Monday, November 11, 2019


Arctic Norway! A 10-day bicycle trip along the fjords, alone with the gulls and hills and sea, miles and miles between scenic fishing villages! I ached to begin. Then. Six months before setting off to cycle the Lofoten Islands, I was diagnosed with angina and atherosclerosis. My airline tickets had long ago been confirmed, the route throughly planned, the Brompton purchased and the hotels pre-booked. There was no way I was going to miss this trip. Kathy and I agreed that if I was cleared by the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, FL, I could go. After exhaustive testing and a consult with a wonderful Mayo doctor (and my promise to get off the bike and walk if necessary), we all agreed it would be possible. I adopted the Mayo Clinic Heart diet, lost ten pounds (I was pretty skinny to begin with), religiously took my statins, obtained an amulet for the nitroglycerin and carried on with my training regimen. I’ve been cycling since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, had ridden many national and international multi-week tours and, at age 73, knew my limitations; “as we age” was a phrase I was all too familiar with. This was the adventure to began yet another chapter in my love affair with travel and cycling.

I had chosen the Brompton for its simplicity and compactness; it would be taken on large and small planes, car ferries and small fishing boats, trains and possibly busses, in and out of hotels and walked up the steeper bridges and hills. My entire “ride” weighed only 46 pounds which included the bike, clothes for the ten days and all of my gadgets (camera, iPad, mobile phone, chargers, toiletries, medicines and my cane). Yes, my cane. A cycling accident, followed by not so perfect spinal surgery left me with nerve damage and a calf muscle that did not respond to my every wish. My six speed Brompton has been “souped-up” with a smaller, 40t vs. the standard 50t front chainring to accommodate my “as we age” cycling style and with large downhill mountain bike platform pedals that allow full foot placement over the pedal axle.

Tromsø (geo: 69.682778, 18.942778) was overcast and chilly for a Floridian when I landed. It took me only twenty minutes to unbox, unfold, and repack the Brompton for the six-mile ride to the center of town and my hotel. Tromsø was an amazing arctic city. Modern architecture along the waterfront contrasts with the traditional wooden houses of the side streets. The Norwegian government, wanting to reinvigorate the city, had founded a world-renowned university in Tromsø and stressed its importance as an international center for Arctic research.

“If you build it, they will come,” and the city is bustling and vibrant and young. The bike shop I went into for my last-minute tidbits had an amazing selection of both traditional and e-bikes. Although expensive, the e-bikes are used for everyday transportation in Tromsø. Since cars are so expensive to own and the town area quite hilly, the e-bike is seen as the perfect way to get around. During my explorations of the city, I wished my Brompton had been electrified.

Although I consider myself a solo cyclist, there is something to be said for the conviviality of small hotels and B&B’s. A few of my lodgings, although very comfortable, resembled shipping containers in size and others were spectacular. However, one evening, I had to abandon my planned (and paid for) guest house because it was so derilict, scary looking and just plain dangerous. I was saved by the Hotel Marmelkroken, in Risøyhamn, and spend a wonderful evening watching the fog roll in over the bay. The Quality Hotel Saga in Tromsø was great and served traditional afternoon waffles garnished with thin brown wafers. What was this? The Swiss woman next to me pantomimed that is was cheese made from a combination of cow and goat (or was that “baaa” a sheep?) milk with caramelized sugar. Her young daughter encouraged me to spread jam on top. I could get used to this arctic lifestyle.

The Art Studio, on Langøya Island, was the beautiful apartment of famed Norwegian artist, Britt Boutrous-Ghali www.edelmanarts.com). I had a 3-room apartment with the cyclists dream, a bathtub. Not just a bathtub, but a giant bathtub. That day I had forgotten that most shops are closed on Sunday. So after cycling around Sortland in the drizzling rain, all I had found was take-out pizza. When I reached The Art Studio, I begged a beer from Britt’s son, Paul, and had pizza and beer in the tub. Glorious!

