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If you’re in the market for a folding bike, you’ll run into these two manufacturers early on in your search. So, which bike wins in a Brompton vs Dahon contest?
We’ll help you decide which of these renowned bike brands is better for you.
Brompton: History And Range
Founded in London in 1976, the Brompton Bicycle Company makes the most iconic folding bikes in the world.
Brompton bikes are still made in London to this day. The factory hasn’t drifted far from a flat overlooking the Brompton Oratory where the first prototypes were built.
It was Andrew Ritchie who first imagined the Brompton. The earlier Bickerton folding bike inspired him. At first, he tried to license the design to manufacturers like Raleigh, but then he started making the bikes himself.
Having made bikes in London for over 45 years, Brompton announced plans in 2022 for a spectacular new factory in Ashford, Kent.
About The Bikes
One thing to note about Brompton bikes is that the basic frame design, folded size, and folding method do not change from one bike to the next. You could buy any Brompton and enjoy the same benefits in portability.
Read more: The smallest folding bikes
Brompton makes most of its bike frames from mild steel, which some people do not expect given the cost of a typical Brompton. Mild steel is cheaper than Chromoly steel and indirectly heavier, but it’s easier to work with and suits Brompton’s processes.
The 16” wheels of a Brompton are another universal feature. Brompton never strays from this because it enables the smaller folded size. The downside is the reduced comfort that small wheels bring; you feel bumps and potholes more keenly.
To compensate for any discomfort caused by the small wheels, Brompton bikes have a polyurethane suspension block mounted at the rear. This block has varying degrees of firmness, and you can swap it if necessary to fine-tune comfort.
Gear ranges vary a lot on Brompton bikes, from single-speed machines up to Brompton wide-ratio 6-speed gears. The latter has a unique derailleur and internal hub combo design and a range that roughly equals many 8-speed bikes.
Brompton does not make adjustable handlebar posts, so you have to choose the style and height of the handlebar you want when buying the bike. This is not possible on all models.
The overriding feature of a Brompton bike, other than its brilliant foldability, is the quality of workmanship. All bikes are hand brazed by highly skilled workers, each of whom has to undergo 18 months of training for the job.
Read more: Comparison of 16 to 24-inch foldable bikes
Video: Brompton Factory Visit
The Current Brompton Range
Most current Brompton bikes are direct descendants of previous models. The designs barely change, mostly because they don’t need to.
The Brompton A-Line is the company’s entry-level bike. There’s less equipment on it than on more expensive models (no rack, fenders, or front carrier block). It’s also only available with one style of mid-height handlebar.
You get three hub gears on a Brompton A-Line bike with a range of 177%, which means the top gear is 1.77x “faster” or harder to pedal than the bottom gear.
Under the umbrella of the Brompton C-Line is a choice of three main bikes.
The C-Line Urban is, as it sounds, a bike for riding around cities and towns. It has only two gears with a 133% range. The large 54t front chainring tells you this bike is meant for fast riding on flat roads.
The C-Line Utility model comes with the same 177% 3-speed hub found on the A-Line model. This time it’s paired with a bigger 50t chainring (vs 44t) so it’s faster on flat roads and harder up hills.
At the top of the C-Line range is the C-Line Explore. This has a 6-speed drivetrain with a 300% wide range, which makes it rideable over varied terrain (hence the name).
The Brompton P-Line is a “performance” model with a titanium rear frame and fork to help shed weight. Other components are also lightweight. It has a 4-speed drivetrain that is geared for city riding. The P-Line notably comes with Brompton lights.
For the ultimate in Brompton ride comfort and luxury, the Brompton T-Line range exists. Both the main frame and rear frame are made from lightweight and compliant titanium. There’s a steel-armored carbon seat post and a carbon fork.
The single-speed T-Line weighs only 7.45 kg (16.42 lbs), making it one of the lightest folding bikes on the market. The 4-speed version still falls below 8 kg.
Dahon: History And Range
While Brompton is the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the UK, Dahon is the world’s largest folding-bike manufacturer. It’s based in the US, though manufacturing takes place in China and Bulgaria.
