NYCeWheels customer Al and his wife Shaz have really put the Dahon Mariner D7 through its paces over the past couple of years, using it to commute and joyride all over Manhattan. Al reached out to us to offer the following in-depth review based on his experiences with this affordable folding bike. Enjoy!-Miles
Two years ago, my wife Shaz and I moved back to New York City from our home in the suburbs of Washington, DC. We moved, along with our three kids, dog, and cat from a five-bedroom house with garage, into a three bedroom rental on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Shaz announced that she planned to commute to work at Columbia University via bike, and would therefore be purchasing a folding bike. I was not amused.
My view of folders was tainted by the only folding bike with which I had any familiarity- an old bike that had been given to us by her father. I don't remember what brand it was, or very much about it, except that it was a piece of junk that unfolded to a piece of junk with wheels. I have always loved bikes, and the idea of a folding bike seemed to be, frankly, an abomination and a waste of money.
When she purchased the Dahon Mariner D7, however, I must say I was impressed by the design. It was beyond clever--it was stylish and innovative. But could it be any good as a bike? I did ride it here and there, and was far more impressed than I thought I would be. However, I did not have much concentrated time with it, as Shaz did in fact use it as her primary source of transportation.
This Spring I started a new job that is close enough that I can commute by bike myself, and I so I started doing just that. My subway commute is to take the 1 train to the S cross-town train. Both are fast and fine, but do require wading through a sea of humanity. Switching to a bike allowed me a new perspective on the city. My bike is a full size mountain bike, which was usually stored in pieces in the closet. Now, typically, I just lock the bike on the street, both at work and at home. The bike is 13 years old, which makes this type of gamble acceptable - along with the fact that it was purchased for $300.
Recently I had the chance to more fully put the Dahon through its paces. Shaz has been in California for the past week, so I decided to ride her bike instead of mine to work. In addition, this past weekend I was able to try using it in a 'multi-modal' way. I rode the bike, in the rain, down to Tribeca to go to a gym class. I then took the bike on the subway up to a garage at 101st to pick up a car, and then drove out to Five Towns on Long Island.
Since getting over my initial disdain for folders, I have had the opportunity to sample a number of folding bikes. Shaz and I did a two-hour tour on Bromptons, courtesy of Nycewheels. As an aside, many, many thanks to the folks at Nycewheels for these tours, as well as letting people test ride many of their bikes in a meaningful way. How often in New York City can you do something, much less something really fun, for free? I have also test ridden a Tern Link P9, and we recently bought one of our sons a Montague Crosstown, which I have ridden several times. While I will use these bikes as reference points, keep in mind that they are all more expensive than the Mariner.
The first thing to keep in mind is that the Mariner D7 is a relatively entry-level foldingbike. While a non-folding bike at a similar price point will get you a decent hybrid, for instance, in the world of folders, the Mariner is pretty budget.
That said, the bike folds and rides very well. In my commuting this week, I noted how much fun the bike is to ride. Perhaps it was the skinny tires, perhaps the upright seating position, but it definitely changed the feel of my commute for the better. From a speed standpoint, I did not lose any time, but that is partly because with just a few months into my commuting by bike, I stop for red lights when I see anyone about to cross the street, or even contemplating crossing the street. I don't see that as changing- I think it is both safer for all concerned- and polite. That is my choice- a lot of other cyclists blast through the intersections regardless of who is in there. I imagine that in their mind they know that they will not hit a pedestrian. However, in my imaginary conversation with them, I point out that the pedestrian does not know that. The pedestrian only sees a bicycle coming at them at up to 30 miles an hour.
The bike shifts well. Seven gears are plenty for the vast majority of the riding I did, including nice straightaways on the West Side Greenway. It is easy to find and keep the right gear. Another nice feature is the ability to adjust not just the seat height, but also the height of the handlebars. This allows me to choose between a more relaxed, upright position, or a more aggressive leaned over position. At the same time, however, I did feel some flex on the bike, especially in the stem. This may have been more apparent after the time on the Brompton the weekend before. By comparison, the Brompton felt hewed from a single, solid hunk of steel. The flex may also just indicate that the bike needs a tightening- it has only been tuned up once since purchase. The Tern Link P9 has a faster, tighter feel. The stem is a fixed height, and I think this helps.
The other concern was when I was riding fast in the rain, and needed to hit the brakes. They did not respond as strongly as they should have. Again, this may just mean the bike needs a tune up. Weirdly, it also rained when we did the Brompton tour. The brakes there were rock solid. Hmm- maybe it makes sense to test bikes on rainy days! That way the beautiful sunshine does not fool one into buying a junker!
Regarding the folding, the Mariner folds fast, but it does not fold particularly small. On the subway, even on a Saturday, I was very aware of the space I was taking up, and the fact that the "package" had various bits poking out in different directions. Overall, I found it much easier to move the bike up and down the subway stairs (as well as the stairs to our second floor apartment) unfolded, as opposed to folded. Similarly, I did not bother to fold the bike while at work this week, but instead locked it on the street. The bike just does not seem compact and clean enough to fold and bring into the office. The Mariner does not have an internal hub, which means that the gearing is exposed, and therefore more possibility for dirt and bicycle grease. Finally, once folded, the two ends of the bike are held together by magnets. However, the bike has an annoying tendency to swing apart if not handled carefully.
The way Shaz uses the bike, and the way I would as well, would be to lock the bike on the street while at work, and bring it in the apartment at night. It does fold and go into a closet without issue.
The fit and finish on the bike is mostly excellent, even two years out. The bright metallic silver is quite pleasing to the eye. The fenders, however, have never attached very well, and often the slender fender spokes need to be re-inserted. Overall, the bike feels well thought out and well executed.
The Dahon Mariner D7 is an excellent folding bike for the money. It rides well and folds easily. However, if you can swing some more cash, go for something more on the higher end.