After a very plush night, I had a nice, leisurely breakfast and left around 8:00 for the 11:10 ferry at Melbu, 25 miles away. I met Paul a mile down the road and he beckoned for me to come and see his new project. He had purchased a 1938 wooden, gaff-rigged, 50-foot boat that had unfortunately sunk over the winter. The history of the vessel was fascinating. Built in Tromsø, it had been commandeered by the Germans during the war and used to transport prisoners around the Lofoten Islands. His plan was to have it trucked to his farm and restore it to be a floating classroom for the schoolchildren of Langøya Island. We got so wrapped up in the project that I lost track of time and finally discovered that I had two hours to travel the 24 miles to the ferry. I cycle like molasses in January. For the next 120 minutes I time-trialed to Melbu and the ferry. I arrived just as the last cars were coming off and I zipped onboard. I was pooped ! I had cycled from Langøya Island to Hadseloya Island over a crazy, steep bridge (another walk, and this was during a time trial). The ferry took me to Austvågøya, where Svolvær, my next stop, was. Needless to say, I dawdled the remaining 22 miles and arrived at The Scandic Svolvær hotel quite spent.

One thing cyclists love about the Norwegian towns is that there are specific bike/walk lanes into and out of each city. The path out of Svolvær went on for 6 miles, until we cleared the “burbs”. The next 10 miles were on the E10, the Long Island Expressway of the Lofotens; one lane each way with no shoulder. I just did my little-wheel thing and the cars and RV’s and busses avoided me and we all seemed to just get along.

In contrast the 815 was one of the most beautiful 24-mile stretches of road I have ever ridden. Craggy cliffs and meadows on one side, the sea and inlets on the other side, very few cars and great tarmac. I was in Brompton heaven. I took 3 1/2 hours to traverse this road; I stopped for photos, explored roadside art installations, turned down little side dirt roads to find quaint beaches and even found a cafe for coffee and cake. As I sipped my coffee and enjoyed the homemade chocolate cake (sorry Mayo) I enjoyed watching two children frolic in the icy water.

As I entered Stamsund and was literally right around the corner from The Live Lofoten Hotel, I stopped into a little gallery. What caught my eye was the art installation piece in the front yard. ULF M ( http://ulf-m.net ) is a surrealist artist. He is one interesting fellow; has shown in a gallery in Chelsea (NYC), and his work is hanging in my hotel. We spent a good portion of the afternoon discussing Surrealism, Dali (St. Petersberg, Florida, has the largest Dali museum in the world) and his eclectic collection. He wrapped the poster I purchased in a cardboard sleeve and later, I wondered how I would get it home with my minimalist packing. That was the fitting culmination of one terrific day. Dinner was a hodgepodge of yoghurt and fruit and bread and nuts and beer from the nearby Joker Market.

My schedule was quite casual and the daily mileage ranged from 30 to 50 miles. With sunlight all day, I was able to meander along and not worry about what time I arrived at my evening’s destination. I cycled with my camera always at my side and stopped often to capture the spectacular views. My only logistical concerns were catching the numerous ferries that connect the islands within the Lofoten archipelago and finding my lodging by using Lat/Long coordinates since the houses do not always have street numbers. I was also never stressed about losing time when I had to walk up a particularly nasty stretch of road nor the very steep bridges that connected some of the islands; whistling kept me company. My daily routine, once I recovered from jet lag, was to have a leisurely hotel breakfast of homemade bread, salmon, herring, granola, yoghurt, fruit and those luscious waffles and nice flavorful, black coffee, pack up the Brompton and be on the road by 10:00 (or perhaps 11:00). My exhaustive research ( I love that little yellow gal on Google Maps) had prepared me for point-to-point rides with no services along the routes. Arriving at my destination town I would check out the local Joker or Coop, chat with the locals, and prepare for dinner. Most of my hotels did not offer any dinner, so I dined on canned sardines or kippers (note the repetition), fruit, peanut butter (when you see it, buy it!), bakery bread and a local beer. If armies march on their stomachs, cyclists pedal with their protein. Not knowing any Norwegian, I sometimes found myself eating canned something or other that I thought were sardines but actually... I still do not know. When I was lucky
enough to find a resort restaurant along the road, I engaged with culinary passion. One such experience came as I was cycling down the western side of Andøya Island. I happened upon an unexpected restaurant overlooking a beautiful lake and stopped in for lunch.

On the restaurant chalkboard - Dagens suppe: Potter med Hval

Looked good. I caught the word soup and it was a tad chilly. I ordered the suppe, bread and coffee.

