Reviewer profile: Late 30s, reasonably fit, serious recreational cyclist (100-150km per week) – enjoys both mountain biking and road riding. Likes to ride fast!
Full disclosure: I have been the owner of this bike since February 2016, exactly one month at time of writing. The bike was purchased privately and not provided for this review. The views expressed here are based on my own experience and may not reflect the experience of other Eezz D3 users.
Summary: A frighteningly fast folding bike that curls into a remarkably small package. A complex, temperamental machine that is not for the beginner!
· Folds very small – 65 x 27 x 62cm (25.6” x 10.6” x 24.4”) according to Dahon’s website.
· Lightweight – 9.7kg. Easy to carry around and the design provides a convenient ‘handle’.
· Blazingly fast for a folding bike!
· Very stiff and solid construction, little flex whilst riding.
· Built in pedal retainers for when bike is folded.
· Excellent pedal attachment system – very quick to detach and re-attach.
· Fenders supplied as standard.
· Internal cable routing keeps everything neat and tidy.
· Sleek, modern design. Gunmetal paint with blue accents make for a very attractive package visually.
· Narrow handlebars means easy access through doorways.
· Quality, name-brand components used throughout.
· Relatively complex design with many moving parts – difficult to clean, potential for future mechanical issues.
· Gearing is very much on the high side – designed for stronger riders.
· Relatively short 170mm crank arms as standard.
· Short wheelbase means bike is quite twitchy on the move and has an alarming tendency to wheelie on inclines.
· Proximity of rear derailleur to back wheel means chain gets dirty quickly.
· Folding and unfolding procedure is unique and needs some getting used to.
· Seat and handle post heights limits limit accessibility to tall riders.
· Rear Fender lacks mudflap which means coverage is less than ideal.
· Shifter can be tricky to use.
· No provision for bottle cage mounting.
· Allen key needed to remove wheels!
Josh Hon, co-founder of Tern, has said a number of times in interviews that all folding bikes are a compromise between being ‘optimised on the fold’ and ‘optimised on the ride.’ In his experience, bikes that fold small generally do not ride well, and bicycles from his company reflect this philosophy: they don’t fold terribly small but do ride extremely well for their type.
After having had three folding bikes I was still looking for that elusive combination of small fold and good ride. The made-in-Brentford-brand was and still is the undisputed champion of small folded size, but I personally didn’t like the way they rode and my wallet screamed uncle at the slightest mention of the B-word, so I had to look elsewhere. Enter the Dahon Eezz D3.
Here’s the bike as reviewed:
Bike is stock with the exception of my Brooks B17, Cateye Volt 300 front light, Moon Shield rear and Cateye Micro Wireless computer and sensor. The other side:
The Eezz D3 (henceforth referred to as ‘The Eezz’ or ‘The D3’ or ‘That cute little guy’) is an upgrade of a design that has been around since 2013. Originally offered only as a fixed gear, the 2016 model adds a Shimano Tiagra rear mech (aka Derailleur but I’m too lazy to type that out – wait I just did) and two more speeds derived from the Capreo groupset to give a gear range that I would describe as ‘fast, faster and SHIOK AH!’ but more on that later. Let’s first talk about the fold.
In order to begin the fold you open the large blue clamp that you can see immediately above the chain ring and the smaller black clamp under the centre of the top tube. The latter has a little safety lever to prevent it from opening unintentionally. You also need to remove at least the non drive side (left) pedal and stow it in one of the the brilliantly designed pedal sockets located behind the top tube (picture at left). These hold the pedals in place by friction and are very easy to use. Then the magic starts to happen:
As you lift up on the top tube, three mechanical processes take place at the same time: the top hinge opens up, the rear hinge (located just behind the seat tube) begins to pivot the rear triangle downwards and the seat tube starts to telescope into the frame, this activated by a caming action via the three struts (one connected to the top tube and two to the rear dropout) that connect the base of the tube to the front and rear sections of the bike. It is a truly marvellous design that has to be seen to be appreciated. As you can see in the picture above, the letter ‘D’ on the seat tube has half-disappeared into the frame.
The show then goes on – as the wheels come together, the cleverly slanted top hinge guides the front wheel alongside the rear – getting this clearance right must have taken some design work and the user does need to help the bike along during this phase by keeping the front wheel pointed straight ahead, otherwise it will scrape against the rest of the bike.
The triple action of front and rear hinges plus the telescoping seat post means that the bike is literally ‘rolling’ itself up like a newspaper or popiah, and this is how Dahon have managed to get the fold so small without needing to fold any part of the frame sideways and thus introduce lateral flex into the design. Well done Dahon!
Here’s another close-up showing the process – note that the word ‘Dahon’ on the seat tube has almost completely vanished.
The last step in the process is to bring the wheels next to one another, where they are held in place by a pair of very strong magnets. The magnet attached to the rear dropout has a very nice ‘guide plate’ (visible in the picture left) to ensure correct alignment in the last few inches of travel.
