Tags: Dahon Vitesse D5.
The first thing that I pondered when I considered buying one was, ‘is it big enough?’ I’m a bit over 6′4″ and frankly I suspeceted that Dahon’s suggested 6′4″ maximum rider size was going to be optimistic. Still, a test-sit in Halfords suggested that the seat just about went high enough, so I splashed the cash.
In reality, there are sizing issues, and these lie with the bars and the saddle. The bars are high, and this gives a very upright position – something which is probably very attractive to a lot of (dare I say ‘casual’) cyclists, but takes a bit of getting used to if you’re more accustomed to a conventional road or mountain bike. The bars are also close – not only is the reach a bit short but the handling is very characteristic of a short stem extension – it feels a bit too much like a micro scooter, and having the bars an inch or so further forward and an inch or so down would cure this instantly.
The saddle is perhaps more of an issue. Note from the picture that although the seat tibe passes behind the bottom bracket shell, the seat angle is very steep and there is very little layback on the post head. This means — if you’re tall, at least — that the saddle is ludicrously far forward: with the broad saddle shape pushing your pelvis still further twards the bars, I reckon my hips end up a good three inches closer horizontally to the BB axle than my normal bikes. For the first few rides it’s very easy for your feet to slip off the front of the pedals because your knees are, relatively, so far forward. And the saddle doesn’t angle back much to help keep your backside further back. The picture shows the bike with the saddle nose pointing as high as it can be set, which is much lower than any standard seatpost.
So, position niggles aside, how is it? Well, the handling is surprisingly good. As I’ve said, a longer effective stem extension would improve it no end, but once you’ve sussed the slightly top-heavy nature of the small wheels and upright position, you can chuck it around quite nicely.
As for folding, it folds and unfolds very quickly indeed (once you’ve worked out the position the pedals need to be in when folding). There are simple quick releases at the stem, headset, frame pivot and seatclamp. The headset and frame QRs incorporate simple but effective locking devices too, for peace of mind. One thing worth noting is that it doesn’t fold anything like as small as a Brompton. This thing won’t fit in the overhead shelves on South West Trains carriages: if you fold it you’ll have to stow it on the floor near the doors. It’s also not as stable on its folded feet as a Brompton, either: it stands on a narrow triangular base of its two wheels plus the seatpost, and there we come to our next niggle.
The seatpost incorporates a pump. A neat idea, but at the same time a very stupid idea. Why? Because the pump shaft is situated at the bottom of the post, and is released by pushing it in and turning slightly (it’s a bayonet fitting just like a standard light bulb, but much looser), at which point it can be extended. And, as we’ve noted, the seatpost is used to support the folded bike. So, when you fold the bike and put it down, the pump head is pushed in. One small rotation applied to it as you pick it up or put it down and the head is released. It’s something that you inevitably fail to notice when unfolding the bike, only finding out when you’re half a mile up the road and it’s finally dawned on you what that irritating rattle is: it’s your pump handle being dragged along the tarmac.
But I perhaps do the bike a disservice. The brakes are good, the wheel components are fine (though the wheels are not wonderfully tensioned: wobbles appeared early and I will have to sit down and sort them out), the rear hub performs competently once you remember that Sturmey Archer hubs require you to stop pedalling whilst changing gear (though mine has acquired play in the bearings disturbingly quickly), the fitted reflectors and rack all seem of a decent standard, the saddle is suprisingly bearable for a sofa-style thing although I wouldn’t want to ride far on it, the trouser guard is a welcome addition and all in all it’s a very sound piece of kit.
So, thumbs up all bar a few teething troubles. This year’s model has – to my slight annoyance – gained a telescopic handlebar stem, though there’s still that seat angle issue for us beanpoles. But most people should get on really rather well with the D5.
Even so, I’m already looking forward to testing a Brompton in anticipation of this year’s bike purchase scheme…
Well, I’ve sorted a couple of things now. The pump head has been taped to the post and this seems to hold it in place. The rear hub cones were relatively easy to sort, though one irritation of the hub did manifest itself. Because the cable anchor is on the frame, the gear indexing is entirely dependent on the position of the wheel in the dropouts. So, after putting the wheel back in you need to check or readjust the gears.
The bottom bracket developed play very quickly, too. It’s a cheap cup-and cone model, which is fine, except that it also requires a non-standard peg spanner, making home repair impractical (my local shop doesn’t sell the tool and knows of no supplier who sells them; Halfords, who sell the Dahon, do not sell the tool either). On removing the cranks I also noticed one of those had worked loose on the taper. In general, the quality of assembly of bolted parts is a bit substandard: the ones that should be tight are a bit loose, the ones which needn’t be tight generally are. None are greased (no surprises there, admittedly) so new owners would be well-advised to run some allen keys over the bike and grease and refit bolts.
So that seems a little bit of an issue: minor issues arise quickly and they’re not simple home fixes. Most bike shops will offer a free service a month or so after purchase, but this really shouldn’t be necessary.
Despite this, I still think the bike’s fundamentally great value and a pretty sorted product. Just some details that could use sorting, and an option to specify a different seatpost when purchasing would be really helpful.