Dahon Speed P8 Review

Anyone who follows me on twitter knows that I love my red Dahon and readers of this blog already know it from Bike Commuting Essentials and The Best Investment I’ll Ever Make.

But I’ve mainly talked about the financial and emotional reasons for loving this bike and haven’t really done an honest-to-goodness, full-fledged review of it. Do I only love it because it’s hilarious and saves me a bunch of money?

Or is it actually a good bike?

Well it’s been about a year and a half and I’ve ridden it through all types of weather and terrain. It’s been folded and thrown into the back of a station wagon about 400 times and has been crashed twice.

So yea, I’m pretty familiar with it at this point. And what are my thoughts?

Basics

Brand: Dahon

Model: Speed P8

Paid: $550

Weight: 26 lbs

Nicknames: Dahoni Jones, Dahonica Patrick, Le Petit Velo

How I use this bike

Yes, I am an triathlete but no I do not race this bike (sponsorship opportunity? wink wink). You should think of your racing bike as the wingtip shoes that you save for weddings and your commuter as those old sneakers for mowing the lawn. It needs to be of respectable quality and trustworthiness but not so fancy that you get pissed off when it gets scratched or stolen.

The bulk of the riding I do on this bike is a lackadaisical 2-mile trip from wherever I find free street parking to my office. So 4 miles a day of a relatively flat path that consists of potholes, a pedestrian bridge, sidewalks and some gravel. At the end of each workday it gets folded and not-so-gingerly thrown into the back of my Outback where it bangs around until its next ride.

So easy riding in an urban setting is a perfect scenario for a solid, entry-level hybrid bike. I don’t need anything high-end but I also don’t want junk.

Why did I choose this bike?

This wasn’t my first folding bike

I originally purchased a Citizen Miami folding bike online for about $250 and realized immediately that it wasn’t the bike for me. Remember how I said I’d be reluctant to buy a bike without trying it out first?

Yea, this was the reason. This Citizen was too slow, not fit for the daily beat down and too heavy for my pick-up-and-throw into the back of my Subaru routine.

So after 2 months of getting passed by Citibikes and nicer folding bikes I sold it for $150 and decided to try again. I still managed to save about $400 in parking during that time so I didn’t care about losing $100.

Why Dahon?

I’ve stated before that I like trusted, recognizable brands because they’re easier to buy, maintain and sell.

So why didn’t I buy a Dahon the first time around?

Because sometimes I can be a bit too cheap.

If you’re in the market for a folding bike you’ll quickly be acquainted with the 3 most common brands: Dahon, Brompton and Tern. Terns aren’t as readily available to me so my choice was basically between Dahon and Brompton. Or in other words: spending a ton of money or a reasonable amount of money.

Bromptons are hella awesome and fold extra-small but buyers basically have 1 choice – The Brompton. And that choice is at least $1,400 which is just too rich for my little jaunt to the office.

Meanwhile Dahon has a smorgasbord of options which start at about $300 and go well over $1,000. Buyers can choose from a low-end single speed all the way up to a ultra-compact folder comparable to a Brompton. Given that each rider’s needs are different, Dahon offers something for everyone.

So why the Speed P8?

Now the problem which having a lot of choices is the ole paralysis-by-analysis syndrome. Except in this case because I had zero interest in researching the entire fleet of Dahon bikes. I needed a solid bike for 4 miles a day and that’s it.

So first things first. Price.

I knew this bike was going to save me almost $3,000 a year in parking but that didn’t give me a license to throw money away. It was important to ensure that I was getting something with quality components but not to over think and buy unnecessary stuff.

I also knew that I wanted a folding bike because I didn’t feel like using a standard bike and constantly taking the wheel off or throwing it on my roof rack every morning. That fact that it folds in half was good enough and I didn’t need to pay for extra-super foldage that comes with the more expensive models.

So I called the local bike shop and told them what I was looking for. They suggested the D7 which they totally had in stock.

Except when I showed up they didn’t but offered the more expensive Speed P8 for the same price.

Deal.

Quality and durability

Like I said earlier I’ve put this bike through the wringer. I ride it 5 days a week in the rain, night and snow in whatever terrain is in front of me: gravel, ice, curbs, dirt or whatever. I fold it each workday and it bangs around in the back of my car all across New Jersey. I’ve crashed it twice when riding in ice and snow.

