The most common description customers give me when I ask what kind of biking they want to do sounds something like this: "Get around town, sometimes bike to work, maybe a weekend fun ride or trip to a bar." Sounds to me like a lovely way to live. In any case, in response to that description, I have been pointing many people towards the Dahon Vitesse D7 folding bike. It's a well-rounded folding commuter bike with a reasonable price tag and a lot of great features. Since I was recommending it to so many people, I decided to take this bike out for a couple of long rides to get to know it a little better.
Before even hopping onto the Vitesse D7, you can't help but admire several of its many handy features. A pair of black commuter fenders grace its classic Dahon frame, and a sturdy rear rack sporting an integrated bungee cord comes standard, ready to haul your daily cargo. Handy attachment points for a water bottle cage and front luggage mount round out the commuter set-up. The D7 also features some subtler details, like an air pump that stows away inside the seatpost, and a translucent chain guard that keeps your pant cuffs clean.
Mounting the bike, I found its geometry to be a little more compact than some other folding bikes I have ridden. However, once I dialed in my ideal fit by adjusting the height of the quick-release seatpost and the tilt of the handlebars, I found the Vitesse's compactness to contribute significantly its agility. Between the 20-inch wheels and short handlebars-to-seat length, I found I was able to nimbly pick my way through New York's busy streets.
As I adapted to the bike's dimensions, I was reminded of a customer who recently asked me for recommendations for a bike that would suit someone as petite as she was. As an exceedingly medium-sized man, I had to confess that it was not a question which I had considered too much before. However, as I enjoyed darting around gridlocked cars on the Vitesse, it occurred to me that this was a bike which would be comfortable for both large and small people alike--though it might feel a little different to each.
The Vitesse D7 packs a decent range of gears into its 7 speeds--in my experience, more than enough to take on most city riding. I found myself using mostly the gears between 3 and 7, with 7 being reserved for big downhill stretches, and 3 being used to start from a standstill. It seemed to me that gears 1 and 2 would be excellent for very steep hills (the kind that you are unlikely to encounter in the urban setting outside of, say, San Francisco), towing heavy cargo, or for less experienced riders who need a slightly more forgiving gear ratio. One phenomenal aspect of the Vitesse is that all 7 gears are packed into an internal shifting system housed in the rear hub. Internal shifting is a godsend for those who want their bike to "just work." These hubs are designed to require very little servicing, and to be highly unlikely to malfunction. A nice side-effect of internal gears is that you don't need to be pedaling as you shift, so you can change gears even while stopped at a red light. I found the Vitesse's internal gears to shift smoothly, quickly, and quietly, and found the analog physical gear dial on the handlebars to be a charming touch.
Much like its internal shifting mechanism, I think the Vitesse D7 is designed to "just work". It may not be as super light as some of its road racing cousins, but it is not a heavy bike by any means, and I found it easy to fold and carry around grocery stores and up flights of stairs. In fact, its 26-pound bulk felt reassuringly reliable and durable--I walked away from this bike feeling like it would stand up well to all kinds of abuse in all kinds of environments. Indeed, I think this might be a key feature for a bike that is designed to be used every day, for everything.
So, the Vitesse D7 is a great, well-rounded, reliable, useful bike--all adjectives which apply to another bike that I reviewed recently, the Tern Eclipse S11i. However, the latter bike costs much more than the Dahon, so how do these two commuters compare?
Both sport internal gearing, though the Eclipse packs in 4 more gears than the Vitesse, for a grand total of 11 speeds spanning a much more expansive range of gear inches. Both include racks, fenders, waterbottle bracket mounts, and ergo grips. However, the Tern has some fancy, ultra-high end features that the Dahon lacks, like integrated dynamo lighting and disc brakes, as well as small plush touches like the Ergon Biocork grips. However, the Eclipse's 26" wheels, big internal hub, and dynamo system drive up its weight to over 30 pounds, and even when folded it has a substantially bigger footprint than the Vitesse D7.
Thus, while the Eclipse S11i does offer a more comfortable, slightly faster ride, the Vitesse definitely retains the upper hand in terms of weight savings, portability, and overall value. The Dahon is also an undeniably good deal--there aren't many bikes in its price range that sport an internal hub, let alone its many other features. The bottom line? For the commuter with a deep wallet, by all means enjoy the Eclipse S11i. For anyone on a tighter budget, the Vitesse D7 is a bike that you can rely on to do just about anything you could ask of it, and more.
So now that you know which internally-geared folding bike is perfect for your commute (and wallet!), order yours today!
About the Author
Miles Schneider is a folding bike specialist and blogger at NYCeWheels in New York City.