Small Bike For A Big Cyclist - Thunderhead Alliance

Small Bike For A Big Cyclist

I got this Dahon Archer P8 when I first got to Shanghai for work as I wanted a bike to keep in my apartment so I could go exploring. I get a lot of stares from the locals. I don’t know if it is because I’m the only person wearing a helmet (constant vigilance required on Shanghai roads..), or if it is because I’m a westerner on a bike, or because the bike looks so tiny under me. Look at high how the saddle is vs the rest of the bike.

If you have limited storage space but want to get out on two wheels from time to time a folding bike is a possibility even for heavier riders. You just have to make sure you get a good strong well designed bike like this Dahon. Dahon is one of the famous brands for folding bikes and they have given a lot of attention to the critical points showing their years of experience.

While the bike is small with 20” wheels and low slung frame, it is made of very strong cromolly steel. While I’m not convinced it will last for ever it has remained very solid after a number of years. It has a single ring at the front and 8 gears in the rear with a gripshift changer on the bars. The gear range has been ok for Shanghai which is fairly flat but low enough for getting over the odd bridge. The brakes do need a bit of adjustment currently as the front is VERY noisy these days, but the “V” brakes are pretty strong, but not disc brake strong. The neatest feature is it has a tire pump hidden inside the very very long seat post (I don’t even have it fully extended!)

Dahon have put a lot of attention into the folding points.

The seat post has a quick release, which I use to remove the saddle when I lock it up outside the super market. The central quick release is very beefy, and can be adjusted to make sure it keeps holding tight. The handle bars have a quick release as well, but more importantly the folding mechanism at the base of the “stem” holds very very tight. Both the head set locking point and central hinge have little extra features to ensure these critical locking points aren’t accidentally released or loosened.

I have had this bike over 50kph down some hills, and it still felt stable. On the flip side it feels nimble enough picking your way through a crowd on the foot path. The position of the handle bars relative to the wheels looks odd but it works. The only thing I don’t feel comfortable doing on this bike is getting out of the saddle because I am tall and I feel too far over bars.

I haven’t had this problem yet, but some friend with folding bikes who ride big hills say that keeping the front wheel down can be an issue, especially for taller people. This is because the rear wheel is close under the saddle, but your centre of gravity is high. So when going uphill you must concentrate of staying low to keep your weight in front of the rear wheel and back on the front wheel more. Similar problem to mountain biking.

I have traveled and taken this bike with me on the intercity trains, but typically I use it for just a bit of local exploring or to put around the road to the bread shop to get lunch. I put single sided clipless pedals on the bike so I can ride in flip flops to the shops or my mountain bike shoes and longer rides (did 30km one day – racing all the electric motor scooters).

So in summary if space is an issue a folding bike like a Dahon can be an option even for those 100kg and above.

Yeah you might look a bit silly, but it is more about having fun and getting some exercise than style and looking cool right.