Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A small adventure I have been dreaming of for years became wonderful reality and, in the best way, ended exactly where it began. It might seem sad. Actually I am, like today’s autumn wind.
But the sun slowly rising up behind the Attican mounts and ambushing them, is reminding me that there is always something good when a dream comes true and reaches an end, like a happy day finishing. Read the full report of a Brompton touring adventure covering 14 different islands.

Read full report here

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Sunday, October 4, 2015


This is a complete list of what I normally carry  with me on a bike tour with a Brompton. This setup works really well for me and has been improved as a result of several tours and several thousand kilometres on the bike.  I assume one is not touring in extreme cold temperatures. The ability to carry luggage on the Brompton is limited therefore it is crucial to limit the things you bring, finding an efficient way to pack them by having weights well distributed and making them easy  to access during your tour.

Everything needed is carried on the bike inside two bags.  A front T-Bag with a capacity of 30 Litres and a hiking backpack of 40 litres capacity sitting over the rear rack of the bike.


Backpack content:





Things that are used less should obviously be put in the least accessible place. The bike bag is only used to carry the bike on the plane, therefore it is stacked at the bottom of the backpack. Over this I put all the bike tools and repair kits as well as all the toiletries and water bag. Next are one or two folded Dimpa bags that are used to cover the bike for short transfers on bus or trains and if needed to cover the bike at night. Then I would put the bungee chords and slippers and sleeping bag. Finally, I reserve the top for my charger and cables and clothes things that I might want to access during the day.
My Thermarest mattress is a bit wider so I just strap it to the outside of the backpack and secure it with the bungee chords of the rear rack.

T-Bag content:


The front T-Bag contains most of the valuables and things that need to be accessed easily while you are cycling. With its clip it is easily removed from the bike and is therefore never left unattended. In the inside zip pocket I usually keep my passport and other travel documents. At the bottom of the main compartment I insert my lightweight tent and cable accessories. Next I put my jacket and depending on the weather my sweater, gloves and hat. On top I keep my camera, Go Pro and all the cable and accessories I need to take pictures or shoot movies during the ride.
My iPhone is usually strapped around my neck with a lanyard and rest in my shirt pocket. This makes it easy to access it securely at any time while riding or still. This always leaves space for food when I do my groceries during the day or before setting up camp. The T-Bag has also two rear pockets, one I normally use for a water bottle as it fits perfectly the other one I generally use to keep my wallet and my gadgets charger should I need to re-charge things on the go. The outer mesh pockets are very spacious and are an excellent place to keep my lock, repair gloves and bananas or energy bars that are consumed regularly and are convenient to access at any time.

Clothes:




In the picture above you can see all the clothes I take with me while touring. It might seem very spare but I assure you it is all you need to be comfortable and warm enough to tour in most weather conditions. Most garments come in sets giving you the ability to always wear a clean set while you wash and dry the other one. In order to be light I choose clothes that are comfortable not only for cycling but also provide a good option for all the time I spend off the bike. The only cycling specific garment I take with me is one pair of cycling shorts. These I normally wear under my light trousers at the beginning of the tour when I am not used to be on the bike for long hours and the padding will make this transition more comfortable. The downside to them is that they are not quick to dry so I limit their use to the minimum necessary to ride comfortably. I still use underpants while wearing them as this will keep them much cleaner and should you wish to, you will be able to wear them a few times before a wash. I have talked about the great qualities of Merino wool in another article, suffice to say that my merino base layers and socks provide odour free and comfortable wear for many days without the need to be washed. Zipped trousers are used in their short version during the ride and the extensions can then be zipped at other times allowing for a very flexible use. Long johns are very useful to provide extra warmth with a very little addition to space and weight. I mostly wear them at night while camping. Riding long hours each day doesn't mean that one cannot keep clean during a tour. A very useful trick I figured out is that wearing light and quick drying underpants that are washed each day under the shower (perfect sponge too...) or with some water is a great way to keep clean; having two pairs of them means that you can wash the pair you used during the day, wear the clean ones for the night and the following day while the others are put on the outside of your luggage to dry. This works a treat and also brings a degree of theft deterrence while you shop! All the clothes that are not worn during the day are stacked on top of each other and rolled. I then put them inside an Exped 8 Litres waterproof compression bag. Once at the campsite I can have easy access to them when I need to get changed. Also this bag design, without buckles and straps makes for an ideal pillow.
As far as shoes I have used a light pair of trekking shoes, again avoiding the cycling specific solution.  Yes it is more efficient to have clipped shoes that you can attach to pedal and very stiff soles that don't bend while you pedal but my view is this. Clips might had a little speed and distance to your day but come at the risk of being tied to the bike. Even those who are used to them might not react as quickly when their bike is fully loaded with weights. Bike shoes might not be as comfortable when you are off the bike too.  I next plan to try riding on Keen sandal type shoes which are much used by cycle tourists and seem to offer a good balance between riding and comfort.
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Thursday, September 3, 2015



