|Sometimes it is about the bike.|
There weren't many bikes that fit the criteria I had set out, particularly the price range, ruled out Brompton and Bike Friday folders. Between what looked to be a bad gear range for Breezer Zip models and mixed reviews from prior owners, I decided to avoid these as well. This left several options from Dahon, wheel size being the next significant one. It seemed to me that that 20" wheels were more desirable leaving a limited set of models. It was tempting to upgrade the price range to get a model with 24 gears, full racks -- essentially a folding touring/commuter -- but for what was expected to be an occasional use bike, it didn't make sense to over buy. In the end, the Mu P8 had the right price tag and seemed to be the right platform. Ordered online and shipped direct via amazon.com, the 2008 model arrived well packed and mostly assembled.
I road it a little bit in April, getting used to the handling, shifting and making sure nothing was obviously amis before taking it on it's first train journey and loaded trip. In those early rides, I quickly found it to be very capable bicycle, easily usable as someone's only commuter or general purpose bicycle. Aside form general riding around for errand and commutes, a friend invited me along on what we've taken to calling Eric's Raids. These usually include a bit of off-road exploration of abandoned rail lines, overpasses and interesting means of reaching those bits. This ride is what cemented this bike in my mind as a good alternative to my Breezer Liberty for utility riding. The photo above came from one of these raid rides while we took a break before trying the next bit of deep gravel.
|Loaded for Travel in Richmond, VA.|
And in the ultimate test of confidence, it got to be my primary ride for about 4 weeks when I foolish hopped a pothole and damaged the rim for the rear wheel of the Liberty. Between vacations, product line changes and discontinuations, it took me that long to get a new rear wheel for the commuter. I got plenty of practice curling a single pannier around the back of the rack. If a ride were particular bouncy, the pannier could actually curl in and start rubbing on the wheel.
Overall, I'd recommend this bike. At 20 pounds, and its folding ability, coupled with the folding pedals or upgraded to MKS quick-release pedals, this bike is perfect for rail commuters where full size bikes are prohibited, or even on Amtrak trips.
I did have to make some adjustments for the bike since it has a much more upright position and the handling can be a bit twitchy. Initially I was uncomfortable getting out of the saddle to climb hills, but after a month of commuting, I was standing almost exclusively for short climbs. Road feel is pretty good at 50psi on the stock Schwalbe 20x1.5" tires, but large cracks, sticks and such definitely transfer their vibration into the handle bar and saddle more than on my road bikes. On the upside, with the responsive handling, doding such obstacles is quite easy, even at the last moment.
Even with 8 speeds, the gearing offers a good range in terms of gear inches low 30s to 90s. I did find that I could spin it out easily on downhills or flats with tailwinds, but never encountered a hill that I couldn't climb with the lowest gear.
Just before I got my Liberty back on the road, I noticed that what I thought was chain noise coming from the chain watcher is actually being caused by a slightly bent chainring. It is entirely possible the bike came with this problem and I didn't notice until too late. A very good reason to heed the advice given on all of the materials to have the bike checked over by a mechanic before using it.
Usage so far
Since purchase in late April total mileage comes in at around 500 miles, I don't think I've had a reason to ride it since late August, though I expect to take it to VA in December.
9 miles of commuting most days for over a month (when the weather wasn't wet - no fenders yet)
60 miles loaded with a duffle of clothing and gear for a 4 days of hotel and cabin camping
45 miles mixed on- and off-road exploring abandoned rail lines (deep, loose gravel; dirt; weeds; debris)
For another review of a different Dahon folder versus a Strida, check out Katie Mattison's article "The Tale Of Two Folding Bikes" at Commute By Bike.