The Hon brothers started the revolution of their day with the world’s first folding bicycle small enough to fit under a train seat. 220+ patents and over 30 years of quiet evolution and ingenious technologies later, DAHON is the leader in folding bike technology, changing the way people around the world get from “A” to “B”. Read all about it below.
Dr. David T. Hon has always been a tinkerer and cyclist. His urge to fold up “Man’s most ingenious invention” came about when commuting to and from UCLA in the 70s to earn his PhD in physics: every day, he had to remove the wheel of his bike to stuff it into his car parked far away on campus. Years later, after pioneering laser technology with great success at Hughes Research Center, Hon gave up his budding career to finally focus on his vision for “folding green transportation”.
Together with his brother Henry, an industrial engineer with a computer sciences degree, Hon began developing his vision – and received the first seven patents for his idea.
At design competitions around the world, their unique folding bike model won award after award. After registering the first seven patents, David set out to find a bicycle company interested in licensing or producing his distinctive vehicle. Despite the overwhelming success in the design world, however, no manufacturer was interested in taking the dare on such a “niche” product.
Henry, then in his late twenties with a wife and three small children, reached into his own savings collected from his lucrative computer programming days and put up the first $60,000. That and more from 35 other visionary followers were enough to accumulate $2 million – and set up production of the first bikes in Taiwan. Of these, the Hon brothers sold the first 6,000 folders in only six months!
Pioneering the development of convenient, environmentally friendly transport has remained David and Henry’s passion. Fostering the way millions of savvy people everywhere get from point “A” to “B” today, DAHON is constantly developing, redeveloping and optimizing the “perfect fold”.
The technologies behind Dr. David Hon’s patents for frame and wheel configurations, metal alloys and folding mechanisms have delivered the mechanical basis for 98% of today’s folding bicycles. With five million DAHON folding bikes in motion, they are incontestably the global leader in folding bicycles – now a firm element of lifestyle in over 30 countries.
Headquartered in California, DAHON now produces their distinctive folding bikes in their own factories and production lines in China, and most recently Bulgaria – where all production for Europe takes place. DAHON’s superior parts and component technology continue to be sourced from the world’s best manufacturers.
About Dr. David Hon
Dr. David Hon has always been eager to discover how things work. His family emigrated to the USA from Hong Kong when he was nineteen years old, and he was able to complete his education at UC Berkeley, UCLA, and USC. After attaining his Ph.D. in physics, he was recruited by Hughes Aircraft Company In 1972. Working for one of the world’s leading companies in aerospace technology, Dr. David Hon pioneered in the research and development of the first tactical lasers, becoming a respected and published leader in the field of laser technology during the “Space Race” era of the 70s.
When the oil crisis hit in 1975, many Californians realized that better urban mobility was needed to shift their reliance from gas-guzzling cars, and Dr. Hon was one of them. People envisioned alternatives in combinations of mass transit and light, economical vehicles, both human and electric powered. Recalling his days at college, where he had dismantled his bike every day to be able to stuff it into his car, he began his own tinkering on a folding bike that would appeal to the masses: light, good looking, quickly foldable – and affordable.
Prototypes began to take form in his garage. Brother Henry, amassing good sums from his lucrative computer consulting business, was able to finance these first efforts. An industrial engineer himself, Henry also took part in the folding, unfolding and testing of this two-wheeled hybrid.
Dr. Hon and laser technology
Having coauthored the “Laser Handbook”, the internationally referenced authority on laser technology published in 1978, Dr. Hon was promoted to Senior Physicist in recognition of his accomplishments. Now well recognized in the field, he was called to the prestigious Hughes Research Labs in Malibu, where the very first laser and western satellites had been developed. Here, scientists were encouraged to indulge in independent exploration. Dr. Hon subsequently developed and published a technique for efficient compression of high-power laser pulses by SBS in a tapered optical fiber, which has become a standard for high quality/power laser fusion and in aeronautics and engineering.
Search for green energy via laser research fosters DAHON Folding Bikes
Laser nuclear fusion was viewed at the time as the ultimate answer to Man’s need for energy. The development of this green solution had long been the fire in Dr. Hon’s research, but as high technical hurdles kept success in these endeavors elusive, his enthusiasm increasingly turned to impatience. A more tangible method was needed to quench his thirst for a solution to modern energy needs. The decision to leave the limelight and privileges at Hughes Research was painful but inevitable. He chose to devote his talent to more rapid results and, in keeping with his environmental convictions, Dr. Hon said farewell to lasers.