Watch the video of a 1400 kilometres bike tour with a Brompton Folding Bike completed in July 2015. The tour starting point was Lake Louise, heading north to Jasper along the Icefields Parkway then returning on the same road back to Lake Louise before heading West to Vancouver via Whistler. The Brompton again was a joy to ride and made it a hassle free adventure.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015


The T-Bag is a must have for anybody considering a cycling tour with a Brompton bike. It is the largest and roomiest of all Brompton front bags, which include the Folding Basket, the leather attache case or A-Bag, the small messenger bag S-Bag and the medium messenger bag C-Bag.
Having toured on a Brompton for a few years, I find this piece of equipment something I could not do without.

It has a capacity of over 30 litres but thanks to its roll-up closing system it can store much more when you leave the top unrolled and open. This is something I do for example when I go to the grocery store at the end of my cycling day and need to stock up on food. Simply leave the bag open and just put the strap on top across to secure your shopping and you are guarantee to be able to carry a large load! Bear in mind that according to Brompton the bag weight should not exceed 10 kg.

The greatest feature to me is the fact that the bag seat on a large clamp attached to the frame. This ensures that the bike stability is not affected and I personally feel that it gives my Brompton more stability than when I ride it unloaded. There is small zipped compartment inside which is convenient to store valuables and documents. When touring the clip system ensures that you can quickly remove the bag and always take it with you when you have to be away from the bike.
On the rider side there are two small compartments. The one to the right has an elastic closure and is an ideal location to store your water bottle. The right one has a waterproof zip and can securely store gadgets, your wallet your mobile phone or anything else you might want to have regular access to.
The surrounding mesh gives a lot of extra space. I normally use it to store the waterproof cover for my backpack, the bike lock and all the food I consume while riding.

The clamp system is very sturdy and having used it for over 4000 kilometres so far it does not show any sign of deterioration.

If you are considering touring on a Brompton folder this is the only option to store luggage at the front of the bike and an excellent solution at that.



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Thursday, August 20, 2015


Starting from our very first ride, Dmitry and I were excited to think about what we would do differently and better. We are traveling fairly minimalist (at least compared to bike tourists who have full size bikes, camping gear, and so on ), but we were both excited to lighten the load even more. After the first few weeks in Thailand, our main topic of conversation while we rode turned to re-packing, what we could leave behind, what we would acquire, how we would reconfigure our bags. We weighed ourselves and bikes outside a 7/11 in Thailand: Dmitry+bike+luggage was 97 kg (214 lbs), Mila+bike+luggage was 102 kg (225 lbs). Meaning that since Dmitry is a little heavier than me, I was carrying way too much stuff. (My bike is also about one pound heavier than Dmitry’s bike – 28 pounds as opposed to 27 because my handle-bars are a little higher).  Luckily, our two weeks in the US for the holidays allowed us to completely change up our rigs – paring out some things (mostly clothes), adding a few others (mostly bike repair items).

Read full story


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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Blog account of a loaded Brompton bike tour starting with the mountains in Banff and Jasper National Park before heading west to Vancouver. A total of 1400 kilometres, including several mountains passes over thousand metres.

