The past few weeks have been exciting weeks for ISWE. Why? Three small wheel sightings on the campus at IUPUI in downtown Indianapolis.
You might ask yourself, "Who would go to the trouble of locking up a bike that's been run over by a car?" That bike hasn't been run over by car, it was made that way. The little red bike to the left is, I believe, a Dahon Speed P8.
Founded in 1982 by physicist Dr. David Hon, Dahon is the world's largest manufacturer of folding bikes. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA with primary manufacturing facilities in Shenzhen, China, Dahon makes tons of folding bikes. By the end of 2012, Dahon will have produced in excess of 100,000 bikes in its Bulgarian facilities alone. Is it just me, or is that a lot of bikes? That's a lot of bikes?
Dahon not only produces a lot of bikes, they produce a lot of models. They range in price from the Dahon Boardwalk at less than $300 all the way up to the Vector X27h at about $2300. Dahon has something for pretty much everyone. Because they have so many models, they tend to make each model in only a few colors. The Speed P8 comes in red and black and the IUPUI campus last week had both.That little bike to the left is the Speed P8 Black, apparently making friends with a purply little bike with a watermelon seat. (Sorry about the picture quality. It's a glass building and light was reflecting like I was in a solar oven!
Because Dahon makes so many folding bikes, they're able to use some pretty impressive components. Every bit of a Dahon is impressive--great hinges, great components, nice fit and finish. If you look closely at the photo, you'll see a quick release in the center of the simple straight handlebar. That's a nice feature. It allows the rider to rotate the bars after folding to tuck the brake levers closer in, resulting in a narrower folded width. Cool.
In the photo above, you can see the impressive handlebar stem hinge. It' a lot more sophisticated piece of engineering than that the hinge on the ISWE Birdy. I can imagine it working better, longer, and providing a much tighter ride. Nicely done.
Where the Dahon's fall slightly short is in suspension and overall compactness of fold. Only their new Curl comes close (but not too close) to the Brommie.
Dahons don't have rear suspension like Bromptons or front and rear suspension like Birdy's or some of the Pacific Cycles folding bikes. Suspension isn't a big deal on bikes with 26" wheels, but it makes a big difference on small wheels.
Small wheels have the advantage of being compact and super strong, but that comes at the cost of smoothness of ride and rolling resistance. To overcome rolling resistance, manufacturers of small wheel bikes spec high pressure tires (75 psi to over 100 psi). Because the tough little wheels don't flex like their giant flimsy counterparts, that translates into a rougher ride on rigid frames. Bromton and Birdy both add elastomeric shock absorption to the rear triangle to smooth out the ride to your seat. Birdy also adds a front spring shock to the fork to smooth out bumps to the handlebars. It really does make a difference. On one ride I frequent, there's a strip of bluestone I loath on the Brommie. I have to say, I cringe a little while crossing it. Rode it on the Birdy the other day and it was like gliding across... well, something one would glide across.
Dahon makes up for their lack of suspension on the P8 by using 20" wheels (as opposed to more compact 16" wheels) and big, fat, Schwalbe Big Apple tires. You may remember 20" wheels from a kids BMX bike, same size. Bigger wheels smooth out the bumps. Bigger tires absorb the shocks. Unlike a kids BMX bike, however, the P8 features an 8-speed derailleur. Combined with powerful v-brakes, the Speed P8 is basically an urban assault vehicle. While there's no way I would want to take a P8 touring, or on a 50-mile weekend ride, I would happily give it a turn hopping curbs, rolling over broken glass, or potentially bumping into wayward cars. While the P8 is not an all-purpose folding bike, it is a formidable urban commuter.
Along with the Hummer 16", some ISWE readers are already aware of, the P8's were found prowling the IUPUI campus. Like the Hummer, the Black P8 was captured at the Campus Center, while the Black P8 was caught at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. This all bodes well for the future of folders in Indy--I've never seen any folders on the IUPUI campus other than those owned by ISWE members. Apparently, the movement is afoot!
The ISWE staff have also encountered a fast-moving Bike Friday on Washington Street and a parked Dahon Broadway on, I believe, Vermont St..
Indianapolis, perhaps due to $4.00/gallon gas a few year back, is rapidly increasing its residential density downtown. New urban apartment complexes are popping up left and right. Indianapolis is also quickly adding to its bike lane and trail miles. This means we'll inevitably be seeing more and more small wheel folders in years to come. There's no better match for efficient urban living than a really compact folding bike. Right now, the ISWE Brompton is inhabiting roughly the same square footage in the ISWE headquarters as two pairs of shoes (seriously). The neighbor's bikes are outside, blocking the hallway, creating a potential hazard for secondary egress (or entry of firefighters) in the event of a fire, etc. We'll keep our fingers crossed on that one.
Well, thanks everyone for tuning in for an ISWE update. If you happen across a small wheel vehicle in your daily adventures, please feel free to pull out your phone or camera and snap a pic. Send them to ISWE and well put them on the site, because there's nothing better than looking at pictures of small wheels... except maybe for puppies... puppies and cats are pretty popular out there on the web. ISWE gives credit where credit is due.
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Small wheels rule!