Kathleen and I have a serious bike habit. We currently drive a Mini, not because it is cute, but because it is small and leaves lots of room in the garage for bikes. At one point we might have had 13 or 14 bikes in the house, garage or in the shed. We had all sorts of bikes, a recumbent, racing bikes, touring bikes, commuting bikes, shopping bikes but no folding bikes.
Folding bikes are available at a wide range of prices and we have tested quite a few. We own a number of Moultons, small wheel bikes that don’t fold so we have a good reference point. Most of the ones we tried were toy like and too flexible for comfort or riding a distance.
A few years ago we came across The Path Less Pedaled a cycling blog by Russ Roca and Laura Crawford. At the time we were planning our 2013 trip to New Zealand and Russ and Laura had done some great videos of their trip a couple of years earlier, – the Kiwi Chronicles. Russ and Laura did a lot of unsupported touring riding Brompton folding bikes and this surprised us.
Bromptons are perhaps best known as urban bikes, they fold small for easy storage and for mixed mode commuting. They are popular in their home town of London and other large cities, seeing Russ and Laura travelling the back country of New Zealand fully loaded was quite eye opening. Russ and Laura documented their bikes in a lot of detail in their ebook The Unauthorized Brompton Touring Guide and we were able to order our bikes to very similar specs.
Our Bromptons have 6 speeds with a lower gear range to enable us to ride more hills. Six speeds does not sound like a lot coming from bikes with 18 to 27 ratios, however the ratios are well spaced and easy to use. We have a rear rack and a large open shopping bag on the front of the bikes. The bikes can be made into a sort of shopping cart which is really handy, no need to lock up your bike outside, just fold and go. Test runs to Whole Foods (where else?) have been successful, though you do get comments.
Folded, the bikes fit easily in the forepeak, the floor of the aft cabin, the lazarette or tucked in the back of the aft cabin under the cockpit. Lots of options and we will pick the best spot depending on how many people are on board and if we are voyaging or hanging out at an port or anchorage.
We plan to use the bikes as our land transport for shopping and general getting around. We are also planning to take a simple camping set up with us so we can do some wider exploring away from the boat.
The Brompton is a work of art, it folds and unfolds in seconds, it rides well, the luggage attaches to the front of the frame enabling large and quite heavy loads to be carried with little impact on handling.. They are not quite as comfortable as our F-frame Moultons we use in town, but the Brompton is lighter and faster. The design Brompton owes a lot to the Moulton, though Alex Moulton’s focus was on building small wheels bikes, where as Andrew Ritchie’s focus was always on folding bikes.