Read the full story here
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Friday, August 7, 2015


You cannot climb mountains with a Brompton

I was the first to believe this. When I decided to use a Brompton Bicycle for touring I was extremely careful in choosing a route that wouldn't entail much climbing. Cycling the US Pacific coast on a couple of occasions I limited my efforts to uphills that never took me over 1000 metres and grades that seldom exceeded 6%. The reliability and total fun of touring with this bike brought me this year to do something a little more daring, cycling in the canadian Rockies and in the end I was able to tackle pretty hard climbs that I would be hard pushed to climb on any other bike I could chose. I cycled along the Icefield Parkway both ways,  climbing cols over 2000 metres and more challenging even,  Duffey Lake Road from Lillooet to Pemberton in British Columbia ascending 1500 meters often as steep as climbs in the european Alps. All it took were a few minutes pushing the bike where the road was just too steep but these were out of well over two hours of climbing time. I am by no means a strong cyclist, I don't necessarily train before my tours. I get fit as days go by so a sensible first consideration is to not plan the steepest of climbs on your first few days when your body needs to get conditioned to the effort needed to cycle long distances.
 I reached the conclusion that it is indeed possible to climb mountains on a loaded Brompton and the limitation are not that much different from those you have to consider when touring on a heavy loaded bike.
On a Brompton you can chose ( and you should! ) the six reduced gearing option and if this is not enough to get you going, walking is more efficient! On my softest gear while climbing the most difficult sections on Duffey Lake I would cruise at  5 or 6 kmh just above walking speed. Should I need lower gearing I would be better off pushing the bike up when I needed.
I believe this is the same on any bike loaded for touring; you end up using the softest gear and should you go below the five kilometres threshold it hardly makes sense pedalling and it becomes easier pushing the bike to get over the toughest parts. Of course it goes without saying that tourers on touring bikes or mountain bikes will in the end carry much more weight than you do and I often found that to the contrary I was faster while climbing than they were!

You can't ride too far with a Brompton

Another myths I used to believe. Ideally a day ride on my tour will not be so long that I am not able to stop frequently, eat loads and take all the beautiful pictures and videos and still make it to a campsite by 4pm. Talking about distance on average I find that 70 or 80 kilometres is an ideal distance.
Of course sometime we have constraint on times or it is necessary to ride longer to get from point A to B, so what then?
Surprisingly, I found that covering long distances on a Brompton is not impossible either. On a recent tour where I had to cover longer distances than I would have liked I completed several days where in the end my speedometer was just short of 130 kilometres. Indeed this is on par with the longest distances I ever covered on tours with my mountain and I was twenty years younger too!
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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Taking our fully-loaded Brompton six-speed bikes from sea level up to 1700 meters (5600 feet) required us to briefly engage the Brompton "super-power" - a quick fold, and into the back of a three-wheeled taxi they went. We have been traveling the world on our Brompton bikes for four months, through Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, and Nepal, but the ride up to the Indian Hill Station town of Munnar, nestled amid emerald tea plantations, was our biggest challenge yet. The route took us to the peaks of the Western Ghats, a mountain range that spans the west coast of India.
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Monday, April 6, 2015

Just when you start thinking that pretty much everything that can be done with a little folder has been done think again... Six days bicycle tour across the ice of Lake Baikal,  the deepest freshwater lake in the world. This 183 kilometres journey in extreme conditions was carried out in March. Temperatures during the day were 0 degrees but reaching a -20 degrees celsius at night time

View the pictures here




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Friday, April 3, 2015


Even the sturdier and most reliable bike is subject to wear and tear during a tour and any part has the potential to fail and stop you on the road. Like most cycling tourists, I am not an experienced mechanic and in a dozens tours with different type of bikes I have so far completed, I mostly had to deal with fixing punctures and  some basic gearing or brakes adjustments.
Although some people are doing exactly that, I would not recommend a Brompton bike for unsupported extreme expeditions or round the world trips where you will be spending weeks without the chance to access basic facilites or other forms of transportation should you need to.
Even if you were a skilled Brompton mechanic, the limitation on the amount of gear you can carry with you, means that you could easily find yourself without the right tools or spare parts to be able to fix it and continue.
Bromptons are mostly built with proprietary parts that are not easily accessed in remote areas and your run of the mill local bicycle shop might be at a loss in trying to get your bicycle back on the road.
Where this folder excels instead is in multi-modal touring and short to medium tours where you will have access to alternative transportation in case of emergency and if possible access to shops where spare parts can be found. The latter is not a must provided that you are happy to take the risk of an unlikely failure that could stop you from cycling; even in this situation having a folding bike that you can easily pack away and a rucksack you can quickly put on your shoulders makes for a good chance that your touring holiday will not end in total frustration.

