Monday, August 20, 2018


Transporting a Brompton bicycle by airplane to your tour destination is much easier than any other bike. The way a Brompton folds is clever as far as reducing its size to a minimum but crucially in the way the fold protects the most vulnerable parts. Derailleur and gear shifters as well as brakes and chainset are neatly tucked inside the fold and not easily damaged if mishandled. 

Hard Case vs Soft Case

For those who want a bullet proof system to carry the Brompton by plane the B&W Hard Case though not cheap, will protect the bike better than most suitcases as it is designed around Brompton bikes.
Personally I find that this limits your choices as far as touring goes. I like to be free to design my tour as I wish and more often than not this means starting from one location and ending somewhere else. A hard case is not ideal for this as you will need to find a place to store it once you start your tour and get back to the same location when it is time to return home. If you mostly take tours that start and end in the same location this won't be a hard thing to plan as most hotels if you stay on the first night will be happy to store your empty case and let you collect on your return.
If you are willing to trade a little security and ship your Brompton in a soft bag that you can pack small and carry with you during your tour, you have the perfect setup to be free to make choices as to where you start and end your trip and always know that all your gear is with you and ready to be backed whenever you need. In my experience so far and reading from other people who do use soft bags to check in the bike on planes the likelihood of the bicycle being damage is pretty slim.

How I Pack my Brompton



I get hold of some heavy duty soft bag that will fit the bike without leaving too much space. Ikea Dimpa Bags are just perfect for Bromptons. I always carry a spare along with me as they are really light and compact and can be used to quickly pack the bike whenever you need to take a bus or train along the way.
I remove the saddle and remove the clamps and screws that hold the folds of the bike. The only extra thing I then do is to tightly tie some heavy duty rope between the frame and the front wheel as you can see from the picture. This is an extra step to further secure the bike fold and ensures that the plastic hook that keeps the front wheel attached to the frame is not over strained. 
I line the bag with few pieces of cut cardboards to the bottom, the top and all sides to further protect the package.



Finally I put saddle and T-Bag in plastic bags and insert them in the empty spaces together with my sleeping mat and wrapped bike tools I need. These will fill up the few spaces available and also function as shock absorbers if the package is put under some pressure. 
After zipping the Dimpa Bag I then put it inside a soft bike carrying bag that is easy to fold and adds some further protection and is easier to handle while transporting it to and from the airport. One such bag is the Outeredge 20-inch Bag. This is not exactly sized to a folded Brompton and leaves quite a bit of space to the back and front of the bike. This further space can be used for your tent or other non valuable and light things you might be happy to store there. To make the bag more compact I usually buy some Black heavy duty tape and wrap it tight around the bag.


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Friday, August 17, 2018


After my first big cycle trip about ten years ago, I can honestly say that in my mind there is no better way to see the world.  You have to problem solve and work together as a team and you are rewarded by seeing amazing sights and meet interesting people who have stories to tell.  If you have not tried cycle touring yet, get out there on a tour, start small if you want to gain confidence.  Trust me the only problem is you wont want to stop!

Read full story here
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Monday, August 13, 2018


After a chance meeting of two brands, and a few months of planning, a team of nearly 20 Brompton and Bollinger staff took on the epic journey; from Brompton Headquarters in London to Bollinger in the Champagne region of France.


Watch the video here
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Saturday, August 11, 2018



If you ever wondered how you replace a Brompton rear wheel broken spoke, here you will find a clear close up video of what it takes to do just that.

Watch video here
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Thursday, August 9, 2018


Pushing his bike, body and equipment to the absolute limits, those limits were eventually found, frustratingly in the form of a non standard Brompton part. The Alfine hub which was fitted in order to allow enough range of gearing to summit cols of this race failed, leaving Roger to ride his final 250 km with drag equivalent to a brake being applied - not to mention a mind-numbing knocking sound.

Read the full story here
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Sunday, August 5, 2018


Cycle touring with a Brompton folding bike makes a lot of sense when you want to take away the hassle of transporting the bike to your holiday destination. Furthermore I find it the perfect option whenever I  plan to take some kind of transportation as part of my tour. When time is a constraint, you can easily skip that not so interesting stretch and rather focus on the best bits to cycle.
The initial transfer whether by plane, train or bus will be made much easier using a Brompton as you won't have to drag a large bike box to the starting point of your journey or argue with staff at check in who are often not as sympathetic towards cyclists carrying bikes.

