The Folding Society

The Dahon Boardwalk (Phillips 6)

By Colin Knox

Now contains additional comments by Joshua Hon of Dahon - reference numbers in brackets relate to comments at the end of the report.


I bought the bike on the spur of the moment as a bargain in a winter sale; this is my first folding bike. The Phillips 6 is quite a striking and attractive bike, even something of a style icon, with its silver, right-angled "tilted-square" frame. It attracts a surprising amount of attention and comment. I think its appearance resonates with the recent craze for childrenís small alloy mini scooters. Itís also fun to ride Ė the straight forks and small wheels impart very little castor or flywheel effect so it is steered rather than "swayed" like a bigger bike, dodging quickly and accurately around bumps (you want to avoid them on the little unsprung wheels). I havenít tried riding hands-off and probably wonít. The bars are too high and far back for my taste but I see this is part of the makerís design philosophy. I doesnít take too long to get used to and it isnít much bother too bend the elbows. The more upmarket models address this issue. (After two months of ownership the novelty factor is wearing off, and the bars still feel too high). Apart from the small wheels, the Boardwalk feels as rigid and predictable as any ordinary roadster, and this is a tribute to Dahonís design and development effort. [1]

At 6ft 1in and 210lbs Iím near the suggested upper limits for the bike; I have the seat tube about 1/2in above the limit line, which Iíve marked with red felt-tip pen, my own position with an inconspicuous gold one. The riding position naturally puts most of the weight on the rear wheel, almost all of it when accelerating, and this drew attention to the drawbacks of the fitted rear tyre, a 65psi Kenda Quest. It would squirm now and then accelerating around bends, particularly on roundabouts. Luckily this was easily remedied by a trip to a big local Halfords store where the BMX department offer a very robust 110psi Maxxis Wireworm 20x1.95 for only £11 and a similar Voxom at £14. These are BMX racing and stunt tyres, not skinwalls Ė more like a moped tyre. The Voxom fits under the rear mudguard with perhaps less than 1cm clearance in places, has to be deflated for wheel removal, but imparts a very solid and reliable feel to the rear end when inflated rock hard. The softer Kenda should do for the front wheel, where some cushioning from road vibration is more needed. In the same shop I bought a 48-spoke rear wheel (alloy, s/s spokes, solid axle, £25), as a potential replacement for the fitted 32-spoke, which will probably start shedding spokes after about a yearís use, going by my touring bikes. The dishing and axle cone placement will need some adjusting. This is very good value compared with the £100+ cost of a 48-spoke for a regular bike (these are tandem wheels), an unjustifiable outlay. For the Philips, it should give the necessary strength and reliability. This is a real advantage of the 20in wheel size, as BMX spares are cheap and easily found, including good quality equipment spinning off from a big racing scene. The transmission is also closer to "big-bike" size than some folders. [2]

The 6-speed 14-28 is short of gears for a regular cyclist but this is what I paid for; the Boardwalk is a folding roadster for the man in the street, and not a sporting lightweight. Looking for a quick fix to give a more adequate top gear, I bought one of the new Shimano Megarange 7-speed screw-on 11-34 blocks. However, the matching long arm Tourney changer would foul the tyre, and probably the ground, on the largest sprocket, while the fitted short-arm one fouls the big 34 sprocket while running on the 24-tooth. A 28 or 30 would do fine as largest sprocket, and Shimano would find a demand for such a block, not least from riders of older touring bikes like myself. This block is the first screw-on freewheel to offer an 11 tooth top, is nice and cheap, and would be a good substitute for the late lamented Sun Tour New Winner 12-28, 7-speed. Meanwhile the job of adapting the 11-34 can wait for now. The unique lock-ring tool for this block isnít currently available; a vice might do the job. [3]

I find that in our local conditions, an adequate top gear is more than just a matter of fun and convenience, it can directly affect the riderís comfort and welfare Ė here in Scotland we have no shortage of long ascents/descents, in a cool climate; and being forced to freewheel on long downhill stretches can result in reaching the bottom chilled, in damp clothing. A decent top gear allows you to maintain the work rate and hence the body temperature, while the increased airflow can result in the clothes drying out, to arrive at the foot warm and comfortable!

