The Folding Society

Dahon Speed TR Review

By Andy Macrow


I bought my bike after poring over the internet looking for a replacement for my Brompton: having modified it over the years, I felt I now needed a fresh approach.

While visiting Dahon’s American web site I came across their SPEED TR model. I was already familiar with its sportier sister the SPEED PRO from reviews in the Folding Society pages. Using the same frame as the PRO, the SPEED TR is aimed at touring riders and long distance commuters, comprehensively kitted out with mudguards, V brakes, a 24 speed hub/ derailleur gears, multi adjustable rider position, a Crane Creek thud buster seat post and bar ends. A tour rack is included that will accept full size panniers without catching your heels or dragging along the ground.

I was immediately sold on its specifications - a life time frame guarantee clinched the deal, and I even liked the colour. After e-mailing Dahon headquarters, I found there was just one model in the country. I quickly called the UK distributors, Cyclemotion, where I had a very useful chat with Mark Bickerton, who confirmed all the bits I had read on the internet, its £599.00 price tag included post and packing. So the deal was done.

Unpacking was very straightforward. Cosseted by various bits of cardboard and cable ties the bike emerged unmarked from its international journey. Clear instructions were provided from no less than four instruction books covering all the setups and adjustments needed.

The bike only required its seat post, pedals, rack and rear mech changer to be attached. A really bright LED/ reflector rear light is also included that mounts on the rear rack. However, to activate the Dahon life time frame guarantee you have to have the bike set up for you by a bike mechanic [! - Ed].

Folding and unfolding

The bike unfolds very simply and quickly: the sturdy catches give a very positive action, additional safety catches on the main frame and handlebar joints make sure the Speed will only unfold when its intended to.

It’s roughly similar in size to a Brompton but with a slightly longer overall length. The frame is of course fixed, unlike the former's pivoting rear wheel. Dahon fit a sturdy all-encompassing weatherbeater plastic chain guard. It protects the clothing very well and contains any oily dirty water spray from both rider and its frame. A pair of Suntour touring folding pedals are included that accept toe clips but not the full size version with their straps.

Folding the bike down takes about 20 seconds, the fully adjustable handlebar system adds a little more time to the folding process, and if you want to reduce the bike to its ultimate folded size you will need to use the supplied Allen key to do this. For my purposes my bike is carried in the car boot, so I skip this part.

The seat post is easily removed as it has no captive flange at its base like a Brompton - something to remember when locking up the bike unattended as it would be very expensive to replace the Thudbuster device alone. I always take mine with me just in case.

In summary the folded Dahon is not as compact as a Brompton, it employs both magnetic catches and a Velcro strap to secure itself together. However, it is a much lighter package to tote about. Dahon even sell a bag that will enable you to carry the whole bike about rucksack fashion. Unfolding is really easy with the Dahon, positive latches click into place securely and the included prop stand is a useful bonus whilst you do this.

Riding the bike

Once unfolded the SPEED TR’s adjustability impresses. Handle bar height, reach, angle and bar position can be altered to suit, further aided comfortable rubber bar ends that fit nicely into the palm of your hand. The curious looking Crane Creek suspension seat post can be set to the rider’s height and by swapping elastomers, even their weight.

Once underway the bike feels incredibly light and agile, its steel frame giving very good feedback from the road surface, there is no doubt either that the 20 inch wheels posses a huge advantage over a 16 inch set up, this is often reported but has to be experienced first hand to appreciate the real difference. There was no frame flexing or creaking to report on, even from the handle bar stem. It reminded me very strongly of a Brompton SP that I tried on one occasion.

The new Ritchey Rover tyres returned a secure grip on wet leafy autumn roads and spun along at 65psi without rattling bike or rider to death. It appeared to me that it freewheeled much easier and further than my Brompton and it translated peddling power in a very tight, direct manner. It always feels that you can just keep on going with this bike and destinations arrive all too soon. Very positive attributes for any bike.

