My New Love Affair: The Dahon Speed 7

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He’s cute, he’s adventurous, he’s reliable, and he’s closeted. What more could one ask of a folding bike?

My latest love interest is the Dahon Speed 7. I’d been eying him in the bike store for quite a while, examining his features, and comparing him with his strong-framed brothers. Finally, in the beginning of February I decided he was the one for me.

eyes-on-street-for-web.jpgThe Dahon – or “Speedy”, as I’ve come to call him – is the latest stage in the shift I’ve been making away from private ownership of a motorized vehicle. Now I look at the Vespa I bought two years ago as a way station on that path, and I’m planning to sell it once spring arrives in full bloom.

Last September I had to give up running because of foot problems. I was accustomed to getting around the city on foot, Metro, and bus, so originally I thought the folding bike would be mainly for recreation or workouts. But in the three-plus weeks I’ve had Speedy, I’ve used him a lot more than I’d expected for errands, and for getting to business meetings and dinner engagements. This February has been a relatively mild winter month by Washington DC standards, and Speedy has given me the freedom of the city in a way that I really hadn’t expected.

The day I bought him I took him on a one-hour-plus ride up the Capital Crescent Trail to Bethesda, hung around the bookstores there for a while, then had the great pleasure of riding downhill all the way home. I’ve taken him to Capitol Hill; I’ve taken him on lunch dates; and on a particularly nasty evening with freezing rain I took him on a dinner date to Georgetown. He makes going to the Post Office or doing other routine errands a whole lot more fun, and personally I think there’s a certain cachet to arriving at meetings with a bike helmet tucked under my arm. Between the backpack and the luggage rack, Speedy can easily haul home enough groceries for five days.

Washington DC has become much more bike-friendly since I lived here in the 1980s and 1990s. There are many more bike lanes now, and bike racks seem to be a standard part of the sidewalk furniture in every street rehab project. A large proportion of the buses have bike racks too, and the Metro allows riders to carry on bikes at any time except rush-hour. Folding bikes, however, can be carried on even during rush-hour, but they have to be enclosed in a bag. They can also be carried as hand-baggage onto Amtrak trains, so I can bring my new bike on any trip I take up to New York City.

For now, the love affair continues…

Full disclosure: My husband still has a car, and he is generous in both letting me use it and even chauffeuring me to and from various carpool arrangements, and Amtrak and Greyhound stations. So my weaning away from car-dependence is still far from total. And yes, I think he approves of my new affair with Speedy!

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  • http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl Henry

    Hi Helena,
    My wife and I just returned from a long weekend in Normandy, France. We’d normally travel by train but we wanted to visit some rural areas and small towns not well served by public transport. So we rented a car and brought the folding bikes along and it turned out to be a handy choice: All of these medieval cities had terrible parking problems so we’d drop the car a couple km from the center and then cycle into town to find a hotel. This worked great until we went to retrieve our car Sunday to head to another city but found a giant street market where the car WAS. Oops. After 3 bike trips back and forth across the city to various police stations we were allowed to retrieve the car from the impound lot in a neighboring town. It wasn’t really the route we’d planned but we did get to see much more of Caen than we expected ;-)

    The upshot is that we were very happy to have the folding bikes and not to be dependent on buses that day! None of this would have been possible with standard bikes: they wouldn’t have fit into the trunk of the rental car, nor the teeny hotel rooms.

  • Carlos

    I have the exact same bike, same color, etc! It’s one of my 7 bikes, but it’s actually the one I use the most. It’s really a great bike, since it has the mudcovers and 7 gears, and foldable (here it’s difficult). Congrats on this new vehicle!

    I prefer not to ride it combined with public transport, because the buses are so packed… but I agree it’s worth a try in off-peak.

    And I prefer this one to my road bike, because it’s a bit stronger than the road bike and smaller, plus the frame geometry is for urban use (not sports, like the road bike). If I wouldn’t use the foldable, I’d use the city bike (28 inch, custom made). If not, one of the mountain bikes…

  • http://justworldnews.org Helena

    Hi, Henry, that was a fun post you had over there on your Bakfiets blog. I loved the photo of no less than six folding bikes in one small section of a train car there.

    I quite agree with what you write here about the combinativity of the folding bike with other modes of transport and really intend to explore that a lot more in coming weeks. I commute on a weekly basis between Washington DC and Charlottesville, Virginia, which is around 2.5-3 hours away whether carpooling with my friend or traveling by train or bus. Last night, in Charlottesville, I walked 1.5 miles from the train station to my home with a heavy backpack at 11 p.m., and totally wished I’d brought Speedy the Demon Dahon with me!

    Regarding carrying stuff on it, I find the combination of a backpack (w/ integral laptop sleeve) and the bike’s own rack meets all my needs. It does require limiting the numbers of bottles of wine I buy each time at the grocery store. Not altogether a bad thing?

  • http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl Henry

    Nice blog!

    I totally disagree that a $200 second hand “road bike” will make transportation cycling more practical or pleasant than a nice folding bike. That DaHon has a comfortable sitting position, fenders, kickstand, chainguard, modern flat-resistant tires and lights (w/ hub dynamo!) built right in. You’d be spending easily another $300 to convert a wannabe racing bike into such a practical, comfortable machine and it still wouldn’t fold.

    A folding bike is super handy: you can combine cycling with public transport, catch a ride with a friend one-way and bring the bike inside when it wouldn’t be safe to leave outdoors.

    I also happen to have a similar DaHon folder amongst my many bikes (I own a bicycle company) and it rides great, far better than one would guess.

    The one thing that could eventually push you to get another transportation bike is the fact the folding bikes aren’t handy for carrying things: groceries, kids, friends etc. That’s what a well-equipped city bike is for.

    I wrote a post about my folding bike use a few months ago and there are some interesting comments following:
    http://www.bakfiets-en-meer.nl/2007/11/30/folding-bikes-in-the-train/

    -Henry

  • Robert

    Helena, as cute as that bike may be, if you’re serious about using a bike as daily transportation, you should try a road bike.

    Getting a good, sporty bike was what really got me hooked on riding everywhere – there’s a huge difference in how pleasant and fast your ride is. I’m not talking about expensive carbon bikes, either. You can get a nice 70s-80s road bike on Craigslist for $200, get it fitted and tuned, and it’s like you’ve gone from a pickup to a Porsche.

  • http://bicyclecu.blogspot.com Siouxgeonz

    It starts with an affair! This sounds like what happened when I got my Xtracycle. Yea, the site *said* it would change my life, but I thought I already rode a lot. Snork! I’d be all set to take the car and it would say “why not me? why not me?” … and when my cab driver brother needed a new car, at a price his sister would give him… welp, that was the end of last may and it *hasn’t* been a mild winter by our standards, but I’ve had so much fun!
    Log your ‘green miles’ and watch ‘em add up… (tho’ they don’t have a ‘green miles’ category I recommend http://www.bikejournal.com for logging)