Waiter: How was your soup ?
Me: Very nice. Was that potato and mushroom?
Waiter: No sir (they call me sir here) potato and whale.
Me: Excuse me?
Waiter: Potato and Minke whale. You can also have that as an entree.
Me: No thank you, I’ll just have the the check.

It did taste just like mushroom.

I had read about the numerous tunnels in Norway and was prepared with front and rear lights and orange outerwear for the dim but always lit passages and I always pushed the “sykkel” button to let the vehicles know I was in there. There was so little traffic along my route that I was never anxious about being in the tunnels, some of which were almost 2 km in length. When I did encounter a car or RV, the drivers were extremely courteous and waited patiently behind me for a safe place to pass (just as in Florida). I was able to bypass the notoriously dangerous Nappstraum Tunnel, connecting the islands of Flakstadøya and Vestvågøya, by taking advantage of an entrepreneurial fisherman who set up a ferry service during the off fishing-season. The 76-year-old cod fisherman ferried cyclists between Ballstad and Nusfjord in his traditional 34 foot, diesel-powered, fishing boat. Fishing since he was 14, he piloted his boat (during my only very rainy day) through a seemingly endless maize of reefs, fog and small rock islands. Cod fishing, which takes place during the winter, is a lucrative, but dangerous occupation. Sailing alone and setting a line of 1500 baited hooks, he goes out most days and, by law, must not spend the “night”. This, of course, is during the Arctic winter when there is nothing but “night”. We landed safely and I continued on, to the end of the tarmac in a village called Å. Taking a photograph of the Å signpost (I guess it’s like dipping your front wheel), I backtracked the few kilometers to The Lofoten Rorbuhotell in Sørvågen from where I could catch the ferry in
Moskenes to Bodø the next morning.

My original plan was to take the ferry to Bodø, which is on the mainland, where I would continue my journey by train to Oslo and meet Kathy. Plan B. There were no sleeper cabins available for the two-day trip, so remembering my promise to Kathy to take it easy, I decided to fly from Bodø to Oslo. Luckily, a Red Cross thrift shop in town had just the right chair cushions I needed to safely pack the Brompton in my Ikea “dimpa bag” for the flight. The airport was close to town, and after a 30-minute fold and pack, the bike was checked onto the plane and my journey was completed.

Relaxing in our apartment in Oslo, I collected a Brompton carton from the very nice people at Spin Bicycle Shop in Majorstua, and shipped the bike home using ShipMyBag, whom I had used on my previous trip to Scotland. Easy peasy. Kathy and I then set out to enjoy Scandinavia for the next five weeks.

Did my “condition” alter my touring style? Yes. My daily mileage was about half of what I had done in the past, I was very conscious of my diet (lots of fish, whole grains, nuts, few pastries and no red meat) and when the road became too vertical, I walked. The alternative, to stay home and mope, was not even considered. “As we age” can be a wonderful adventure.

By Peter Forde
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Sunday, November 10, 2019


A Brompton tour on the spectacular Hebrides Islands. Who said Scotland is too wet and windy to be cycled on a folding bike!

Watch the full video here
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I am pleased to announce the publication of a collection of travels exclusively on a Brompton. This collection of stories include trips that I have taken over the last seven years on my trusted Bronte. The bike is now retired and I am waiting for a suitable replacement to carry on with more traveling. The ten chapters including 50 original drawings, cover some of the most epic roads in the world such as the Karakoram Highway, Manali-Leh and the US Pacific Coast and many more.

The book is available right now on Amazon as a kindle ebook as well as paperback. If you would like a sample chapter, I have included a link to a PDF file you are able to download for free and read.

GET THE BOOK https://amzn.to/2C2m4DI
GET THE PAPERBACK https://amzn.to/32nFqxO
GET SAMPLE PDF CHAPTER HERE




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Sunday, November 3, 2019


When you are touring with a Brompton Bike you are probably carrying a mobile phone maybe a camera, a goPro to film your tour and other electronic gadgets that need charging. If your are planning a tour where you stay in hotels overnight all you need to take is adaptors and cables to charge at the end of the day. One thing I have done in the past if I needed is stop at restaurants or cafes asking if they wouldn't mind me charging my mobile while I had my meal.

