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Dahon Curve D3
If you gave me a choice, it would be the Curve instead of a Speed. But why?
It is rare that you see 16” wheeled bikes on the market – and rightly so. Having merely sixteen inches worth of rubber between the road and you has serious implications on top speed, tyre durability and road handling. This is, also, the perennial reason why high performance bikes prefer 26” or 700C – simply because they are better in overall performance. Having large wheels curbs frictional losses through lessening rolling resistance which happens to be the chief advocate of large wheels.
The Dahon Curve D3 is one of the few entry level bicycles in the Dahon range which use 16” inch wheels. It is not very cheap for something “entry level”, having a price nearing a thousand dollars. With the money, you can buy a Speed D7 and have extra money for accessories. What’s more, the D7 has seven gears, and the more ubiquitously used 20” wheels, which has implications for tyre selection.
Yet, if you gave me a choice, it would be the Curve instead of a Speed. But why?
Curve Against the World
As it is, foldable bicycles manufacturing 16” wheeled bicycles have to sell their 16” bikes on something other than outright performance. And while the siblings of the Curve D3, the Curve SL/XL are sportier versions, they still represent a compromise. Without doubt, the D3 has immediate flaws for the performance oriented cyclist. However, if you can forgive it for not being the fastest bike out there, and appreciate it for what it is good at, then the Curve D3 will make a lot of sense to you.
Componentry-wise, the Curve D3 has nothing too fancy. Except for its three-speed Sturmey Archer, the rest are pretty low end. However, the pivotal point between this bike and the other Curves or its competitors such as the Speed series has to be its internal hub. The rest have more gears, however, use a derailleur.
The three-speed hub is interestingly good for the lazy and less technically oriented. If you know Mr Brown, you’d know he has a Curve D3 too, and the last time I met him, he mentioned that it is ‘bombproof’, having taken it overseas for city cycling. I cannot attest to its reliability, however, in every other aspect, it performed excellently. The three gears, while it might be a bit frightening to the seasoned cyclist to lose the ability to pedal at his preferred cadence, is not only a single-edged sword. The truth is losing the ability to squeeze out maximum performance gives you a freedom of not needing to think so much about when to change gears. You just know that when there’s a hill or you feel like burning ATP, you shift it to third. When you face something akin to, but less tiring than, Mount Faber, go to first. Anything else – second gear. Simple.
This leads me onto the topic of speed – sure, it’s not the fastest, but it’s not slow. It is as fast as you can do on a standard bike, and then take away a little. The difference will be apparent on your bike-to-bike average speed calculations, especially if you face hills. However, the bike doesn’t make you feel like you are riding a bike that significantly slows you down due to its configuration. You might think that although the fat Schwalbe Big Apples look like effort-wasting tyres, they are a very good compromise between comfort and speed. Slower than Kojaks, but definitely more comfortable, and durable, than Kojaks.
Brakes were very good. In fact, if you have clean rims and well-tuned brakes, you would be doing stoppies very often. The rear brake, however, is a bit of a dilemma. It is equally powerful, and this causes a problem when you overdo it. The rear locks up easily, and unlike other bikes I have tested, this particular bike likes to kick its tail out if you locked the wheel while turning.
Folding the Curve D3 is as simple as any other Dahon, and the locking mechanism has really improved over the versions to become even more safe and secure. Side-by-side, the Curve vs the Speed can become a deal maker for the potential buyer seeking the most compact fold. The most compact fold, without a doubt, comes from the Curve. The Curve is around three quarters the size of the Speed, and it definitely is easier to get into the boot of my car than the Speed, which is already quite easy.
As always, my car’s boot is like a trapezium, therefore, in order to fit the bike in, I had to take the seatpost out and use it as a tool to prop the bike up such that it slants parallel to the rear seats which is easily achieved.
The bike is, however, quite heavy, so don’t expect to carry this around the MRT like a shopping bag. It still requires either a bike bag or you could roll it by extending the seatpost.
“Horses for courses” is probably the most appropriate phrase to describe whether this bike is appropriate for you. This bike cannot beat the Speed D7 in terms of speed or efficiency. However, it will beat it when you own a small car, and if you are a multimodal commuter who doesn’t like the bulk of the Speed. Reliability of the internal gear hub is another key consideration in case you don’t like to handle derailed chains while commuting. Price-wise, it isn’t something easily compared to other bikes because of its unique three speed hub. You might get a three-speed Sturmey Archer in another bike, but it is rather rare, and nothing, so far, offers it at the price of the Curve D3.
The Curve can do many things. It is many things to many people. To ladies, it is a cute little bike (get the red-white coloured one!). To commuters like me, it is a hassle-free, compact and reasonably priced bicycle. The Daihatsu Copen of bicycles, perhaps.