Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New old 3-speed: Dahon Classic III

1988 Dahon Classic III
Meet a Dahon Classic III folding bike, fresh from Craigslist. I always like making bike finds of this sort; virtually unused time capsules that have spent decades in storage out of the elements. This bike could not have been ridden more than a couple of miles since new, some 28 years ago. It had a film of grease and dust, incidentally protecting the finish, as well as mostly dry bearing assemblies. A bit of time with some rags brought back its gleam, and a date with some tools and a tube of grease will take care of the bearings. It has a pristine Sturmey-Archer 3-speed AW hub, date stamped 87-8, for August of 1987.  I'll get to know the hub much better, as I rebuild it to ensure it is functioning optimally after a long period of disuse. Best of all, in short order there will be one more vintage 3-speed back on the road.

This bike isn't mine, as I found it for my mom who plans to bring it with her in a mini RV for wide ranging travels in the near future. However, I was surprised that at my height of about 74 inches, I could extend the saddle and handlebar enough to ride it comfortably. So could Big Sis, who at a foot and a half shorter than me, was an eager test rider.

I'm somewhat familiar with newer folding bikes, but was surprised at the quality of build and engineering incorporated in this bike, a design that originated nearly 40 years ago. Newer versions are lighter, faster to fold, and offer more features, but Dr. David Hon really nailed it when he envisioned this catalyst for intermodal transportation. If you're in the market for a folding bike and don't want to spend a lot of money, you can't do much better than an older Dahon like this, provided it's in good condition.

Below are some photos of the bike to dwell in the cloud in perpetuity for anyone searching out details of a vintage Dahon Classic III.

Ready to ride...
...and folded, for comparison.
Sturmey-Archer shifter in great shape.
Note the asymmetric design of the handlepost brace.
The Lee-Chi caliper brakes on chrome steel rims function remarkably well. 
Folding crank arm on the drive side. 
The head tube is just a squat cylinder. Wheels are 16-inch. Everything is stock original.
Serial number stamped on the top of the bottom bracket shell. Directions on how to interpret the date codes are here.
Shiny Sturmey-Archer AW 3-speed hub.
A little caster wheel folds down so that the bike can be rolled when folded.
Bottom of the headpost assembly, with a hinge that folds to the left side of the bike.
An astonishingly narrow front hub. I haven't yet measured it, but I've never seen one so narrow. 
Badge above the reflector on the rear fender.
Right side of the bike, when folded. Note the caster wheel.
Right side of the folded bike. 
View as folded from the rear, or front, depending on your philosophy.
Folded, from the top.
Approximately 56" tall rider.
Blurry pic of the new owner.


  1. I hope It's a prototype of a robot.

    1. I think it just might be. This bike came about around the advent of the Transformers, if I'm not mistaken.

  2. Hi, thanks for your very interesting site. I just bought a vintage Dahon Classic with case from ebay. Born in 1953 I never saw that kind of bike in Austria. It seems to be a great vintage bike.
    greetings from Austria

    1. It's possible to find these little gems in as new condition, and generally at a great price. I'm also new to this type of bike, but appreciate the design and usefulness. Have fun with yours in Australia and beyond.

  3. hi Andy, Austria is not Australia. We dont't have kangaroos but Mozart. :-)

    1. Ha! I don't know if I have autocorrect or clumsiness to thank for that, but you are correct. I enjoy Mozart, but have yet to meet a kangaroo.

  4. hi Andy, Austria is not Australia. We dont't have kangaroos but Mozart. :-)

  5. Hi Andy, I just came across your blog while looking for information on the serial number location on my Dahon. I picked up a single speed Dahon recently for $60.00 Canadian. It is in excellent condition and is the same colour as yours.Thanks for the information you have posted here.

  6. Hi there,

    I just saw your pictures of your Dahon and it looks like a real gem. I have just picked up an old one myself which needs some TLC. I wonder if you can help me though. The folding pedal on the crank, beneath it is a cover, concealing the nut that holds the crank in place. I see it in your picture that shows the pedal in the cycling position. Do you know how to get this cover off? Mine seeems to be held tightly in position and I am reluctant to try and prise it off with a screw driver in case this is not the way to do it and I damage it. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Many thanks, James

  7. I just found one identucal.
    almost un marked.

  8. I've just bought one of these in great condition. A good read.