If on the other hand you like more freedom and don't want to be limited by hotel bookings, you might find that access to electricity outlets is not always available. 

How to keep everything charged

The best way to keep your gadgets charged during a Brompton tour is to bring along a battery pack together with a solar panel. Every year these become more and more powerful and efficient in storing power. I carry two products from Anker that have been of great use on my tours. Anker PowerPort Solar https://amzn.to/2rafJnx and an Anker PowerPort https://amzn.to/2qf2KAw

During the day while I cycle, I open the Solar Panel on top of my T-Bag like you see on the picture above. I use 2 carabiner to attach it to the plastic loops that are on the bag and carry the cable into the zip Pocket at the back of the T-Bag which is where I store my battery pack that gets charged. You will also notice from the picture that I have a registration plate hanging forward. The reason I do this is that the three panels of the PowerPort Solar should be on top of the bag to get a better exposure to light. This means that if you cycle fast and especially when riding downhill the wind will probably push your panels and often cause them to close. By putting some kind of weight hanging on the bag ( in my case a registration plate! ) you can prevent this from happening. If I do sometime stay in hotels of course I can charge the battery pack overnight but if your Solar Panel is open all day while you cycle I find that I am able to charge all my gadgets.

As I use my mobile phone for pictures, videos and to store my maps for guidance it is important to make sure that I have an efficient way to keep it powered. These two gadgets solved the problem.
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Sunday, October 13, 2019


A 633 kilometres ride on this famous cycle route that stretches from Incheon down to the beautiful coastal city of Busan. It's a world class cycle lane dedicated to only cyclists and pedestrians with breathtaking views of mountains, rivers, farmlands, bridges and parks.

Watch the full video here

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Monday, September 30, 2019


A travel video about a Brompton cycling the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. It was always a magic road that I hoped one day to be able to cycle. The mountain sceneries were of course stunning but what impressed most was the kindness of Pakistani people that made this tour full of joyful memories. Starting in Islamabad I headed up the Murree mountains before climbing Babusar Pass at over 4000 metres and joined the Karakoram Highway to Gilgit and Hunza.

Watch full video here
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Friday, September 20, 2019


Another great short video from the guys at Awa-re.com.
What is it like to live in rural Japan? Awa-Re offers many truly unique bicycle tours and rentals on the legendary folding Brompton Bicycle.

Brompton Folding bicycles have long been hailed as the best engineered, most compact, folding bicycle available. Awa-Re has a fleet of Brompton’s for any group size.

Awa-Re Brompton tours give you the flexibility and mobility to experience rural Japan in a way not possible before.

Tours can be customized to your needs, but most tours offer an easy ride, with stops at culturally significant spots, featuring epic views, unique experiences with locals, and a lot more. “A New Life Abroad” really captures the feeling and emotional connection only possible on a tour such as this.

Watch the full video here.
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Sunday, August 18, 2019


A short video of a popular cycling route in South Korea, the Fours Rivers.

Watch full video here
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Wednesday, August 7, 2019


Watch this group of Japanese Brompton fans inspired by the simple transportation and joy of riding these folders. A Journey Through Iya Valley is sponsored by AWA-RE a company that provides unique bicycle tours in Japan.

Watch full video here.
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Friday, June 21, 2019


An account of how I slowly unfolded my Brompton up through Scotland in a journey of under five hundred miles in nine days at 9mph and with very little pushing!
I bought my Brompton L6 in 2004 but only used it for commuting to work. It didn’t occur to me to use it for touring until I retired in 2011, and eight of us began a tour of the Orkney Islands by catching the train from Edinburgh to Thurso.

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Thursday, May 30, 2019


Watch this four days ride in Japan on a Brompton. It starts in Tokyo and includes sites of Mount Fuji ending in the historic city of Kyoto.

