Connemara Island Hopping with a Brompton


A four day adventure exploring the numerous islands scattered along the coast of Connemara with my Brompton Bike. I wild camped for 3 nights and stayed on a different island each night. There are bridges that connect these islands to the mainland in addition to a number of tidal islands in the region. I caught a train from Heuston Station in Dublin to Ceannt Station in Galway with my Brompton and from here I started my cycle further west to Connemara. This region isn't that well known on the tourist trail and as a result traffic is at a minimum which makes for very comfortable cycling. The 3 islands that I camped were Lettermullan, Mweenish and Inis NĂ­.

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Turkey Bikepacking on a Brompton


Turkey is often one of the most recommended countries by cyclists. This tour mostly followed the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts. It started with a visit to Istanbul from where I took a ferry to Bandirma and cycled all the way South to Antalya. The trip included a couple of ferry journeys, Istanbul-Bandirma and Bodrum-Datca as well as a 200 km bus transfer between the town of Marmaris and Fethiye as I would not have had enough time to cover the distance otherwise. Excluding these transfers I cycled 1280 kilometres and experienced the great hospitality, food and sceneries that Turkey has to offer.

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Brompton Manual and Schematics



Whether you are an expert mechanic or a beginner,  it is always handy 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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MSR Hubba Hubba




I use a MSR Hubba Hubba,  a two-person, lightweight and durable tent that has been tried and tested by many bike tourists all around the world. It is a self-supporting tent, a great choice for bike touring, as it is easy to set up and take down, and can be packed down small enough to fit on bike racks or panniers. Additionally, the tent is designed to minimize condensation and provide a comfortable living space for one or two people.


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What Can Go Wrong With a Brompton


Let us 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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Brompton Rack Bags Showdown

Yet another wonderful video presented by 2Bikes4Adventure, a YouTube channel that is a treasure trove for all of us who enjoy traveling on Brompton folding bikes. If you ever wondered what are the best options for bags that can fit on a Brompton rack look no further than this thorough video with detailed explanations that delve into materials used, space, convenience, security, cost and many more.

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Brompton Bags Touring Setups

In this video the guys behind 2Bikes4Adventure share their insight and obvious expertise gained in many years of bike touring on folding bikes. They discuss the pro and cons of the various bags that are available for Brompton and share ideas of well tested and more original setups that can be used to carry luggage while touring on folding bikes. 

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Is touring harder on a Brompton?


One of the most common questions I get asked is how much more effort is needed to cycle on a folding bike compared to a touring bike. This is not surprising. At first sight my Brompton folding bike loaded with luggage at the back and at the front might look like a harder setup to ride. 

My usual answer is: “It is just a little harder."

It is a rather vague reply but it is my experience over the years. I have extensively toured with mountain bikes and touring bikes in the past. On a folding bike you trade-off a little bit of comfort but in most situations, you will hardly be able to tell the difference.

A more interesting question to ask would be:

“Is the ability to tour and explore places limited by using a folding bike?”

The answer to this question is a resounding NO. 

If at all, the curiosity to push the boundaries and see how far my Brompton could take me, has pushed me further than I would have done and I completed routes that I would have thought challenging on any bike. I am not saying that with a touring bike I wouldn’t be able to push further, higher and cover longer distances faster. Anyone interested in speed and performance, should probably not choose a folding bike in the first place, but what about those, that I believe being the great majority, who are more interested in experiencing the journey and its sights? 

While touring, my longest daily mileage ever has been 160 kilometres and it was done on a Brompton. The highest mountain pass I have ever climbed on a bike was 5300 metres and I did it riding my Brompton. I never meant to set records but these are clear examples that they are more than capable bikes. Provided you avoid, as much as possible, rocky trails or muddy roads where folding bikes perform rather poorly, the ability to go anywhere else is only limited by your willingness to adapt a little and by your mindset. 

I am sure there are mathematical formulas that contradict what I say and tell you that according to physics, the resistance of a 16” wheel compared to a 26”, will make you a certain percentage slower but you won’t notice this as much in practice. 

As for other aspects that could make it marginally harder, I'll mention a few to be fair and as exhaustive as possible.

( 1 ) Aerodynamics They will play a part, especially if riding on strong headwinds. You might find that folding bikes usually allow you to take a position that is less aerodynamic and offer more resistance. 

( 2 ) Handlebars Beyond what is offered as standard, they tend to be smaller and less customisable because they fit with the specific folding system of the bike. You will probably have more limitations in the hand grip and in the position your body can take while riding. While touring long hours each day this can contribute to a less comfortable ride. When your body position and the ability to change it is restricted, it becomes paramount to find a folding bike that is as comfortable as possible right off the bat.

( 3 ) Gears There are folding bikes, especially those at the higher end of the market, that offer wide ranges and lots of gears but these usually come at a higher cost. Generally, folding bikes are more limited in the number of gears they offer and less options will mean a harder ride at times. On my Brompton I tour with 6 gears only which means that I have less choices to adapt exactly the ratios to the terrain I am riding. If this might sound like a great discomfort, I would argue that you also do not need to have 20 or 30. A few gears with well spaced ratios that are soft enough to climb a steep hill and hard enough to push the pedals when descending are all you need. 

While they might be a little harder to ride, my conclusion is that folding bikes are perfectly capable bicycles for riding a long tour provided you are willing to make small sacrifices for the flexibility they bring.
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