A recent question about my late summer 2015 transit-aided sprint from DC to Boston essentially turned out to be a decent review of the Dahon Vitesse D7HG.[footnote]Be sure also to check out reviews of the Surly Long Haul Trucker, hacking your own ride, and the Novara Safari[/footnote] I think it has a lot of good features for touring, although it’s best role is for commuting.
The Dahon review
I’m a fan of the Dahon, particularly the DH7 that I had. It’s best use is as a commuter because it can handle carrying a small bag with ease. I love the internal hub and its low maintenance, and I think it rides pretty comfortably, even on rides longer than your average commute. The downside to the Dahon is pretty much what you’ve mentioned… it’s a little heavy (trade off for the hub) and is geared for moderate hills at best. One other piece I haven’t mentioned is the handlebar gets a little wiggly at the folding point. The best analogy I can give you is it’s equivalent to the point when you’d wnat to tighten a loose headset on a traditional bike. Because it rides upright, it doesn’t feel unsafe, but it’s the one thing you find yourself needing to tighten every few rides. This bike is like the folding equivalent of the Novara Safari in that it comes standard with a ton of things you’d usually need to add… rack, fenders, etc. so there’s a bonus.
If I recall this bike is well below $1000 and you can even get it on Amazon. I wanted to buy it at a LBS but they discontinued carrying Dahons because they were selling for so much cheaper online. That may be the story for them in other places too. My preferred LBS has been able to handle maintenance on it without a problem though.
Second to last thing… Dahons are not easier/cheaper to fly with than a traditional bike. I tried all sorts of things to make it fit in a non-oversized checked bag and it just doesn’t fit. If avoiding flying fees is one of the purchasing notions, the Dahon’s not the right choice. I’m sure there are people who’ve done it (see the comments below for one example!) but the margins are really tight and you have to take apart things in a way that are tricky to re-assemble (for me anyways). I got the bike thinking it would be a snap to take it on a plane for $25 as a standard checked bag, but I found it was just a bit too big.
One last thing… I got the Dahon a year ago, passing on Bromptons and Bike Fridays because I wasn’t 100% sure I’d like or use a folder. One year later, I’m all in and getting a Brompton because I can travel with it more easily and it’s a better touring option. I don’t regret getting the Dahon, but if I were to do it over again (knowing what I know now) I’d get the Brompton first. Check out my experience flying with the Brompton and touring with the Brompton.
Overall, I really like this bike. There’s a newer version of tike (the Dahon i7) that looks quite similar. A few things I’d recommend adding on: a side mirror (I love this bar end one) and your lights of choice (I strongly prefer this one by Portland Design Works for the rear of all of my rides).
Is this better than a Brompton or a Bike Friday? Not for touring. But for commuting, it’s a really great bang for the buck that can handle some light tours as well.
There’s a whole series on my favorite touring bikes that I already mentioned, but you might also be interested in listening to The Pedalshift Project bike touring podcast. If you’re really into bike touring (new or not!) consider signing up for the free Pedalshift monthly newsletter for even more bike touring goodness. Also, if you’re into folding bikes, check out my experiences with flying with my Brompton.