BEFORE YOUR DEPARTURE

(1) Before you set off on a tour, always make sure that your bike is in good conditions. Like I said above Brompton's are sturdy bikes but if you have the bad luck of running into a major failure, they are not as easy to fix as a regular mountain bike or racing bike. Before starting my tour I usually service my bike at a Brompton dealer, as they are the expert and know what are the parts that mostly need looking at for wear and tear. I am not sure it makes any difference, but I do mention to them that I am going on a tour and ask them to pay special attention to critical parts such as wheels, chain, etc.

(2) In the past few years global popularity of Brompton bikes has rapidly grown meaning that dealers are now rapidly expanding and can be found more and more in towns and cities all over the world. Access to them while you are touring in your destination might not be as difficult as it used to. I usually take a flight to the starting point of my tour and as much as possible I pick a destination that will have a Brompton dealer available should I need to. I haven't had the unfortunate event of a bike damaged by airline transport but this is obviously a possibility and if you are not far from a Brompton dealer, once arrived you will probably be able to repair the bicycle without losing too much time or having to change plans. Further along these lines, if this is an option, do some research and know where easily accessible Brompton dealers can be found along your touring route should you need to get some spare parts, fix things or simply having a check on your bike during your tour.

WHAT YOU MUST LEARN

(1) The most likely repair you will have to carry out during your tour is a puncture tyre. The procedure for removing the tyre from the wheel and replacing or fixing an inner tube is the same that you would follow on any other bicycle. What is trickier on a Brompton is removing the rear wheel in order to replace the inner tube. I found the Brompton Technical Guide youtube videos a valuable resource to learn to do so. Do not rely simply on watching the videos or read manuals though, as always practice only makes perfect! To be prepared start by removing the rear wheel at home where you have access to all your resources should anything go wrong. Once you are a little bit confident the next step is to take your Brompton for a day ride and do the same repair by the side of the road without having access to videos or manuals. That way you will be well prepared and much more confident once you start your tour and a puncture will be just a minor frustration and a good excuse to have a break and enjoy the scenery!

(2) Replacing the tyres. Small wheels mean that your tyres will wear out much quicker than you think. Even the best of tyres if you are cycling past 1000 kilometres will start to show some wear and tear, especially in the rear wheel. After my first extended tour on a Brompton where I had to swap rear and front tyres half way through my journey I decided it is a good idea to bring two new tyres with me in case I need. Being small means that they are lighter and that they can be easily slid on the outside of my backpack, a perfect and unobtrusive way to carry them for any emergency. In my experience 16" tyres in most countries are associated with children bikes and even though you could access a bike shop easily you might not find a spare Schwalbe Marathon in that size and what is on offer might be completely unsuitable for your purpose.

(3) Adjusting a Sturmy Archer gear cable. In order to have your gears perform well it is sometime necessary to adjust the little chain alignment. If you removed the back wheel you had to learn to losen that anyhow so it should be something you are familiar with already.

(4) Lubricating the bike. This is straight forward but again a Brompton bike is built in a different way and it is important to know which parts need lubricating and which part don't. Any extended tour involves you cycling for days and chances that you will also encounter bad conditions such as rain or dust on the road means that your bicycle will need some more attention in this department too.

(5) Learn to carry out basic safety checks. These are often found in the manual that came with your bike. Make sure you do this before you start your tour in order to assess the condition of the bike after it was transported to your destination. Get into the habit of having a quick check each day following the manual recommendations.

WHAT YOU SHOULD LEARN

If you are inclined to, it will certainly help learning a few more advanced repairs.

(1) Fixing a broken chain. I never had a chain failure on my trips but it does happen. If you have the right tools with you it could be the difference between being able to fix it there and then and continue cycling as opposed to having to itch a ride to the next town. The good thing about a broken chain is that you won't need a Brompton specialist to fix this, any local bike shop will be able to quickly offer help and repair it.

(2) Fixing a broken spoke. Again not something I had to deal with on a Brompton so far. This is a tricky repair mostly due to the difficulty of truing a wheel once a spoke is replaced, an art in itself. If you can learn this it is something that again might save you a long walk to the next town. I haven't mastered it myself and for this reason, one thing I do make sure is that I carry spare spokes with me. This is important because like a chain every bike shop will be able to help you but might not have the right spoke sizes for your small wheels! Again children bike's spares are not always of the quality you need for your more 'grown up' bike!

(3) Replacing braking pads. If you are going on a 2000 kilometres or longer tour you might have to swap your braking pads too. This is a straight forward procedure and even though I never did change them during a tour they are small and compact enough to carry and I always make sure I have a spare set just in case.