The way I do it, perfected after several trips with my Brompton bike, is detailed in carrying luggage on a Brompton, an article where I clearly explain how I pack each bag and what I put where. Follow the link above to read the article and get good tips on how to maximise comfort and ease on your tour.

    ( 1 )

    Carry your clothes, gadgets and other valuables in the backpack with you to the airport or station or wherever you need to start the journey from.
    Inside a large soft bike bag, put the bicycle folded inside an IKEA Dimpa bag or something equivalent that can fit a Brompton bike. Depending on the remaining space, you should be able to fit in a small tent, sleeping mat, bike tools, sleeping bag if you need, etc. All these will also function as padding and allow a bit of extra protection for the bike. As a further help to protect the bike it is a good idea to slide in some thick cardboards along the walls of the Dimpa bag.
    Once arrived, the large soft bike bag can be folded and carried with you when you reach your tour starting point and begin cycling. This allows a lot of flexibility in planning your tour as the starting point and end point can be in a different location if you wish to.

    ( 2 )

    Keep the backpack on your shoulders as carry on luggage and check in the bike bag.
      ( 3 )

      Once reached your starting destination, fold the soft empty bike bag small and fit it at the bottom of the backpack as it won't be used until your final return journey. Pack all your valuables and items that you want to keep easily accessible and safe at all times in the T-Bag while leaving clothing and other less valuable things  in the backpack. With little practice this enables you to be ready to start your tour in half an hour or little more!

      ( 4 )

      If during your journey you need to take a train or a bus to get to somewhere else or avoid cycling part of your journey, simply remove the Dimpa bag folded flat at the bottom of the T-Bag in front of the bike, fold the bike and put it inside it, shift the backpack to your shoulders and ... bingo, in a matter of 10 minutes your set-up allows you to be ready to jump on a fast train, bus, boat or car!


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        Saturday, August 4, 2018


        If you are interested in how I film my Brompton bike tours I have uploaded a tutorial explaining in details how I capture my shots while on and off the bike.

        Watch full video here
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        Wednesday, August 1, 2018


        Bike touring is a passion of mine and my first choice when traveling and discovering new places. In the last six years, I have always used a Brompton folding bike; with some experience I can definitely say that it exceeded my expectations and performed so well that it has become my bicycle of choice for my cycling tours ever since.
        I fly packing the Brompton into a soft folding bike bag and my setup to carry all I need on my tour consists of a Brompton T-Bag at the front and a standard rucksack fitted on top of the bike rack in a way I described in this article
        Over the years it has become a tried and tested way to carry luggage on the folder and having been used by Brompton travellers all over the world. It offers a stable and well balanced ride and is extremely versatile in any multi-modal tours where some kind of transportation is an option. 
        If needed, you are able in just a few minutes to switch from a fully loaded bicycle to a packed setup that you can hold in your hands and carry on a car, bus, train or plane.
        Every bicycle traveler loathes the difficulties of transporting bikes to destinations, finding boxes to pack things, and shift around two or more panniers at the same time.
        This setup brings and end to that and makes it all very easy and hassle free.
        Concerns about the reliability of a Brompton folding bike as well as its comfort and ability to cope with hills, descents and generally long days of riding with the weight of my luggage, proved to be unfounded. Touring on a Brompton has just been a pure joy. 
        I believe there are three conditions and a few trade-offs worth considering before you begin cycle touring on a Brompton; if these don't seem too much of a limitation I would have no hesitation recommending it.

        1. You are planning a tour on decent, mostly surfaced roads.
        2. You will not be touring in extreme cold temperatures.
        3. You will not be for any extended time in remote areas where self efficiency is a must.

        ( 1 ) Brompton's are sturdy bikes and can withstand more abuse than you imagine but still their small wheels and thin tyres are not best suited to rough terrains and muddy tracks. I have at times cycled on unpaved roads and you will be able to cope with the odd exception by walking, but if that is the condition of most of the roads you will travel on, an expedition touring bike or a mountain bike will be a better choice. Mud, due to low clearance of the mudguards and limits on the choice of tyres, is something that Brompton are definitely not made for.

