Folding BIke Touring

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#1
I just finished my first bicycle tour on a folder, and there's no going back.

My traveling life first began when I took off summer to ride 3,800 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific. I got to see the country. Urban. Rural. I saw the endless farms with GMO corn. I passed farmworkers in full biohazard bodysuits applying chemicals to experimental, patented food prototypes. I passed so many factory farms that I learned to smell the difference between pig, chicken, and cow manure.

I lived in a tent, showered under hoses, and wandered freely. I became addicted.

The next summer I rode cross country again--4,300 miles in the North US.

Since then, I've done more international traveling. And because my touring bike takes me ~2 hours and two huge boxes to pack, I left it at home in the States.

Well, I just rode from Key West to Atlanta on a Brompton, and it was amazing because:
  1. It takes me <60 seconds to fold this thing down to basically a 2ft cube. It's so small that if fits in the overhead compartment on an airplane (carry-on!).
  2. The hight between the rack and the saddle is the same height as a ~60L backpack, so no more lugging around panniers & easy-ish transition between "walking mode" and "cycling mode"
  3. Hitch-hiking is practical.
  4. Taking any bus/train/etc is practical.
When I want to go into a store, it takes me ~5 minutes to lock-up the bike & remove the pack from the bike, and shoulder the backpack. And I have both my hands available.

When I want to setup camp, I can bike around until I find a nice spot (read: walking 5km with a pack on your back to find that hidden spot can be painful and take forever. riding 5km with no weight on your back is fast & fun), then I just lockup my bike, shoulder my pack, and walk deep enough into the woods that I have privacy (it's hard to walk very far when you're carrying 4x bulky panniers!).

I highly, highly recommend this mode of travel.
 

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#2
Nice write up! What do one of these bikes go for new and used?
 

Tude

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#3
Harvey Botzman, a local guy who is in one of the bicycle clubs I'm in - has several books he's written and are amazon. Very matter of fact touring books but mostly for the great lakes and upstate NY areas. But he has traveled extensively in Europe - and all his travels are with a Joe Friday folding bike. Loves it for the ease of packing up - zipping it up into it's soft sided case and swinging over his shoulder with the strap.
 

Matt Derrick

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#4
man that's really interesting about not needing panniers (and using your standard backpack) i'm going to seriously look into these. thanks for sharing!
 
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#5
Bravo! Since I bought my Dahon I have been 100% on-board with the folder life. It feels almost like "hacking" travel; I kept thinking to myself "wow, did I just unlock some sort of ancient secret?"

Bad hitchhiking spot? No problem, unfold and ride.
Too broke for the city bus? Ride it out.
Costs an extra couple bucks to take a ferry with a bike? Fold it up and save cash.
Sleeping high in a tree in a hammock in a city park? Fold up, tie up the bike, and pull it up with you.
Untold amounts of weird situations it just gives you a one-up.

Now here's where I'm trying to take it to the next level: I just bought an Alpacka Scout packraft. It weighs 2lbs, 3.5-ish lbs with the paddle I have, and blows up to a decent flatwater to low-level whitewater boat. Some have said their Scouts have lasted 8-10 years with proper care. I just got mine out on the ice-cold Mohawk and it ran wonderfully in choppy waters; it doesn't track too straight but it's definitely durable and gets the job done.
With this, you can hitch to a city, ride the bike to some water nearby, blow up the boat, and paddle out to a sweet little island or beach for a great camp spot. Or ride some nice mild whitewater or ocean waves. It just amplifies the versatility you already get with a folding bike setup.
I'm hoping to test this out this summer.

The brompton is probably a smart move, I gotta say: my Dahon is nice, but it's heavy, bulkier than a Brompton, and the components are shoddier. My front handlebar clip failed once and I did a face splat to the pavement in the ghetto. Shit sucked and I don't quite trust the bike anymore. I get the feeling that the Brompton won't do that and may actually be worth the $1000 for it.

Anyway, glad to see someone else is stoked on folders. The big problem I did find with them though was riding with other people. I couldn't quite keep up with regular cyclists, and felt held back by hitchhiking partners who did not have bikes or longboards. If you feel like doing some traveling with a fellow folding tourer, I'm definitely game. On my radar this summer - Atlantic Canada up to Labrador, Iceland, and maybe mainland Europe.
 
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#7
Sleeping high in a tree in a hammock in a city park? Fold up, tie up the bike, and pull it up with you.
This is extremely interesting. How high up do you go?

I've never got into hammocks because I like the ability to setup where there are no trees around, but stealth camping *in* a tree??

I gotta say: my Dahon is nice, but it's heavy, bulkier than a Brompton
fwiw, the Brompton is not light. It's not something I would ever carry up a mountain with me. I quickly get fatigued just carrying it around a store. But I don't mind that. It's heavy because it's strong & durable, and I'd rather that than light.

This recent tour was a test before I take it out to the Middle East & Asia with me. It was a splurge, but it gives me peace of mind for when I'll be cycling through the Jordanian desert :D

If you feel like doing some traveling with a fellow folding tourer, I'm definitely game. On my radar this summer - Atlantic Canada up to Labrador, Iceland, and maybe mainland Europe.
That would be sweet, but I'm looking at rubbertramping it (with the Brompton in the trunk) from Atlanta to California all summer. I've crossed the US by bicycle, train, & plane -- this, interestingly, will be my first time by automobile.
 
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unrulywaunder
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#8
Nice write up! What do one of these bikes go for new and used?
Good question. I paid $2,000.

In general, I buy almost everything used (or, better, find it in a dumpster). But there's not many Bromptons in the US as they're made in London. I was looking in the NYC area off-and-on for about a year, and there just weren't many for sale on craigslist. For touring, you'd want a 6-speed with a rack. Mine's an M6R. When I finally found an M6R on craigslist near-ish to me, the guy said I couldn't test ride it until after I bought it x_x

I tried Ebay, but most of them ship from London. With shipping, it's not much of a discount over buying new.

I ended up going into a local bike shop that sold Bromptons and buying their last last-year's-model at a slight discount. Add the spare tyre, chain, tubes, spokes, and the big ortlieb bag for the front, and my total was $2k.

I worked in NYC for 6 months. I basically put all my earnings into buying this bicycle and a car (which I lived in, so rent-free). I spent almost as much on this bicycle as I did on my car, but I think it's worth it. Repairs for the bike will be cheap, and it will last me much longer than the car.

And I'm likely going to be cycling with this bike through deserts in the Middle East and for thousands of km through Asia. So I didn't want a cheap folder. I splurged for what I read to be the most reliable folder.
 
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#9
I missed clocking in for work yesterday because I was looking at folding bikes online.
This is an incredible way to travel!
 
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#11
I had a folding Bike Friday for a couple of years; I liked it ok, but turned out that I never once needed to fold it, so I sold it. I needed something more versatile with the ability to handle rough roads and trails, so I bought a Surly Troll.
 

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