Monday, November 7, 2011
Dahon Eco 3 / Traveler Front Rack
This is a review of both the Dahon Eco 3 and the Dahon Traveler Front Rack. The Eco 3 was on my bike wish list because I wanted something that was easier to tote around in the car but substantial enough to carry my near 200+ lb commuting load to work (15 miles round trip). My other bike is a Torker Cargo T which doesn't ride in the car anywhere. Sometimes the social rides or bike events I want to attend are closer to the city, so the Dahon extends my range by allowing me more multi-modal trips in from the suburbs. In practice I've used the Dahon for a charity ride, bike light giveaways, commutes to work and making Redbox runs at the beach
The Eco 3 is the budget model for Dahon and was priced at about $380 in 2010. It has a 7-speed and a chunky-looking aluminum frame that doesn't have chainstays. It comes equipped with plastic fenders, v-brakes, a straight handlebar (proprietary) with comfortable grips. The bike folds in half, which isn't a tiny package; however, the 20-inch wheels with 1.75 width tires smooth out the ride. I can't imagine have skinner tires or smaller wheels without some sort of suspension. Then again, my other ride has fat tires and a sprung saddle.
The biggest challenge was finding a way to carry stuff on the Dahon. I know, being a pack mule is not the prime purpose of the bike, but I really don't care for backpacks. I also found the backpack put too much weight to the rear of the bike. I wanted a way to carry a load on the front of the bike. There are Other Dahon models have a block on the front of the frame to accept a luggage truss. I really wish my Dahon had this feature, as seems less of a compromise for carrying a load. I looked into the Rixen & Kaul quick-release luggage (suggested by Richard at Cyclelicious), but I couldn't find what I wanted at a decent price. I settled on the Traveler Rack, since it's made for the bike and can carry small panniers.
The Traveler Rack is made from tubular aluminum. The bolts that shipped with the rack did not
fit in the recessed holes (head was too wide), and were too short to thread into the frame mounts (shared with the fenders). The mechanics at Bikes@Vienna found some bolts that worked and installed it for me. Note that the front brakes need to be completely disconnected as they thread through the rack. I wouldn't say the rack interferes with the brakes, but it makes the cable routing a little awkward. It's suboptimal. As you can see the rack fits a set of compact panniers, holding them low and forward of the center of the wheel.
In summary, the Dahon is a great entry-level folding bike. The 20" wheels give it a ride more like a hybrid bike, but the fold isn't as fast and compact as a 16"-wheeled bike. Adding a rack makes it a great commuter, if you don't mind the somewhat low gearing of the 7-speed. I'll also note that keeping a folding bike in your cube is a great way to get people talking about bike commuting.