I have a Brompton which I bought about 2 months ago. I LOVE it and use it almost every day. For me, small fold was important because I plan to take it occasionally on small buses and subways. Anyway, I have been enjoying riding so much that my partner decided he'd like to get a new bike so we could ride together on weekends. I thought it would be great if he had a folder too, because we'd be much more likely to go on rides if it meant we didn't have to go through the hassle and time it takes to attach a bike rack to the car and attach the bikes to the rack, etc., etc. but if we could rather just put the folded bikes in the car trunk whenever we felt like going somewhere for a bike ride. The thing is that really small fold is not so important for him, as he will not be taking it on buses and subways. It just has to be small enough to fit in the trunk along with my Brompton. Of course, quality of ride is important too, as well as the ease of folding. He would also like to keep spending substantially lower than what I paid for the Brompton.
So, anyway, today we visited a bike shop to check out Downtubes. We test rode 3 models - all 9 speeds, 1 with derailleur, 1 with derailleur and suspension, and 1 with hub. The range of speeds on the model with the hub was ridiculous to me - the low gear no where near as low as I'd like for climbing hills, and the high way higher than he'd ever need. The range of gears on the models with the derailleur, on the other hand, seemed perfect. The ride on all three was fine, but nothing outstanding. I felt sort of stiff riding it, and didn't love the handlebars with the ends sticking up. But overall, it was fine. The fold, on the other hand, was just plain clumsy, and when folded it doesn't stay folded (unless you tie it with a bungy). That didn't impress Brompton-owning me, and it really turned my partner off.
So, we were about the leave the store when the owner suggested we try out the Dahon, which I hadn't noticed. I've read and heard a lot about the Dahons, and had even put the Curve on my short list when I was shopping for my folder, but I never actually tried one out. The model they had was a Speed 7. My partner tried it out first. He was much more pleased with the folding - smaller, more elegant, and stays together, and he liked the ride, although honestly he didn't feel a great difference between it and the Downtubes we had tried. But when I took it for a ride I had a much stronger reaction. This bike felt smooth to ride, and I *enjoyed* riding it. I can't really explain exactly why, but I felt the riding position to be more natural and pleasurable, and less "upright/stiff" than the Downtube. I really enjoyed riding it. It had that fun-factor I get from riding my Brompton.
So, here's the dilemma. Of all the folding bikes I've read and heard about, the Dahon's are the ones that I associate with the most negative comments I've come across in terms of quality. Now I'm left wondering, are there quality issues that turn up after a certain amount of riding? Do all those negative comments I've come across apply to current models of Dahons? To all models? I recently brought my Brompton into an extremely high-end bike store to have a second chainring added (granny gears), and while chatting with one of the workers about shopping for a second folder for my partner he warned me to stay away from Dahons - told me how some Dahon owner had come in for some work on his bike, and how terrible and shabby they thought it was (they sell the Tikit, but he was not trying to sell me one - we were both clear it was not in our price range - he recommended a look at the Swift, which they don't sell).
So, my question - what's the story about Dahons? I don't want to steer my partner to get a shabby bike that won't hold up. I plan to take my partner to try out a Swift, but after that I can't think of any other less expensive folders that he should consider. Perhaps some of you may have some suggestions?