A recent question on the Dahon Philippines Facebook group piqued my curiosity…which doesn’t happen very often. I felt Dahon’s product lineup had gotten a little stagnant in the past few years. New bikes such as the 16″-wheeled Jifo and later EEZZ, their 20″-wheeled big brother the Qix, and the Brompton-aping Curl showed up in the news, but none of them really spoke to me.
Perhaps it’s because I was waiting for a successor to the long-lived K-/KA-frame family that included the Speed, Mariner, Vitesse, and the unicorn that is the Formula S18. These bikes were among the most customizable in the range, enjoying good aftermarket support and readily accepting of various drivetrain combinations. For the longest time, too, the Formula S18 was the one and only Dahon bicycle with 20″ wheels that was built for disc brakes.
So when someone asked about a model called the Dahon Launch D8, I did a quick search on Google…and was pleasantly surprised. This was what I was looking for.
AT LAST: DISC BRAKE READY – AND 100 MM FRONT HUB SPACING, TOO
With the arrival of the Launch, the Formula is no longer alone. Poring over the spec sheet, the Launch D8 comes equipped with Tektro Aries post-mount mechanical disc brake calipers chomping down on 160 mm rotors, which I think is generous for such a small-wheeled bike.
Gone are the mounting posts for V-brakes…and also gone is Dahon’s proprietary 74 mm front hub spacing. The Launch’s fork is now built for 100 mm hubs, which is the defacto standard and greatly increases the number of hub options you can use with your wheels.
A JIGSAW PUZZLE OF A MAIN FRAME HINGE
Outwardly, the Launch resembles a Vitesse or a Formula frame. It isn’t until you fold the bike in two that you realize Dahon have injected what I think is the most significant change in the frame’s evolution: the new “Jaws-Clamp” main frame hinge.
Previous K-/KA-frame Dahon bikes have main frame hinges made up of two flat surfaces essentially being pressed against each other while the clamp is locked. On the Launch, Dahon replaces this pair of flat surfaces with keyed interlocking faces, similar to how jigsaw puzzle pieces are keyed to fit together. This makes for a stronger, stiffer frame when ridden, and should address the Vitesse main frame hinge’s point of failure.
An older version of this design was dubbed “Lockjaw” and featured on Dahon’s folding mini velos, such as the Dash/Hammerhead. The Lockjaw hinge had finer “teeth” needed to work with smaller tubes, and required tightening and loosening a pair of locking hex-head bolts.
The newer, stronger Jaws-Clamp design also brings with it a bump in the maximum rider weight rating. My Vitesse is rated for 105 kg (230 lb); the Launch will carry up to 130 kg (287 lb).
EVERYTHING ELSE LOOKS TASTY
An eight-speed drivetrain makes the Launch D8 a good platform for future upgrading. While it lacks the braze-on front derailleur mounting tab, as the bike is essentially an evolved K-/KA-frame, LitePro’s front derailleur adapters for the Speed and Vitesse should work on the Launch should you desire a double-chainring setup.
Dahon is checking most of the boxes I am looking for from a folding bike, and doing so for US$900 (PhP45,500). I’ve since heard that the Launch D8 will make its way to Philippine shores soon. If the Launch came in a frameset-only option, it would make for a tempting project.
3 thoughts on “Evolution: A first look at the Dahon Launch D8”
I recently bought one for my wife and test rode it too and realise how rigid the frame is compare to most folding bikes. This lockjaw design is going to last on the bike for a long time. The ride quality is better than most within this price range even with the 8 Speed. Even my novice wife could tell the difference. :p currently I have upgraded the Chainring to a Litepro 54T oil slick and Oil Slick Rotors. Most probably looking at 451 wheel sets as the next upgrade and maybe swapping over my Sora 9 Speed while I upgrade mine to a Shimano 105. Oh and I realise the new designs are slightly different too. The rear half of the frame is now the same colour as the body instead of black but has some black accent on it.
Sounds like a good purchase, then. The local distributor here still doesn’t carry the Launch model, unfortunately.
That 451 mm wheel swap you’ve got in mind should be very straightforward with disc brakes.
Oh that’s such a pity unless you buy it online than. Prices are very good in Singapore. less than USD$600. Yes the wheel swap is quite straight forward. Those Litepro Aero wheels are not not bad for the price too.