Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tales of the Dahon Jetstream - Part 1

The Proud & The Few

Dahon's Jetstream P8 and EX

On a head-count, there are fewer than 100 Dahon Jetstream P8s in the country.
Introduced in 2008, the folding bike is full-suspension ride with an actual suspension fork and a pneumatic suspension fitted onto a swing-arm on it's seat and chain stays.
The Jetstream P8's rear suspension has a 2" travel, which is good enough for some light trail ride and off-pavement cycling.
Even scarcer than the P8, is the 2011 Jetstream EX.
There are fewer than 10 in Malaysia and was one of the most expensive folding bikes ever to be sold here under the "EX" line (Extreme Luxe components).
Dahon's Jetstream EX was discontinued the same year, but the Jetstream P8 remained in Dahon's stable until today.

The early days

I picked up my Dahon Jetstream EX from the dealership and had it rigged as a trail bike.
Tested to the fullest, the EX was used for training (Genting Peras) and exploration ride. 
Straight out of the box, I got the bike which was equipped with a set of Ashima PCB hydraulic disk brakes, a set of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 20x1.65 tires, the German-A Kilo fork (the fork kit alone retails at USD$600), a KORE seatpost and saddle.
At the time it was produced, the Dahon Jetstream EX was revolutionary. It was way ahead of its peers. The only thing that sucked, was the SR Suntour Epicon rear shock. The version that was fitted on the bike has a fast and slow rebound adjustment and a lock-out lever.
And for two consecutive years, Michelle, my wife and I rode at the Penang Campaign For a Lane (CFAL) event, covering a distance of 84-km round-island.
For what's worth (I paid full retail price before the EX was sold at half it's retail value at an outlet sale), the bike had served its purpose.
Even on an extreme bike like the EX, the components were just above average. The main problem came from the Ashima PCB hydraulic disk brakes (which proved to be a real hassle in the later years) which was poorly tuned. Right from the start, the bike suffered from brake drag. I had the problem remedied by an authorised dealer in Kuala Lumpur who changed a damaged piston on the brakes.

A stock-standard Dahon Jetstream EX
With the brake issues fixed, I continued to ride the EX around the country.
Most impressive, was the bike's ability to be folded and transported on a train. 
I've done a couple of bikepacking trips on the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and the bike's overall weight of 10.8kg wasn't a real issue.

Riding off the pavement
Endurance, performance and reliability..

The furthest I took the EX, was on a 194km solo ride from USJ - Bagan Lalang - USJ. I literally cycled from day to night.
Despite the hardship and test of mental strength and endurance, the EX had lived up to it's expectations. 
It was easy to engage the bike's 27-speed drivetrain which hardly fails. I think Dahon had done a good job by using the SRAM DualDrive II system on the Jetstream EX. It yielded a full-range of gears and was tested to the fullest during some offroad rides that was conducted in a series throughout Peninsular Malaysia.
The bike was built for trail rides and it did just that. The frame is as tough as nails and the components held together during the exploration rides.

The EX lived up to its mark as an ultra-long distance ride
Michelle and her Jetstream P8, which is also her favourite bike

At an offroad trail in Rawang

There has been a lot of negative perception of the folding bike and this ride proved many armchair critics wrong
2011 - 2012: The Golden Years of Offroad Exploration

I must say that Master TT Siang, a folding bike enthusiast and a mentor, had done a great job in opening new routes for offroad exploration rides.
We did a ride from Rawang to Sekinchan and back, covering a distance of 150km with 75% of the journey conducted on offroad sectors.
On the same year, we also explored Kampar's tin mining trails and followed-up with another leg of the exploration ride from Sabak Bernam to Teluk Intan in 2012. And throughout the year, the Jetstream P8 and EX had became a bicycle of choice.

The team in Sabak Bernam
Cycling towards the Bernam River
In Teluk Intan
Riding along an oil palm plantation in Sabak Bernam
The end of an era..

All good things said and done, 2011 - 2012 was the best years we've had on our Jetstreams.
But like any other expedition, all good things must come to an end.
Siang, the expedition leader, has his own following and is pretty picky about who he wants to lead due to an earlier incident where a group was split up by overzealous cyclists.
I can't blame him for shying away from the limelight as the modest man is an accomplished cyclist in many ways.
As far as 2013 and 2014 was concerned, we saw less of Siang and his wife Angela and concentrated on riding our 24" Tern folding bikes. 
In the background, Michelle and I continued to ride the EX and P8 on numerous occasions - basically, on our own.
Even the original crew that I rode with from 2011 - 2013 had split up. They've kept to themselves and that was that.. We never heard from them again...

Next: minor upgrades -- making the Jetstream even better.. 
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