The cycling gods were kind to me because I paid $150.00 dollars for this Dahon Presto and it has to be the steal of my whole life! You always hear about people getting lucky buying used bikes but this time it happened to me! The Presto was practically brand new and you could tell because the condition of the rims and tires were hardly used. The bike was in mint condition and looked as though it was used once or twice and parked for two years. The woman who sold it initially wanted $125.00 but it was clearly a $300.00 dollar bike (or more) based on its excellent condition.
Hereís my review of the Presto.
The bike is more attractive than my Vitesse or Piccolo and I wish Dahon would use this same polished frame on more of their bikes. Itís the same frame as the Presto Lite with a very nice finish and the stickers make it glisten. The bike weights 24.2 lbs without racks, fenders and with a heavy suspension seat post. I think the bike looks better without fenders and racks and Iíll put them on should it become necessary.
To my surprise, the Presto is actually larger than the Piccolo I purchased 5 years ago! I tried but could not fit the bike into my double ply bag that was big enough to cover the Piccolo. The cock pit of the bike was the same as my Vitesse. In other words, the distance between the handlebar and the saddle were the same as a 20í inch wheel folder. The larger Presto forced me to buy the Bolso bag which is definitely an improvement over the double ply bag. That bag also fits my Vitesse and will also work for 26 inch folders from what I read on the web. Dahon realized several years ago it was more important to expand the wheelbase (Biologic Frame) of the bike for the sake of stability. I felt the difference right away and Iím glad the company made this change making it less twitchy than my Piccolo.
Sturmey Vs Sram Spectro
Iíve never had a bike that used Sram Spectro 3 but Iím happy say that itís a solid product. To my surprise, the Spectro 3 feels heavier than the Sturmey 3 but thatís about the only deficiency. Its obvious SRAM makes a better 3 speed hub for two reasons. First, setting the ďAssembly Locating SleeveĒ is a much more elegant solution when making slight changes to the cable connected to the indicator chain. This feature makes it much easier to make adjustments once cable starts stretching and the shifter begins missing gears. Second, the Spectro 3 had a slightly more efficient 3rd gear than the AW-3! Itís something you have to feel to experience with two very similar bikes and I put thousands of miles on my Piccolo to know the AW-3 in third gear was less efficient than my Presto in the same gear. Then again, I am using clipless pedals with the Presto but the AW-3 in third gear felt crunchy. Overall, 3rd gear with either hub was too high for anything but going downhill but the Spectro 3 felt solid when putting the power down.
I always liked the gearing Dahon choose for their 3 speed bikes (16í inch wheel) because Direct Drive was just right at 50 inches. In fact, the gearing was much more appropriate on the Presto/Piccolo than my Vitesse which had a 56 inch direct drive and was way too high. I used to ride all day with my Piccolo and did Bike New York (40+ miles) without any problems on a low 50 inch direct drive. A low direct drive doesnít require the rider to shift up or down for start up and itís perfect all around gear for a town bike. Some people may feel that a 50 inch gear is too low but this can always be remedied by going to a 12T cog. Unfortunately, 1st gear is not low enough at 36 inches which makes this bike impractical for anything but city riding.
Dahon Presto Gearing: (also for Presto Lite and Piccolo)
13t cog, 48t chain-ring, 16 inch wheel. (Using Sheldonís Calculator)
1st gear -------------- 36.4 Low gear
2nd gear ------------- 49.7 Direct Drive
3rd gear ------------- 67.6 High gear
My Presto came with a front brake and a rear coaster brake! I havenít had a bike with a coaster brake in years but my Bianchi Milano had a rear hand activated rear roller brake which was very good. In fact, the one feature I missed from my Milano was the rear roller hub brake that made stopping effortless with none of the regular maintenance that goes along with brake pads. I was able to make 95% of my stops using the hand brake alone preserving the front brake for emergency stops.
To my surprise, the coaster brake on my Presto was very effective in stopping the bike and rarely used the front brake at all! Iím still getting used to having a coaster brake because I can no longer pedal backward at stops to get it into position for acceleration at red lights. Furthermore, I would sometimes hit the brake by accident while riding so itís something Iíll have to learn but the advantage is an incredibly strong coaster brake. The problem with coaster brakes is the fact that you can only brake at the 3 oíclock position. With clipless pedals, this is no longer an issue because I can pull back at any position. I donít know why there arenít more commuter bikes (other than the Milano) that use coaster or roller brakes. I never ran out of brake on the Presto and didnít really notice any fade at all. I was skeptical at first but not anymore and I would have been ecstatic if Dahon had used a roller hand brake.
The rear V-brake on my Piccolo was never as strong as my coaster brake on the Presto so I donít miss it at all. Itís too bad the Presto was discontinued because the Lite version uses V brakes so youíll never get the chance to experience the power of this old technology. I think part of the problem with coaster brakes is the stigma associated with kidís bikes. The bottom line, coaster brakes work well and are low maintenance, perfect for a commuter bike.
The bike came with an adjustable handlebar stem necessary for smaller riders. I canít tell you how important this feature is because I had to go out and buy an adjustable handlebar stem for my Vitesse since it lacked one. A folding bike without an adjustable handlebar either leaves you sitting straight up or stretched too far down.
