I'm in the market for Dahon folding bike. I have narrowed down on the Dahon SUV D6 since it suits my budget. I would be carrying it around in trains on weekends to tourist towns in South India and roam around in it. Indian roads are notorious for their poor riding conditions. My concern is will the D6 (that is designed primarily for urban commuting) be able to handle a bump or two and be a reliable machine that I need it be during my vagrant outbursts. Since I haven't seen a Dahon first-hand yet and since I'll mostly be placing the order for it online, I'm a bit anxious.
Unfortunately, I think this bike would be a poor choice for a number of reasons.
- First, the small wheel size will accentuate the bad road conditions. Larger wheels will seem to smooth out the bumps a bit better.
- As has already been commented, folding bikes in general do not handle particularly well, which is not what you want on bumpy streets.
- Although this bike folds, that is the extent of its portability. The Dahon website says it weighs 31.7 pounds, so it's going to be difficult to heft even though it may fit a bit better on a train than a non-folding bike.
- My experience with Dahon is that you pay quite a bit for the foldability. It looks like this bike costs $300. When you consider that $300 is the starting point for "bike-shop brand" bicycles, a $300 folding bike is, frankly, using probably the lowest quality components possible. Not ideal for any riding environment and made even worse by rough roadways. I suspect this bike will cause you quite a few maintenance headaches.
I don't know anything about trains in India, but if it is possible to bring a non-folding bike onto a train there, I think you will be much better off overall. You will get more bike for the money, probably a lighter bike, and definitely larger wheels. My advice would be to shop around for something of the non-folding variety if your budget is $300. I would look at a mountain bike if the roads are extremely bad, but for more weight savings a hybrid would be an option.
I don't know the bike shop situation in India, but the folks at a bike shop will probably be able to guide you to something that is appropriate for your local riding conditions.
One thing to keep in mind is the availability of parts.
I have a Dahon in Tokyo and the local bike shops there don't always have the 20" tubes and have to order away. You might want to bring a couple of inner tubes (and depending on how long you're there, some tires).
Also, while in Tokyo I broke a folding pedal off my Dahon. This is one of the weak areas of the standard Dahon design as it uses plastics/composites in the folding pedal. I had to wait a couple of weeks for this to be special ordered. If I had replaced it with a non-folding pedal, I could have had a replacement immediately, but then I couldn't fold the bike in half any more. I replaced it with a metal folding pedal that is much more solid.
In conclusion, if you'll be in India for a while you might want to stock up on:
- Inner tubes and a spare tire or two (in addition to a patch kit)
- Spokes (20" wheels use small spokes that are hard to find in remote areas)
- Other spare parts as necessary
- or have access to a friend who's willing to special order parts in for you
That said, I like my Dahon as it's easy to fold, slip into its carry bag, and take on the train. Mine is one of the lighter versions, just around 12kg (25 pounds) so it's still luggable. I've taken it all over Japan, from northern Hokkaido to western Honshu.