This is a detailed review of the Dahon Curl folding bike. The Curl is Dahon’s version of a Brompton, made once Brompton’s original patent expired. It has the same folding mechanism with the rear wheel swinging in under the frame. The Dahon Curl has some nice features but it lacks the refined ride of a Brompton. Where the Dahon has the edge is moving it around in a half fold, something I’ve found really key to the practical use of a folding bike.
- Very adjustable riding position.
- Easy and secure fold
- Easy to roll along when partially folded
- Very compact fold
- Sensible gearing options of 3 or 8-speed Nexus hub gears
- Feels twitchy and unstable when handlebars are lower than the saddle.
- Brakes could be more powerful
Folding and unfolding the Dahon Curl
The fold starts by pushing a button to release the rear swingarm and releasing a clamp to fold the frame close to the headset. With a bit of practice, I found it was possible to flip the front around and the back wheel under at the same time. Releasing the swingarm is very easy, the clamp on the front of the frame has a safety catch meaning it’s not quite such a smooth operation but easy enough. A small plastic fork, mounted close to the rear chain tensioner, catches the front forks as they move into their folded position, holding the folded package together. The most awkward part of this whole operation is ensuring that the pedal is in the correct position so that the front wheel doesn’t hit it as it folds in.
What’s really nice about the Dahon Curl is that this quick initial fold is all you need to initially create a more compact and easily maneuverable package. In the folded position the Curl rests on small wheels integrated into the luggage rack. You can wheel it along very comfortably by holding the saddle. Wheeling a bike on small castor wheel will never be as smooth as using the actual bike wheel, so this doesn’t compare to the ease of moving a folded Strida, but I found it easier than any other folding bike I’ve tried, including the Brompton. From this position, it’s very easy to fold the handlebars down to make the package more compact. The handlebars stay in this position by gravity.
It’s worth noting that with the seatpost extended, the swingarm holding the rear wheel isn’t locked into place. This means that if you pick the bike up by the frame it will start to unfold. If you’re pushing the bike along and you need to pick it up, perhaps to climb some stairs, you won’t want it starting to unfold. Luckily there is a very simple solution. As you grasp around the top tube, you simply grip the rim of the wheel as you pick the bike up.
The final stage of the fold is to drop the seatpost. This locks everything into a folded package that is very compact for easy storage. The dimensions of the Dahon Curl when folded are 580 mm x 545 mm x 280 mm. Although the folded bike is slightly longer than a Brompton, it is also a little lower. The volume is the same for both bikes, 89 liters.
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Ride and handling of the Dahon Curl
The Dahon Curl has a long telescopic stem that allows you to adjust the handlebar height in the same way as you adjust the sadle height with a seatpost. This gives a huge range of adjustment which I found really excellent. Being able to adjust the bike from the low aero position to an upright position is unusual and extremely useful. Not just to suit different riding styles but also for variety on a long ride.
I was a little disappointed with the handling of the Dahon Curl, it definitely doesn’t feel as refined as the Brompton. I found the steering to be twitchy, making me feel that the bike was a bit unstable. It feels like there is too much weight over the front wheel and I didn’t feel very comfortable riding out of the saddle. Despite this, I was able to lift the front wheel and bunny hop the Dahon Curl quite easily. This can be tricky on some very compact folding bikes such as the Strida.
There are two gearing options, the Curl i3 comes with a 3-speed Shimano Nexus hub gear while the Curl i8 is fitted with the 8-speed Nexus hub. I found the range of gears on the 3-speed to be quite limited, especially lacking in low gears for steep climbs. If you’re riding anywhere that isn’t flat I’d definitely recommend going for the 8-speed Curl i8.
The brakes are perfectly acceptable dual-pivot calipers. My current bikes both have disc brakes so the calipers felt very underpowered to me. It’s a shame that more folding bikes don’t have disc brakes, especially with them now becoming very affordable and carrying very little weight penalty.
Luggage and Child Carrying on the Dahon Curl
The Dahon Curl comes fitted with an alloy luggage rack which also serves as a stand when it is folded. This means that if the rack is used to carry any luggage it will interfere with the folding of the bike, limiting the usefulness of the rack.
There is no integrated child seat and it would be somewhat problematic to fit one. There is no room for a top-tube mounted seat. It would probably be possible to fit a seat to the luggage rack but this would need to be removed to fold the bike.
The Dahon Curl is a high-quality folding bike that matches the compact fold and convenience of the Brompton. I actually found it easier than a Brompton to wheel along when partially folded. This is something that I’ve found to be really key to the convenience of using a folding bike. The ride doesn’t feel as refined as a Brompton but it has the advantage of being able to adjust the handlebar height to achieve either a sporty or an upright riding position. The option of an 8-speed Nexus hub gear is also arguably preferable to Brompton’s unconventional gear systems.