The first change I made was adding the Dahon suspension seat post. I donít know Dahon didnít include this upgrade but itís practically necessary for a 16í inch wheel. It really makes a difference as I was able to ride without any saddle pain at all for three hours on the initial ride. I made this upgrade on my Piccolo and did Bike New York (40+ miles) on that folder. People though I was suffering over the bridges because of the small wheels but I was perfectly fine. I also added Tuffy tire liners inside the wheels because you want to limit the number of flats. (more on this later).
Overall, the bike felt like my Piccolo (but less twitchy) as the seating position was straight up and riding it brought back fond memories of my first bike. The Presto is a real attention getter and people on the street think youíve just escaped from a circus! I could lower the handlebars for a more aero position but that would throw off the geometry and this bike is meant for you to be sitting up. The Presto has a solid frame and I didnít notice it was made of aluminum due to the suspension seat post.
Land Speed Record
In terms of speed, the Presto is a slow bicycle. My GPS shows I was traveling at 16 mph at top speed on a flat straight way in 3rd gear. I donít consider it a deficiency and fine for this type of commuter bike while others may disagree. Direct drive will bring you down to 12 mph and I can ride in this gear for hours. I think the bike would go faster on Primo Comet tires but the next upgrade will be Schwalbe Marathons. A straight line speed of 16 mph is more than enough for a commuter.
Land Rider Vs Presto
During my initial ride, there was a cyclist ahead of me traveling at 6 mph on what I though was a department store bike. He was pedaling like crazy going nowhere and I thought he was stuck in the granny gear or riding on a flat tire. To my surprise, he was cycling on a brand new informercial Landrider that cost more than a PrestoLite! The guy had the nerve to laugh at me but quite frankly, I felt sorry for the poor man. I blasted past him in Direct Drive!
Changing Rear Wheel Ė Flats.
The bike had two flat tires when I purchased it and changing that rear wheel took nearly 25 minutes! I never changed a flat tire with the Sram Spectro 3 but I expect over time it will get faster but not too much faster. The process of flat tire repair is slow and cumbersome which is why I installed Tuffy tire liners on both wheels to cut down the number of flats. Changing the rear wheel required four separate tools because you also needed to disengage the coaster brake arm.
Folding Time/Chain guard
The Dahon folder always had some of the faster folding times. I folded the Presto in 21 seconds (not rushing either) which is what you look for in a commuter bike. I could probably get that time down to 16 or 18 seconds but itís not necessary to stress myself over 5 seconds. The PrestoLite and Piccolo now come with a plastic chain guard that covers 2/3 of the chain so greasy clothes are a thing of the past. I donít know why more commuting folders donít come with chain guards (Is Dahon the only company that includes a chain guard for 16í folders?) because these bikes are ridden in street clothes and adding them is an inexpensive feature. I canít tell you how many pants were soiled by chain grease on my old Piccolo when I biked to work years ago. The 2006 version uses a magnet that keeps the package together when folded (mine did not) so this is no longer an issue.
Fenders/ Rear Rack/ Bolso bag
This bike came with fenders and a good quality rear rack. I once carried a sewing machine on my rear rack so itís strong enough. Even though I removed them, the option to put them back on is available. Dahon sells a slip cover for transit and Bolso (sp) bag for carrying on buses or trains. I tried the Bolso bag and to my surprise, it fits both my Vitesse and Presto and I can get the bike inside in about 10 seconds. I boarded the bus the other day with no problem at all thanks to this bag.
The biggest deficiency of this bike is the lack of a suspension seat post. I had to go out and buy this upgrade or change to a Brooks Champion flyer. The gearing is barely adequate and I hope Dahon discontinues using the Sram Spectro 3 and starts installing the Sturmey Sprinter 5 speed which has more than enough gears for commuting. Once Dahon releases the Curve, there really will be no need to keep the Piccolo or Presto Lite anymore in the lineup. I would also like Dahon to move to the 349 Brompton wheel as the additional size would increase performance with not too much of an increase in size.
There seems to be an assumption among forum members that the Presto is the poor mans Brompton but I disagree. The folding is certainly fast and the package small enough for multimode commuting. I can board trains and buses during rush hour as long as the bike is covered. With the suspension seat post, Iíll have no problem riding this bike 40 miles or more which is more than enough for multimode commuting. The Presto is certainly fast enough to do the job at 16mph (3rd gear) and I can probably get better efficiency with higher pressure tires as the ones currently on the bike have a maximum pressure at 65 psi. The low gear of 36 inches isnít too bad and will get you up most small rolling hills without a problem. The chain guard makes it a clean bicycle and you really donít know how important this feature is until you have one. I will not remove mine even though my fenders and rack are in storage, thatís how much I value the plastic guard. The bike is one of the lightest in production and comes with enough accessories to make anyone happy. If one needs to cross hills for commuting or travel more than 20 miles per day, a larger wheel folder with more gears would certainly be in order.
Well thatís about all and no Dahon did not pay me one dime but if they do send a huge check, Iíll make more glowing endorsements! Just kidding ;-)