Leaving the space trade was not without prospect or impetus, however: the first DAHON working prototype, presented at the New York Bike Show, had already gained footing with rave reviews, both there and in the media. Now launching his second career in green transportation, the enterprise was fortified by $2 million raised among 35 visionary investors, including The Carpenters and later, Acer computers. Dr. Hon and his brother Henry were in business!
A Folding Star is born
Hoping to find an OEM partner to produce the spritely new DAHON folding bike, the brothers called on many of the major bicycle brands in the U.S., Japan, Taiwan and China—but no one was interested in this kind of “niche” product: “too big a technical bite”, “too risky”. As Taiwan was already emerging as the future center of bicycle manufacturing, a bold decision was made to set up DAHON’s own factory there. Dr. Hon, who had been educated in English, now had to learn Mandarin and acquaint himself with a whole new set of social and industrial structures and customs. This truly was a big bite – and he took it.
Shiny, stainless steel “city hoppers” began rolling from the assembly line in the new Taiwanese factory by 1984 – and they were a success. In the first six months of that year, 6,000 folders were built and sold, and Californians loved them. Soon, word spread throughout the country, and they were rolling out bikes by the tens of thousands. David Hon’s star is born: DAHON!
Over 30 years later, DAHON is the best-known name in folding bicycles around the world. But their pursuit of newer, better light mobility technologies always continues.
About Henry Hon
Henry Hon, David’s youngest brother, came to the USA from Hong Kong with his family when he was eight years old. Due to the financial hardships of a family just arrived in the “New World” in the early 1960s, Henry began working as a paperboy, selling and delivering newspapers and giving all of the money he earned to his mom, who was raising four boys as a single working parent. This was the humble beginning of living the American dream: Henry continued delivering newspapers until he got into college. He got a break with a computer programming opportunity, which he used to fund his college expenses and education. He is thankful for a system and society that provided the opportunity for the son of a poor immigrant family to graduate from the University of California at Berkeley, one of the top universities of the world, with a degree in Industrial Engineering and Operation Research.
Teaming up with two of his other brothers in their computer software and insurance companies, Henry not only continued in software and technology, but cut his teeth as a business person, learning the art of sales and marketing. Just a few years after graduation, his income ballooned, which allowed him to readily support David’s budding ideas for a folding bike.
From California Energy Conservation to a Bicycle Factory in Taiwan
While David was busy working out the first patents for his visionary folding bicycle in the early 80s, Henry was making money – and, as the main supporter of the enterprise, invested over $100,000 to file patents, build prototypes, and get the business started. As intent on energy conservation and environmental impact as David, Henry was also an avid cyclist, until first his prized Peugeot P10, and then the all-chrome Bianchi to replace it, were both stolen. He thought that a full performance folding bike that he could take with him would certainly solve that problem! He took over the logistics of opening DAHON’s first factory in Taiwan, and joined the company full-time in 1983.
Innovations in Computer Science Earn Henry Patents, too
Henry’s responsibility as Executive Vice President of DAHON was to start-up marketing and sales in the USA. Due to the strong initial resistance against folding bikes among traditional bicycle channels, Henry had to come up with many creative ways to market and sell the all-new DAHON folding bikes. He first created a buzz in the market by working with major upscale catalogs, then produced a self-sustaining direct TV advertisement which built momentum nationwide, and finally targeted the major RV and marine chain retailers for national distribution. Seeing the untapped market for folding bicycles opening, the bike dealers started to stock and service DAHON folding bikes. With DAHON on track for steady worldwide growth in 1989, Henry left DAHON to pick up once again on his former interest in computer technology, and embarked on a few technology startups. Since then, Henry has been executive in companies advancing in chip level hardware products, in the important field of network security, and in Internet cloud computing. Along the way, he has been granted a few patents as the lead inventor, with three still pending. Currently, he is the lead investor and executive of Vyew.com, an engagement workspaces application.
30 Years a “Real McCoy” in Green Mobility
In 2010, Henry revved up activity for DAHON once again, strengthening management and forming new corporate strategies, now as Corporate VP and a company Director. His dedication to DAHON’s folding green mobility philosophy has increased and not lessened: like David, he is convinced that energy conservation is more necessary today than when he first began this mission more than thirty years ago. Adamant in practicing what he preaches, Henry, commutes routinely to and from the office on a Vybe, his favorite DAHON folding bike: from home to the bus stop, folded on board bus and train, then unfolded to ride the last stretch to the office… Freedom unfolds!