In 2010, Keith Henderson claimed first place for the third consecutive year at the London Smithfield Nocturne folding bike race. His steed? The Dahon Mu Ex folding bike. That's right, in the homeland of Bromptons, a Dahon folding bike claimed the gold medal three consecutive years in a row. I'm sure a lot of it has to do with Mr. Henderson as an excellent rider, but we can't overlook the fact that he was riding Dahon's top of the line folding bike. For a 20" bike, the Dahon Mu Ex was one of the fastest folding bikes in existence. Was.
We got the announcement that Dahon would be replacing their entire line of racing bikes in 2011 with the upgraded Dahon Vector folding bikes. Keeping many of the components similar, the big difference about the Vector bikes is the hydroformed frame. This molded aluminum is compressed by a hydraulic press, making it thicker, stronger, and just as lightweight as the older bikes. This is the reason why the Dahon Vectors have a more rigid ride than most other folding bikes.
Since we didn't expect any Vector bikes until Summer 2011, we were surprised to find that Dahon was offering to loan us the Vector X20, the replacement for the Mu EX, to try out. Eager to test the validity of this speed demon, I took it on the 8 mile ride from NYCeWheels back to Brooklyn.
When you begin to pedal the Dahon Vector X20, the first thing you notice is the acceleration. It really takes off! It took me about three pedal strokes to get up to a cruising speed, and I was immediately impressed with how it handled. The position was very similar ergonomically to other 20" Dahon bikes. It also offered bar ends, for the more aggressive riders. The handlebars are a bit wider than other Dahons, which is great to distribute the force of a strong rider, but not so great when you're trying to navigate between cars in NYC traffic. Oh well, this bike is built for race tracks, not bumpy city streets, so I'll let it slide.
That being said, the bike was surprisingly solid, despite its lightweight components. True, the Schwalbe Durano tires and Kinetix Pro 16-spoke rims are part of the lightest and fastest wheels available. True, the carbon components and 19-pound frame are probably not ideal for city commuters. Still, I could feel the difference between the rigid hydroformed frame and the monotube design utilized on the previous model.
One of the coolest aspects of the Vector X20 folding bike is the SRAM DoubleTap shifters. Press lightly to shift up, press harder to shift down. This unique system means you can keep your fingers in the same position while you change gears. The 20-speed SRAM red drivetrain is one of the best quality shifting systems because of this smooth, effortless transition between gears. It also allows the Vector X20 to climb huge hills as well as speed over flat ground.
When I finally arrived at home, I began to fold the Dahon Vector X20 just like every other Dahon folding bike, when I discovered that it was slightly different. The handlebars actually fold on the outside of the bike, keeping the ergonomic position intact. Like the Mu EX, the Vector X20 has detachable aluminum MKS pedals and the superlight Kore I-Beam seat. At 19 lbs, I hoisted it over my shoulder and carried it up the stairs easily. This is by far the lightest folding bike I've ever seen at NYCeWheels.
After riding this bike to and from NYCeWheels, I can say confidently that the Dahon Vector X20 is the fastest folding bike I have ever ridden. There's no doubt in my mind about that. It also has some of the best quality components, like the SRAM red drivetrain and the quick Kinetix Pro wheels. Is is a practical commuter bike? No, probably not. Heavy abuse would destroy these wheels and cause constant flats. Is it a practical racing bike? While I didn't get to compare it to a full-size bike, I was thoroughly impressed with its speed and handling. If you're looking for a bike to do circuits in Central Park, this might be the winner.
Fast, stiff, smooth, and light. Those are the best adjectives for the Dahon Vector X20 folding bike. Look for it on our website in Summer 2011.
Review written by Mark Kleback, NYCeWheels sales associate