In my never-ending search for products, gear, and gadgets that help me as a journalist/photographer in an urban environment, I came to the realization that my mode of transportation is a major factor in my ability to navigate to stories or photo assignments. Often, I either drive my car or take public transportation to reach my target location. While both modes have their pros and cons, a friend suggested that I consider taking a bicycle as my mode of transportation, which I often do. But with the high rate of bicycle theft in the city of Chicago, my home base, this proved to be trickier than anticipated.
After venturing out into the vast internet forums of bicycles and ways to avoid bicycle theft, I accidentally stumbled upon a thread of forums dedicated to folding bicycles. I was very intrigued but also very skeptical. I am in an urban environment with fairly harsh terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. I needed to find a product that can withstand the rough Chicago streets and perform well in varied weather conditions. This is where I learned of Dahon folding bicycles. I spoke to a few other urban riders, and none of them were able to vouch for the durability and overall rideability of folding bicycles.
The Dahon company was gracious enough to provide me with a Mu P8 folding bicycle to road-test for the purposes of my unbiased review. The bicycle arrived pre-assembled, and required a moderate amount of tuning to make the bicycle street-ready.
The Dahon Mu P8 is a versatile, lightweight, compact folding bicycle equipped with 20″ wheels with reflective strips, Shimano HyperGlide 8 speed cassette, a butted aluminum alloy frame, an air pump hidden in the seat post, Sugino XD crankset, Avid FR5 brake levers, Kinetix SpeedStop V brakes, and Suntour non-slip folding pedals.
I set out over the past two months to use the Mu P8 as my daily commuter. My daily commute is approximately 5 miles from my house, which takes me on average 20 minutes to drive in the morning and about 40 minutes back in the evenings by car. On bike, I am now averaging 28 minutes going to and from work, no matter how thick traffic is. The Dahon website claims that the bicycle is foldable in approximately 15 seconds. At first, I took about 30 seconds to fold the bike, but now I am able to comfortably do so in about 7-10 seconds.
Immediately upon mounting the bicycle, I was very surprise at how solid it felt and how nimble the steering performed. I am used to riding a Specialized 21-speed mountain bike, and I was very pleasantly surprised at how nimble the Dahon felt. It took some getting used to – only after about 1 city block – to really get a feel how the bicycle steers, stops, etc. I was also very surprised at how quickly I was able to accelerate, largely due to the smaller 20″ wheels. Within moments, I was zipping up and down the streets and to on-location photo assignments without having to find parking or a bike rack. I was amazed at how much fun the bike is to ride. The gearing was spot on, and accelerating to a comfortable speed was surprisingly simple. I oftentimes find myself cruising past full-sized riders when going up steep inclines (by Chicago standards) due to the quick gear-shifting abilities of the Shimano HyperGlide gear set and the compact 20″ wheels. The stock seat is quite comfortable, and I do not find any soreness or discomfort after my 10-mile daily round trip commute.
The Dahon Mu P8 folds compactly enough that it fits under my desk with legroom to spare. The Mu P8 clocks in at around 24.7 lbs, which makes it light enough to carry up and down a few flights of stairs. However, I found that if there are any other people attempting to walk past you on the stairs, the bicycle is just large enough to be a bit cumbersome for them to pass by. I started taking the elevator to my 2nd floor office just to be more considerate to the people in the stairwells.
The bicycle itself is designed in an attractive package, with a glossy black finish, matte silver accents, and low-profile handlebars. I turn a lot of heads when I am riding around town.
I have been riding every day since I began testing the bicycle, and the bicycle has performed well in all weather I have encountered thus far. I must add that SKS mini mudguards were installed on the bicycle, which is a must if riding in wet or rainy conditions. I have not yet taken the Mu P8 in icy or slushy weather, and cannot comment on the performance of the Schwalbe racer tires in these conditions.
I only encountered a few minor issues with the Mu P8. While the bicycle feels solid and exhibits high-quality craftsmanship, there are a few parts on the bicycle that are disappointing. For instance, the wheel reflectors on both the front and back wheels fell off within the first week of riding the bicycle. Also, the main tube of the frame is outfitted with small holes fitted with plastic knobs/buttons that appear to be a part of the manufacturing process. All of these little buttons have broken off. They do not appear to affect the overall performance of bicycle, but they are cheap and questionable. Also, the plastic sheath on the rear brake line has already torn, apparently due to the contant flexing of the brake line when folding/unfolding the bicycle. Again, this is not a major problem, but it’s a small quality detail that is slightly annoying to have break after only 2 months of use. Additionally, I find that the headset (where the handlepost meets the frame) loosens on its own almost on a weekly basis. It has gotten to the point that I now carry a small wrench to tighten the nut that keeps the handlepost from jiggling. Again, it is not a major problem, but it is an annoyance to have to stop in mid-commute to make this adjustment on a weekly basis.
Additionally, the Mu P8 is outfitted with a larger than usual diameter of tubing in the handlebars and seat post. This allows for more solid build but makes it difficult to find a front headlight or rear tail light that actually fit. My usual Planet Bike Blaze headlight was adjustable enough to fit on the handlebar with a few minor changes. However, the Planet Bike Blinky rear light is not able to fit around the seat post. I have resorted to mounting the light to the back of my helmet and adding an additional rear light on my backpack/camera bag. Also, the headlight cannot stay mounted on the handlebars when folding. It will rub up against the tire or get in the way of the bike folding up properly. Again, it is not a major problem, but it is a minor inconvenience.
Overall, the Dahon Mu P8 is a highly recommended bicycle for urban commuters or even casual bike riders. The Mu P8 is nimble, quick in acceleration, and exhibits impressive speed. Most importantly, it virtually eliminates the theft variable that plagues urban cyclists while still maintaining the fun factor of city bike riding and reduces your carbon footprint.
To see Dahon’s entire line of bicycles, visit Dahon’s website here.