For some time, I’ve been interested in trying a folding bike, so I was happy to snap up the Dahon Speed P8 when it was offered for loan during our three-day Interbike visit to Las Vegas. A part of Dahon’s "Urban Performance" bike lineup, this 8-speed folder retails for $649 and is designed to handle everything from long commutes to weekend exploring.
The Urban designation means that the rider position falls in-between upright and racy, designed to provide a blend of speed, comfort and visibility to cars in a crowded urban setting. The P, which designates Dahon’s premium level, means that this 8-speed bike has top-level specifications including a 4130 chromoly frame, Dahon Neos rear derailleur, V-brakes, Avid brake levers, Schwalbe Big Apple tires, SRAM shifters, Shimano cassette and ergonomic grips. Enough about the components, let’s look at how the Speed P8 folds up for multi-modal transport and/or storing in tight quarters.
Step one: Fold the handlebar down. Since the handlebars on folders are very long levers that exert a lot of force on the tubes and headset bearings, they have to be properly designed and manufactured to avoid flexing like a wet noodle. Dahon’s RadiusV handlepost clamp is forged aluminum alloy and utilizes a stainless steel plate that helps lock the frame, fork and handlepost (the very long stem-like piece) into one stiff, strong unit.
Step two: Lower the seatpost into the frame and unlock the frame clamp. Note on the first photo below that there is a spring-loaded (black) plastic "safety" catch that helps prevent the (silver) clamp lever from accidentally opening. Dahon calls this their AutoLok technology (the safety automatically engages when the lever is closed).
Step three: fold it! Mating magnets on the front and rear wheel (Dahon’s patented Magnetix system) engage to keep the bike in the folded position during transport. The pedals even fold up, making the entire package very compact (not shown in photos).
The entire folding process took but a minute of my time. I’m sure I’d get even faster with practice. In the folded configuration the 11.7" x 30" x 25" Speed P8 makes for a compact package, and the 27.8 lbs. weight is quite manageable for toting over short distances or loading into an automobile trunk. Un-folding is a reverse of the above steps, and is just as fast.
How does it ride? I certainly wondered about "the ride" going into the mini-review of this mini-sized bike. I’m happy to report that it "rides like a bike." Snappy handling bolstered my confidence when dodging potholes, making lane changes and dancing with the gas-guzzlers. The 20" Schwalbe Big Apple tires gave the Speed P8 a sure-footed feeling on the mean streets, including the occasional rough spot or patch of loose gravel.
The Speed P8 is designed to fit riders ranging from 4’8" to 6’4" in height, and the bike comfortably accommodated my 5’10" frame. Despite choosing to run the telescopic stem at nearly-full extension, the front-end felt solid and free from any vibration/shimmy. The only time I felt any flex was during all-out sprints when I was honking hard on the handlebars.
Going into this mini-review I had a pre-conceived worry that commuting on a "folder" would mean slow going. Reality was quite the contrary. With a 52-tooth front chainring that looks like it belongs on a track racing bike and a Shimano HyperGlide 11-32T cassette, the Speed P8 delivers a range of 32 — 93 gear inches. Putting that in more descriptive terms: On an impromptu group sprint down the "fast lane" of the Vegas strip with a gang of Bicycle Times staffers, it so happened that it was Andrew and I, both on folders, leading the pack. I routinely ran out of legs before I ran out of gears on the Speed P8. Since Vegas is pretty darn flat, I didn’t have the opportunity to test the suitability of the gear range for grinding up steep hills.
Dahon’s 27 years of experience making folders shone through in the workmanship and overall performance of this reasonably-priced commuting rig. Based on my three-day session in Sin City, I feel that the Speed P8 offers big value in a small package. For a closer look at the Speed P8, or any of the 25 other folders that Dahon offers in the USA market, visit www.dahon.com.Tweet Print