Dahon Bullhead: Quick to Fold and Built for Stout

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Sam takes his Bullhead folding bike out for ride #1

Sam takes his Bullhead folding bike out for ride #1

When I took delivery of the Dahon Bullhead, I was surprised by the size of the shipping box. It looked like a full-size bike might be inside. But there wasn’t. Instead, the bicycle with 20-inch wheels was shipped with the frame unfolded.

I can imagine two reasons for the big box: 1) With the Dahon Bullhead in its unfolded state, you know what the frame is supposed to look like when you’re ready to ride, and 2) Dahon wants you to search for the folding joints in the Bullhead’s top and bottom tubes, because they’re not necessarily obvious from six feet away.

Unlike many other folders, including many Dahon folding bike models, the Dahon Bullhead has no levers to release the folding joints. Instead, it features recessed 6-mm allen wrench fittings on the chainring side of the top and bottom frame tubes.

On the other side of the frame, the only things that betray the bike’s folding potential are cylindrical bumps in the top and bottom tubes. Maybe it’s my remarkable nearsightedness, but I couldn’t see the lines that surely marked the “mesh point” of either tube on the Dahon Bullhead until I loosened the allen wrench fittings.

Here is where I want to make sure you understand one thing: the Dahon Bullhead folding bike is not a piece of furniture. However, if you’ve bought ready-to-assemble furniture in the past 10 years, you’ll note one similarity between the Dahon Bullhead and a bookshelf: the speed at which you can secure the joints of either item.

You see, ready-to-assemble bookshelves often feature a cam-lock design which meshes the shelf to the casing with a half-turn of a screwdriver. Likewise, it only takes about half a turn of an allen wrench to release or tighten either folding frame joint on a Midtown Mini folding bike like the Dahon Bullhead.

So, even though the Dahon Bullhead has no latches, it folds plenty fast, as long as you don’t drop the wrench. All you have to do is 1) fold the pedals, 2) loosen the handlebar stem at the fork, 3) lift and reposition the bars by 90 degrees, 4) loosen the main frame joints and 5) fold the frame until the magnet on the fork contacts the magnet on the back dropout. (Depending on your leg length, you may also have to drop the seat to clear the handlebars.)

Dahon has a name for this dual-hinge folding design: Lockjaw. And it’s a great way to build a diamond frame—a frame with top and bottom tubes—that folds fast and rides true without any discernable flexiness.

In fact, if you asked someone to take this folding bike for a ride, she might not realize that the bike folds at all. Like I said, the visual evidence is less than obvious, and the ride is solid: the folding capability introduces no creaking, no noise at all.

And believe me, I listen for frame noise. Dahon rates the Bullhead for a rider up to 230 pounds, and I exceed that limit by 20 pounds. It’s offered in two frame sizes: a medium for riders from 5-foot-2 to 5-foot-6 and a large for riders 5-foot-7 and up.

Being 5-foot-7 myself, I’m riding the large frame. And yes, mother, I’m working on my weight.

I remember a comic who talked about going to the doctor. The doctor looked at the comic’s height and weight and said, “You know, if you were an inch taller, you’d be a perfect sphere.” There’s a difference between that poor slob and myself, of course: the Dahon Bullhead folding bike.

Which reminds me it’s way past time for my next ride.

For more by Sam visit his blog: 16incheswestofpeoria.wordpress.com