Several years ago I went through a small-wheel bike phase. I was enamored of their appearance, the twitchy steering (compared to a full-size bike), and the ways they folded into more compact sizes for storage and transport.
My Dahon Hon Solo is one of the bikes I own as a result of that phase. A limited edition single speed model Dahon came out with in 2006 (500 total made), this bike rides on 20-inch wheels and came stock with Nitto moustache bars and leather grips, a Brooks B-17 saddle, and dainty lace-wood fenders. Full specs of the original bike can be found here.
Since purchasing the Dahon, I changed out the crank because its aesthetics did not appeal to me despite it apparently being specially made for this bike, and opted for a Dura-Ace crank with a 53-tooth chainring (16 tooth cog in the rear). It’s a front chainring that makes a statement, although with the small wheels it pedals similarly to my Quickbeam.
I also swapped the brakes for Tektro R556 dual pivot brakes because I actually wanted to be able to stop if necessary. The original brakes were terrible. My most recent change was to add Shimano A-530 touring pedals, which are flat one side and SPD-compatible on the other.
And after all that effort, I have let the Dahon languish in the Dining Room Bike Shop, riding it about once a year. Isn’t that terrible? Yes, I know! I had been thinking about selling it, but Felkerino said “Just ride it!” so I took it out this weekend and see how it felt.
Felkerino and I decided on an around-town meander that ended up being 36 miles, and included a morning meet-up with friends for coffee as well as the BicycleSPACE Cupcake Ramble. The Ramble took us on new-to-me trails through the Southeast part of the city, over to Oxon Hill, around to the Wilson Bridge. Felkerino and I split from the main group at that point so we could head off for a coffee in Old Town and return to D.C. via the “back roads” of Crystal City.
Felkerino tracked part of our day’s ride on Ride with GPS, if you’re interested. There were so many great aspects to this route. Phil was a good ride leader, explained parts of our route but did not talk too much, and he waited at various places to make sure the group stayed whole. He also brought cookies, which makes him a big hit in my book.
Our riding group was friendly and relaxed, just a bunch of Sunday riders out enjoying the day. The trails were mostly quiet until we made the turn to cross over the Wilson Bridge. Even then, it was manageable.
Most exciting of all, the Dahon rode like a champ. It was comfortable and I forgot how well it fit me. The moustache bars were perfect. I also realized that I have fallen in love with single speed riding when I’m in town. The gearing I use is well-suited to any urban hills we encounter, and single speeding takes away any concerns about shifting or finding the “right gear.”
Also, the Dahon offers a feel-good ride. It isn’t very stiff (compared to my Bike Friday Tikit, which is a notably harsher ride) and the steering is twitchier than my full-size bikes, but not irritatingly so.
A few things have held me back from riding the Dahon more often. It does not feel that great with a larger saddle bag. For this outing I used a Velo-Orange rear seat pack and paired it with a small Acorn handlebar bag. This combination allowed me to easily carry my essentials.
However, this bike will never become the grocery getter and I would only commute on it if I also wore a pack of some kind to carry my gym clothes, wallet, and snacks. I know people who carry stuff on their backs every day, and while I wear a pack when run-commuting, I prefer to not use one on my bike commute.
I have also been worried about the fenders because even though they are pretty, their utility is limited. That is, they are fenders that don’t look to do rain very well. Also, when they wear out (which seems a long way away unless I start riding this bike more often) I’m not sure what options I have for replacing them.
Finally, I have to make sure to carry a wrench with the Dahon Hon Solo so that I can pull off the rear wheel in case of a mechanical. One of the reasons I like the Quickbeam so much is because of the quick-release rear wheel. I am not the most efficient of flat tire fixers, although it’s remarkable what one can do in a pinch.
After this weekend’s delightful 36 miles of Dahon Hon Solo goodness, I pondered the excuses I’ve used for not riding this bike more. It’s time to set them all aside and follow Felkerino’s suggestion to just ride this beautiful and sprightly bicycle.
I said to Rachel, “hey look at Mary’s cool Dahon.” Her response: “DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT!”
She knows you too well! And you know you are the first person I would ask if I ever decided to sell it. 🙂
Mary, I believe you should be able to swap out the bolt axles for QR skewers – low cost change. Glad you are getting out there – I luv my folders – and that Hon Solo is too nice not to ride.
Great suggestion, I’m going to do that. Also, I am not going to try not to fear marring the beauty of the lace-wood fenders. Bikes are meant to be ridden, right?
Fenders – those look full size – so they should work well – and on 20″ wheels you don’t need such huge ones. In really heavy rain – that front fender may need a mud flat – but again that’s an easy edition. Those wood fenders BTW are super high end items. I have the budget plastic on my Bike Friday; envious!
Nice to see the Hon Solo getting some love.
Wait, cookies?! Why have I not done this ride yet?
RIght? They were from a bakery in Hyattsville,too. One of the two (yes, two!) was the best butter and fruit combination I could have imagined. Viva Phil y la Cupcake Ramble!
I’m down to one bicycle I haven’t ridden this year, a Bianchi Pista, and I love that bike. Now formulating a plan…
Late to the party, but after I got a Hon Solo unexpectedly for very cheap last year, I found and was very interested to read your extensive documentation of your experiences with it.
I found the Solo very endearing and quite fun to ride. It’s not the bike I choose for anything except quick and casual rides, often while I wait for my daughter’s skating or piano or guitar lessons to end, but I was very pleasantly surprised at its composure and speed — it’s not at all too twitchy, as I feared it might be.
I can’t paste a photo here, but I’ve set it up with a 50 t Pro 5 Vis chainring pulling a 14 t cog (68″ gear) with a 16 t fixed cog on the flip side (which I never use); an original issue Flite saddle; 23.8 mm Moustache bars with a single right side Shimano drop bar lever; GR-9 pedals with clips and straps and buttons; a Nitto QR bag mount to hold the Rivendell Hoss saddlebag, with a custom cylindrical tool bag hanging between it and the seapost; and especially folding 406X35 Schwalbe Kojaks — I found the Marathon Racers horribly sluggish, like riding in molasses. The Kojaks are not Compass quality, but at ~60 psi they roll well enough.
I enjoyed grinding it up 4 miles of one of our local hills, standing most of the way, and while there is a bit of creak in the clamped bits, it’s not at all oppressive.
I’ve even taken in on some of our acequia roads (ABQ, NM) where, as long as the sand hasn’t gotten too deep, it performed stoutly.
If you ever want to sell let me know!