Watch full video here
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Sunday, May 26, 2019


Cycle touring is a passion of mine and bringing a bicycle along is my favourite way to discover new places. In the last six years I have used a Brompton folding bike. 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 an 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 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 size 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 six, 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

In my opinion Brompton offers 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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Whether you are an expert mechanic or a newbie it is always useful to carry on your tablet or mobile phone a pdf copy of the manual and the schematics of your Brompton bike while you are touring. Should you have any issues with fixing or replacing parts it can be a great help as a reference whether you are doing it, or a bike mechanic who is not familiar with Bromptons.
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Saturday, May 25, 2019


Here is a complete list of what I carry while bike touring 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 you need 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 little 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 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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Saturday, May 18, 2019


Let's begin by saying that provided you service your bike before touring and regularly maintain it in good conditions throughout the year, not much can go wrong.
Over many years of touring with a Brompton I never had a single critical failure that stopped me from cycling. All I had to deal with were punctures, tyre replacements due to the fact that tyres on 16" wheels wear out quicker and little else.

What can go wrong

I would like to highlight a failure that I have experienced a couple of times. This is something that can happen when you are transporting the bike by plane in a soft bag like I do. Brompton bikes fold in a very clever way which keeps most fragile parts like the gearing system on the inside and well protected. One downside to the way they fold is that naturally the rack that you use to carry your backpack folds at the bottom and becomes the base of the bike. If the bike bag is dropped or put under a lot of pressure when put into the cargo what can happen is that the stays bend. This can cause the rack and the attached mudguard to rub on the tyre. Each time this has happened to me I was able with some pulling and pushing on the stays to make the wheel freely spin again but should the damage be more serious I feel it is important to learn how to remove the rack. Being able to do so you have the option to disassemble the mudguard and see if that solves the problem or coming to the worse remove the rack entirely and at least be able to cycle on by carrying the backpack on your shoulders. This is not ideal but in the worse case scenario when the rack is badly bent you at least have the option to carry on and see if it is possible to fix it along the way.

I believe that the good reliability I enjoyed depends on two main factors.

( 1 )

I try to be proactive and change parts that are more vulnerable to wear and tear. Brompton has some recommendations on replacing parts, especially Aluminium components. They recommend changing hinge clamp plates, handlebar and chainset every 7000 kilometres and for them to be checked regularly when the bike is serviced. 
A stretched chain will wear out the sprockets quickly so this should also be changed regularly, probably every 3000 kilometres or so.
Brake and gear cables will also wear out and fail so I make sure that every few years I replace them before they let me down while I am away.

( 2 )

I am always aware that I am riding a Brompton. Remember that certain parts of the bike and especially the handlebar are not meant to be put under the same kind of weight and pressure that you would a handlebar on a sturdy mountain bike. I sometime do see people using their Brompton uphill in ways that it is not meant to be. Standing up on the pedals and rocking the handlebar puts extreme pressure on these parts. I never stand on the bike. If the road is too steep I get off the bike and walk instead. I have heard of one rider experiencing a handlebar failure that resulted in a fall and an injury. I haven't had a chance to ask how this happened but I assume that this was due from not following the two points I just highlighted. If parts are abused and never replaced when they should be, you greatly increase the risk of something like this happening.

What you should be able to do

( 1 ) Fix a Punctures: This is a basic knowledge you must have if you want to be able to tour. Keeping your tyre pressure as high as the tyre allows will limit the chances of it happening but on a long tour it is likely that you will have one. It is not difficult to fix but on a Brompton you often have to remove the back wheel in order to do it so make sure you know how to do it.

( 2 ) Replace a Tyre: As mentioned 16" wheels tyre will wear down quicker than larger sized tyres. I use Schwalbe Marathon tyres and in my experience these will last anything up to 2000 kilometres. Of course this will vary according to the condition of the roads you are riding. Depending on the length of your tour you might get away without doing so but changing a tyre should be something you are able to do.

( 3 ) Adjusting the chain tensioner: This ensures your gearing is well functioning. I find it easier to remove the tensioner when I take off the wheel and each time I do so I must refit it and make sure all gears are functioning. If the gear cable should fail again you would have to be able to adjust this so it is an important skill to have.

( 4 ) Remove the rack: As it was highlighted above this can become an issue if you have the bad luck of your bike being damaged during transport. A badly bent rack could stop your rear wheel from spinning and at times the only solution is for you to remove it.

