The Dahon Jack 26in-wheeled folder is a solid urban and trail runabout with a nice clean feel to it. Most notably though, it's that rarity, a larger-wheeled folder. This means handling stability is preserved – an important point for those who shy away from smaller wheeled folders because of their more sensitive ride qualities.
Ride & handling: Solid and stable, but difficult to carry
While the Jack is billed as a do-it-all urban bike, it's got much wider potential than this. We used it for trail riding and even some light touring. With a sturdy frame and oversize tyres, it's a very solid ride. It's certainly not built for speed, but because of its stability and strength we found it a joy to throw around while doing everything from urban rat-running over dodgily maintained roads to slushy trail riding after the first snow of winter.
With a folded size of 95 x 90.5 x 65 cm (95 x 82.5 x 43 cm with the handlebars removed and tucked into the frame) it's not going to win any space-saving awards, but then it's a folding 26in wheeler, so it's not meant to. This is a very adequate and very quick fold for when you need to pop it in a car boot or on a train (though you'd struggle to get it on all but the roomiest luggage rack). Although the size rather than the weight makes it unwieldy to carry, this is largely solved by the fact it's easily wheeled along in its folded state.
Frame: Aluminium tubes keep weight down and folding is a cinch
Keeping with the solid, built-to-last theme, the extremely strong, lattice-hinged, oversize main tube is further strengthened by the Re-Bar joining it to the seat tube, making for a stiff ride. Using 7005 aluminium keeps the bike light, despite its very strong, well-engineered frame. The hinge mech will be made even stronger on 2009 models with new 'V-clamp' technology.
Folding is literally a matter of that – folding the bike in half by flipping open the mid-frame hinge lever, swinging the two halves of the bike together and dropping the seatpost. Five seconds flat and you are done.
Two Allen bolts loosen to allow the removal of the sliding handlebar stem from the top of the steerer tube shim, where it's easily located in position by a groove and ridge setup. It can easily be adjusted for height or removed for folding (don't forget that Allen key though).
It would be nice to see a catch, strap or magnetic fastener to lock the two halves of the bike together when folded (such mechanisms are, after all, available on other Dahons). That said, on our particular model the hinge was overly stiff and needed more lube penetration than the quick spray we gave it. Dahon say there were some stiff hinges on a few 2008 models but this is no longer an issue on 2009 models due to alterations in the manufacturing process.
It would also be nice to see Dahon – innovators and patent-filers extraordinaire – come up with a gizmo that allows you to attach the removed bars securely to the frame, rather than leaving them to rattle about. This would also make for easier manhandling of the folded package, so it could be happily laid on its side, for example.
Equipment: Good range of gears and tough wheels
Dahon have opted for just seven rear derailleur gears (SRAM SX4) but with a good wide range of 37in to 101in – fine for all but the steepest hills.
Promax V-brakes are more than adequate and the unbranded, anodised aluminium rims look up to the toughest that urban riding can throw at them.
The Jack will take most standard mountain bike kit (bar disc brakes) should you want a folder with a greater off-road capability. In particular, the clearances easily accommodate the mighty (26x2in) and rather comfortable Schwalbe Big Apple tyres, so there's plenty of room for even bigger knobblies.
The rear derailleur hanger is removable and there are mudguard attachment points, so this really is a folding frame with great potential to chop and change to your taste. You could easily go the other way and fit slicks and all manner of weight-saving upgrades (though consider Dahon's Cadenza if it's speed you want).
The riser bars add to the comfort of the plush tires, though the WTB saddle was contrastingly hard and minimalist – this is a 'do anything in comfort and style' machine rather than one for eating up the miles out of the saddle.
With Raceguard puncture protection you are less likely to need the Biologic Zorin seatpost pump, though it's a great addition, works well and pumps heaps of air.