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Dahon Classic III EP 203 Folding Bike Part 1: Unfolding Freedom for Free

With the COVID-19 pandemic confining most of us indoors, we’ve decided to turn our attention (and our wrenches) from the project cars that are parked outside our home to the bicycles that are parked inside. Some of our readers may scoff at this development but please remember that bicycles are human-powered wheels, which makes it a subject worthy of Power Wheels Magazine.

If you were a regular reader of our former printed version, we used to have a section entitled “The Power of Two” that featured motorcycles and bicycles. We’ve featured several classic and modern bicycles and we’ve owned several bikes including Japanese rod brake roadsters (Fuji, Suzuki, Ikari), road and city bikes (Puma Biomega Nevis Men and Ladies), as well as a classic mountain bike (Murray Red Wing Baja) and a “fixie” that was given as a prize in a Mazda cars contest.

Bought Used and Given Free

Of the four bicycles we currently have, we decided to work on our folding bike, a Dahon Classic III EP203 that was given to us by Jericho Jamasali, the brother of our marketing boss, Shawie Dizon. Jericho bought the bike in 2019 to commute from his condo in Mandaluyong City to his job in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. He bought it at a garage sale for P6,500 and enjoyed the convenience of being able to fold the bike and bring it up to his office.

Because it was an old used bicycle, the Dahon became a bit troublesome. Jericho experienced flat tires on a regular basis even after he replaced the inner tubes. One of the original 16-inch gum-wall tires became bald and unserviceable, so he had it replaced with a Philippine-made 16 x 1.75 Leo bicycle tire. After a year of riding (and walking to a vulcanizing shop to have the flat tire repaired), Jericho decided to buy a brand-new folding mountain bike and gave his old Dahon to us.

World’s Largest Folding Bike Maker

Intrigued about our free little red bike, we looked into its manufacturer. We learned that Dahon is the world’s largest manufacturer of folding bicycles, occupying a sizeable share of the global market. The company was founded in 1982 by David T. Hon, a former laser physicist, and his brother Henry, a former computer entrepreneur who financed the business venture. Dahon, which is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. with assembly factories in China, Macau and Bulgaria, holds over 200 patents, some of which have become the industry standard.

Dr. David Hon riding his Dahon folding bike during a demo in Malaysia in the ’90s.

Dahon markets bicycles under other brand names such as Yeah, Biceco and Novara for REI in America. The company actively promotes “zero carbon emissions” and is a member of the Global Alliance for EcoMobility. Its corporate tagline, “Freedom Unfolds” is a fun poke at their products’ folding capability. Dahon actively participates in the Smithfield Nocturne Folding Bike Races, winning the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012 seasons. Ironically, David Hon’s wife Florence and son Joshua bolted from Dahon after a bitter lawsuit and started a competing company that makes folding bikes under the Tern brand.

A Dahon exclusive store in Europe.

Assessing What We Have

We got our Dahon Classic III EP 203 folding bike after the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) was lifted and we just stored it as we got it – folded and dirty. After several months of gestation, we decided to take a closer look at it and found a couple of surprises. The rear hub is a Sturmey-Archer 3-Speed internal gear change that is marked “9-91”, which indicates a manufacturing date of September 1991, and makes our Dahon a late 1991 or 1992 model. The front and rear mud guards (or fenders) are molded plastic that have cracked and broken while the side-pull caliper-type brakes are still perfectly functional.

Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub gear

The front portion of the front mud guard/fender has been sheared off while the rest is cracked…

The trailing section of the rear mud guard/fender is also broken.

Front and rear brake calipers appear to be in good condition and just needs some cleaning.

Like most Dahon folding bikes, ours uses a patented, single-hinge steel frame design where the handlebar folds down and the frame hinge swings to the left, leaving the handlebar inside. Our bike weighs around 15 kilograms and it has some corrosion, some marks on the metallic red paint, and some peeling stickers. When folded, our bicycle only measures around 70 centimeters long and 30 cm wide. Folded height is said to be around 45 cm, that is, if we can push the seat post into the frame, which we cannot because it appears to be stuck. But it’s nothing that a generous spray of WD-40 cannot fix.

The crank looks okay and still has the original folding right pedal and intact plastic chain guard. The rear carrier also seems to be in good condition.

The lock for the folding frame is complete and is in good working condition.

The folding handle bar works well and the lock has a warning sticker in Japanese that translates to “Note: Be sure to press and lock.”

The aptly called “landing gear” is complete, functional and just needs a thorough cleaning.

Dahon’s biggest sellers are folding bikes with 16- or 20-inch wheels, but they also make models with wheels from 12 inches to 700C. Newer models come with aluminum alloy frames and vertical folding features, and weight a lot lighter because of the new materials and construction techniques. While the new models may be dreamy (and expensive), we’re content with our old, dirty hand-me-down folding bike, which seems to be destined for the Japanese market judging by its warning stickers.

Sticker on the handlebar translates to “Please check all the locks before riding”…

… while the warning sticker on the frame says “Please do not make strong impact such as jumping on curb.”

Warning sticker on the handlebar neck reminds of maintenance inspection every six months.

Wheeling brake levers are good with some scuff marks; Gear selector is missing its Sturmey-Archer decal; Mini bell has seen better days.

Overall, we’re happy with this fixer-upper because it’s mostly complete except for the broken mud guards and the deteriorated tires that we will try to find replacements for. More than that, we’re happy with this Dahon Classic III EP 203 simply because it is already ours and we got it for FREE. And for us, that’s the best feature of all.