The Dahon PrestoLite is a 16” (ETRTO 305mm) wheeled folding bike with the geometry of a Moulton Mk3 constructed mainly out of aluminium. I’ve lusted after a Moulton Mk3 for a while but the small apartment where we live didn’t have the storage space for yet another non-folding bike; regardless of how small the wheels were.
A week into March 2020, a Dahon PrestoLite listing showed up on eBay. It was an easy bid, and luckily for me, there weren’t many determined bidders. Ultimately it sold to me for the final price of GBP 152.00. And upon delivery a few days later I took it out for an “as-is” assessment ride and was struck by how modern, responsive, and light it felt. The geometry and frame construction of the Dahon PrestoLite make it a winner!
Here were my first impressions when the Dahon PrestoLite arrived in the mail:
- noticably faster than the Moulton MK2, 9km commute down to 15 min vs ~25 min
- slightly shorter wheelbase + wide bars = ???
- no suspension means it can’t eat as many potholes as the Moulton but lower pressure Schwalbe Road Cruiser tires come fairly close to the same ride (100psi –> 65psi)
Overall the frame geometry is closest to a Moulton MK3 F-frame, with a long wheelbase and high rake angle. It is a very modern bike in every aspect, main aspect being: it’s super lightweight and that is appreciable.
Jettisoning of unused parts
My first step in customization was to immediately identify components of the bike to be removed. This serves a few purposes:
- reduction in complexity
- reduction in weight
- streamlining appearance in favor of emphasizing the beauty of the frame
- Magnetix frame retention system (neodynium magnets to hold the folded halves of the bike together after folding)
- Lightweight rear rack
- Rear brake
- Gear control and cabling
- Front and rear mudguards
This part became welded over time due to factory over-tightening and galvanic corrosion. I tried many combinations of removal techniques:
- PTFE spray
- solvent spray
- heating the crank arm and letting it cool
- 2 + 3 jaw gear puller (both broke!)
- brute force bashing
Eventually the crank remover stripped the threads inside the crank and the only option left was the most brutal one.
An angle grinder finally took the stuck crankset off. It ripped straight through the BB axle on both sides like a hot knife through butter. Huge thanks to Tristan Quinn!
Seat post and saddle
The Dahon PrestoLite came with the standard Dahon seat post size of 33.9mm but with a saddle connection that I had not seen before. At first glance the entire seat post + saddle unit looked completely integral but after some basic Googling it was discovered to be an SDG I-Beam connection, which is more often used in MTB.
List of new parts:
- Replaced folding pedals with lightweight pedals (Promend road pedals)
- Replaced wide aluminium handlebars for compact carbon fiber bars
- Replaced I-beam saddle from factory with an SDG I-Fly I-Beam saddle (162g)
- Added a front headlight mount to the Magnetics flang on the front forks
- Added a toolkit which fits between the seat-tube and the rear wheel
- Micro-pump for inflating tubes
- Tube patch kit
- 1 x spare 305mm inner tube
- Multi-sized hex bone wrench
Rear wheel replacement
Tried 3 different rear wheel setups
Old 3-speed rear wheel with toggle chain set to highest gear (too heavy)
Single speed coaster brake hub + wheel (VeloSpeed) with Sturmy Archer style 3-spline cog (easy to modify to remove coaster brake, ended up with silent coasting and easy to replace rear cog)
Single speed rear wheel with screw on 12T freewheel (not silent but simplest wheel of them all)
There was a fourth option which was a Kinetix branded wheelset with a freehub made for 3 speed Shimano-splined cogs but the axle was found not to be correct size only after I ordered it! Which was a shame since the quality seemed best out of the wheel options.
I’ve done some of my fastest rides on this bike in 2020: one with average speed of 26.2 km/h:
Photos of the Prestolite in its current state as of 2020-07
Current weight is 7.95 kg, an absolute featherweight compared to any other folding bike with 16” wheels; Bromptons and Birdies included!