First impressions were poor. After a cautious quarter mile ride from Evans along Deansgate towards Victoria, the Biologic pump fell out of its housing in the seatpost and scraped along the floor of the train station. I’ve bought a turkey, I feared.
But later that day the Dahon MU P8 (above) received a proper inaugural pootle along Bury’s streets. Or rather, while I was expecting it to pootle this thing went like the proverbial excrement departing a stick.
Since having my Kalkhoff Pro Connect stolen on bonfire night ’07, the replacement finally came through in March in the form of this roughly equivalent folder. That is, on paper they’re similar.
Aesthetically the Kalkhoff was more appealing with its dark grey paint and black wheelset. It had lived in my lounge and the sight of it enticed me to leave the road bike tucked away at the back of the house. The Kalkhoff however gave an unforgiving ride and once I was three quarters of a mile down the road I regretted choosing the eye candy over the utilitarian but oh-so-comfy 531C 700c machine in the utility room.
And yet after some firework-throwing scrote relieved me of the Kalkhoff (feel my pain), I had time to consider how useful the bike had been. Comparisons with a steel road bike were entirely unfair, I relented. By using it too often, I failed to appreciate its benefits; it should have been ridden only when I was catching a train or bus. I missed it.
Its replacement, the MU P8, exploded a myth. I had assumed that aluminium bikes gave a harsh ride, having previously owned an aluminium Ammaco Tony Doyle from the 1980s. The MU P8 is more rideable than either and is very forgiving of bumps in the road, despite being made of 7005.
Shifting on the P8 is pleasantly efficient, with none of the clankiness you sometimes get with derailleurs on bikes with short stays. The 1:1 actuation means a light touch is plenty for a gear change. The single grip-shift has positive clicks that prevent accidental shifting. The fact that it is entirely pleasant to change to a smaller rear sprocket, combined with the ease of accelerating on 20″ wheels, leads to far hastier acceleration than I get on the 700c bike, though it takes more energy to keep it rolling beyond 20mph. Perhaps the multi-speed Dahons costing more than £550 would accelerate faster still; I have yet to try one.
Reassuringly, the P8 lacks the bendiness of other folding bikes. Pushing hard on the pedals, the saddle and handlebars stay the same distance from each other, as they should; not true of the Kalkhoff, which had a creaky frame hinge after 400 miles together with the slightly flexy seatpost it always had.
Sure, the P8 comes with a cushion-like Biologic saddle and El Cheapo plastic folding pedals which are just nasty, but I guess these touch points are the usual upgrades. Also on the minus side, the handlebar arrangement is convoluted, involving two quick release cams, the lower interface allowing the stem to rotate a few degrees within the steerer. This means I have to align the bars each time I unfold the bike, which seems to add an unnecessary step to the process.
Evans replaced the faulty seat-post pump without fuss, but having removed it from the post, I felt how heavy it was. I now carry a mini pump instead. The lighter the bike, the more portable it is when folded. By the same token, the prop stand is an unnecessary luxury.
I still have hang ups about folding bikes generally. I recognise I’ve spent the cost of a half decent road bike on a cycle that would look at home in Zippo’s circus. As such, it will attract shouts of ‘gerroff-the-road’ along with some unnecessary overtaking manoeuvres, but it can pass for luggage on a bus and it handles better than a Brompton S. I’d be happy to do twelve miles on it; perhaps too happy, given that twelve miles is my commute and I have bikes that are more suitable for mid to long distances. I’ll try and use it sparingly.
Technical specification of the 2007 Dahon MU P8 (as supplied)
|Frame and fork:||P Series 7005 butted aluminium alloy custom-drawn Sonus tubing with forged Lattice hinge|
|Gears:||SRAM X7 8-speed|
|Shifters:||SRAM MRX comp grip-shifter|
|Chainset:||Sugino XD cold-forged 6061 cranks with 2014-AL chainring|
|Brakes:||Kinetix SpeedStop V brakes|
|Front wheel:||Kinetix Neutron hub laced to 406mm Kinetix Comp double-wall rim|
|Rear wheel:||Kinetix Labyrinth hub laced to 406mm Kinetix Comp double-wall rim|
|Tyres:||Dahon Special Edition Schwalbe Marathon Racer|
|Handlebar:||Ritchey 6061-T6 aluminium straight bars|
|Stem:||Radius Telescope adjustable patented Fusion technology forged aluminum|
|Saddle:||BioLogic AirFlo Mojo Groove design|
|Seatpost:||BioLogic Zorin PostPump|
|Pedals:||Suntour folding non-slip pedals|
UPDATE: The MU P8 can be converted to single speed with a 16 tooth sprocket. With the 52 tooth chainring, the chainstay is just the right size that you can dispense with the derailleur (despite the vertical dropouts) and shorten the chain. This makes the bike lighter and much easier to handle when folded. I bought a BMX rear wheel with a 10mm spindle just for this.
UPDATE: This thing eats tyres. After 2,000 miles, the Schwalbe Marathons are ‘punctures galore’. I’ve replaced them with Schwalbe Big Apples, 2″ tyres which give a plush ride. Mudguards have been swapped for broader ones to cover the additional width.