All bikes suck on ice.

For the most part I’m really happy with how it has held up. Like any commuter it requires more attention because of the lousy life it leads. Riding through the rain and slush means I’m lubing the chain pretty frequently and the daily throwing into the back of my wagon ensures that I’m always tightening up some bolt here or there. There are some scratches on the frame, rusty bolts from the rain and it’s covered in road muck.

But I’d expect all of this from any commuter bike and would be devastated to treat a $1,4000 bike like this. Instead I am proud that this $550 tiny-wheeled bike is withstanding this beating!

Now this is an honest review and I want to mention two small complaints I have with the bike. The first is that the grip shift had this weird window to see the gear number (below) which busted pretty quickly and I spent about $40 to replace it with a standard grip shift.

The second is that the bar end plugs and grips tend to loosen up quite a bit and I’m finding that I’m pushing the grips back into place more often than I’d like.

However, neither of these complaints are worth paying $500 more for.

Foldability

So this bike essentially folds in half which is base-case for folders and perfect for my car to bike situation. Not having to put down my seats and the ability to leave the bike in there all the time is a huge win for me and is all that is necessary. It is noticeably less compact when compared to higher end folders (from both Dahon and Brompton) so this is where you need to know what’s important to you. If you have a tiny studio apartment or want to take your bike and hide it under your desk at work then perhaps a more compact folder is necessary.

But that’s going to cost you. Foldability already comes at a premium and super-duper foldability is an extra premium.

Weight

At 26 lbs this is probably about average for the price point and a whopping 6 lbs lighter than the Citizen. As is the case with high-end road bikes the lighter bikes are generally going to cost you. If you plan on lugging your bike to a 3rd story walk-up apartment every day then consider a lighter bike. But in-and-out of the back of your hatchback? Bingo.

If you want a folding bike that’s both lighter and cheaper then consider a single speed. Having less gears means less metal stuff which will cut some weight. But then you have 1 option when it comes to selecting a gear so be sure to know the terrain you’re going to be riding.

Riding experience

It is virtually impossible not to enjoy riding a folding bike. If you don’t then you are some sort of curmudgeon and I don’t want to hang out with you. There’s something about the tiny wheels and super high seat that instantly brings a smile to your face. Pedestrians stop what they’re doing to watch me fold up my bike and I’ve made a lot of other folding bike riding friends.

They’re just fun.

Your standards for a folding bike also change when compared to your regular bike. While I went through a 2-hour fitting for my triathlon bike, I set the seat of my Dahon to somewhere between “yea, that looks right” and “it’s about straight.”

Also note that the tires are 1.75″ with a max PSI of around 60. These tires are perfect for city terrain and help reduce the impact from potholes and crappy roads. But that also means you aren’t getting the same speed that a bike with skinny racing tires would provide.

So, again, figure out your need here. Consider both the terrain and length of your commute and make an appropriate decision on the type of ride you’d prefer.

Conclusion

For those riding around in urban areas the Dahon Speed P8 is a perfect commuter. It’s a high quality bike that won’t break the bank and will withstand the beating of a daily commute. Given that it screams commuter I wish it would come equipped with lightweight fenders because the majority of riders will end up putting them on anyway.

But all said and done, I’ve put this bike through quite a test and it has held up nicely. And for around $600 you can get a solid folding bike that will last you for years.

But beware! You’re going to want to take a million pictures of it.

Happy folding!

7 comments

  1. Thanks for the review. I’ve been thinking about a commuter bike for the near future. I do not race but would like to start biking again. My last road bike cost me $500 and I used to commute to and from work 1.2 miles each way. I gave it to my father-in-law because he wanted it and then he gave it to his son, my brother-in-law. Any recommendations for a $500 bike?

    1. I love hybrids as commuters. Raleigh redux is super cool if you can find a corporate discount program and get for like 300$

  2. If I didn’t know better, I’d believe you are in love 😉
    Always been fascinated with a folding bike, but never needed one for commuting. The regular and road bikes always did the job. Even when I was going to University by train, I just had two bikes, one at either end.
    But they must be getting better these days, as I have seen people doing cycle tours on them last weekend!

    1. They have some crazy good ones out there now. It’s a very different experience for sure!

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