( 5 ) Fix a broken chain: If you have a well maintained chain and take care to replace it when it needs it is unlikely that you will experience a failure. One thing to consider is the fact that a chain failure is critical and you won't be able to continue. I like to be prepared and I always carry some spare links and a master link that I can use in case the chain snaps. When you replace your next chain ask your Bike shop to keep the old one for you and use it to practice how this is done.

( 6 ) Replacing brake pads:  Being able to replace a worn brake pad will ensure that you are always safe on the road. I always carry a couple of spare pads just in case.

( 7 ) Replacing cables: Replacing gear and brake cables is not critical but it could be a helpful skill to have. Even if you are not able to replace them yourself, do carry some spare cables with you as Brompton cables have sometime different specifications ( ie gear cable ). Having some spares you will be able to at least have it fixed whenever you find a bike shop along the way.

( 8 ) Replacing spokes: I never had a broken spoke while touring on a Brompton. Replacing a broken spoke is not too difficult but what is difficult and takes a lot of practice is truing a wheel. This is something I am not able to do. Like in the case of cables I always carry some spare spokes from the back wheel and possible for the front wheel too. If I break a spoke I have at least the option to have it fixed at a bike shop and continue on the tour.

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Sunday, May 5, 2019


Transporting a Brompton folding bike 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.
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 a 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 when 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 the 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. 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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Saturday, April 27, 2019


I have visited China almost every year in the 90s and have become quite adept at negotiating the bureaucracy and red tape required to get in and travel around. The rules and regulations seem to change every few years depending on the political climate and on other factors such as reciprocal country-to-country deals.
As the holder of an Australian passport I have found it quite easy to get a multiple entry in previous years, simply by submitting an itinerary to the Chinese consulate in Sydney. However in Xi Jinping era the regulations have been tightened up, for no obvious reason.

Read the full story here

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Saturday, April 13, 2019


My Brompton folding bike is one of the best additions I’ve added to my sailing life. I’ve done long distance cycling tours all over the place on these wonderful little bikes but that’s not what they were made for. Small, super compact and really fun to ride. They make getting to the local farmers market easy as a snap, the front T-bag can carry a weeks worth of grocery’s back to the boat and open the road of exploration from any anchorage.


www.artofhookie.org

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Wednesday, April 3, 2019


Let's begin by saying that even the most reliable bikes are 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 folding bike 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 last 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, March 20, 2019


A video log of a 890 kilometres bike tour of Northern Thailand with a Brompton Folding Bike. The tour started from Chiang Mai with the infamous Mae Hong Son loop. I then moved by bus to Chiang Rai from where I cycled south through Phayao and Phrae before transferring by bus to Bangkok.

view full video here
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Pedalshift Tour Journals Volume 13 from Tampa to Cocoa Beach across Central Florida on a Brompton! Learn more about the tour and listen to the podcast at Pedalshift Project numbers 151 and 153-156.
Central Florida has a thousand personalities. Sure, we all know the theme parks, and the big cities of Tampa and Orlando, but there are also huge swaths of barely developed pastures, orange groves, irrigation canals and lakes to catch a cyclists’ eye while pedaling the miles away. A lot of people come to Florida to escape the cold of winter and return with stories and surprises. This tour was no different!

View the full video here
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Wednesday, March 6, 2019


We know the benefit of a Brompton is that it can be disguised into a regular piece of luggage so that you can avoid paying any extra fees but here is a useful resource that helps find out which European airlines are best when you are traveling with your bike.

Read full article here 
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Saturday, January 5, 2019


When touring with a Brompton it is necessary to have some extra hand grips to give you comfort while riding. Bromptons stock handlebar grips are made of foam and are comfortable only for shorter commuting trips. In my experience while cycling long distance it is necessary to be able to shift position in order to relax muscles and make the ride less taxing.
Having used them for many years I can say that  Ergon GP2 Grips perfectly fit these needs and are extremely comfortable. The extensions allow a more extended position but also they are designed in such a way that the palm of your hand can rest naturally on the flattened surface and make for a much more comfortable ride overall.
On M-type Bromptons they need to be slightly trimmed as their length is excessive so just ask your Bike shop to do so when they fit them on the bike. They do not affect the fold of the bike and the handlebar is folded to its original position with the handlebar extensions only lightly resting on the floor.
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