Cycle touring with a Brompton : Yes you can!
Back in January I invested in a second hand Brompton to fill in the gaps between public transport now that I no longer own a money slurping car. Within hours of riding it I found myself wondering if I can go cycle touring on a folding bike.
It made perfect sense to me, cycle around the nice spots, national parks or do city trips on the bike then just jump on a bus or train when the route gets boring or to escape the industrial belts of the bigger cities.
Easter weekend was already planned as a small wheel weekend with friends, I decided to extent the weekend and see how far I’d get within a couple of days.
Phase 1: Escaping Amsterdam with the train to Arhem
In the Netherlands you pay €6 for a day pass for bikes on trains. Folding bikes are free!
A weekend of cold Easter cycling with friends. The first night camping the second in a hut. Farm stalls, ferry’s and fattening apple tart. 3 Bromptons, 1 Dahon and 2 big wheel bikes (that looked very out of place).
Stijn and I had a different approach to carrying our luggage, each with their own merits and drawbacks. For a week or two I think I prefer my system for a longer trip I’d probably go with a trailer. For more info about carrying baggage on a Brompton Click HERE.
Here’s a video of the weekend made by Friedel
Phase 3 : Onwards alone to Germany
I went into the weekend open minded about where I would be a week later, planning to just wing it. Talking to Mareike and Anthony during the weekend gave me the idea to cycle part of the Rhine in Germany. Rather than waste time cycling from the Netherlands through the smelly industrial part of Rhine around Duisberg and Dusseldorf I took a couple of trains to Cologne, with a brief stop in Monchengladbach.
Phase 4 : A couple of days cycling up the Rhine
Castles, cathedrals and sleepy picturesque German villages
The looks of local tourists were amusing when they saw I was brewing up real coffee. Because life is too short to drink instant coffee, even when Brompton touring 🙂
The Brompton also proved ideal for getting up stairs in the couple of hotels I took (I wimped out a couple of times because my summer sleeping bag proved too cold during the -5 nights, even with my down jacket on).
Phase 5 : The journey home
The morning of the forth day in Germany I’d had enough of cycling in the cold against a biting wind and decided to head home from Mainz. Usually the ICE international train can be a pain to book a bike on. Cue Brompton folding magic, 6 hours, 2 trains, 30 minutes playing tourist in Cologne and a tram later I was home.
I’d call the Brompton experiment a success, I can fit enough gear on the Brompton for a week long trip (3 season) where I don’t need to carry much food and water so therefore can travel indefinitely assuming I can get food most days and can wash and dry my spare underwear most days.
The Brompton is slighly slower than a normal tourer but is comfortable enough to still do 60-80km of fairly flat terrain (I have the 3 gear version which I lowered to 44×13 and I’m fairly fit).
A folding bike is a great way to cover a large distance in a short time and still cycle the interesting/ beautiful parts. I find it a great combination with the train. Ideal for Europe or maybe National park hopping in America or similar.
The biggest problem was resisting the urge to do wheelies, or jump off curbs. The Brompton often feels like riding a BMX.
Packing list :
Click on this image to see the tags of all the gear I took on this trip.
1100km (Travelled), 6 days, 5 trains, 4 apple tarts, 3 nights indoors, 2 countries, 1 tram, 0 punctures.