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2007-03-25 7:50 PM
On the Matrix
That's two of the guys at the bike shop who couldn't keep their eyes, hands, and butts off my new Dahon Matrix. That was yesterday afternoon.
Last night around 9:00, I wheeled it into a 7-Eleven on the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge and rested it against the magazine racks while I found something I wanted to drink. While I was back at the drink refrigerators, the kid behind the counter came around and stared at it.
(The lady traffic cop back at the coffeepots stared at my crotch instead. Cycling tights have their advantages or drawbacks, depending on a combination of your marital status and your preferred marital status.)
And okay, I'll admit this: I've never cared one way or the other about the image my bicycle projected, but coming back from the refrigerators and seeing this thing looking tough and lean in city grit and rainwater... I was pretty impressed. To the point where I hate to ruin the lines by adding, say, a fender to prevent that stripe of mud up the back of my cycling jacket.
Just before that, I was at the apex of the Queensboro Bridge on my cool, mean, beautiful bike, looking at the lights on the East River. I'd taken it out with just a vague thought of ending up here. The vague thought took on momentum as I got into L.I.C., propelled somewhat by the fact that while holding Butchie in one arm and running around kicking a ball at the playground earlier in the day, my left leg collapsed. Not just weak: Gone. No muscle responding. In mid-kick, I sat on the pavement, boom. Butchie's cheekbone hit mine.
Butchie's a rollicking little Viking baby. He took a good bop in the face, and he's got a light bruise there now, but at the time he didn't have much reaction. Just sort of a "Why are we sitting, Daddy?" look. Not a peep, not a yelp, and no stunned moment followed by the floodgates opening.
So that's good, and he got kisses anyway. But hmm. I knew about the muscles that no longer work in my right leg. The left is new.
(Blog newbies: I have MS.)
So this particular test ride was more aptly named than it might have been.
I've never liked the idea of suspension, and the Matrix has it in the front. So I turned it off as soon as I picked up the bike. I like a stiffer ride because when you start pedaling from a stop, none of the energy is absorbed by the cushy parts in the front fork.
On the way home, though, I felt like making sure I'd tried every option, so I turned it back on. At first, I didn't like it, for exactly that reason. But after a few minutes, I realized I'd misunderstood why it exists. It doesn't cushion the ride; it cushions your hands!
The heels of my hands always take a pounding when I go more than a few miles. Shock from the tires (and my previous tires were high-pressure and rock-hard) is transmitted up the front fork and stem, through the handlebars, and directly into the heels of my hands, which don't take a lot of time to feel bruised. With the suspension, that's what gets cushioned. By chance, it was adjusted just right (even though my fans at the bike shop had been twisting the knob this way and that, just to hear it go click-click-click), just enough to take the edge off the potholes, ruts, and high driveways without sacrificing much road feel.
I'd wondered whether the hinge that lets it fold in half would affect the feel of the ride. The answer is twofold. The first fold: No, it doesn't feel like a folding bike. It feels like a BIKE. No play, no lateral jiggle, nothing. It's rock-solid.
The second fold: Because of the way the frame had to be designed to accomodate the hinge, what they call a 19" frame really isn't. They've fudged that measurement by taking it from the top of the seat tube instead of the juncture where all the tubes come together. This is really a 16" frame with an extra little stub holding the seatpost. For that reason, this bike feels small between my knees.
That's the Matrix in front of my Trek hybrid, which I'll be selling soon. See how the distance from saddle top to lowered pedal is the same on both bikes? That's a function of my leg length.
The Trek has a 22.5" frame. The Matrix has what's supposedly a 19" frame. But see how the difference between the heights of the two top tubes is way more than 3.5 inches? This is not as big a bike as they want you to think.
Is this fatal? No, I don't think so. I think I can live with it. But calling this a 19" frame, and saying in your marketing materials that it's good for people up to 6'4"... that's pushing the bounds of reality. This is a bike sized ideally for somewhat shorter people than that, with an extra-long seatpost added to compensate. So it works, but it feels slightly low and small. Not lots. But slightly. (Also, I had to extend the post to its maximum position--that is, to the marking that shows the safety limit--in order to use this bike, and I'm 3" shorter than 6'4". Dahon's marketing department deserves a smack in the face.)
I'll get used to it, and I'll ride it to work and be happy that I can ride to work. But this brings me to my next point: I can't take this bike on my century ride in June. I'd come back crippled. It's too small, it's too top-heavy, the tires max out at 85 PSI and they're only 26", the handlebars are straight sticks, and even turned off, the front suspension has some smoosh in it. Also, it's not a bike you coast and roll on; this machine wants to be actively driven forward. My choice is to back out of the century (and do no other long-distance riding) or become one of those guys with two bikes.
Before this weekend, I'd have gone with backing out of the century. Not happily, but with resignation. But after having my leg collapse...
I've got MS. I don't know how much longer I'll be walking upright. If I want a nice road bike I can't afford and have nowhere to put, I'm getting a nice road bike I can't afford and have nowhere to put. So unless the big exacerbation mows me down in the next two months, our apartment will have a new hallway blockage sometime before June.
Bottom line about the Matrix: I like it. I'm keeping it.
I've got other issues, though, and here they are, for those who find this by googling the bike they're thinking of buying:
Those are the negatives I found in my first day on this model. On the plus side:
So that's my 2007 Dahon Matrix folding bicycle review. Tomorrow I plan to carry it onto the subway in the morning, store it under my desk all day, and ride it home at night.
Here's a link:
The 2007 Dahon Matrix
3/26/07: I may not be as clear about frame measurements as I should be. Here's a web page about it.
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