It's not all that unusual to spot small wheelers on the IUPUI campus these days--ISWE readers may recall a couple sightings of Dahon P8s last year--but something pretty interesting showed up outside the Lecture Hall last week. Meet the P8's grandpa (or grandma, not sure about how bike gender is determined), the Dahon Stow Away. It's an interesting little bike with a history worthy of a Steven Speilberg film. Short version: Largely in response to the 70's oil embargo/crisis, tactical/nuclear fusion laser beam physicist, Dr. David T. Hon founds Dahon in 1982. This little bike shows up in the mid-80s. Dahon goes on to conquer the folding bicycle market, becoming the world's largest folding bicycle manufacturer with well over 2 million folders sold by 2011. Then, Hon's son and wife, Florence and Joshua rebel, splitting Dahon in two, creating one of Dahon's major current competitors, Tern. Whew, drama.
There are a couple of interesting features on the Stow Away. Perhaps most notable is the Moulton-esque space frame handlebar support. The support undoubtedly adds a good bit of strength and stiffness to the long handlebar stem. It also, in the opinion of ISWE, adds considerably the look of the bike. Another unique feature is the location of the bottom bracket. Check that out, it's mounted at least a quarter of the way up the seat tube. That adds clearance for the cranks and pedals. Without that extra three or four inches, cornering the low-to-the-ground frame would be tricky to say the least. Moving to the rear, we see a five-speed freewheel on the far side and yes... a band brake, the bike's only brake, on the near side. Hmmm? Wonder what that's like in terms of stopping power? Finally, that's an integrated reflector in the rear fender. Cool. If this one shows up on campus again, we'll definitely take a much closer look.
Here's Dr. Hon with his original Da-Bike (smiling pre-rebellion). Notice, the Da-Bike pictured lacks the the distinctive handlebar support. But there is something extra there, a third wheel! If you look closely in the folded picture, just to the right of the crank, you'll see a swivel castor. While there appear to be brazings for its mounting on the Stow Away above, it's not there. Likely many owners opt to opt out of it or ditch it after the fact to partially reduce the steel bike's, I believe, approximate 40-pound overall weight.
While the fold is quite compact, almost rivaling that of Brompton, it is a bit complicated... check it out in this excellent set of YouTube clips. Any time you have two YouTube videos to demonstrate fold and unfold, you know it's going to be a little rough :)
Thanks to whomever you are intrepid IUPUI Stow Away rider for providing us a look at such an interesting machine!
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Small wheels rule!