        ( 2 ) This might be a bit more arbitrary and you can probably prove me wrong but I have found that my setup has to be really compact and light in order to work best and provide the benefits that a folding bike brings in the first place. Traveling in freezing temperatures means having to carry much more weight and gear in order to be comfortable during the tour. Each kilograms you add to your setup will put further strain on the bike and make it harder to be carried on public transport if needed.

        ( 3 ) Bromptons are very reliable bikes but they are not bullet proof; they also use a lot of specific and proprietary spare parts. Traveling for an extended period in remote areas means that should you have a technical issue, you might not be able to fix it. Adding to that the likelihood that no transportation is readily available, your tour will not be much fun. Traveling remote areas involves being self efficient i.e. carrying a lot more stuff than you would otherwise. Carrying lots of water and food and all the gadgets and utensils that make it possible, is not an easy option on such a small bike.

        Reliability

        in over 10000 kilometres I have had hardly any reliability issues to report, probably on a par or even less than on mountain bikes or touring bikes I have used in the past. In all my tours all I had to cope with were punctures and several tyre replacements. I find the key is to properly maintain your bicycle and ensure that it is well tuned and fully functioning before setting off on a tour. My strategy here is to be more proactive than I would be on another bike. I regularly replace parts that need changing after a recommended mileage. Chain and sprockets are swapped when needed, gear cables and brake cables are also newly fitted every few years, to limit the possibility of failures while I might not be able to source spare parts.
        Marathon tyres even on such tiny circumference are exceptionally tough. One thing to consider though is that the rear tyre will wear out faster than on larger wheels. It is only natural that the small wheels increased contact results in increased wear too; I always bring one or two spare quality tyres for Brompton's 16" wheels as these are not always easy to find in bike shops around the world. In the past I have simply swapped tyres when I felt that they were not evenly worn but a tyre failure shouldn't be a reason to wreck your plans and one or two spare tyres are small, not too heavy and can be easily carried.  
        Wheels always performed faultlessly, staying perfectly tuned to the last day.
        I always carry several replacement spokes too, again due to the fact that should you need to fix the wheels, a shop might not have the right size. These are stored in the hollow tube holding the rucksack. 
        Something I am always aware of is to try and be gentle on the bike. While climbing a steep hill I refrain from any temptation of standing on the pedals and rocking the bike as I would do on a mountain bike or a racer. When the road is bumpy and uneven I ride in a very conservative way and do not hesitate to dismount and have a little walk if I believe it safer for myself and the bike.

        Comfort

        The great benefits in portability means that you have to do some compromises in comfort; these are less noticeable than you might think. With a 6, 12% reduced gearing bike setup, you are able to climb most hills or even mountains where gradients are not too extreme. You will find them adequate gear ratios to cover most terrains, fast descents, flat sections etc. Using a Brompton makes you more conscious of how much weight you take with you; you will travel light and this makes you faster or as fast as any cycle tourists you might encounter along the road. On descents the opposite is true. Always be aware of rolling on small wheels and therefore more cautious and focused.  Your pace and the daily distances you are able to cover will likely match those of other tourers and their more traditional setups. 
        A front T-Bag with the heaviest load and a lighter rucksack at the back turns up to be a very efficient way to load the bike. It is well balanced, secure and the handling of the bike feels more stable than unloaded.
        Having a rucksack instead of dedicated bike panniers is much more versatile. If you want you have the ability to take a day off the bike and go for a trek and when you have to take the bike on buses or trains you have a fast way to put luggage on your shoulders while having your hands free to carry the folded bike and T-Bag.
        Older Brompton versions had brakes deficiencies especially on long descent but more recents models, certainly from 2013 on, come equipped with adequate brakes and feel secure on the steepest descents even with the extra weight you are carrying.

        Conclusion

        The Brompton offers in my opinion the best setup for a multi-modal tour, where the odd transfer by other means of transport is involved. There might be times where the road is too steep and you might need to break your cycling with a short walk but I turn this limitation into an advantage. It becomes a good chance to use different muscles and I have found out that a folding bike loaded this way is extremely comfortable and easy to push.
        To me these compromises are well worth it and I found touring with a Brompton folding bike, an easy and fun way to cycle travel.


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