The end result, with handlepost folded is shown in the picture below. Note that is it possible to fold the bike without dropping or rotating the handlebars – however in practice I normally do this to get the smallest possible package. Similarly, you can choose to leave the saddle up as shown, or drop it down fully – this entails removing the rear light but once again gives the most compact fold. The bike is easy to carry via the ‘handle’ formed by the triangular section of frame just behind the top tube hinge, and sits nicely on the ground when folded, balanced on its two rear tires and the bottom of the seatpost. The sub 10kg weight meant that I was never tempted to see if it could be rolled along like a trolley – anyway it’s so much more hip to carry your foldie, oui?
Now onto the ride! As mentioned earlier, this bike has three speeds and utilises the 9, 10 and 11 tooth cogs from Shimano’s Capreo groupset, designed specifically for small-wheels bicycles and featured on the Tern X18, amongst others. Paired with a 39 tooth chainring, the end result is –
SPEED BABY, SPEEEED! OH YEAHHHH!!!
The photo below shows the business end of the drivetrain – Shimano Tiagra rear mech, KMC all weather chain and the tiny cassette with 9, 10 and 11 tooth sprockets.
How fast is fast you ask? Allow me to illustrate: the first time I took this bike ‘out for a spin’ I hit 30km/h almost without trying. A couple of weeks later on the ECP, I decided to try and establish some sort of maximum speed for the bike, so on a flat and straight section near the Tanjong Rhu bridge I dropped the hammer and did my best impression of Mark Cavendish.
The bike shot away like a scalded dog and topped out at 36.9km/h, a speed sufficiently high that I dared not push it any faster for fear of obliterating some hapless passer-by. Suffice it to say that this bike is ridiculously fast for its class, and the small wheels mean it has blistering acceleration that will leave cars and even motorbikes in the dust… for a little while anyway. The stock tires are 85 psi Primo Comets (left) with a very fine cross-hatch tread that work well. Primo is a brand better known for BMX tires and yes this bike definitely has ‘crotch rocket’ aspirations – it will cruise effortlessly at 20km/h and has front and rear caliper brakes for when you need to throw out the anchor. The brakes felt rather ‘mushy’ for the first couple of weeks but I suspect it was simply the pads bedding in. The twist shifter also has issues: downshifting is almost too easy – from first gear it tends to skip over second and gleefully drop you into third, the voice of the bike (if it had one) squealing, “More speed! More speed!”. In the other direction it is very stiff, requiring a firm grasp and a determined right hand effort before the mech moves, almost despondently, up the cassette. The relatively large difference between the gears (10% and 9.1% respectively) also makes the shifts rather abrupt and jarring at times.
The small wheels combined with the relatively short 855mm wheelbase and high pressure tires result in a bike that is twitchy in the extreme. This in my studied opinion is NOT a bike for beginners! You need a decent amount of riding experience and an appreciation of how small-wheeled bikes handle before getting astride this little guy. Which leads me onto another issue that is potentially far more serious:
The combination of high gearing and small wheels means that this bike has an alarming tendency to ‘wheelie’ when negotiating any sort of uphill grade, especially from a dead stop, especially if you have forgotten to shift into the lowest gear and are a powerful rider. This happened to me when crossing Bishan road headed southbound – the road itself is above the level of the park connector and I had stopped on the uphill approach to the pedestrian crossing, still in second gear. When the light changed I put my foot down, and the torque from the drive train combined with the geography conspired to rotate the entire bike around the rear axle rather than the wheel around the axle! The bike reared up like a bucking bronco and unceremoniously dumped me off the back. I was surprised (and quite in denial of what had just happened) but salvaged the situation by simply stepping backwards onto the ground, with nothing hurt other than my pride. Somebody else with less experience might have fallen backwards off the bike, a potentially very dangerous fall.
Other downsides would be the mechanical complexity of the bike – it has a relatively large number of moving parts, joined together with a multitude of clamps, struts, catches and fasteners. Once again, not a bike for beginners, and definitely a bike that needs to be kept clean and inspected regularly. The area around the rear hinge (left) is especially complex and has many gaps and crevices in which dirt can hide. I would strongly advise riding this bike only on paved roads and to do your utmost to keep it clean, using compressed air to blow out these areas if necessary. The proximity of the lower jockey wheel to the rear tire also means that the chain gets dirty almost automatically, so I would recommend the use of a good dry lubricant that doesn’t attract dust.
Finally, a word about bike fit: Dahon claim that this bike will fit riders between 140 and 180cm tall and they are not joking! At 1.78m tall, I have both the handle and seat post pegged at their maximum extension and can just barely get a comfortable saddle height that will allow me to pedal with the requisite leg extension. The short wheelbase means you feel very much perched on top of the bike rather than sitting astride it, and yeah here come those circus bear analogies… The bike comes with 170mm crank arms which are on the short side and can give the pedal stroke a rather adolescent feel compared to a normal-sized bike.
In conclusion, the Dahon Eezz D3 is most definitely NOT for everyone. It is a specialised piece of gear for the specialised rider – either the fast commuter who needs the small fold and light weight, or the unapologetic speed nut like myself who refuses to accept that small wheeled bikes should be incapable of the eye-watering velocities that this little guy gets up to.
You have been warned… now come join the party!
Full specs available here: http://dahon.com/bikes/eezz-d3/by