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If you have ever had the chance to visit some of the cycling friendly countries in Europe, one of the most common sights on the road and on the underground tubes, would be that of a folding bicycle. At the Centre of innovation in this category of bicycles, is the Los Angeles based Dahon. With over 200 patents to their name, they account for over 50% of the world's folding bicycles sold. We feel that once India has the necessary metro infrastructure in place, the folding bicycle will be the answer to last mile connectivity in crowded cities. We took the Dahon Vitesse D8 2016 to see how this bicycle fares out on the road.
The frame of the Dahon Vitesse D8 is a lightweight aluminum unit, with a lattice-forged hinge in the center. It felt light all through the ride, and the cleverly integrated hinges that allows the bike to fold, did not hamper the frame's strength or characteristics. The material used on the bicycle was good, and so was the finish on the paintwork found on the frame. The flat profiled frame folds in the center, which makes it fairly easy to manage the transition. The hinges were of a good quality with the necessary strength required to hold the frame together while riding. The overall ergonomic position was fairly relaxed and upright, but the aggressive handlebar and angle gave it a sportier position compared to other foldies. The low frame ensures that you could be in your office attire and not be forced to stretch too much to get on and off the bicycle. To assist office goers, you will find a wide carrier at the rear, which will hold your laptop or gym bag.
When you look at a folding bicycle for the first time, the design will appear as being odd, and something that existed during the early days in the evolution of cycles. Don't be too swayed by the looks of the Dahon Vitesse D8, because every design line has a functional aspect that allows the folding bicycle to be a folding bicycle. There is not too much to focus on the design department, barring the small and short frame that clearly screams function rather than aesthetic appeal.
The Vitesse D8 comes with an 8 Speed gear option powered by the Shimano Altus. They have employed trigger shifters, which worked well on the ride. The gear shifting was precise and did not have too much of a lag while transitioning. The gearing on offer did help us get to a decent speed for urban commuting, but one must understand that this bicycle is not meant to be pushed in terms of speed. The Vitesse comes with a fairly large crank that ensures that every pedal gives you more distance. The transfer of pedaling momentum was pushed forward quite efficiently.
The braking on the Dahon Vitesse D8 was quite encouraging for a 20'bicycle. The Winzip 110mm V-brakes were responsive and sufficient for urban riding. We felt the maximum stopping power was at the end of the brake lever range, thereby ensuring that city riders do not over brake in traffic conditions. The bicycle comes with alloy brake levers that are designed for 3-finger braking. We felt that the length of the brake cables were not handled properly which made it messy in the front.
The handlebar on the Vitesse D8 resembles a lot of the MTB handlebars out there. It is wide and flat which gives it a sporty and aggressive ride. The angle of stem, along with the handlebar and the 20'wheels makes the bicycle very reactive, and at times over reactive at slow speeds. This ensures that you have the agility to maneuver through traffic, without needing too much space. The one downside of this model is that the height of the handlebar is not adjustable which makes it a little uncomfortable if you're height is closer to 6'. The second folding angle is at the head tube, which allows it to get into a compact dimension. The Vitesse is stable while taking corners and overall is good in the handling department .The bicycle is not the quickest to accelerate but does pick up speed gradually.
The tires on this foldie are custom built for this category of bicycles. The 20'aluminum rims has a hybrid tread, wide profile tire that is built for city commuting. The tires did a good job in taking care of the potholes that one will experience inside city limits. The wide profile also helps in handling the rider's weight. We felt that the treading on offer assisted well on corners and while stopping. The roll on this tire and hub combination was smooth and free, which aided our overall ride momentum.
The ride quality was pliant. We felt that the tires, the frame and the saddle contributed to the overall comfortable ride. If you get on to a folding bicycle, you will quickly realize how much fun it is to ride. It almost transports you to your childhood days and gives you the feeling that you're riding a push scooter. The saddle is relatively firm and semi-wide, while coming with the option to increase the height for a 5' to 6' rider. You will to need spend some time riding around your neighbourhood before you head out on the road, only because the handling and balance of folding bicycles are a bit different to your regular bicycle. To sum it up, you will like the ride quality and experience that the Dahon Vitesse D8 has to offer.
The Dahon Vitesse D8 2016 is a well put together, functional folding bicycle. It comes with a nice lightweight frame, good efficient components, which add up to a nice package and ride, barring a few shortcomings. If you are looking for an option for last mile commuting or a fun bicycle to ride around your city, the Dahon Vitesse D8 will certainly be an exciting option. With the expertise of Dahon in the folding segment, there are not too many other brands out there to put your money on. At Rs.37,700 it is a bit pricey at first glance, but when you get to understand it functional advantages, the superior build and features of the Vitesse D8, you will justify the price point and focus on the ride.