Intending to use this bike all year round, my first act was to "winterise" it; our roads hereabouts are salted for about six months of the year. I put a quantity of oil inside each frame tube through the ventilation holes, moving it around to coat the insides to prevent rust. I made up two translucent plastic mud-flaps, using paper templates; they are easily fitted to the mudguards using the existing bolts, at the front of the rear wheel, (oval, about four inches protruding), and at the bottom of the front guard (oval, about six by five inches). This should help me to get there with dry feet and a cleaner chain, albeit a little slower than otherwise. The front flap has to be canted sideways a little to allow folding. [4]

A halogen front lamp straps conveniently inboard of the left handgrip, giving some useful illumination of the left gutter, supplemented by a small flashing LED in place of the front reflector. A strap-on rear LED occupies the seat post below the saddle, providing a limiter for the retracted seat tube when folded. I replaced the inadequate fitted bell by quite a loud but light plastic one of traditional roadster type; this is something I had been looking for for years. It sits on the underside of the bar to facilitate folding. A pair of band-on plastic pump pegs hold a standard small pump along the top of the rear section of the main frame tube, above the hinge. The front band also provides the front attachment for a bottle cage under the front of this tube, with the rear end of the cage secured with a plastic tie. The cage is far enough back to allow a double size bottle to hang there. [5]

The only problem at first with the bike concerned the main frame hinge area. The little plastic safety catch disappeared after a day or two, probably kicked off as I experimented with "stepping through" the frame. I replaced it with a rubber band made up from old inner tube; this seems to me to be an inherently more reliable if more unsightly way of securing the catch.

The hinge latch bolt itself required tightening after a while, probably as it bedded in, and this is when a problem arose. The bolt appeared locked solid, probably owing to the use of Loctite adhesive on the threads, and when I applied enough force to try to shift it, the Allen key deformed the cavity and came out. I think this cavity is too shallow and the material too soft. A better solution would be to use the same set-up as on the steerer tube latch Ė a flat area to take an adjustable wrench. I managed to get the bolt turned using a big Mole-wrench at its tightest setting, taking it very slowly. This will have to suffice until a replacement bolt is available. [6]

The practicalities of using a folder are what Iíve been working on for the last few weeks. At the top of my list was the idea of taking the bike with me on long distance coach trips. I have discount cards for the relevant companies, and they offer good bargains, particularly in winter. National Express for example gives a return ticket to any destination in Britain for £10 for the first three months of the year. Some coach operators require the bike to be bagged and some donít bother. All of the coach luggage compartments however, are dirty, especially in the wet; Iíve had rucksacks badly soiled in the past. The coaches bounce about considerably, and the bike would slide around if unrestrained. A custom-type carrying bag therefore seems unsuitable. It would get dirty from the coach boot floor, and soil my clothes if used for carrying the bike. (The Boardwalk is a bit heavy for carrying anyway). It would also get dirty inside, particularly from a wet bike. So a cheap, disposable bag is what Iím looking for, something like a rubble sack or garden skip, but nothing of the right size has turned up yet. The bag itself should fold up as small as possible. A source of discarded delivery packaging might be the answer. I would fit an inflatable cushion of some sort inside Ė perhaps gluing a childís swimming ring in place, to alleviate the problem of coach bounce; and some rubber stoppers on the outside, to reduce sliding on the floor. The problem with the folded Boardwalk is that the bulk of the weight is borne on the right, folded, pedal, and this takes the force of the busís bouncing. A couple of one-hour bus trips to Edinburgh resulted in a noticeable loosening of the bottom bracket and pedal bearings, probably from pitting of the sides of the races with the concentration of force. If the bike is unbagged, the contact points require to be protected, probably with my rubber bands, to reduce shock and sliding. At present, the train seems a preferable means of long-range travel with the bike. The current carriage types have a convenient carpeted luggage area in each compartment, bagging isnít required, and the bike would be a lot safer. [7]

Some unforeseen, but strictly unofficial, bonuses have emerged from the layout of the Boardwalk. I found that I could hang one or two carrier bags of groceries from the centre of the handlebars, when returning from the supermarket. They hang there quite safely, without interfering with the knees or with the steering post, and, hanging free, the steering is also unaffected. This is much easier than carrying the things by hand, even if the bike is wheeled. It seems quite safe to ride it like this however, and I have no problems riding like this even in city traffic. When I go away on my touring bike, I often pick up food for the day, tying the carrier bag over the saddlebag, with the handles knotted through the saddle frame. Slung on the Boardwalkís handlebar centre, this would be a convenient way of carrying this kind of extra luggage, even for fair distances.

Another bonus - the siting of the gear control and front brake together allows the bike to be controlled with one hand, leaving the left hand free to carry quite big loads, for shortish distances. This is much easier than walking, and Iíve used this method a couple of times.

