Fortunately, I was not going very fast at the moment when my bike fell apart—in fact, I was pushing-off from stationary when I unexpectedly found myself in a crumpled heap on the ground, on top of the crumpled remains of my bike.
You can help me choose a new one—see below.
As it was a folding bike, I first assumed that the main hinge had sprung open (a fair assumption—a few days earlier I'd ridden several kilometres without closing any of the safety catches!) But no, there was the main tube neatly shorn in two. No bike is supposed to fold that way…
Later inspection showed that the fracture just past the end of a reinforcing bracket. And about five minutes of searching on the 'net turned up a number of other reports of similar failures in the same model, the 2003 Dahon Boardwalk (see Tom Worthington—note very similar photos to here—and dxfyo on Bike Forums). This looks to me like a serious design flaw.
I was more than halfway home when this happened, and when I think about where and when that failure could have occurred on that ride alone—descending at speed, in Victoria Pde being tailgated by an impatient white van driver, bumping over bluestone speed humps, rattling along gravel paths—I get the chills. It's a very scary thought.
I'm sure Dahon makes a quality product but my experience of this failure and my subsequent discovery that other bikes have failed in exactly the same way leads to only one conclusion: the 2003 Dahon Boardwalk is not safe to ride. If you happen to have one, junk it.
As for my fractured bike, it'll be stripped for parts and unceremoniously dumped.
Help me choose a new one
So now the hunt commences for a replacement folding bike. At the moment my criteria are:
- Good riding. It's going to be a serious commuting machine (the Dahon did over 4000km in the last few years).
- Good fit. See above. In practical terms, this means good adjustability.
- Simple and compact fold. And it would be handy if I could stash it under the desk.
- Standard parts wherever possible. Let's make tweaking and customising as simple/inexpensive as possible.
- Hub gears. I'm now convinced that the shorter chainstays make derailleur gears pretty ineffective on most folding bikes.
- Rugged. Seriously, I'm not interested in having another bike crumple underneath me!
Got any suggestions for what I should ride now? Any important criteria that I've missed?
Brompton…so tempted by Brompton. It scores on all points (especially the compact folding) except for non-standard parts—it's covered in 'em! Might be a deal-breaker.
Dahon Mu Uno - commuter bike of champions. Single speed, coaster brake rear hub. The only cable is for the front brake. This makes the fold very tidy. I've been riding one for about six months.
My only complaint is that the paper thin Marathon Racer tyres lead to too many punctures - I've replaced mine with Marathon Plus.
Worried about the lack of gears? I rode mine to Kinglake via Whittlesea.
A Brompton dealer speaking here, but vested interests aside...
Dahons are covered in non-standard parts as well - the difference between the two is that in 4 or 5 years, you'll be able to easily get a compatible replacement spare part for a Brompton, but Dahon will have changed their design (probably a couple of times) and the bushing, pivot, bearing, latch etc that you need to keep the bike going will be unobtainable..
Anyway, all the non-standard parts on the Brompton are there to facilitate ease and compactness of fold.
Dahon make around 40 different models. Brompton have made one basic frame design for around 30 years.
I'd be wary of the Mu Uno. I have one, and it's fun to ride but it's not the best made piece of kit out there.
Before I start though, please take this whole comment with a grain of salt. I'm extremely clumsy and have a habit of riding quite hard so I'm probably giving my bike far more stick than a sensible adult would.
When I first started riding my Uno I was popping spokes on the rear wheel with annoying regularity, despite several rebuilds by good wheel builders, the problem remained so I replaced it with a BMX wheel and a fixed hub.
This worked well, and I've not had any problems with the wheels since I went fixed on it, but I am now on the second bar stem as the hinge collapsed outside St Paul's Cathedral on my commute one evening leaving me riding a clown bike to comedy effect.
Oh, you might also find the bars too high and the front brake is rubbish! :)
These guys do some decent conversions of uno's and I've seriously considered doing one of their 451 builds with modified bar stem. I'd still be a bit concerned about build quality though:
In comparison, I also have an Airnimal Chameleon which doesn't fold anywhere near as neatly, but it's small enough to take on a busy train or fit in the boot of the car, it's much better built, and much much faster. It's also a lot more expensive!
Hope that Helps!
Bike Friday! If you want something that folds quickly and compactly, go for the Tikit. I just got my New World Tourist and you won't regret it.
Seriously - Brompton. Yes, there are a lot of custom parts, but with the wall thickness used on the frame tubes + forged hinge components now, you'll not be having any of this frame failure shenanigans again.
Definitely a Brompton. Lifetime guarantee on frames I think! Also so beautiful.
Any bike expert will tell you to choose Brompton and there's a reason for that...
Invest time and money in custom ordering your bike - number of gears and colours. Why not?!