Dahon Dash P18, a fast fun folding bike

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Harrison all bundled up for his ride on the Dahon Dash P18

This week we’ ve had the Dahon Dash P18 folding bike here in the shop, part of the sneak-peak we’ ve been getting of the 2011 Dahon folding bikes. It just so happens this is also the week that winter has clamped down on New York tight as a LockJaw hinge. But with this sweet looking folding bike scheduled to go back to Dahon this weekend, what choice did I have? I had to bundle up and ride it.

The thermometer registered a chilly 21° F by the time I left work at 5, so I deployed my full war chest of cold weather gear: two layers of cycling jerseys, another fleece-lined long-sleeve layer, a wind-resistant shell (in high-visibility safety neon), thermal cycling tights, thermal shoe covers, glove liners – well, you get the idea. It was cold.

Amazingly though, as I always find on these really cold days, once I was on the bike it really wasn’ t so bad. You get moving and you warm right up. With the right gear, being out in that kind of cold feels a bit like being in a cold ocean wearing a wet suit: you’ re aware of the cold but it isn’ t uncomfortable. It feels nice, actually.

Anyway, about the Dash P18: I left the shop and headed west on 85th, straight over to the park. Entering at 91st Street, I pretty much had the place to myself. I cycled up the east side, along the reservoir, just having fun with the Dash P18: pushing it hard for a hundred yards, then dropping down into a lower gear (among the 18 to choose from!) and spinning, then pushing it again. As mentioned in some of our other reviews of the Dash P18, thanks to its two tube frame geometry, the Dash P18 folding bike has stiffness comparable to a non-folder. And if you’ ve been riding a lot of folding bikes (like I have) you really feel the difference when you hop on the Dash P18.

We haven’ t had the chance yet to review the Dash P18’ s closest relative in Dahon’ s Midtown Mini series – the Dash X20, which promises to truly be the real deal when it comes to folding bikes meant for performance road use – but riding the Dash P18 you are definitely aware of the family resemblance. In addition to its high stiffness, the Dash P18 is also very light and has a gear ratio nearly comparable to the Dash X20. In fact, at 26” – 95” its gear ratio is actually slightly wider – meaning a lower gear at the bottom end, and a slightly higher gear at the top end. Suffice it to say, this folding bike is legitimately fast but also won’ t kill you on a steep uphill.

By the time I reached the north end of the park and started in on the big climb, I began to feel like I was actually working up a sweat. Well, not a sweat but I was definitely breathing hard and getting thirsty. Taking a pull at my camelback, anticipating a nice refreshing gulp of air-chilled H2O – I got nothing. Not a drop. In those fifteen minutes I’ d been out so far the camelback’ s straw had frozen solid. That cut my night ride on the Dash P18 somewhat short. After a lap and a half I headed back down to the bridge and home.

The Dash P18 in the bright morning sunshine on the Queensboro Bridge

I had slightly more agreeable riding conditions the next morning. Riding in to work the bright sunshine felt comparatively warm and I could appreciate the versatility of the Dash P18. Not only is this folding bike fun for night rides in the park or for a longer ride on the weekend, but it also makes a solid and highly practical commuter. It’ d be great for a commute that’ s slightly longer than most, where speed and range of gears are important.

I think among the four bikes in Dahon’ s Midtown Mini series, the Dash P18 is definitely the most well-rounded of the bunch. It has the same straight bar and comfortable riding position as the Dahon Bullhead but is considerably lighter and faster. And it’ s a pretty bike, with clean lines and stylish design, but not such a show-stopper as the downright dapper Dahon Smoothhound. And though it’ s fast, it’ s much more affordably priced and speced than its cousin the Dash X20. If I was looking for one all-around folding bike in the Dahon Midtown Mini series, the Dash P18 folding bike would probably be it.

One last word on the LockJaw hinges on the Dash P18: all the folding bikes in the Midtown Mini series come equipped with these newly designed hinges. Though I have ample bike parking in my Queens apartment I folded the Dash P18 when I got home, just to test them out. The folding process is a bit more involved than a standard Dahon, in that you need an allen key. But otherwise the LockJaw hinges don’ t add to the fold time at all. The special built-in stand which the bike rests on when folded is also well designed. These LockJaw hinges really make sense for the Midtown Mini series. Combined with the two-tube frame design and high stiffness, you forget you’ re on a folding bike at all. Yet – if it makes your boss or spouse happy – it isn’ t too much trouble to fold up when you arrive to work or back home.

Full range of currently available Dahon folding bikes