The Dahon company was founded in 1982 by David Hon, who is also the CEO. Interestingly, there are Hon family links between Dahon, Tern, and Zizzo folding bike companies, though they’re all distinct brands.
Dahon bikes vary greatly in their fundamental design. They are not all one size, for instance, which affects key factors like comfort and portability. Dahon models have featured 16”, 18”, 20”, 24”, and 26” wheels (20” is the Dahon norm).
A Selection Of Dahon Bikes
Dahon bikes are loaded with the company’s various proprietary technologies. What you buy into with Dahon is many years of refined design and R&D. It’s worth noting that not all Dahon models are available on all continents.
Dahon Mariner D8
One of Dahon’s most popular bikes is the Mariner D8. This bike is fairly lightweight at 12.56 kg (27.69 lbs), especially given the onboard equipment. You get a rear rack with an integrated bungee cord, adjustable handlebars, and fenders with mudflaps.
This bike comes with Dahon Sonus tubing, a telescopic Radius handlebar post with patented Fusion technology, and the Dahon lattice forged hinge with patented ViseGrip folding technology.
The 20” wheels of the Mariner D8 help with ride comfort. And its 8-speed 11-32t rear cassette makes it akin to a full-sized road bike when it comes to easy climbing gears. This is a good commuter/leisure bike.
Dahon Vybe D7
A barer bike than the Mariner D8 is the Dahon Vybe D7. This is a budget model that could work well for urban commuting. It weighs less than the Mariner at 11.52 kg, but that’s mainly due to the pared-down specs.
Notably, this bike has a 7-speed 14-28t freewheel that is both slower on flat roads and harder to ride up hills than the gearing of the Mariner. But it’d be okay for casual city riding.
This bike still includes much of the tech that exists on more expensive models. For example, the Radius handlebar post, lattice forged hinge, and ViseGrip technology.
Dahon MU D11
One of several Dahon MU models is the 20” MU D11. Often included in Dahon’s bike names is the number of gears each bike has, so this one has 11 gears. There’s a 53t chainring at the front and an SRAM 11-32t cassette rearwards.
The Dahon MU D11 weighs only 11.6 kg (23 lbs), which is lightweight compared to most folding bikes. An adjustable handlebar post helps make this bike suitable for various rider heights.
Dahon K3 Plus
The Dahon K3 Plus is a bike with 16” wheels, which helps create a more compact folded size. This bike has some neat specs, too, including 9-speed gears and a big 55t chainring that makes it nippy on flat roads.
Unusually for a folded bike, this one has disc brakes for all-weather stopping power. It also has a slightly wider fold than you get with other Dahon bikes. All the expected Dahon technology is present.
Dahon Curl i4
Dahon’s version of a Brompton in terms of folded size is the Dahon Curl i4. It has 16” wheels (like a Brompton) and folds to a size of 21.25″ x 10.62″ x 22.83″. That makes it around 260 square inches more compact than a Brompton when folded.
Other features of the bike include 4-speed internal hub gears, the Dahon Radius handlebar post, and patented Fusion and V-Clamp technologies. The bike can cope with riders up to 190 cm tall (~6’2”) and has a 105 kg load capacity.
Brompton Vs. Dahon Comparison
Brompton and Dahon are two quite different bike brands offering products that are far apart in many ways. So, how exactly do they differ?
The price of a Dahon bike varies significantly, but the most expensive Dahon bike is nowhere near the cost of a top-tier Brompton. That’s true even if you ignore the titanium Bromptons, which are predictably expensive.
While Dahon isn’t exactly a budget brand, you can pick up cheaper models for around the $500 mark. This is less than half the price of the least expensive Brompton A-Line. Dahon is a mid-price folding bike manufacturer, on the whole.
Build Quality & Durability
Dahon bikes are well-built machines with loads of tech poured into them. And yet it’s hard to compete with Brompton’s steel bike frames that are fillet-brazed by trained artisans.
The materials Brompton uses in its bike frames, namely steel and titanium, have a fatigue limit. That means any normal bike use that doesn’t overload the frame has no impact on the bike’s longevity. Bromptons have an indefinite lifespan.