The low position of the carrier leaves quite a bit of room for bulky objects; I carried a midi stereo system on it safely for several miles, secured with rubber bungees and a leather strap. I use rubber cords on the carriers made up from old inner tubes cut into half-inch wide strips, twisted fairly tight, and wound through the spars of the carrier top. This cushions the load and allows short loops to be pulled out for securing objects. On the Boardwalk, this allows me to carry my saddlebag/haversack towards the rear of the carrier, with a low centre of gravity and well clear of my feet, secured by rubber cords. This is almost as convenient as on my everyday tourers, albeit there is no room for large panniers so close to the ground. [8]

Taking the limitations of the Boardwalk into account, Iím quite favourably impressed by the design and manufacture, and seriously tempted to try a more upmarket model from Dahon. I would never have found out that these bikes exist without the Internet, and surprised that the biggest maker of folders should be so little known in this country, and unavailable except by mail order. My impression is that they are probably the best value on the current folder scene, perhaps half the price of some more well-known and available equivalents, some of which are beginning to look a bit long in the tooth. Iím seriously tempted by the proposed new Helios P9 as a summer bike as it appears to answer most of the defects of the Boardwalk. It might even begin to displace my traditional full-size touring bikes, if the advantage of hopping on and off public transport with the folder proves to be a practical proposition. [9]

Joshua Hon has responded with the following comments on the report:

[1] We felt the same way about the position of the handlebars. For 2003, we have extended them forward by about 1.5" and lowered them by about 1". For 2003, we have completely reconfigured the frame geometry of all of our bikes, including the Philips/Boardwalk. We've spent two years studying all the various permutations of head angle, fork rake, seat angle, wheelbase, etc. and the result is our new BioLogicĀ frame geometry. The objective was to make our small wheeled bikes handle in much the same way as typical large wheeled bikes. We think we've succeeded quite admirably. You will also find that you can ride hands free on the new Boardwalk (although of course, legally speaking, we don't recommend such riding).

[2] Please, please do not raise the seat post above the limit line. This can be very dangerous. If Colin absolutely needs a longer seat post, he can try our ProMax Plush suspension unit which will fit onto his existing post and add about 4" of extra length.

[3] Definitely the Philips/Boardwalk is designed for short and fast rides in the city. Hence the 14-28 gearing (and 52T chainring) which is more than adequate for such use. Our up-market models like the Helios P8 feature an 11-28 or 11-30 cassette for faster riding. And of course we also have our Speed Pro fitted with 24 spd. SRAM DualDrive.

[4] Winterising is always prudent. For 2003, all of our steel frame bikes are made out of 4130 chromoly steel which is not only much stronger and lighter than typical steel but also more corrosion resistant. The 2003 Philips/Boardwalk also gets a new stainless steel hinge pin, stainless steel hinge latch, and stainless steel spokes. Our aluminum frame bikes are dunked in a special bath to thoroughly coat the insides of the tubes for excellent resistance to oxidation. Our WeatherBeater mudguards come standard with mudflaps and will fit on your Philips/Boardwalk. Visit www.dahon.co.uk to order accessories.

[5] The 2003 model now includes water bottle bosses on the frame.

[6] Colin can order a replacements from our UK distributor and these will be supplied free of charge. For 2003, we've changed to a form of Loctite that will make the bolt easier to adjust.

[7]  Our DoublePlay carry bag might serve Colin's purposes. The bag has rucksack straps so the bike is easier to carry and it isn't too expensive.

[8] For additional luggage capacity, Colin can also consider two options. First is the excellent seat post mounted saddle bag custom made for us by Carradice. Visit http://carradice.co.uk/dahon-sqr-products.htm. New for 2003, we also have a new Touring rack which can accommodate panniers. This can be ordered from our UK distributor. Quite a few of our customers have asked for such a rack and we finally had the time to design it this year.

[9] Thanks to Colin for the words of encouragement. Our corporate mission is to get people onto more responsible forms of transport so reasonably priced folding bikes are central to what we do. The fact that we are by far the largest producer of folding bikes helps us keep our prices at a very reasonable level.

As for distribution in the UK, we agree that there is room for improvement. In 2003, you will see a lot more Dahon bikes available from different channels, including Halford's.


Our thanks to Colin for providing this very comprehensive report, and to Joshua Hon for his response.


For more information on Dahons, see http://www.dahon.co.uk or http://www.dahon.com.


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Copyright (C)2002 Ferrets Anonymous
Last updated: 30 December 2002
URL: http://www.foldsoc.co.uk/boardwalk.html