at getting a fold up bike, make sure it has mud guards and a rack at the back. I cannot tell you how useful these two simple things have been.
So after 9 months of daily use, how has the Dahon fared?
It's squeaky. It rattles. It now chirps. It's dirty. It's heavy. It's clumpy. Brakes wear down quickly. Bits move. Quick release mechanisms grind. I've lost the bell. And one of the magnets.
Sounds horrific. It sounds like a death trap. But it's brilliant. The squeaks are minor and can be sorted with a bit of love; A spray here and a clean there. I lived in a first floor flat and thus had no access to a hose. So that first line is my doing. (I have since cleaned and lubed my bike and it is back to its non-squeaky self!)
One thing I didn't bear in mind when I started cycling every day is how quickly the brakes wear down. I was on my second set and should have changed them, but I no longer use it anymore as I use a different bike. But be warned - pay that little extra for better brake pads and it'll pay off in the long run!
The bell and magnet losing was partly my fault. The handle bars swing down to fold the bike up and the slipped out my hand, crashing down and snapping the bell off.
So would I buy one again? I think so. If I could afford a Brompton I would go for a Brompton, but the Dahon has served me brilliantly and I look forward to using it again.