The gear range on the SPEED TR is large, Its 21”- 114” and easily eclipses the Brompton T6 wih its 40”- 86” set up. It’s a combined hub /derailleur arrangement and is really easy to use. The SRAM DualDrive hub offers three gears, low, medium and high, combine this with its eight speed derailleur and you can easily spot its potential - I have yet to come across a hill that I cannot cycle up!

You shift through the gears using the Grip shift system, no need to take your hands off the bars and the DualDrive hub even allows you change gears while stationary, its operation in use is quiet and accurate. You can virtually dial up a gear setting to suit whatever situation you find yourself riding in. Thanks to the low gears you can give your knees a break on uphill stretches but can also turn to higher gears for rapid downhill rides or loping along on flatter roads.

A side benefit of the Grip shift layout means the handlebars stay uncluttered, allowing lights, bells computers or bags to be mounted to the riders hearts desire.

The seat post suspension works very well, coming into play to smooth over larger bumps without giving a soft feel to the ride even when putting it under load by pedaling uphill.

Braking is impressive, the Dahon SpeedStop V brakes and levers coupled with Ritchey Rov’r alloy rims give assured progressive braking even during a heavy downpour. A modulator is fitted to the front brake unit to curb brake snatch. All in all, I can now stop when I want to, not after I should have done.

I have changed the tour rack for a smaller Dahon alloy version. It allows a more compact folded size, as currently the seat post is effectively locked in place by the rear rack mounts- however the 2004 Speed TR will have a new quick release post mount for its rack so this will not be an issue. I use a rack pack to carry my luggage and when loaded up I could not detect any adverse handling characteristics as a result , not that you would expect anything from any touring bike worthy of its class.

One set of bottle cage mounts have been located under the main frame, some owners have reported this to be an awkward location in use, it would however, provide an ideal place to mount any battery light packs that are so popular these days.
Given the large areas of exposed seat post and handlebar stem attaching additional bottle cage mounts should be really a quite simple exercise.


I am very pleased with the SPEED TR. It’s a far more agile and quicker bike than the Brompton could ever be without resorting to Channel Wesson or Steve Parry type modifications, which would of course add alarmingly to the cost of any Brompton.

Where the SPEED TR loses against the Brompton is its compact folded size and lock together package, but in fairness it’s aimed at longer extended rides over hilly ground and in this use alone it beats the Brompton T6 fairly and squarely, and let’s be honest, you hopefully spend more time riding the bike rather than folding it.

The overall quality and finish of the Dahon’s touring bike is of a very high standard indeed, right from the deep gloss lustre of its black paint to using stainless steel screws and bolts throughout whenever possible. I would even stick my neck out and say that it’s a superior bike to my Brompton in hardware alone, and cheaper.

As the all Dahon bikes use standard bike components upgrading and repair/replacement should be easy to do from most places. Handy for a Fine weather rider or commuter – essential for the bicycle tourist far from home.

The sheer quality of the standard components throughout is superb, in fact the SPEED TR uses a new front hub that Dahon are rightly proud of, its their Dahon Neutron made for them by American Classic; weighing in at only 54 grams, it's claimed to be the lightest hub on the market while still improving on strength and durability.

Another plus is the personal interest Dahon take in their customers and how quickly they respond to observations on their range. They have an active owner’s web page and seem to take a genuine interest in any comments and discussions about their bikes – no mean feat considering the large size of their company.

Dahon commit themselves to revising their models annually. When I e-mailed Joshua Hon, the Dahon Vice President about the revised 2004 specifications for the SPEED TR he revealed the following:

The new SPEED TR 2004 model is expected to be available from mid February with a retail price of £699.00. It just goes to show that Dahon are not content to rest on their laurels, and will be aiming for a much bigger presence in the United Kingdom.

By offering high quality bikes with a broad range to suit all pockets I feel sure that they will soon become an established presence within our folding community. I am certainly very pleased with my purchase and feel sure that the success and following created by its sportier stable mate the SPEED PRO will soon be repeated by the SPEED TR amongst discerning owners.

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Copyright (C)2003 Andy Macrow

Last updated: 29 November 2003