Dahon bikes are typically made of aluminum. This is a lightweight and strong material, but it constantly degrades under load. Therefore, a Dahon bike has a finite lifespan.
How important this is depends on how often you use your folding bike or how far you ride it. The nature of folding bikes is such that they aren’t often ridden far, so a Dahon could last you many years. Even so, wear and tear take place.
Folded Size & Travel
Although Dahon matched the Brompton for folded size with the Dahon Curl (same folding method as well), it doesn’t do so with the vast majority of models.
The Brompton’s uniform folded size throughout its range is a unique selling point. It’s a size that can be taken onto planes as carry-on luggage. And the folded Brompton bike is one of few that will easily fit under most work desks.
Because this is a standard feature of Bromptons, the Brompton has to win this category. It is, with few rivals, the most compact folding bike on the market.
This is a tricky category in some ways because Bromptons are comfortable to ride on moderately smooth surfaces. They have the suspension block to help with this, but ultimately the small 16” wheels are sensitive to bumps and potholes in the road.
Most Dahon folding bikes have 20” wheels. While this limits their folded size, it makes for a more comfortable ride with less squirrely handling. It also makes them more versatile in where they can be ridden.
Brompton bikes are made with more compliant materials (steel, titanium) than Dahon bikes. But the latter do often have steel forks to help with ride comfort on top of the bigger wheels.
Dahon has to edge this category. All bets are off, though, if you compare Dahon to the all-titanium Brompton models. These soak up bumps better than classic steel Bromptons and would be hard to beat by Dahon.
Although the lightest Bromptons are lighter than anything made by Dahon, several Dahon models weigh under 25 lbs. That’s lighter than most Bromptons, though the popular Dahon Mariner D8 is on the heavier side.
Read more: Which lightweight folding bikes are good?
This category has so much overlap that it’s too close to call. Although Dahon bikes are made with lightweight aluminum, these are rarely as light as you expect them to be because they tend to have chunky frames.
A common feature among Bromptons is the roller wheels installed on rear luggage racks or fenders. These enable users to move the folded bike around with ease—suitcase style.
Let’s e honest, folding bikes can be expensive.
The resale value of a Brompton is undoubtedly far greater than that of any Dahon. This is partly due to the artistry of the bike, especially the hand fillet brazing.
As we’ve already discussed, steel and titanium are inherently longer lasting than aluminum, too.
Of course, a big reason for Bromptons holding their value is their iconic name. The brand is a hallmark of craftsmanship and quality, and the manufacturing has never been shipped overseas.
It’s an enduring piece of British industrial history.
Dahon bikes and Bromptons are often configured to carry cargo on a rear rack. There isn’t much to choose between them in that respect. But the Brompton comes into its own with the front carrier block, which accepts a range of luggage options.
Brompton sells a variety of durable pouches and bags to fit onto the carrier block, which come in small, medium, or large sizes. Some people believe that a Brompton’s lively handling is improved with the extra load on the front.
On the basis that Dahon bikes tend to use more commonly available parts and third-party components, they’re easier to fix on the go. Parts are more readily available than the many proprietary parts on a Brompton.
There is also more choice in 20” tires than there is for 16” tires, and cycle shops are more likely to have the former in stock. The hub gears found on Bromptons are low maintenance, but derailleur gears are typically easy to adjust.
Innovation & Bike Fit
Bromptons have a tried and tested design that arguably does not need to evolve with any haste. With Dahon being a much larger company, however, it is better able to fund R&D and explore new ideas.
Dahon bikes have more patented tech than most folding bikes. An example of where this makes a difference is in the adjustable “Radius” handlebar post a Dahon has, which makes the bike flexible in terms of bike fit. Bromptons don’t have this.
Brompton Or Dahon: What Is Best For You?
Choosing between these bikes comes down to your personal needs. If you have limited funds, Dahon wins by default.
However, a Brompton is the ideal commuting or travel bike because of its compact folded size, which stays the same across the range. The build quality plus the iconic name means a Brompton holds most of its value even after years of use.
With Dahon, you’ll get a high-quality, comfortable bike that’s potentially a little easier to ride and is full of innovative design.
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