Well, I've gotten a new bike. I felt like I needed a bike that I could take with me, perform well in adventure races, and would be able to withstand my disastrous track record with breaking bikes. After some poking around, I settled on the Dahon Flo, a steel hardtail with the Ritchey Coupling, a way to break it in half and ship it in a small box. I got it a few days ago, and I was immediately impressed with some of the terrific design elements. Here's what I noticed:
The Ritchey Coupling
This is what makes the bike folding. There's two parts: the top tube and the seat tube are held together by the seat post. This means that you undo two bolts, remove the seat post, and that joint comes apart. The second is a sleeve on the down tube, right above the bottom bracket. Both look solid, and neither wiggles or warps during even heavy riding. Clearly some thought went into this.
The Disc Brakes
To facilitate travel, the disc brake rotors spin straight off of the hub, allowing easy removal. This way when you travel, they don't get dinged up by the other wheel that's bouncing next to it. Also, it comes with cable disc brakes, so when you travel, you don't run the risk that the hydraulics get mal-adjusted.
All cables that go to the rear half of the bike have twist-release mechanisms, so you don't have a bunch of cables dangling between the two halves of the bike. Another good reason they went with cable brakes (I don't even want to imagine a twist-apart hydraulic line!).
The stem comes straight off of the steer tube, which never has to come out of the headset. They have a great system to keep all of your headset parts together when traveling, and also allows you to easily adjust the height of your stem with just one bolt. Again, this is one of the worst things that happens when transporting a normal bike: the plethora of small bits and pieces in the headset all come and go as they please when you remove the fork & stem. I've very nearly been screwed by this…
At first I was dubious about the saddle, it definitely didn't look very comfortable. I was also shocked by the mechanism by which it attaches to the seat post. There's no way to attach any other seat to the seat-post! The mechanism they have designed is far superior to the standard two-rail system, in ease of adjustment, and simplicity of construction. The seat is actually quite nice, but your mileage may vary.