SPARES AND TOOLS YOU SHOULD CARRY


2 Spare 16" inner tube
2 Schwalbe Marathon Kevlar ( expensive but lighter and easier to replace )
Patches and glue for fixing tubes
Selection of Spokes ( rear and front wheel use different sizes )
1 set of Brake Pads

EXTRA SPARES YOU COULD CARRY

Brompton Front Carrier Block & Clip
1 Sturmey Archer Derailleur unit
Chain repair kit
Screws and Bolts

TOOLS YOU NEED

Brompton Pump
Wrenches: 8mm, 10mm, 15mm
Allen keys: 2mm; 2,5mm; 3mm; 4mm; 5mm; 6mm
Lubricating Oil
Tyre Levers
***
All the right keys and wrenches sizes as well as tyre levers are included in the Brompton Toolkit. A little expensive but it fits inside the frame and is very compact and ideal for the job.
***
Plastic Gloves ( why get your hands dirty! )
Chain Pusher ( if you know how to repair a chain )
Spoke Wrenches (if you can replace a broken spoke )

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Alvin Wong has produced a 'Quick Visual Guide To Basic Brompton Maintenance'. It is a friendly guide by a bunch of Brompton fans. This guide was put together based on knowledge acquired in technical workshops, personal research and experience for the purpose of sharing some Brompton maintenance tips with Brompton owners. Some of the content in this guide are also available on the internet which may or may not be Brompton specific.

View or download the pdf here

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Saturday, February 28, 2015


Winter offers special challenges for my Brompton folding bike as it’s not really built to handle snow. I have to disassemble and clean the derailleur at least every two weeks. Yet considering that I have no real treads left on my tires, I think the bike is handling quite well, and the snow is just about over.

Read full story here


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Sunday, February 15, 2015


We started at 7:30 in a chilly misty rain. There were some really steep hills out of Carmel and Dani had some early doubts about the wisdom of taking on the hills of Big Sur on our Bromptons. For the first few miles out of Carmel, highway 1 was a busy multiple lane highway. It subsequently narrowed to two lanes, but it didn’t get much less busy.

Read more here


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Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Sri Lankans love to honk as their vehicles pass us on the road – some of them are clearly “hello” honks (often accompanied by a wave, a shouted “hello” or just a head wobble). Others seem more like a “get out of my way” honks or “just so you know, I am right beside you” honks. Most are obnoxiously loud, some are startling enough to almost make me ride into the sandy shoulder. Honestly, despite the obvious good intentions behind it, all the unnecessary honking gets old extremely fast. But once in a while, you hear a tuk-tuk approach from behind, brace yourself for the inevitable blare of the horn, and instead (or in addition to) you get a vehicle packed with children shouting hello, waving, and giving big smiles. Oh, Sri Lanka, we can’t stay mad at you.

Read the full article here

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Thursday, January 22, 2015


I would do this again with my Brompton. It complements bike touring the Netherlands very well. Because it’s flat and easy to ride around, I didn’t have any difficulty with 16 inch tires and 2 speeds. Some hotels have very small and some even don’t have elevators with steep narrow stairs to climb, but I didn’t have trouble managing it. Flashing bike lights are illegal, so bring spare lights, extra batteries, chargers, etc. Bring music too! The only complaint I have about the trip was that my baggages were too heavy to go any faster and longer.

Read full article here

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Monday, January 12, 2015


A twenty days and 1300 kilometres ride from the northern California border to San Luis Obispo. Like last year the Brompton proved an amazing and reliable bike. During the trip I had to take one bus transfer to cut about hundred kilometres of busy roads. I just pulled aside once I reached the bus stop and in less than ten minutes the bike was neatly packed and ready to board the bus!


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Cyclopolitan have used 2 Brompton folding bikes with a trailers and traveled around Europe for a year. To see how they pack their things and carry them they posted an interesting youtube video detailing all their equipment.

View their video here


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Sunday, January 11, 2015


Russ and Laura's blog The Path Less Pedalled was my first personal inspirations when considering the Brompton as a feasible touring option.  As they say there isn't such a thing as a perfect touring bicycle but after a month on the road they felt Bromptons do fit their traveling style perfectly and are as perfect to them as they could have hoped to find.

Read full article here


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