Dahon is the most popular brand for foldable bikes in the US for a good reason: quality products at bargain prices. The Espresso is the entry level full-size (26" wheels) model in the line-up. It comes in three different frame sizes: 20", 18" & 16". Since my wife and I need to share this bike, I pick the middle one as a compromise.
There are other compromises in our decision. My wife wants a comfortable (i.e. high handle-bar) riding position. I need a foldable model to pack into the trunk of the car occasionally. We both want a bike with a good range of gears to negotiate the local hills. I also want quality all-aluminum construction for light weight and rust resistance. Finally, we don't want to pay a lot. In the end, the Dahon Espresso is the only bike that fits the bill.
What a beautiful bike it is! I get inquiries from strangers all the time, especially after they see how I unpack from the trunk and unfold it in 10 seconds.
In regular use, it looks and handles like a premium bike, yet costs hundreds of dollars less. Both the front and rear derailleurs are name-brand components that prove convenient and reliable. The rim brakes are so strong that the rider must be careful not to engage the front brake alone or he risks flipping over in a hurry. The folding and unfolding operations are straightforward. The seat is easily detachable, although the front wheel is not. The wheel rims are aluminum. The spokes are stainless steel with brass nipples. It is hard to find a regular bike with this set of specs at this price level, not to mention another foldable one.
Of course, a $400 bike cannot possibly be perfect, so let me put on the nitpicker's hat and list some possible complaints.Read more ›
I bought the Espresso for the purpose of converting it into an electric bike. After over a month of riding, I'm very much in love with the Espresso. It folds enough to fit in the back of a Volkswagen GTI but can still support the weight of a battery pack, front wheel motor, and 170 pounds of me.
One of the two things I'm not happy about is the placement of the bottle cage bolts. It's not like there's a lot of available space for that on a folding bike, but putting it right above the front wheel means all the road crud gets flung up onto the mouthpiece of my bottle.
The other gripe is with the handlebar removal. The body folds in half with the flick of a switch, the seat post collapses with a quick-release... but I have to carry around a 5mm hex to remove the handlebars? Come on guys, there's got to be a more graceful hand-tightened way to collapse the bike.
I've actually featured the bike with the electric conversion in a series of videos over at my website if you want to see it in action.
The Dahon Espresso is a well-designed smooth-running city bike built with good quality components. It shifts smoothly, and the frame is stiff enough to allow real efficiency in pedaling. In a perfect world, the gearing would go lower and higher, so I could more easily ride up and down the hills out in the country around here, but the gearing is right in line with the designers' aim to create a city bike. I've ridden it a reasonable amount in the 2 weeks since I got it, and I've enjoyed every ride. The most extreme ride I've been on was a trip to the bank in the rain. The tires gave good traction on wet roads, and everything worked smoothly even when wet. On some long up and down hill rides in the Finger Lakes, it was solid on the way up and the way down the hills--no insecurity going down long hills at high rates of speed.
The folding works smoothly, although you'd have to train to be able to do it in 5 seconds. I don't like taking the handlebars off when I fold the bike, because that loosens up the headset, which always gives me the willies. Most times I've folded it I've loosened the handlebar enough to turn it sideways while folded, and I've noticed that the Montague folding bikes remove the front wheel when they fold, and I intend to try that.
At $450 or even $500 (list price) it would be reasonable deal on a bike. I bought last year's model for less than $400, so I feel like I got a bargain! The shipment and delivery were prompt, and assembly was relatively painless, although I may not be a good judge--I started taking bikes apart and putting them back together 40 years ago. I was mildly surprised to find that it was even in pretty good adjustment. The front derailleur and shifter both needed a little adjustment, but that was easy for someone who knows how, or can follow the directions in the manual.